Arizona, Thursday, March 27, 2008

Arizona: a collection of some of the most delightful stretches of 66 you'll find, not to mention some bizarre roadside attractions. On the way to Holbrook, I spot a creepy looking dinosaur devouring a cave-dude. This demands closer inspection. Turns out the dinosaur was one of a collection at Stewart's Petrified Wood, an old-school tourist trap run by a Korean War vet now looking to get out of the business, if only he can find someone to buy his collection of rocks, dinosaurs, and ostriches. Of course, he also runs an ostrich farm. The place promises free pieces of petrified wood to all comers, but the folks are clearly working the hard sell on those ostrich eggs. Low in calories! Feed your whole family! As I wandered through the jumbled collection of boxes filled with rocks, geodes, and arrowheads (made in Mexico), a quiet-voiced but persistent fellow followed close behind. "These are half-off," he offered. "Would you like some bookends?" he asked. I bought a polished stone dinosaur for Vienna and returned to the road, passing another garish display of prehistoric mayhem. Driving westward I notice more and more contrails drifting above, planes heading for LA I suppose.

In Holbrook, a town that adds Native American imagery to fearsome dinosaur statues to attract tourists, I hoped to stay at the Wigwam Village. But I made no reservations, thinking none were needed on a Thursday in March. A summer weekend, sure, but today? Yep, today. Booked. Thinking about my lack of planning, I felt a bit embarrassed. Having researched this famed chain of concrete teepee motels (other locations in Cave City, KY, and Rialto, CA) I really should know better. The place is nearly always packed with grown adults who were told by their dads during childhood roadtrips, "There is no way we're stopping at this tacky place." Normally I would have been somewhat bummed at this point, but I decided to seek opportunity from misfortune and stay further down the road in Winslow, which according to the Route 66 Federation's Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide, maintains a refurbished Harvey House hotel right by the railroad tracks. The guide was nearly effervescent with praise for this place, so I called and got the last room available. Realizing that I shouldn't press my luck further, I arranged rooms for the next two nights in Kingman and Pasadena as well. That latter call proved prescient. Again, I got the last room.

Heading for Winslow, I stopped at the Jackrabbit Trading Post and picked up a few more Route 66 souvenirs, including a ball cap that I'll probably never wear. There's just something undeniably cool about this goofy place [Here's a blog-post that was inspired by the Jackrabbit]. I then entered the scruffy town of my evening and looked warily down the road. I have to admit, I wasn't too impressed. But when I found the La Posada, a transformed railroad hotel built in 1930, I knew I'd made the right call. Native rugs, Spanish tile, hacienda architecture, and a really cool collection of artwork (featuring a surprisingly political bent). La Posada put a wallop on my wallet, but was worth every penny. Every once and a while, a train would pass by - and it merely added to the charm of this place. By evening I set back to Holbrook to videotape any animated neon I could find and then I returned to my bed in Winslow, lulled to sleep by the sound of distant train horns. [Continue...]

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All text and photos copyright Andrew Wood