Arizona and California
13.05.2007 - 15.05.2007 19 °C
We left Flagstaff on Sunday and followed the Route away from the newer Interstate, driving through canyons with just the railway alongside to keep us company. The trains over here are all freight, all slow and drawn by at least four engines, and all enormous. We clocked a random one at around a mile and a half long. And this thing was moving at 30mph!
Anyway, we drove through the canyons and across desert plains. The whole country here is elevated (The Colorado Plateau, y'know) and you're never much below 3000 feet. We stopped for a cold drink at Hackberry (not so much a town, more a collection of shacks, a slight turn in a railroad and an interestingly shaped bush) but home to a Rte 66 stop, the Hackberry Store.
A little further on and the canyons widen and the road curves to approach a line of mountains.
Route 66 is generally associated with 50's diners, 50's cars and the like, but it was also really important in the 30's when it provided an escape from a drought in Middle America. Kansas and Oklahoma turned into a 'Dustbowl' as the topsoil was literally blown away and the land became useless. So thousands of farmers and their families, called 'Okies', piled themselves and the contents of their homes onto the back of ancient cars and drove West, to California and the citrus groves. (English students should see 'The Grapes of Wrath'.)
Now, at points all along the route it's easy to imagine lines of these cars drifting along the narrow roads across flat plains or over iron bridges, but when we crossed the mountains we thought of them again. It must've been incredible. Many did it in reverse (gravity fed fuel systems, apparently), although the hairpin bends were tricky enough going forward.
Sorry to go a bit 'History Channel', but it's quite a good story which makes the route a bit different from every other road.
Right, after the windy mountain pass the land turned miraculously green as we crossed the Colorado river into California! We stayed the night in Needles and set off in the morning for a quick jaunt across the Mojave desert. Again, we thought of the Okies, or any other poor bugger who didn't have air con!
We stopped for food in the amazingly popular Bagdad Cafe (star of an 80's film neither of us know) and carried on into San Benardino, and the start of an urban sprawl which carried on to the sea - about 50 miles away! We stopped for the night in Rialto, near San Bernardino, in a Teepee (yes, really). A few motels made up of a couple of rows of concrete teepees were built along the route in the 40's and 50's, and one of 3 that survive is here in California. And the teepee is surprisingly big inside!
This morning (Tuesday) we drove through the 40 odd miles of motoring madness that is L.A, and finally arrived at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier, and the Sea Shore Motel a few blocks down, at around 3. And that was the end of Route 66!
Dave and Sarah XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX