|Author Jim Hinckley signing books for Dale Butel’s fall Route 66 tour. (Judy Hinckley)|
Then we discovered an intriguing little café hidden in the shadows just a block or two north of Central Avenue near Old Town (321 Rio Grande Boulevard NW). As it turned out, we had found a true gem in the form of Monica’s El Portal Restaurant.The atmosphere was pleasant and almost homey, a place favored by locals. The friendly staff was professional and knowledgeable about the area, and the food was superb. Mexican food in New Mexico is in a class by itself and the food at Monica’s was top notch.As a bonus, the restaurant was only a few blocks from our motel. The Monterey Monterey is without equal. It is a vintage Route 66 property, with restored sign, very close to the Old Town district that has been meticulously renovated and that is well maintained. The amenities are basic but there is a laundry room on site. We have stayed here on numerous occasions and always found it to be very clean, comfortable and quiet, the proprietors friendly as well as accommodating, and the non smoking policy is an added bonus. In consideration of its location, the price (right at $70 with tax) is rather reasonable.After another pleasant and restful evening at the Monterey Motel, we set out for breakfast with Ward’s, and another pleasant discovery. At the suggestion of Mike, we cruised west on Central Avenue (Route 66) in search of Western View Steakhouse and Coffee Shop.
There was ample evidence, inside and out, that this restaurant has been serving customers for a very long time. Simply put, it was frayed at the edges. Still, as it was obviously quite popular with locals, I was quite eager to sample the food. We weren’t disappointed. The simple, basic fare was well prepared and reasonably priced.As always, lively conversation and a meal shared with friends made our stop more memorable. Our paths had crossed with the Ward’s several times on this adventure but now it was time to part ways.
We seemed to play tag on the drive west through a string of stoplights on Central Avenue, then they turned onto I-40 and we continued to Enchanted Trails Trading Post and RV Park as we had a morning meeting with Vickie Ashcraft, a friend as well as member of the New Mexico Route 66 Association, and books to sign.Our drive west was punctuated with an array of stops for photos and a bit of exploration. I suppose there was a bit of procrastination as we did want the adventure to end. One of our strangest stops was at the remains of Fort Courage near Houck, Arizona. We had mostly stopped to stretch the legs but could not resist taking a photo or two.
As I focused the camera, a surprising site brought me up short. The place was abandoned. It was on the fast track to becoming another roadside ruin. And yet the lights were still on at the entrance!Aside from a stop for fuel, our closeout lunch was another opportunity to sample a roadside classic. This one, Romo’s, in Holbrook was across the street from Joe and Aggies. As it was a true spur of the moment stop (the plan had been to have lunch in Williams), there wasn’t an opportunity to call David Heward, our lunch companion on our first lunch on the road.
Romo’s is another restaurant favored by the locals. In operation for more than forty years, the place is really showing its age. Still, the food was good. However, it was the friendly staff that carried the day and that made this a memorable stop.Our adventure on Route 66 and the road less traveled was nothing short of amazing. It was an opportunity to make memories with my dearest friend, to sample new foods and see new places, and to visit old haunts. But what really made the trip special and memorable were the people met along the way. Friends and strangers alike made this an unforgettable adventure.Thank you Frank and Mike, Bob and Robin, Sharon and Mike, Connie, Bob, and Ramona, Lori and Joe, David and Rich. To each and everyone that made this such a delightful odyssey, thank you.
|Our trusty Jeep at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.|
|The old Meramec River Bridge at Route 66 State Park. (Judy Hinckley)|
|An exhibit at Route 66 State Park.|
|Water’s Edge Motel in Gravois Mills, Missouri.|
After bidding adios to our friends at the Water’s Edge Motel in Gravois Mills, we rolled south, first on state highway 5 and then highway 7. The we picked up Route 66 near the Devil’s Elbow and commenced to mosey.
|The long closed store and cabins near Stony Dell east of Arlington.|
The next stop has become a favorite of ours, the 4 M Vineyards store just to the east of Fanning, home of the world’s largest rocking chair. This is a real throwback that sparks an array of memories from childhood road trips with every stop.
|The Wagon wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri.|
As we drove into Cuba, and past the colorful murals, Shelly’s, and the charming old homes along the shade dappled road that once carried an endless stream of traffic on Route 66, the now familiar sense of warmth that comes with visiting an old friend chased away an entire year of frustrations, job related issues, worry, and anxieties. Then when we arrived at the time capsule that is the Wagon Wheel Motel and found it to be teeming with members of the Route 66 family that feeling was magnified ten fold.
|Cuba Fest 2014, Cuba, Missouri. (Judy Hinckley)|
Mike Wallace, a friend from Ohio and a mechanic confirmed my initial thought that with care and an eye on oil levels, we could drive the Jeep back to Arizona. Then Frank Kocevar, the former owner of Seligman Sundries, offered to tow us home if need be. So, with all concerns alleviated, I made a few phone calls in the hope of finding a shop that would be open on Saturday.
The evening was still young and the best was yet to come. After dinner a small car show developed at the wagon Wheel Motel, a birthday party for Joe Loesch of the Road Crew unfolded, and a Route 66 family reunion commenced in earnest.
Then it was off to the commons to set up my table and to kick off the official debut of The Illustrated Route 66 Historic Atlas. The early morning fall chill, the ebb and flow of crowds, the smell of wood smoke under a kettle of slow cooked apple butter, unhurried conversations with friends, the raising of the stars and stripes with troops from Fort Leonard Wood in attendance, laughing children, excellent music, and good food transformed the day into something almost magical. As a bonus, I sold a number of books!
|Authors Cheryl Eichar Jett and Joe Sonderman at the 2014Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. (Judy Hinckley)|
The schedule for Sunday called for a leisurely drive to Route 66 State Park for their open house where I was to make a presentation and sign books, meet with Rich Dinkela to discuss development of his Route 66 events website, and then commencement of the long return trip with the days end scheduled for the Munger Moss in Lebanon. First, however, was a wonderful early morning visit with Connie Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel, that included pleasant conversation, fresh coffee, and pumpkin bread from the 4-M Vineyards store.
|The trusty Jeep in Elk City during the fall 2014 road trip.|
|An oasis in Guymon, Oklahoma|
|The morning view from our room at the Water’s EdgeMotel in Gravois Mills, Missouri.|
|Water’s Edge Motel, Gravois Mills, Missouri.|