Our Cross-Country Trip
Jus’ Moseyin’ Across America!
Tues, March 11: Williams & Flagstaff, AZ
It was another beautiful day heading south through GCNP where we got on Route 66 again to go through Williams, the last Route 66 town in America to be bypassed by the freeway system in 1984. It was a cool little town that seemed to be stuck in the 50’s, with antique and gift shops on main street selling a curious mix of Route 66 memorabilia, Grand Canyon souvenirs and Indian wares. We even picked up a brightly painted metal gecko and frog made in Haiti in one shop. Tourists come there that want to take the Grand Canyon Railway that follows 64 north to the Grand Canyon NP. Many shop owners close after 10 when the train departs and reopen from 5 until 9 or 10 at night when the train returns.
Continuing to Flagstaff, 18-wheelers began showing up as we climbed to an elevation of 7K feet. Historic 66 ran right through Flagstaff, which was founded in 1882. The city's name came from a flagstaff erected here for the 1876 Independence Day celebrations. We pulled into the Flagstaff KOA and went into their town that has a population of about 50K. It did have a 50’s feel to it, especially when this 55-57 T-Bird cruised by us with his top down. J The town was situated on the other side
of a railroad track that followed Route 66 along their main street. After visiting some of their shops, we headed on old route 66 over to the Walnut Canyon National Monument a couple of miles south of Route 66. The canyon was named for the walnut trees covering the mountains there. We went down a very steep mountain trail to where the Sinagua (“people without water”) lived in cliff dwellings over 800 years ago that they built under the overhangs of the cliffs. They used stones and mud to build walls to create one-room pithouses, leaving openings for the doors. They ate about 3 quarts of ground corn per day per family. You could see the evidence of fires from the black stones inside the caves. They would climb through crevices to get to the different levels of the mountains and sometimes built ladders from the trees.
That night, we drove around Flagstaff and went into the famous roadhouse “The Museum Club,” the southwest’s largest log cabin built in 1931 to house Native American artifacts. Later, it became a nightclub where musicians traveling Rt. 66 came to perform and was nicknamed “The Zoo.”
Afterwards, we had dinner at the Railroad Café that originally opened in the 60’s on main street right next to the tracks where the train stopped. The food was great and so was the price. It was a popular stop for years and was recently renovated. There was a really cool 1:22 scale train traveling around the ceiling of the room and train and Route 66 memorabilia on the walls.
Wed, March 12: Winslow & Holbrook, AZ
Heading east on I-40/66, we saw smoke rising ahead of us on the highway, and then we passed by a “controlled burning” of tree brush in the middle of the highway—very strange. Soon it returned to flat desert again.
We stopped at the “Two Guns” ruins, an abandoned outlaw town on Canyon Diablo. Route 66 leading to the ruins dead-ended here, and we unhitched and drove the Tracker over a bridge to the other side of the canyon. Some of the buildings were once a zoo because there were small rooms with cage-wire between them and “Mountain Lions” written on the front of one. There was even a stone outhouse with 4 wooden toilets in it!
Next, we hit the meteor crater (no pun intended) about 6 miles south. The crater is 50,000 years old, 4,000 feet diameter, 2.5 miles in circumference and 570 feet deep. It was so big we couldn’t get a picture of the whole thing from the observation platform. An iron-nickel meteorite, presumably broken away from an asteroid a half-billion years ago, hit the earth with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT creating this giant bowl-shaped cavity. The largest meteorite found here weighs 1,406 pounds (Jim tried to get it as a souvenir). Here I am at the crater bottom!
Here we are “Standing on the Corner of Winslow Arizona,” our next stop on Route 66. The drugstore that was at this corner burned down, and the town turned it into a “park” with an iron statue of a musician in front of a “Standing on the Corner” sign. The drugstore on the opposite corner is now a souvenir shop. We also went inside La Posada, the last great Fred Harvey Hotel built in 1930 by the Santa Fee Railroad for travelers coming through Winslow. In the 30’s, it was the finest small hotel in the southwest—a romantic Spanish castle with 70 guestrooms. Mary Elizabeth Colter, who designed the hotels in the Grand Canyon, designed it, decorated the interior and planned the gardens.
A few miles further, we saw the big Jack Rabbit Trading Post sign and pulled over. It was quite a whimsical place. Bonnie felt like a kid in a candy store when we walked in and found oodles and oodles of Indian-made turquoise and silver jewelry at 1970’s prices! We walked away with a bunch of sterling inlaid turquoise, red coral, jet, and mother of pearl jewelry! She even threw in a gallon of cherry cider for Jim and a Route 66 pin for my hat. What a find that place was. The present owner had “inherited” most of the jewelry that her parents had bought back in the 70’s and left the prices unchanged from what they were originally selling them for.
Our final stop for the day was the KOA in Holbrook, home of the Holbrook Roadrunners. We found a really cool place called “The Rock Shop” that had giant dinosaurs in front and petrified wood rocks everywhere! While taking pictures of it, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train went by the shop too.
We found another WigWam Motel in this town! This one even had old cars & trucks parked in front of each tee-pee. We met a couple staying in one of the tee-pees that was doing the same cross-country trip and traded trip stories with them for a while.
The best petrified rock shop in town was Jim Gray’s. He had some of the largest and prettiest petrified rock pieces like huge tables, clocks, etc. Part of the store was a nice little museum of petrified wood samples, fossils & dinosaur bones, Indian art & jewelry, plus various other rocks and souvenirs. It was interesting stuff, but we decided we weren’t impressed with petrified rock enough to want to pay $2-5,000 for an end table or even $70 for bookends. Plus it would have cost a fortune to mail that heavy stuff home! As much as Bonnie loves jewelry, she couldn’t find anything she liked, not even a cab for wire-wrapping.
Thurs, March 13: Petrified Forest, AZ
Just east of Holbrook is the Petrified Forest National Park. It includes both the Painted Desert north of Route 40 and the Petrified Forest south. It’s $10 per car to get in (free if you have a National Parks pass which we did). The Painted Desert was very pretty, with colors of white, pink, orange and gray. The only building there was the Painted Desert Inn, built in the Pueblo style in the 1930’s.
The Petrified Forest is about 20 miles long, but we drove a long ways before we ever saw any petrified wood. The first thing we came to was the “Puerco Pueblo,” ancient village ruins. The people who lived here from 1100-1300 A.D. are believed to be direct decedents of the Hopi and/or Zuni Indians tribes of today. There were about 18 families living in this community. Their village consisted of small windowless rooms in a rectangular-shaped building with a center courtyard area.
There were also some archeological sites with Petroglyphs, mysterious messages that were carved in the rocks 1,000 years ago. Pretty cool. There were drawings of birds, lizards, snakes, and faces.
The ravens in the park were all very friendly and looking for handouts. This one was patiently waiting on a wood rail at one of the lookouts. We also ran across a small herd of Pronghorn (sometimes called Antelope, although they are truly American and not related to Antelope at all). We stopped and Bonnie got out of the car to take their picture, and they slowly came closer and closer to her. They were only about 15 feet away when another car drove up from behind us, and they ran across the road. What a beautiful site they were!
Miles into the park, just as we were beginning to think there really wasn’t any such thing as Petrified Wood and that it was just a myth, we finally saw some. Here’s a closeup:
Some of it was really pretty cool, like this whole tree that broke under pressure during fossilization. It was one of the prettier ones we saw in the park. Jim found a pretty big petrified tree to lean on. These giant stone logs were at the south entrance of the park in the “Rainbow Forest.”
This 110-foot petrified log became the “Agate Bridge” after water flowed beneath it for hundreds of years eroding the softer sandstone underneath and leaving the fossilized stone log suspended across the top. They eventually built a cement structure under it to give it support.
We went back into town to the Navajo County Courthouse Museum and went into their jail that was no longer used. It had eight small cells with 4 beds to a cell. There was some interesting graffiti on the walls made by the inmates, some of whom were obviously Indian, such as this quote: “This land is our land, this land ain’t your land. From California, to the New York Island.” Guess he made his point while staying there.
We had dinner at Roma’s, a Mexican place in Holbrook. It was a festive little place, and what we got was done very well, but as usual with Mexican food, it was too much of the same taste and too much food. So we returned to the motorhome for a movie and American Butterfinger ice cream for desert.
Fri & Sat, March 14-15: Gallup, AZ
We headed east on 40/66 through Sanders and Chambers and continued northeast to Lupton through the Navajo Indian Reservation, traveling on old Route 66 where it existed. We stopped at the
Teepee Trading Post…hard to miss this huge Teepee! They had put huge statues of buffalo, birds and other wildlife way up on the mountainside behind it. We stopped at several other trading posts, most owned by the Yellowhorse family by now. We found some cool Navajo and Zuni jewelry there at very reasonable prices.
Just across the New Mexico border, there was another Chief Yellowhorse trading post, this one owned by his son Stuart. We had met Stuart’s brother, Scott, in another trading post off 89 as we were leaving the Grand Canyon. Stuart’s place was really cool, with teepees on top of the mountain and old Anasazi homes and cliff dwellings on his property and in the mountainside behind it. Cute ponies and mules were wandering around out front greeting travelers, and he even had 3 buffalo out back!
After unhitching at the USA RV Park (the only campground in Gallup), we went in search of information about Raymond Boyd, the Indian who made the first ring we purchased at the antique store weeks ago. According to the engraving in the ring, he lived in Van der Wagen, a small town between the Navajo and Zuni Reservations. After driving about 20 miles through nothing but desert, we saw a trading post called “Joe Milo’s.” He sold turquoise and other raw material to the Indians, who then made jewelry that they sold back to Joe for resale to the public. They knew Raymond Boyd and had many of his newer jewelry pieces that they showed us. He was about 50 now, so my ring was likely made in the early 70’s when he was 20 or so. We bought one of his newer cardinal inlaid bracelets to go with the ring we had and left our card with the woman who promised to let him know we stopped in the next time she saw him.
Then we headed a little further southwest into the Zuni Pueblo (Reservation). The Indian families lived in trailers and mobile homes and most had Hogans on them that were still used for traditional ceremonial purposes (births, deaths, weddings, and transitions to womanhood and manhood). A few had a couple of horses, maybe some cows or sheep, and they all had at least two and sometimes as many as 5 or 6 pickup trucks on their properties. We noticed a lot of trash and beer bottles on the roadside in the reservations with many places being used as dumpsites. The prices of the jewelry in the trading posts on the Reservation were very good, so we added more pieces to our collection of Indian jewelry. This longhorn was waiting for us outside one of them (behind a fenced area fortunately) when we came out.
We spent the next day walking all around Gallup and adding to our Native American vases and jewelry collections. Saturday night, we had dinner at the Ranch Kitchen, a wonderful place right next to the campground with great food owned by a really nice guy who looked like Wild Bill Hickok. The Mutton Stew, Bluecorn Rainbow Trout with Pinyon nuts, corn with cream cheese & green peppers and fry bread were probably the best southwest food we had eaten.
Sun, March 16: Grants to Albuquerque, AZ
Sunday morning, we crossed the Continental Divide where the water running down the west side of the mountains goes to the Pacific Ocean, and the water running down the east side of the mountains end up in the Atlantic Ocean. Not much there but a sign and more trading posts. A little further was Thoreau (pronounced “threw”) then Grants, named after 3 Grant brothers who were Santa Fe railroad contractors that set up the Grant’s Camp here.
A few miles later we entered the Acoma Indian Reservation and hopped onto Indian Service Routes about 15 miles south to the Acoma Pueblo (called the “Sky City”). There wasn’t much to see on the drive through the desert mountains except for this unfenced cow walking toward us and a lot of beer bottles on the side of the road. Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited village in the U.S. It was located on a sandstone mesa 400 feet above the valley and 7,000 feet above sea level. Vehicles were not allowed in the village, so we signed up for their guided tour. Most Acoma Indians had moved into the valley below, but 12 families still lived there without water or electricity, having to bring in water from 14 miles away. The first white man to enter the village was a Spanish army in 1540 that tried to force them to convert to Catholicism, which they refused to do. They made them build the San Esteban del Rey Mission over their sacred grounds. Unlike the Navajo, Cherokee, Apache and other Indian tribes, the Acoma tribe is a peaceful, Matriarchal society. It was a cool place, and we even bought a rainbow Acoma pot (what else).