2010 USA Tour : March 25th, Bullhead City AZ

Bullheadinto Arizona of many landscapes and climates

Today was our longest drive of the tour, but no performance tonight. Thank goodness for that as it was a tiresome drive, but also one of much beauty.

Setting off from Albuquerque at around 10:15 was among sun but with a chilly breeze that was soon to escalate into a several hours of difficult driving through strong cross winds.

Before leaving the RV site I bought a set of Route 66 maps from the local trading post. The next section beside the old Route 66 is perhaps the most interesting, Sadly, Arizona has not made the efforts to preserve its Route 66 section as much as TX, NM and parts of OK are doing.

Much of this part of the route is through tribal country stirring a wonder about how these people live and survive. Their homes are generally very basic and often in need of serious repair. I could not work out if this was due to choices, preferences, poverty, not caring what their homes looked like or just something I would not understand through not being of their culture. These native folks have a lot going for them we do not have so I hope this is due to their choices and not suppression.

The kicks of Route 66

I would have loved to have had more time exploring the many trading posts along I40 that has replaced much of Route 66.

Though I have travelled much of Route 66 a few times before I never really looked into its history, and there is so much more to this “route” than I imagine, and in some ways replicates the mentality portrayed in the story line of Avatar.

I would like to quote the beautiful writing of Jim Ross of www.66maps.com

“Route 66. It is a symbol of American ingenuity, spirit and determination. For millions it represents a treasure chest of memories, a direct link to the days of 2 lane highways, family vacations and picnic lunches at roadside tables. It brings up all the images of going somewhere, souvenir shops, reptile pits, and cozy courts, of looking forward to the next stop, a slice of breezy shade, an Orange Crush. Route 66, its a winding grade, a rusty steel bridge, a flickering neon at a late night diner. It is mountains and desert and plains and forest. America’s Mother Road, all of this and more. Even though it “officially” no longer exists is today the world’s most famous highway.”

I learned it all started in 1924 as a dream of Oklahoma Highway Commissioner Cyrus Avery who had to battle and battle with officials and politicians to establish a trade connecting highway between Chicago and Las Angeles that included passage through Oklahoma. He wanted a Route Number people would remember and Route 60 was available. Other politicians had dreams on having that number for their dream highways and they tried to force Avery to accept Route 62 and to change his route ideas too. An engineer, John Page, advised Avery that Route 66 was still available as a name, and easy to remember, so the highway name was born.

Alas, though planned as an economic boom highway its first use was as a highway of “flight” during the Depression with residents of the depressed mid west travelling to California is search of new life and abundance.

Almost regarded as a flop, the highway took on an important role through world war two carrying troops, munitions and equipment. Alas during these war years no maintenance was done on the road and was strangely the start of its decline.

After the war, ex military men were in the mood to live a new sense of freedom and their memories of military travel along 66 turned into a sense of travelling the route again for freedom and party. It was all an urge to “go somewhere, do something, not be tied down”, and this was all spurred on by Bobby Troupe’s song “Get Your Kicks On Route 66”, that was made more famous by Chuck Berry and later by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. In response, the motels, ballroom theaters, drive in movie theaters, diners, soda shops and all elements of party sprung up along the way, often served by enterprising native american tribes who placed rows and rows of huge billboard sings along the route to advertise and lure travellers to their services

Despite this new popularity Route 66 was still not maintained much through the 50s as capitalist highway builders had other plans.

In the 60s these ex swinging G.I.s were now family people so Route 66 became the family vacation route so now the route became full of family resorts, small reptile zoos, picnic stops, and small tribal shops became large trading posts for gift and family shopping that included blankets, food, clothing, toys for the children and novelties.

By the 70s several parts of Route 66 were no longer driveable due to non maintenance and crumbling away. The capitalist highway builders had taken over with their multimillion dollar multi lane interstate highways.

However, the dream lives on with the grandparents, often with their grandchildren, the senior ex GIs, even seniors who were of the earlier flight from Depression. RV parks have become abundant along with full resorts of nice chalets, villas and hotels. Some states, especially TX and NM are active in restoring sections of the old highway to make it safe for enthusiasts to drive the actual original road rather than the modern highway. Several of the trading posts have been restored and look wonderful.

Claire and I just love driving Route 66, and stopping in places, in the spirit it has always been :-)

so over Arizona

Amarillo to Albuquerque provides the first glimpse of wild west with its open spaces and approaching the mountains of NM. Past Albuquerque becomes real cowboy movie country with mixes of red rock and yellow plain, and sometimes white sand, deserts, along with the scattered tribal villages.

Another thing that amazed us was the wonderful use of the Santa Fe railways through here, freight trains passing every few minutes, each one keeping about 150 trucks off the road. One thought was how environmental this all was, and then another thought questioned about how much is consumed that needs this abundant transportation rather than folks buy local grown and made supplies? For every truck taken off the road, plus every truck we saw on the road, compared to the population served, almost gave the impression that consumer demands of the people needed something like one truck on the road per 100 people per day. I’m sure my facts are wrong, but its seemed to be near correct. I should not speak too much on this as this tour of our’s is consuming about $80 of gas every 2 to 3 hours on the road with the RV.

Approaching Falstaff the road is much more mountainous and climbing to 6000 feet. We were up from deserts and their many mini-whirlwinds to be surrounded by snow forests and mountains, ice covered lakes, and tricky ice covered steep decline highways too.

The far side of Falstaff descended into the humid almost Mediterranean landscape of red roof houses, palm trees and larger “white” population.

Bullhead City was a surprise. I was expecting an olde world AZ resort town, and not a bright light multi coloured dazzling mini Las Vegas. It was a relief to find we were camping our RV a few miles past this, around a river bend out of sight of all this to the most beautiful RV camp site we have been in so far. How many times have I said this on this tour?

The site is on a riverside with clear, clean bubbling water, with islands that look like mini Inishfrees in Ireland, beautiful coloured rocks and lovely sounding birds.

When we arrived over dark, it was still bright, perhaps with rising moon. As I watched in the water by the shore, a skunk passed by me. No, it did not squirt.


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