Monday, September 11, 2006

Getting our Kicks

Big holes in the ground! We’d seen a lot on this trip. But, meteor crater (Arizona) took my breath way - 4,100 ft (1.2 km) in diameter, 570 ft (174 metres) deep and over three miles (4.8 km) in circumference. It has starred in several movies. NASA astronauts trained there in the 1950’s and 60’s. It certainly still has a "wow" factor. Not bad for something that had smashed into the earth 50,000 years ago.

We had been scooting along the remnants of Route 66 for most of the morning, ducking back onto highway I-40, when Route 66 petered out. It had been fun. While there were no longer the ubiquitous trading posts every second mile, there were wonderful remainders of the golden age of "the mother road".

We had sought out Route 66 near Williams (Arizona), a few miles south of our friendly Red Lake Hostel. Williams was one of the last towns on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40 in 1984. While other towns had suffered from the by-pass, Williams’ proximity to the Grand Canyon meant it has retained some prosperity. In addition, Williams’ entire downtown business district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Onwards towards Holbrook, we discovered some "ghosts" along Route 66 – old adobe motels, faded billboards, cracked roadways, derelict cars and crumbling gas stations. We did find one trading post still open, The Jackrabbit. While it had souvenir postcards of jackalopes, sand paintings, rubber tomahawks, interesting old stuff and imitation Indian goods made in China (these would have been "Made in Japan" back in the 1950’s), we didn’t find the wonders of an earlier age - packages of rattlesnake eggs, cactus candy and tumbled stones. It didn’t matter - it was still quite a blast having a fossick through everything. We had the freedom to explore as we liked, especially as the area around Route 66 in Arizona also had many natural wonders – Walnut Canyon State Park, Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.

Approximately half way between Flagstaff and Winslow was Meteor Crater.

Imagine our surprise when we pulled into the information centre car park and met F1’s Series I Land Rover coming out. We stopped for a brief chat. They had left Grand Canyon before us the day before and managed to reach Williams before the worst of the snowstorm. They had decided they would head south for warmer weather. F2 told us that there was nothing more to see in Arizona. We gave them a big grin and waved them off.

After "standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona" (from the Eagles song "Take it Easy") we trundled on to Holbrook, where you can still bed down at the Wigwam Hotel.

These motel rooms are large, individual concrete tepees. Fabulous.

The next morning was the 1st April, my birthday. I was 42 years old. I looked myself over in the mirror – I wore no make-up and I hadn’t done so for over a month, I had red lines in my cheeks, chapped lips and dry, cracked hands, thanks to the parched, desert air. I had gone back to chewing my nails and I was also convinced that I had at least one, age-caused "kidney spot". What had happened to the sophisticated businesswoman, I used to be? I guess she was turning into adventure woman.

The motel’s promised breakfast of Danish pastries was delayed for some unknown reason. We had a long day planned of around 300 miles. The proprietor felt sorry that we would have to depart on empty stomachs. She gave us three Oreo cookies each to help us on our way. This was the first time I had eaten these rich, chocolate biscuits. Wow, what a pity I hadn’t grabbed the whole packet.

Petrified Forest National Park was unusual. As we drove into the park, the first thing I noticed was the rolling, Mars-red, hillocks of sand. Then, I saw the "forest". I don’t know what I had expected. Maybe, I thought I’d see trees frozen upright, as still and dead as trolls caught by sunlight. But, it was a lying-down sort of forest. Great logs of wood, petrified into stone, lay flat on the ground.

The remaining stumps jagged out of the ground, like decaying brown teeth. Upheaval in the land, and erosion, had caused the trees to break. When they crashed down, their brittle trunks had scattered into huge chunks and shards across the desert.

The rust-coloured, contoured land rolled on and on. It was a grim graveyard for trees. Later, where there were no more trees, nature had compensated for the devastation, with the Painted Desert. It was aptly named, as brighter white, green and yellow minerals splashed colour into the iron ore red sand, as if dripped from a paint box.

Check out these photos on:

Have a look at these great pictures of some other New Zealanders on their Route 66 adventure in Arizona:

© Eventful Woman, 2006
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