(Note: I’m typing these up as I go.) (ETA: Links and photographs added February 11, 2012).
After waking up early in
Mordor Grants, I ended up having to wait a bit for the temperature to come up enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about fog or condensation freezing on the pavement. Turns out this was a good idea, both that I stopped in Grants for the night and didn’t leave early. The entire way to Gallup, about 60 miles, I kept seeing wrecking crews pulling cars and trucks from guardrails and in at least one case out of a huge, deep gully. Hopefully, everyone was all right.
The rocks continued, as well as the steady climb. Eventually I ended up at the Continental Divide, which is marked by a tiny sign and a really cheesy trading post. Took a photo of a covered wagon emblazoned “CONTINENTAL DIVIDE NEW MEXICO ELEV 7275 FEET.” All the signs said this was the highest point on the continent. Ignore the fact that when I passed the “Arizona Divide” after Flagstaff later in the day, its sign bore a number 100 feet higher….
Inside the trading post, I had a good laugh at a sign near the cash register. Next to the usual “have a penny leave a penny” cup, there was another sign, reading simply “If you need more than 3 pennies, GET A JOB!”
Got back on the road, and noticed the “moose crossing” signs getting traded out for “elk crossing” signs. DEVOnation supplied “Explosions” near Gallup, where I also saw cacti, but not of the living variety. Not sure what sort of omen that is, but at least it’s a good song!
The Arizona Welcome Center was once again covered in ravens. As I got out of my car, four came and sat down near it, and one got up in front of me. I said good morning, and it tilted its head at me and answered, making the guy getting out of the car to my left laugh out loud. Apparently it was going to be a raven day again – and it was. (I also managed to survive the poisonous snakes and insects, perhaps because of this polite warning.) Most of Arizona went by in a haze of rocks and dirt, rocks and dirt, an occasional ghost town, “Indian” trading post, or tourist trap, and more rocks with hilarious dinosaur statues poking out and grinning at the road. I had to skip the giant meteor crater and the Grand Canyon stops, if only because my math said due to the lost time this morning, there was no way I’d make Kingman by dark if I didn’t keep going.
One day, I will be back for them.
After the Jackrabbit, which seems to be closed (hopefully just for the season), and again near Two Guns with its strange and vaguely malevolent burned ruins, the helpful signs suddenly read “Blowing Dust.” Thankfully there wasn’t too much of that, though the wind picked up and continued to pick up as the biggest mountains I’ve seen yet loomed on the horizon.
As the song demands, I did not forget Winona, and it will be difficult to do so, despite the fact that Winona comes BEFORE Flagstaff on the trip. Besides the machine selling “horny goat weed” in the bathroom, I got a good laugh out of the very serious typed notice on the refrigerated case that indicated that Red Bull can be purchased with food stamps, but that all other energy drinks must be paid for with cash. After showing the cashier my cartouche ring (“I thought you were one of them Rosicrucians or something”), I got back in the car and started back up the mountain approach. Wish I’d remembered to take a picture of them before I got back in the car, but at the time, I was just trying to get out of there with my Red Bull before anyone else wanted to see my ring.
I finally passed through those mountains in Flagstaff. This part of Arizona didn’t look anything like the Painted Desert – it looked like something out of a Bob Ross painting. I begin to understand why people dream of living here. I also begin to understand why tourism suffers with less traffic, when I paid 95 cents more per gallon for gas (!) near Williams and the Grand Canyon than I did anywhere else in the state….
So after the long descent from 7335 feet to 5000-odd feet out of the Flagstaff area, I expected either another plateau like in New Mexico and early Arizona, or a descent. Wrong – western Arizona seems to be keeping with that Haitian proverb, “behind the mountains, there are more mountains.” I spent all afternoon pretty much going up and down, over hills and mountains, through several national forests, past interesting signs like “Devil Dog Road,” and down into a valley toward Seligman, which you can’t miss. Besides the fact that Seligman is pretty much the only thing there, someone branded the mountain with a giant white S that you can see for miles.
I wish I could’ve stopped at the cemetery I saw off the roadside near mile 120, but I couldn’t find any sort of road that went to it, or even a way to walk to it from where I was, from the angle of the freeway. (My linked photos indicate that there is a road going to it…so now I have a future plan.) It would be interesting to make this tour with a 4WD vehicle. Too bad we don’t have small flying devices.
Eventually I made it to Kingman, just as the sun disappeared behind the mountains for good for the night. Settled into a hotel with wired internet (my laptop no longer has a wi-fi antenna and is so old, it’s not worth replacing it) and caught up on my work. Now it’s time to get some sleep. Tomorrow, my Route 66 adventure draws to a close and I will head north to a new life in San Jose.