Daniel F. Smith in Arizona
Yawn. Ugh! It amazes me that the Germans can go to bed after midnight, but still clank about and head for the Canyon before 6am. Maybe it's breeding. I staggered around and eventually hauled myself into some kind of shape to move on out. Emptying the Chevy Tahoe and stuffing it all in my suitcase was quite an effort, but surprisingly enough, everything fitted. Today would be another driving day---to Route 66 (or Historic Route 66 as it is now signposted) and head in to Phoenix to catch my flight home.
I headed down to the I-40, which was built over 66, and started on the old pavement just before Seligman. What they don't show you in the documentaries is that most of Route 66 is just plain plains. But when you get to the few towns dotted along the way, the pictures hold true, and it's a smorgasbord of brightly colored motels, auto shops and quaint stores. Ahh, life on the road. I mailed some more postcards in the pleasantly non-descript town of Peach Springs. If I'd waited one more town they'd have been postmarked Valentine---I bit my lip when I realized that, but I didn't see a Post Office there anyway, though I'm sure there must have been one, with a name like that.
Ol' 66 went by much quicker than I expected, and soon I found myself out of the Mohave Desert and in Kingman. Kingman is one of those unpretentious places, with a tourist information center that proclaims the town as the gateway to historic Route 66. Right. Plenty of tacky souvenirs in there, but the rest of the town was sensible. Even though traffic was light, there was a long backup on the main auto dealership drag. An articulated truck loaded with hay was stuck under the freeway, with the engine running and a police car watching it. I can only imagine the circumstances leading up to it being parked there; must have been too rustic to enter town or something.
|Kingman: an unpretentious town, with an eager tourism branch.||Sticker shock: a good 15 cents less for gas here then anywhere else I found in the state; and it compares with $1.90 back home.|
So at last it was time to head back to the airport. I was making good progress through the joshua tree forest and cacti. Instead of heading straight back, I decided to veer off just before downtown Phoenix and see if I could get through the Pinnacle Patio Steakhouse before being late. It was way over in Scottsdale, but somehow or other I successfully navigated myself there without hitting the myriad of jams on the freeways that the radio was reporting (suckers!). The steakhouse has a reputation that I wanted to check out. The servers were very smart when I mentioned I wanted to eat quickly, and took my order immediately. Okay, the reputation. The guidebook said that if you wear a tie to dinner, they will cut it off and staple it to the ceiling. I took a peek inside. Wall to wall ties. There were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, hanging from every available wall and rafter cranny. Impressive. I sat outside though, in the warm rays of the setting sun, casually swatting flies, wistfully watching the dancers by the band and only occasionally getting disturbed by the loud shotgun fire as the themed maitre d's warned off tie-wearers. Great atmosphere, but the food was a little lacklustre and too realistically authentic trail grub. But the pinnacles that dot up all over Scottsdale are quite a sight.
|Pinnacle sundown: the famous Pinnacle Peak Patio, where ties hang.||The pinnacle: a final farewell to the rocks and cacti of Arizona.|
I tried to navigate back to the car rental place. I thought I'd try to find the airport first, then work my way back. That was a mistake, as the airport was one huge maze that does not make sense. It just doesn't. In the end, I gave up on the compass, because everything that headed north turned into a dead end. I just sighed and headed to departures. At last, they had the forethought to mark the twisty-turny route to the exit. I was about 25 minutes late, with a grace of 35 minutes remaining, so the timing was just about perfect. While clearing out the Tahoe yet again, and stuffing all the things I'd missed into my backpack (including fastening the tripod rather precariously to the top flap), I discovered I could not discover where my keys were. Oops. Luckily, some frantic searching on the shuttle bus persuaded them that they were needed, so they came out of hiding. It was a lot cooler in Phoenix tonight than it was the previous weekend; only about 95 degrees. I thought back to the 70 degree climate up in Flagstaff and pondered the mystery again of why the people of Phoenix don't move there. The shuttle driver answered, "man, it's too cool". Mystery solved, I guess, though that does leave open a bigger question....
My total mileage touring Arizona was 1616 miles, though it didn't feel like nearly that far. Nobody was very talkative on the late flight back. Arizona goes to bed early and I think most people were just interested in snoozing to San Jose.
So what does Arizona have that California doesn't? Well, graveyards for one---lots of them down in the south east. And golf courses. It seems that every other town is a retirement community. Also, Dairy Queens. I tried my first one today in Kingman (and it wasn't easy to find it). The burger was very good, though the fries were kind of dry. California has loads more traffic lights---the people of Arizona seem to be able to negotiate left turns quite adequately without having to be metered. The long straight two-lane roads through the desert also allow overtaking skills to be practiced, even if there were some appalling maneuvers in that regard (they were probably tourists). Arizona also has power cables. They seem to be everywhere.
The biggest pleasure was probably the Biosphere 2. That was fascinating, and almost enough to make me want to become an environmental scientist, so I could live in a huge glass and white-painted-metal greenhouse. The biggest eye-feast was Oak Canyon---well worth checking out before the rest of the world finds out about it. They've already taken over Sedona, so get there fast. Biggest surprise was the fascinating Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Taliesin West.
I think this was just a scouting trip for a future visit. There is so much to do here that it would really take three or four weeks to skim through it properly. But now I'm armed with information of what's interesting. I'd like to study the old western towns more, and some of the attractions that the metropoli can offer. And, of course, there's the whole west side of the state, leading into California, and Nevada. Well, it has been a most enjoyable vacation, but I'm looking forward to getting back to annoying my cat, seeing if the house is still standing and checking in with my friends that I am beginning to miss. It'll be nice to have an extended conversation again, instead of isolated discovery sessions. And you never know how much you miss the refrigerator until you've been away from it. Home sweet home, here I come.
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