With completion of the latest adventure it seemed an excellent time to update my list of favorite places. Additionally, it seems that this trip has made it impossible to crowd any more places in my top ten list so we may have to make that a top twenty list.
As I am a product of the desert southwest, and the independent, free spirited romanticism that molded me during the formative years, I have to top my list with most everything within one hundred miles of Silver City in New Mexico.
The town itself is a very fascinating blend of ultra liberal thinkers (tree huggers for those with a redneck view of the world), the Santa Fe and Sedona art gallery set, miners, real cowboys, families whose Mexican lineage spans more than a century and half, and simple people who find solace in a plot of ground they can call their own and where they can raise a garden, which gives the place an interesting atmosphere. Much of the historic district is a bit down at the heels but you can still find multi generational cafes, and even a barber shop in operation for more than a half century.
The countryside that ranges from deeply forested wilderness to stark desert plains rates high on my list of the most beautiful places in America. Sprinkle in a few historic sites such as pre Colombian cliff dwellings and a wide array of ghost towns that have links to Billy the Kid as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and you have my version of paradise on earth.
A close second would have to be the Ozarks of Missouri. I had almost forgotten how beautiful this country is and how delightful the little towns sprinkled along the streams and rivers are. It was a real treat to be able to introduce my dearest friend to this wonderland as we motored along Route 66. 

Any question as to where this photo was taken?

As to favorite towns, I still lean toward Prescott in Arizona. Even though the modern era has engulfed its historic core, and the western way of thinking is fast becoming an historical footnote, this old place has a special place in our hearts.
Perhaps it is the links to our courting days or the honeymoon, or my dearest friends family who have very long roots here, but more than likely it is just the fact that here in the blocks surrounding the courthouse it is still 1958. There are not one but three historic hotels that offer quality service and clean rooms as well as a one hundred year plus tradition, excellent restaurants for every taste, a micor brewery, an excellent museum complex, and even a saloon that is a near perfect time capsule from the pre statehood era. 

On this last trip we found a couple of really good contenders for this spot on our list in Dwight, Atlanta, and Pontiac, Illinois, as well as Lebanon and Rolla in Missouri. However, it was Cuba in Missouri that really grabbed our attention and heart.
To a large degree it was the stay at the Wagon Wheel Motel, as well as the friendly and enthusiastic people we met there, that made such an impression. Of course the mountains and scenery’s in the neighborhood also played a part in us entertaining thoughts of relocating to greener pastures.
That reminds me, I forget to provide the promised view of the shower in the suite at the Wagon Wheel Motel. Connie has gone to great lengths to ensure the modern veneer is a thin one and this shower is one concession. 

I often jokingly refer to my dearest friend and I as the Hinckley hillbillies. You can imagine the fun we had figuring this out. I just hope we didn’t wake the neighbors but this gadget provided more than a great deal of entertainment as we worked to figure it out in the wee hours of the morning in a half awake state.
In yesterday’s post I noted a few great places to eat along Route 66. Well, for quite some time the honor for our top spot to eat on Route 66 has been the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, Arizona.
That spot on the list is also getting a bit crowded as we have had to add a couple of others. One, the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois, is still going strong after more than three quarters of a century. The other, Zenos, has succumbed to changing times and will be closing its doors as of the 22nd of October. The third, the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma, represents a new era on Route 66 and hints that this old road will remain a treasure for years to come.
I would be remiss in compiling my updated list if the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon was not included. For quite some time staying here has been on my list of things to do and I must say it was worth the wait. 

Clean and simple at a reasonable rate are the frosting on the cake. It it the hospitality of the owners, Bob and Ramona, and the near perfect preservation, not recreation, of this motel that make it truly unique on Route 66 or most any place else. 


How do you describe a month that includes incredible highs such as recording an interview with Jay Leno and extreme depths such as the loss of a mother and a sister within a period of less than two weeks? Accurate words or descriptors for the wide range of emotions are an impossibility and plagiarizing the line it was the best of times, it was the worst of times seems the best I can manage. first months of the year were filled with exciting and breathtaking twists and turns. The last month has added incredible climbs and stomach turning drops that blur the vision, make it hard to breathe, and leave you dizzy. month of January was relatively calm, especially on the writing front. I had finished the introductions for the book Greetings from Route 66 in December so the only work was the monthly column, The Independent Thinker, for Cars & Parts magazine, initial planning for promotion of Ghost Towns of the Southwest that was scheduled for a March 1 release, and pitching a few new book ideas as continuation of the quest to find an agent.
Our only road trip was a “Sunday drive” of several hundred miles into the Mojave Desert in exploration of Route 66. We hit all of the high spots – Goffs, Essex, Chambless, Danby, and Bagdad with a light lunch in Ludlow.

Route 66 in the California desert.

On February 1 things took a sharp turn. I arrived home late that evening, checked the phone for messages, and discovered Jay Leno had called and would be calling me back after his return from New York!
As it later turned out he was calling to discuss the possibility of taping an interview for the book club section of his website, Jay Leno’s Garage. The book that had garnered his attention was The Big Book of Car Culture, a title written with Jon Robinson in 2005 that gone nowhere in spite of excellent reviews from prestigious publications and the receipt of the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards in 2006.
Well, as it turns out the publisher had decided to suspend any plans for a second printing of this title. This decision had been made at the end of January!
One of the first stops in the promotion of Ghost Towns of the Southwest was Prescott, Arizona, which provided an excuse for my dearest friend and I to escape to one of our favorite destinations, the lovely and historic Hassayampa Inn. Work related activity included a formal signing at Barnes & Noble in Prescott as well as an interview with Tonya Mock on AM Arizona.

Historic Hassayampa Inn, Prescott, Arizona

The trip provided us with an unexpected bonus, the opportunity to see how well the Jeep performed in snow. Unfortunately the sleet, snow, and rain led us to consider discretion the better part of valor so we abandoned the plan to make the pleasant drive home on the Williamson Valley Road, thirty plus miles of scenic gravel and dirt road across several stream beds.
March and early April were rather low key with the day job that supports the writing habit and a book signing for the new book in Kingman as well as Lake Havasus City. Then came notification of a pleasant but stunning surprise, The first printing of Ghost Towns of the Southwest was almost sold out! left me facing a new dilemma, a full month of interviews and signings scheduled through May, including the KABAM literary festival in Kingman and another signing in Burbank, with no books. So, I signed post cards featuring the cover of the book and talked with potential owners of the new book.
The end of May and June were spent enjoying my favorite pastime, a long, adventuresome road trip with my dearest friend. The catalyst for this adventure, postponed from the previous fall, was research and photography for Ghost Towns of Route 66, scheduled for release in June of 2011, and the current project, a Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas.

For this grand adventure we set the clock back to 1960, made no with the exception of the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook and the Route 66 Rail Haven in Springfield in Missouri and depended on a 1929 Rand McNally atlas and Jerry McClanahan (his excellent guide book, Route 66: EZ Guide for Travelers – 2nd Edition) for guidance, and the stalwart Jeep for transportation. What a delightful odyssey!
We met Laurel Kane at Afton Station, Ron Jones, the legendary tattoo man, and Melba at 4 Women on the Route in Kansas. We explored the hauntingly beautiful ruins of the Painted Desert Trading Post, savored the contemplative serenity of Endee, sampled the goods at the Midpoint Cafe, and walked the empty streets of Texola. Best of all, we basked in each others company while enjoying the wonders of America’s most famous highway.

In between the road trips, the job, the writing, the photography, and general activities of life, we enjoyed warm summer evenings at events such as Chillin on Beale Street in Kingman. Enhancing the fun was the addition of themes such as Topless Fun on Route 66, a salute to convertibles, and dinner with friends such as Dries Bessel of Holland and Dale Butel of Australia.
Late summer and fall were the seasons of deep valleys and breathtaking summits. Mother fell and had to be placed in a retirement home, my sister became ill, Greetings from Route 66 made its debut, for the first time one of our photographic prints was sold through the Lile Fine Art Gallery in Amarillo to an international collector, and plans were finalized for the interview with Jay Leno. The wild fluctuations in high and low continued with the birth of our grandson and a biopsy that revealed I had skin cancer.
December has been, well, interesting. I am not sure how this month will be viewed in the years to come but it is with complete, naked honesty that I say it will never be forgotten. Still, in some odd, surreal way it seems almost a fitting end to the wild roller coaster ride that was 2010.