Friday 15 August 2008

Elk City, Oklahoma to Sallisaw, Oklahoma

THE storm had cleared this morning, much to Charlotte's relief and we spent an hour exploring the old museum at Elk City, followed by brunch at the old Katy Railroad Cafe.

Bill wanted to see Oklahoma City but I have to confess I wasn't that bothered. He turned out to be right. It's a lovely city with a towering business district and music and arts section. The streets are wide and uncrowded. Municipal buildings successfully blend old and new architecture and everywhere you look there is a fountain or sculpture.

The memorial park dedicated to the 1995 bombing is beautiful and poignant.

The highway is much busier now and the regular rainstorms help the farmland look very green. It really feels like we have left the desert behind us. We haven't quite left Oklahoma, so we'll see Arkansas in the morning.

Tonight we replanned the route, sacrificing the Blue Ridge Parkway for Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Bay before Washington DC. But that will be later next week.

Elk City to Sallisaw = 278 miles.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Albuquerque, New Mexico to Elk City, Oklahoma

I LOVE the sound of American freight trains in the night, but I loved not hearing them last night even more. They have kept us awake for the last two nights as they blasted their horns through Kingman and Flagstaff.

All the towns feature in the lyrics to Get Your Kicks On Route 66 and today was 'The Mother Road' all the way - all the way into Texas and out the other side into Oklahoma.

There is plenty of evidence of towns dying. The interstate I40 just passes them by and with faster journey times, longer-range vehicles and fuel and lodging right on the main road, travellers bypass these towns too. Watch Cars.

We were careful to sample food away from the main highway and take our time through old Route 66 towns like Santa Rosa, Tucumcari (where we took the mural photo above), Santa Rosa and Shamrock. After lunch in Tucumcari I won my bet by asking the waitress: "Is this the way to Amarillo?"

Cadillac Ranch, west of Amarillo was our final photo stop (right).

As we approached Elk City a massive storm blew in from the north and we dived for shelter at the Motel 6, ignoring the independent motels a nd supporting a corporate chain for the sake of wireless internet. We ate a hearty steak dinner in a real truckers cafe surrounded by the biggest, meanest-looking and most polite men you can imagine.

Albuquerque to Elk City = 433 miles.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Flagstaff, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico

MORE desert scenery. I just look at these trailers and shacks out here in the desert and wonder what kind of lives these people lead. There’s something appealing about it but I just can’t work out what it is.

No tourist distractions today, so we simply drive east. Made Gallup, New Mexico by lunchtime and bought another suitcase at Wal-Mart.

Highlight of the day was coming up behind a Ford Explorer with Texas plates and a big Leeds United emblem in the rear window. Charlotte wrote “We love Leeds” on a page in her notebook and we put it up to the window as we drew alongside and honked the horn. Big wave and a thumbs-up from a fellow Leeds fan in the middle of the south-western desert!

Charlotte and I thought it was much more fun than did Laura and Bill. Katy didn’t know what to think.

Spent the night on old Route 66 just outside Albuquerque.

Flagstaff to Albuquerque = 330 miles.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Kingman, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona

MUCH more successful Grand Canyon expedition to the US National Parks Service-run facilities at the south rim. Twenty-five dollars got us all into the park and right to the edge for the rim trail and a close-up encounter with the steam locomotives. Brilliant.

And the view of the canyon is better than the one I got on my last trip to the west section. I’ll let the photo speak for itself.

We made it as far as Flagstaff tonight, so added another 260 miles to the journey but only 144 of them took us nearer New York. Might have to strike out tomorrow.

Kingman to Flagstaff via Grand Canyon = 260 miles.

Monday 11 August 2008

Las Vegas, Nevada to Kingman, Arizona via the Hoover Dam

THE dam exceeded my expectations – it’s engineering at its most beautiful - and the amazing bridge being built across the gorge above it will be just as spectacular. Ten and 16 year-old girls, and many wives for that matter, tend not to be as excited by such things, so the tour of the turbines and power station wasn’t going to happen. It would have got them out of the heat they were complaining about…

The big disappointment was the Grand Canyon West. I visited the site a few years ago by flying over from Las Vegas. Today’s visit by car was very different.

On the map, the journey looks quite straightforward, turn left off the Kingman road and head north-east for about 50 miles. If I’d looked carefully enough, I might have noticed the Rand McNally map told me 20 miles of this road is unpaved - hard on tyres and concentration for day one of the proper road trip!

Then, when we arrived at the canyon, tantalisingly out of sight from the car park, we had to pay $20 to park the car and get a brochure that told us that if we wanted to go ANYWHERE else or see ANYTHING we had to pay another $30 each - $150 to even see the canyon, plus another $150 to set foot on this “skywalk” contraption.

The whole operation at this end of the canyon is owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe, on whose land the visitor’s centre sits. I couldn’t help feeling that maybe they were getting some small revenge for some of the great injustices they might feel they have endured over the years.

Anyway, it's a bit of a rip-off as far as I’m concerned and so we actually cut our losses and drove away. We’d lost half a day, 100 miles’ worth of petrol and $20. Still, we successfully negotiated some pretty spectacular dirt road and saw the Hualapai Valley Joshua Trees up close.

We washed away the dust in the pool at a Motel 6 in Kingman, Arizona and noted the number of French travellers we were meeting on the road.

Dinner ‘home-style’ surrounded by Route 66 paraphernalia. Bill and I took a walk after dinner and met an unusual German couple who were waiting for a taxi home. Chatted long enough to get their entire life stories. Click to hear what we will remember most about Kingman, Arizona.

Las Vegas to Kingman via Grand Canyon West = 200 miles.

103 degrees

WHICH is hot enough for anybody.

We went to an out-of-town shopping mall to escape the heat - a costly option.

Just got back from a long walk down the Strip and it's still about 85 degrees out there. The mock sea battle outside Treasure Island has had to resort to sexy dancing girls and bad songs to survive this long and we wished we hadn't dragged the girls so far down the town to see it.

I like to come to Vegas and shake my head at the outrageousness of it all, but I'm never sorry to escape.

Heading east tomorrow. More desert.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Las Vegas, Nevada

WE drove across the mountains and the high desert and down into Vegas without any major dramas.

When we arrived at the motel and got out of the car, the dry heat sucked the air and moisture out of our throats.

Someone at Motel Six had lied to Laura about how many people can stay in one room, so poor Charlotte has a makeshift bed made of surplus blankets and bedcovers.

After walking all the way back from Caesar’s Palace and the Jerry Seinfeld show, she was glad of any kind of bed. Despite to 95 degree heat, the room’s air-conditioning over-compensated and we were quite chilly during the night.

We have another day and night in Vegas, which will probably be long enough.

Newport Beach, California to Las Vegas, Nevada = 276miles.