Most of that journey — from Allentown PA to Venice, CA — was on Interstate I-40, not Route 66 (though the routes often overlapped), and I wasn’t fleeing the Dust Bowl. But I was fleeing my own personal “depression” brought on by losing my job, girl friend, and the publishing contract for my first book, all in the space of just a few months.
But it was in that tavern, the oldest in New Mexico, as well as in the nearby city of Santa Fe, where my journey paused for two months as I explored the rugged wilderness of the Great American Southwest, that my luck began to change. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say that I understand at a deep, personal level what Route 66 meant for the millions of seekers and dreamers making their way west on the narrow, sometimes twisty, dusty road.
From Oklahoma City, where I left off in my previous blog post, to Madrid, we passed through the rest of Oklahoma and Texas, where we saw even more motels, filling stations, car museums, cafes and diners as well as the world famous Cadillac Ranch, the idiosyncratic art project of Texas millionaire Stanley Bass 3 (not III).
I also had a surprisingly good steak at the kitschy Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo where I saw (not ate) the largest steak I have ever seen sitting in front of a patron at another table who didn’t mind my taking a photo of his dinner (and breakfast the next morning, plus lunch, dinner, etc.).
Along the way, we ran into a motorcycle club from Hong Kong, one of two foreign motorcycle clubs (the other was German) making their thunderous way from along the Mother Road.
After Texas we headed to New Mexico where we stopped in Santa Fe,
and the epiphany-inducing bar in Madrid where I spent a couple of afternoons in the summer of 1975 after helping a friend fix up a dilapidated miner’s shack in what was then a ghost town and is now a thriving tourist attraction.
I did find it curious that although the town was named after a 19th Century Jewish financier from NY who helped finance the railroad lines in the area, the pronunciation bore little resemblance to the way in which the name is pronounced in NY (or Philly, Baltimore or any of the East Coast cities with significant Jewish populations). Angel himself described Seligman as “a German from Bavaria.” Go figure…..
From there it was on to Oatman, AZ a former mining town, now tourist stop know for its burros and Trumpian memorabilia. The burros are descendants of the animals abandoned when the mines were shut down. Not sure what to say about the Trumpian memorabilia.
Finally, we hit the home stretch and entered California, stopping at the historic but spooky Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy in the heart of the Mojave, which looked more like an art installation than a motel and cafe.
We spent our last night in beautiful downtown Barstow.
In one of the biggest surprises of the trip, just when I figured it was winding down with little else to see, we stopped at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Victorville,
From there it was on to the end of the route and the trip at Santa Monica Pier, just two miles up the beach from my home in Venice.
I really enjoyed the trip, but I’m glad to be home. For the foreseeable future, it will be nothing but sushi, salads and the gym until I lose the five plus pounds I gained on the trip. Well, maybe I’ll have one hamburger on July 4. Or two…..
(Note — Don was hosted on this trip by Two Lane America)