Road Trip to the Grand Canyon
By Jill Willard
Lorne and I went on a little drive the other day — to the Grand Canyon. Yes, a couple of weeks ago we were quite the road warriors and drove out to the Grand Canyon and back to Kansas City in four days. We had a few days off work together so we decided to do something crazy. The Grand Canyon is absolutely amazing, as many of you know. I had never been there before and Lorne was so young when he was there, he really didn’t remember any of it from before. We stayed the afternoon and watched the sun set over the largest hole in the Earth you’ll ever see. It was a great time to visit this major tourist attraction because in January, it may have been a little cold but it sure wasn’t crowded. We got to thoroughly enjoy the awe-inspiring view in the company of only a few other adults quietly appreciating this wonder of nature.
Being the road warriors that we are, we drove far every day, but there were also many stops made along the way and back. Our intention of the trip was to follow Route 66 from Oklahoma City to as far West as we thought we could get. Route 66 along that corridor through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona has been pretty much replaced with Interstate 40. However, there are many places that the original Route 66 road is separate from the Interstate, so it is possible to drive on the historic road itself. We did this several places through a couple of states. Typically, the original highway takes you through the little towns, which are now being ignored as the Interstate passes them by. One good detour off the Interstate is in Clinton, Oklahoma.
The Route 66 Museum in Clinton was enjoyable with informative narrations and good films about the history of the Mother Road. We also stopped at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, but it was not nearly as worthwhile as the museum in Clinton.
The road through Texas was short and only had a few non-memorable places to see. We drove past the “Cadillac Ranch” west of Amarillo and I have no idea why it would draw so much attention. What a joke! A few cars stuck in the ground. We didn’t even slow down while driving past it on the Interstate and saw all we needed to see of it. One thing we had planned to see and stop for lunch was the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas. It is supposed to have good food and is famous for being the halfway point of Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, we found the cafe closed, as I’m sure they don’t get a lot of tourist business in January. It didn’t look permanently closed, but just closed for the winter season.
In New Mexico, we stopped in Tucumcari, a once well-advertised and popular stay along Route 66 in its history. We took pictures of the famous Blue Swallow Motel, with all of its good, old-fashioned neon of a typical motel of its time.
The other neat thing about this motel is that it is still open for business and includes a garage for your car next to your room. Having a garage stall next to your motel room, we found, is a unique thing in history. It seems during the mass migration of Oklahomans to the West Coast during the Dust Bowl, many families used these garages to work on repairing their cars during the long, rough road to California. (Sounds like its was made for Gary and Redo Blue in mind!)
When we hit Arizona, the first destination was Winslow. Being a fan of the many Eagles songs, we found ourselves “standin on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see”.
Lorne was disappointed, my Lord, that no girl in a flatbed Ford slowed down to take a look at him. (There is however, that flatbed Ford parked permanently by this famous corner.)
Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff, Arizona
After our visit to the Grand Canyon, we stayed overnight in Flagstaff, where we decided to stay at the classy old Hotel Monte Vista in old downtown right off Route 66. The key word here is “old”. This hotel, built in 1927, was a splendid hotel in its day, so much so that Gary Cooper and Clark Gable stayed there, among other famous celebs, but it was certainly not in the best of shape. We paid extra for a private bath, instead of a “European” bath (public bath down the hall). Where the toilet was located was truly no bigger than a water closet, and you could barely stick your elbows out while washing your hair in the shower! Our room apparently was one of the famous rooms that Gene Tierney had once stayed in. We had to come home and look her up and I still didn’t recognize many of her movies.
Guess I’m just too young, and that hotel was just too old! Lorne says Gene stayed there, but she was really mad because the shower was way too small.
On our way back from the Grand Canyon, we managed a side trip to Santa Fe. The town truly has a nice shopping area, which is called The Plaza. We ate at a locally recommended trendy restaurant, window shopped for an hour, then headed out of town.
That was pretty much the highlights of the trip. We didn’t make too many more stops so we could get home and make the 3,000 mile round trip in 4 days, since we had to go to work on Monday. It is easy to say though that we didn’t quite get enough and are planning on making a similar trip again this year to the MCA show in Las Vegas, Nevada in September. It really will be a pretty nice drive even for the old cars, and taking it a little slower than we did this time will make it even better. That way, we can get even more kicks on Route 66.