Saturday, August 2, 2008

Today was dedicated mostly to a long-distance drive from Scotts Valley to Needles. We woke somewhat late when compared to our typical departures, leaving town at about 8:30, poking behind fruit trucks and RVs until we joined the interstate and leapfrogged from map point to map point. Hours later, somewhat groggy from the anesthesia of superslab travel, we began to recognize that our first day of travel would call to mind nothing more than the roughly 525 miles necessary to reach our destination.

All agreed that we needed to do something to shake up our first day, so we decided to take an alignment of Route 66 through Amboy, a ghost town that may yet come to life due to the refurbishment efforts of Albert Okura. The gas station at Roy's is already running, though the barely sub-six dollar per gallon fee earned a rueful chuckle from the three of us. I think the cheapest stuff we saw today was $4.13 further up north. Turning onto the Mother Road, all of us seemed more alert, more aware of our surroundings.

I think the pleasure of driving away from the interstate comes from the near emptiness of traffic, the chance to speed for pleasure, not to avoid getting stuck behind some lumbering semi. We savored the sights of Route 66 highway shields painted onto the pavement and surveyed the names of folks who marked their presence in rock piles alongside the road. We saw "shoe trees" and even a "bra tree," though that collection is just starting to grow. Even getting stopped at a train crossing seemed sort of cool, with us wondering about the contents of the rail cars and contemplating their destinations. All of this, of course, was made much nicer due to our plentiful use of air conditioning. Temperatures in the Mojave Desert easily topped 100 degrees today.

We pulled into Needles, a scruffy but friendly town on the California border, and grabbed our reserved room at Fender's River Road Resort. Wind chimes tinkled and a clean, comfortable room beckoned (even though we could have paid much less at one of the chain places along the interstate, much to Jenny's frustration). Our good mood at the end of a long day was affirmed when we saw a roadrunner race across the road before we entered the parking lot. We grabbed a pleasant meal at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant, which earned my initial trust by having a Bob Waldmire custom painting on its menus. And the slice of cherry pie, dish of ice cream, and cup of coffee was a nice way to end our meal. Returning to the car, eventually to our motel, we delighted at the pink clouds turning purple, even as we felt no real relief from the sweltering heat. Tonight we sleep in air-conditioned comfort. Tomorrow, we've got a tent as our only lodging in Grand Canyon. What's that going to be like?

All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.