Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Me, the girls and 1000 Flaming Skeletons

Back in my grad school days a bunch of us would don some festive Mardi Gras masks bought at a discount from the local party supplies store and become spectators in the very wild and always surprising West Hollywood's Halloween Carnaval.

For the open minded throngs who frequent this drag-fest of the costumed drag-gest, it's an unforgettable sojourn into a world beyond the realm of even Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland...at least it was for straight-as-an-arrow me and my equally straight Oklahoma-native girlfriend (now my wife).

The best year we ever experienced was the parade which took place after the release of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (queue Abba music about now). No parade advertised as "off-beat" and irreverent has yet to match that particular Halloween night in West Hollywood.

Which brings me to our families recent parade experience at what many fellow Okie's have branded, the wild and wackiest Halloween parade that Oklahoma has to offer; Ghouls Gone Wild.

While the parade was far outside the pomp and circumstances norm for street festival fair in Oklahoma, both my Wife and I were sorely disappointed in the lack of outrageous costumes (okay, the 10-foot tall Aliens were pretty cool), and politically correctness demonstrated by the participants.

That's right. Not one drag queen dressed as Sarah Palin (or Tina Fey for that matter). Only one George Bush and one John McCain. No Obama's. No Biden's. No Sally Kern's. The corporate sponsored floats out-counted the others by 2:1 and the biggest jeer drawn from the crowd was for a local attorney, his name and law practice grossly gracing the side of the pick-up he was riding in.

Even Pasadena's daytime Doo-Dah Parade would score higher for satirical costumes and flamboyant hi-jinks than Ghouls's Gone Wild.

Granted, the parade was billed as a family affair, and both of our girl's had a great time -- even when the marching zombie's would charge at them, sending them screaming into our arms.

Still and all, the highlight and crescendo that the parade builds to with much deserved braggadocio is the March of the 1000 Flaming Skeletons, led/followed by the boneyard sponsor (and purchaser of the skeleton costumes), Wayne Coyne of the successful local band, The Flaming Lips.

There are plenty of YouTube clips featuring the march, but this clip captures it in essence and won't tax your DSL line to download it.

File this blog entry under, "Things to do in Oklahoma that don't involve OU, farming, hunting, or eating chicken fried steak."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inglewood in 'da hood...serving up good Mex-dishes

Here's what I knew going in...My In-laws had eaten at a new Mexican restaurant (to them) in the small (but growing at a staggering rate) town located about halfway between their medium sized town and our small town.

It was a family run joint, owned by two gents related through the marriage of one to the sister of the other.

One of the owners was from Chicago, the other was from California.

The food was reasonably priced and good. Different, but good.

And most importantly (to my In-laws), the queso was tasty.
What we found upon our first foray into the drive-through pizza joint turned mex-rest was a little taste of the old school and a heaping helping of shared experience hospitality.

The owner, I'll call him Don (as in Don Diego de la Vega aka Zorro), upon hearing we were So Cal transplants like himself, pulled up a chair as if we were family and immediately launched into a discussion on his family history, our family history, the origins of his family recipes, and how he came to this growing Oklahoma town on the prairie, complete with introductions to all his family members that were currently working.

Before becoming an Oklahoma resident three years back, Don lived and worked in Inglewood, CA. Since I had spent a good deal of the summer of '95 in and around his neighborhood working on a movie (bad movie, good experience), we bonded over talk of this all-night taco stand, that corner store, and the many locations we shot at that he was intimately familiar with.

While we discussed, among other things, our shared experiences of our Okie-emigrant status, Don would occasionally whisper directions into his eldest daughter's passing ear and within minutes our table was adorned with items not on the menu, but culled from his own family's table favorites and prepared with speed and aplomb in the restaurant's kitchen.

When S mentioned her love for the fire-roasted green chile rellenos that my Step-Mom prepared, out came a sample of Don's favorite relleno-style dish. After some coaxing I admitted my missed cravings for North Hollywood street carnitas tacos with onion and cilantro relish and a red radish garnish. I was rewarded with a pork green chile verde version of my favorite sidewalk vendor dish that makes my lips curl just now thinking about it.

The fire-roasted mixed chile salsa that was his Mother's favorite was too good for words. When I suggested that he should include it on the menu, an astonished look crossed his face and he muttered, "sólo para la familia."*

What could I say to that? So I simply dipped another chip and munched away.

Don's favorite anecdote on opening a Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma involved the numerous "research" trips he and his family took throughout the state, once they decided to open their own joint here. He summed it up in one word...."queso."

Which drew a huge laugh from my So Cal gullet, as I nodded and heartily agreed with him when he proceeded to tell the story of how his family members were surprised that every Mexican restaurant in the state served up the complimentary melted cheesy dip along with the table setting and glass of water.

When I relayed the story of taking my In-laws for dinner to Olvera Street in LA, and how my M-i-L was upset when she found out we weren't getting queso dip with our dinner, Don nodded knowingly and chuckled right along with me.

You Okie's and your queso...I mean it.

*-for family only

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A big dog dies, an old man cries

His owner was toiling away in the garage workshop, filling an order for several mounts that a taxidermist friend had asked him to make. Just a few deer head backing plates.

Nick was at his usual position in the corner of the garage. Not close enough to let the flying sawdust and debris from the radial arm cutter sprinkle his black coat, but near enough to his owner to feel secure in his presence.

This was his spot in the garage. He had a different one in the back of the pickup. Yet another one in the backyard by his house and pen. Still another next to his owner in the duck blind.

In the 12-years he had lived with his owner and the other pack members, he had retrieved a couple hundred ducks in barely frozen over ponds, eaten his fare share of kibble and then some, and most recently been on the receiving end of hugs and playful head pats from one, then another smaller versions of the human kind of which he shared his life.

But on this particular day, as his owner made busy in his woodsmith workshop, Nick laid his huge black head down, closed his eyes and left his owner/pack leader and family behind.

In between saw cuts and router bit changes, my F-i-L noticed his beloved canine companion hadn't moved in a bit and didn't see the comforting rise and fall of the beasts ample ribcage.

"Nick," he called weakly as he crossed the polished cement floor over to the worn carpet remnant in the corner.

"What's the matter old man?"

When it hit him, it was a slow motion moment. There was the inevitable moment of denial, followed by the jolt of emptiness and the pit of heartfelt loss. The tears came to the him soon after as he told his wife the news and prepared to bury his old friend in the backyard alongside the previous two canine family members.

I know this will be my F-i-L's last dog, as he's stated on numerous occasions that very fact, so a part of me can't help but wonder if some of those tears were shed in recognizing the passing of time along with the passing of an old friend.

In telling the girls of the death of the first real dog they ever grew to love as a family member, I found myself deluged with hastily drawn pictures of the big black Lab from my 5-year old, along with a nonchalant shrug from my almost-9 year old.

No worries, I knew that seemingly emotionless shrug would manifest itself as an earful of tearful come bedtime that night.

In closing, I myself find that I owe my F-i-L's big, black Labrador a small debt of gratitude.

He taught my girls at an early age what it meant to be a humane human.
He taught them how to respect, but at the same time how not to be afraid of big dogs.
He showed them how dogs can be more than a companion and family member, but can have a job as well.

Finally, he demonstrated how a wagging tail, when being wielded by a 125 lb. happy dog, can be a knock-you-off-your-feet-then-wack-you-in-the-head-as-you-fall weapon of mass destruction and giggles galore.

So long, Nick.

Good boy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Arizona, take off your hobo shoes

For this, my final installment of my snaps from our recent anniversary trip, I'm drawn to the lyrics of the classic good/bad song, Arizona by Mark Linsday (formerly of Paul Revere and the Raiders...yes THOSE Raiders whose biggest hit was "Indian Reservation").

Listen away in one browser tab, while scrolling through the final set of pics.

Go ahead...it'll make you popular.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Still more AZ pics and posts

A well documented location on Route 66 in Holbrook, a well photographed roadside attraction, and a well worn subject. Still, use your imagination as I did when I snapped this bad boy and titled it, "Final image on the digital camera SD memory card belonging to a missing visitor to Jurassic Park."

Little letters on a big wall - truly a metaphor for the meteor crater on so many different levels.

I shot two versions of this photo...both with and without my lovely wife. Obviously, this is the version with her. Doesn't she have a killer smile? Well, doesn't she?

Sometimes a cool shot just presents itself. Course, sunsets and long shadows make things a tad easier on amateur photogs at times.

If a hotel room maid goes through the trouble of fanning out the top sheet in a box of Kleenex, then it deserves not only a snapshot, but a dramatic setting as well. I titled this shot, "Talking a box of tissue out of committing suicide wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done, especially when it was crying and I wanted to hand it a tissue to wipe it's tears..."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More AZ pics and posts

One of the greatest things about road trips is knowing more or less when and where the next bathrooms are located. I thought this sign was pretty extreme, but it goes back to our family motto (or at least one of them), "Never pass up a rest stop opportunity."

Props to Painted Desert educational marketing staff. The best time to educate young minds is during early childhood education programs. The best time to educate old dudes minds is while sitting on the throne in a National Park restroom.

All that remains of the Mother Road (which some critics maintain led to the popularization of the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest area and the subsequent thievery of the valuable tree-turned-rock resource) in the Painted Desert park are some power lines which paralleled the highway, along with a cool little display erected by the Park's Service.

I know some rat rodders that would pay a pretty penny for that rusty body shell sitting out there.

Quoth the raven...get caught stealing some p-wood, and you may be facing jail time...never more.

This joint in Holbrook, AZ was screaming for a dramatic Edward Hopper pose, so here it is. Call it, "Joe and Aggie's Nighthawks."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

AZ trip redux

Back home in my small town in Oklahoma and pondering next years anniversary jar adventure to Alabama.

Before I do a Velvet Brown and move onto the next thing in life with neither regret nor remorse for that which we didn't get to do or see, here are the first in a series of pics and commentary, posted as promised. I'm not a professional photog, so just deal with the wonky composition as if you were seeing the world through thyne own eyes...if you were me. If you like these, there will be more. If not, it's the weekend so go out and enjoy the fall weather.

Taken on October 5, 2008..."Shucks, any ol' body can get an alky drink at the Big Texan...long as you was born today or later."

What kills me is that the Budweiser folk spent all this money and all that research time in coming up with a surefire, easy-as-pie method to help the sellers of it's product determine proper drinking age credentials. And all it takes to undermine the cost and effort is one doofus who opens the box from Anheuser-Busch and thinks, "ohh, pretty clock...with a built in calendar too!"

It's wacky haiku time...
A swallow swoops
parting the dark clouds
rooms to rent

"When the phone didn't ring, I knew the dame wouldn't call, and that I'd have to find a way to see to it that any other dame who walked into my office and sold me a sob story about her cheating husband and empty bank account, wouldn't be able to tell that I had a soft spot for sob stories. In my line of work, at $40 a day plus expenses, a soft spot like I have won't pay the landlord or keep the revolver in my pocket loaded with bullets."

VonDutch sees all, even from the back of a restored hot rod panel wagon.

Most RV drivers pull a small car or suv behind their rolling land giants, so when they find a suitable campsite, they can leave their home-away-from-home parked and use the car to bop around town in.

I like this guys bop-around-town vehicle much better.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Takin' it easy and letting the Eagles dictate our direction

This a.m. we dined on the free continental breakfast musings that the McMotorLodge chain hotel offered with our paid room tab. While I poured, flipped and manned our pre-mixed and pre-measured waffles, S eavesdropped on the lively conversations occupying the geriatric rotunda taking up 99.9% of the remaining room in the designated free breakfast nook arena.

The widescreen LCD tv hanging precariously in the corner of the nook was blasting the news of the latest DOW droppage, and it was fun to listen to the ongoing debate in the room about the upcoming election and who was voting for whom and why whom was voting for him.

Filled to the brim with far too many baked goods and not nearly enough fresh fruit, we left our room card key behind and journeyed to the old section of Cottonwood in search of the soul of the town. We found it a mile or two down Main Street, well away from the glare of the chain motels and WalMart supercenter parking lot lights.

Stopping at a sprawling antique and collectible haven known as Larry's Antiques on Main, both S and I hooted and hollered at each other from one end of the lot, to the second floor of the barn, to room after room of just plain stuff.

This rooftop parking lot of rusty relic'd pedal cars was too good not to digitize.

One item in particular caught my eye, but alas, there would be no room in our import truckster's bonnet for such an elaborate and awkward Arizona souvie...

Leaving Larry's behind, I spied this sign and snapped a shot of it as reference...for an identical sign that I someday plan to build and erect on the front lawn of my Main Street house.

Course, I'll swap my small town's name for Cottonwood...and maybe make Buzz and Todd a little more animated. And paint the Vette the correct shade of blue.

Eventually making our way to State Highway 17 northbound took us to 1-40 where a half tank of petrol later, we found ourselves exiting onto Winslow's stretch of Route 66.

Finding THE corner was easy, as the Mother Road guided us there on her Winslow loop with all the care of a, well, a mother. We hopped out of the car, plopped ourselves down in the plaza and drew next years anniversary destination state from the jar. The corner itself was alive with visitors and shutterbugs, anxious to become one with the lyrics of a 30+ year old song written by Jackson Brown and performed by the band that brought us such classic hits as Hotel California, Sunset Grill, and Tequila Sunrise.

With several cheesy poses of ourselves with the statue, and S standing astride the "flatbed Ford" pickup truck parked next to the plaza, we took our jar (now with one less slip of paper in it's belly) and buzzed over to nearby Holbrook for our traditional wedding anniversary meal...pizza.

The town of Holbrook boasts not only one of the last surviving Wigwam Motels, but also the only exclusively Italian eatery (unless you can claim Pizza Hut as Italian) within a days drive of the AZ/NM border.

Unfortunately, the restaurant wouldn't open it's dinner hour doors for another hour, so we went in search of Holbrook's public library to sit and ponder our next years anniversary state pick. My library sniffing gene proved pinpoint accurate once again as it only took a few right turns and several more left turns to locate the town's public library. I pulled my iBook and shared the joints wifi access, while Wifey got down to brass taxes with the library's copy of Cottage Living.

The hour we needed to kill sped by in record time and our chops were a'lickin for some pizza pie. Now, while some may have theorized that our choices for enjoying a "good" pizza may have seem limited by our location of the moment, the Mesa Italiana restaurant on Holbrook's main drag surpassed our expectations for both product and experience.

The crust was a hand-tossed variety, with minimal bubble burns, indicating someone was actually watching this pizza being baked, as opposed to just sticking it into a conveyor belt oven. The mushrooms were fresh, the veggies sliced, not diced, and the sausage, while served as chunks instead of sliced (my preference) was spiced and flavorful.

We ordered enough p-pie for a filling meal with a few slices left to occupy the togo box and we were once again off.

Bombing straight through the AZ/NM border, with a gas and sip stop in 'Que-town our stamina finally ran out in Santa Rosa where the bright red neon sign of the Sun 'n Sand Motel on 66 beckoned our road worn bodies to it's vintage bosom.

So here we sit, lying in bed, finishing off the rest of our pizza from dinner...just as we did 10-years ago this night.

Oh yes, for those interested, for next years trip we pulled yet another A-name state, Alabama.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

We call them... Super Tacos

The utter stillness of the national park was just the ticket for our previous two nights of not-quite restful sleep. Yes, my wife's 4 a.m. call of the wild introduced a bit of discomfort as the chilly night air rushed into the tent and down to the bone, but once that call was taken, the early morning agenda was open and the phone lines were cleared.

After listening to the modern day morning camping chorus consisting of the beep-beep-beep of backing up motorhomes, an errant car alarm or two, and the whipping flap of 20 lb. ravens hovering nearby in hopes of stealing a campers breakfast, we broke camp, took $2-for-8-minute hot showers at the convenience center a short walk away, and found our way to a nearby cafeteria for way-too-much breakfast at way-too-much prices.

Still and all, we saved a few bucks by camping out the night before, so the splurge didn't bother us, knowing as well that we'd probably skip lunch as the national park foodstuff weighed heavily in our gullets.

The last stop in our Grand Canyon tour was at the Watchtower. I hadn't been snapping as many snaps in and around the GC as most of the other tourists we observed during our stay, but something about the Watchtower brought some life back into my shutter finger. Indulge me a bit and let me post a few here...

Side note here, a great drive leaving the GC area would be via the easterly Desert View drive, and down the hill past the Little Colorado River Gorge. Spectacular views out of every window, tight curves, smooth pavement, and 65+ speeds the entire time.

Growing somewhat weary of ruins and natural wonders, we opted instead to head into the fantastic Red Rock Canyon for a visit to the artistic colony known as Sedona.

The drive down the RR Canyon was full of twists and turns, narrow at times, and dangerous as all get out, only because its so very hard to concentrate on the road when the scenery outside the windshield is utterly breathtaking.

As long as it took to get into Sedona, once there, S and I couldn't get out of town fast enough.

Sedona may be loved by the folks who live there and the busloads of tourist and art seekers who flock to the place every season of the year, but whatever historic remnants of the small artist colony ever existed are now buried beneath the heavy-handed strokes of commercial developers, faux-southwest designers, and million dollar hillside homes that Mary Colter would gasp at with utter disdain.

As did we.

For a town that sits in such a naturally magnificent setting, boasts a roster of some of the Southwests master level artists, as well as a rich history worthy of the great cities in the country, it has become a soulless place.

But, I don't live there, so just ignore my ramblings. Sedona-ites would probably scoff at my small Oklahoma town as simple and soulless as well.

We made our way to the city of Cottonwood which has a far removed section of the towns old Main Street that seems to be undergoing a small nostalgic resurgence. We stopped at a wonderful antique junk shop that was closing it's doors in 5 minutes, that we'll be visiting in earnest when it's doors open in the morning.

S wanted a tub to bathe and relax in tonight so our accommodation choices were limited to chain hotels. Awhile back we passed by a Jack in the Box, a fast food chain that hasn't yet made it to OK, that originated and is quite popular in SoCal. The menu is typical fast food burger and fries fare, but Jack offers something called the Super Taco (now known as the Monster Taco) that is a unique taste sensation.

You Super Taco eaters know of what I speak.

So yes, for dinner we entered a state of denial and bought a 6-pack of the nasty, greasy, deep-fried pseudo-Mexican treats in a slip-out sleeves and finished the bottle of muscat from our campfire last night.

Hey, we're on vacation.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud..."

Alas, no supernatural sounds disturbed our REM sleep last night...however the unnatural man-made sounds of the every hour-on-the-hour Sante Fe rail trains, the drunken college kids hanging out at the bar directly below our room until 2 a.m., and the jackhammer crew several blocks away working from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. straight (yes, I said a jackhammer crew), made for a restless slumber.

Add those disturbances to the half-actualized state of consciousness I slept in as I listened for a phantom bellboy knock at the door, and you'll grant me this word of advice...when staying at the Monte Vista in Flagstaff, get a room on the northeast corner of the building. You may be closer to the haunting dead, but much further away from the sleep depriving living.

Jackhammering at 2 a.m....I kid you not.

We slept in to make up for the lost hours of the evening and barely made it out for 10 a.m. checkout. Trucking out of town on Flagstaff's weird hodgepodge section of Route 66 we found the world's slowest gas pump just outside of town that S theorizes was purposely jimmied to get patrons to come in and c-shop in their c-stop.

The Mother Road kinda disappeared in this area so we hopped on the interstate and found our way to a waiting booth in Old Smokey's Pancake House on Williams' Route 66 nostalgic business loop. Scanning the gluttonous platefuls of food that the other diners were feasting on, we again decided to split our meals and just order what most citizens would consider a single serving breakfast.

Say one thing about breakfast offerings from Route 66 diners, they don't skimp on the portion sizes.

The breakfast burrito with refried beans and single plate-sized buckwheat pancake that Smokey's served up was enough to feed our entire family of 4, let alone the Wife and I.

Rolling out of the town dubbed, the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, we made a 65 mph beeline for what many consider the greatest natural wonder of the world and this middle-aged couples first glimpse of it since our family camping/road trip days of our youth.

Taking in the IMAX flick at the heavily commercialized National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitors Center was fun on many different levels of the entertainment scale.

First, the flick itself offers views of the canyon that only birds and ultralight flyers get to see. Second, the IMAX format was made for swooping aerial canyon shots, POV river rafting footage, and panoramic intervalometered pans of the canyon and surrounding sky.

Finally, sitting among busloads of tourists from all over the world as they marvel, ooh-and-ahh at both the Grand Canyon footage and the huge you-are-there IMAX film format is first rate entertainment in and of itself.

Now, back when we planned this trip, our original intention was to tent camp a few nights in the Arizona outdoors to save a few bucks and air out our camping stuff which had been sitting unloved and unused since FreeWheel back in June. However just about everyone we queried, including those online, told us that if we hadn't made campground reservations ahead of time, there was no way we'd find an open spot within the Grand Canyon National Park.

Yet here I sit in our Coleman 9x9 tent in spot #203 in the non-hookup section of the Mather Campground less than a mile away from the south rim itself. The Park Ranger who checked us in told us that only about 65 of the available 320 spots were reserved and we'd be relatively on our own.


Dinner tonight was a similar thrill ride, as we were told by so many folk that the dining experience of the famous restaurant at the El Tovar resort on the South Rim was reserved for those who made arrangements weeks or even months in advance.

Upon asking, the El Tovar Dining Room hostess told us that if we wanted, she could seat us in 30 minutes with a table that looked out over the rim, and had a perfect view of the sunset over the canyon. Sure it was only 5:00 in the afternoon and the sun wouldn't be setting for another hour, but by the time our creme brulee and decaf was making its way to our table, the uppermost peaks of the canyon's south rim view were getting their last licks of the Arizona sun.

About the GC itself, I'm not going to attempt to tap into my limited public school education vocabulary to describe how magnificent this canyon is, and how fortunate we are to have such a wonder within the borders of our country. Danny Glover said it best in the Lawrence Kasdan's feel-good 90's flicker..."Man, get yourself to the Grand Canyon."

Note - also the source of the line that titles this particular blog entry.

One last observation before the last of our seven dollar rick of store bought firewood goes out and I duck into our tent for what I hope will be a snuggly night amid the ancient pines and fellow campers in our area.

As we searched for a precious parking spot in one of the miniscule lots situated at the top-of-the-hill resorts on the rim, S spotted the now familiar Bullitt Mustang sitting in a much coveted spot beneath the shade of a twisted old pine tree. As I circled the aisles we spotted Mr. Bullitt and his Mrs. making their way from the rims edge toward their car. We exchanged waves and smiles of familiarity and he motioned in that unspoken language of drivers everywhere that if I wanted his spot, it was mine for the taking.

A few minutes later as I pulled into the spot recently vacated by the '68 and prepared my senses for the visual feast awaiting mere meters away at the canyon's edge, the sound of the pristine Mustang accelerating down and away from the parking lot rang in my head like an old friend.

Karma is a wild and crazy thing.

As the stars grow brighter and the skylight is replaced by the ground glow of the three-quarter moon, there are a few hearty tent campers around us (even though the spots directly adjacent to us are empty), enjoying the 40 degree night time lows and listening to the silence of the night - without the benefit of a passing freight train, without the rancor of martini swilling coeds, and without the melodic beating of an early morning jackhammer crew.

The Napa Valley muscat and dark chocolate truffles we purchased at the local supermarket (strange to buy wine in a supermarket again) were the perfect fireside nightcaps.

Bears don't like truffles...do they?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

First one to say, "now that's a big hole," wins.

Chapter 2 of "Okie's are everywhere," occurred at the ticket booth for the Meteor Crater attraction. S was wearing her "Oklahoma - Native America" button up long sleeve while turning over our $30 entrance fee to the nice lady in the ticket booth.

Eyeing the embroidery on her blouse, she cheerfully queried, "Where in Oklahoma are y'all from?"

You guessed it, she was from Enid and after a few minutes of holding up the line, it turns out we knew some people in common.

Tickets in hand, we walked a few steps to yet another uniformed Meteor Crater employee, only to find that he was born in Lawton and still had family back there.

Add these two to the desk clerk at the Blue Swallow Motel whose son lived in OKC, the diner at Joe and Aggie's whose Mom lived in Hugo and the owner of the Rainbow Rock Shop that spoke fondly of time he spends in Hobert visiting friends, and you've got our states panhandled shadow stretching way beyond it's odd-shaped border.

Wifey and I enjoyed "experiencing the impact" at the "world's first proven and best-preserved impact site on earth." The guided tour/hike along the rim was interesting, I managed to say "...now that's a big hole," almost 12 times in a non-sarcastic tone and we found ourselves invigorated by the 64 degree, slightly breezy Arizona autumn atmosphere.

A short road trip after climbing down off the crater rim found us pulling curbside at Flagstaff's historic Monte Vista hotel. A mere 1-block north of Route 66 in Flagstaff's historic downtown, the MV is purportedly one of Arizona's most haunted hotels.

At check-in, S innocently asked the desk clerk if the room we were staying in was haunted, to which she replied, "oh, well yes it is...is that all right?"

Okay, so the fact that she readily admitted the room was haunted was fun enough, but the matter-of-fact tone in which she admitted it was either a well-rehearsed marketing strategy or a spooky reality check that the desk clerks at a haunted hotel must deal with for every patron.

After checking in and dropping our bags in our second story corner room known as the Zane Grey suite (he apparently stayed in this room on several occasions), we took to the streets and alleyways of the historic district, meeting yet more Okie-expatriots from Edmond (antique and collectible shop), and Norman (gift boutique), taking in some iced lattes from a sidewalk vendor, and finding a 50's era Zane Grey novel in a used book store for my room-themed bedtime reading tonight.

We found a tasty Thai joint for a massive meal of coconut/lemon grass soup and spicy eggplant then retired to watch replays of the Presidential Debate.

So here I sit, blogging wirelessly from the Zane Gray room waiting for a knock at the door.

A knock at the door?

Before reading any further, click here, scroll down and read about "The Phantom Bellboy."

The number on our door is 2 - 1 - 0.

"Room service..."

Stalking a speeding Bullitt...Mustang, that is.

The morning found us slightly drowsy from the semi-regular trains passing in the night. Seeing as how the Holbrook section of the Mother Road is a mere block or so from the train tracks, and our hotel was situated on the Road itself, the price we paid for nostalgic lodging and supporting a Route 66 business was a few hours of semi-interrupted sleep from the semi-regular trains passing in a semi-atypical night.

Luckily, our day was looking to be a semi-relaxed day of big hole viewing and mountain town strolling.

Couldn't leave Holbrook without a few snappies of the dino kaffee-klatch at the Rainbow Rock Shop in Holbrook, but once my digital camera was begging for mercy from the jurassic head-shots, we pulled up stakes in search of a jackrabbit. And we found it, just outside of Joseph City. Here it is.

No really, HERE it is, the Jackrabbit Trading Post, yet another Route 66 icon.

We bought a magnet and a shirt, took a few snaps, and ran into a fella whom we've dubbed, "Mr. Bullitt."

Our previous encounter with Mr. Bullitt and his wife occurred last night while exiting Joe and Aggie's Cafe. They were parking and going in, we were belching and coming out. I immediately noticed the vintage '68 GT fastback in "Bullitt" Highland Green as it pulled and parked into the same small lot where our import family truckster sat.

Mr. Bullitt exited his car, looking more like an accountant from Koekuk than a cool and streamlined lieutenant in the SFPD (although the tag on his car read "LT SFPD" - awesome), but he saw me oogling his ride and responded to my rapid fire questions with the ease and acumen of an enthusiast, not just some Barrett-Jackson deep pockets collector.390?
67 or 68?
Early 68.
325 horse?
It dynod at 290 last year.
(Nods) I was going to put a T-5 it it, but it's still sitting in my garage.
Trust me, this is the stuff car guys crave.

FF to this morning and this time the roles were reversed...the Bullitt couple were leaving the Jackrabbit and we were just arriving. We exchanged a few comments about how I wouldn't think of stalking Angelina Jolie but I would happily follow a Bullitt Mustang across Route 66, then I paused a few seconds before entering the curio shop to listen to the 390 powerplant motor and shift onto the old Mother Road asphalt.

A sweet sound indeed.

However, the story doesn't end there. A mere hour later as we turned into the parking lot for our touristy destination of the day, the Meteor Crater, there sat the highland green beauty.

This was the last glimpse of the classic 'stang that I would get for the day, but for now and forever, the image of my most favorite version of the Blue Oval pony car motoring down my most favorite version of America's black top will keep the gray matter in my noggin happily occupied.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Don't let your dog tinkle on these trees

We had a surprisingly quiet night on Tucumcari's stretch of the Mother Road and arose to a light sprinkle and gentle breeze. The popcorn we consumed at the Odeon Theater the previous night while chuckling our socks off at the Coen Brothers latest offering (Burn After Reading, two thumbs up), had left our stomachs hours ago, leaving room for some major huevos rancheros (Wifey) and chorizo egg scramble (moi) at Kix's on 66.

Thanks for the rec on Kix's, Ron.

A quick stop at the Tee Pee Curio shop a short walk away and we were on our way, Arizona bound once again.

Our aim for the day was the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park at sunset, so we had to put our heads down and push New Mexico's 75 mph speed limit to the edge.

The trip down the interstate was impersonal and uneventful, with the exception of a disappointing stop at Cline's Corners due to a power outtage that shut down their water pumps.

Translation... no working bathrooms. Luckily a state run rest stop a short 3 miles down the road saved the day, reinforcing the family mantra, "Never pass an opportunity to pee when you're on the road."

We made the mineralized tree stump filled national park in plenty of time (picking up an extra hour due to Arizona's strange avoidance of the spring forward/fall back time change) to get a good three solid hours of game time in before the parks closing time.

Wifey and I strolled through the ruins of the Puerco Pueblo dating back to 1200 AD, stretched our imaginations attempting to decipher the petroglyphs viewable along the walking paths, and marveled at the amount of petrified wood still remaining after so many tons of it were hauled off since the site became such a popular tourist attraction.

Leaving the petrified forest as the sun did its final dip below the horizon behind us, we trekked on over to nearby Holbrook for a meal and crash pad for the night. Alas, there was no space at the famous Wigwam Motel on Route 66, but Wifey and I ended up having a nice conversation with the daughter of the man who built some of the unique teepee themed hotels, including the one that she and her family had been running since it was built.

We told her about our stay in a Wigwam motel a few anniversary trips ago in Kentucky, and our day trip visit to the Rialto location back in our So Cal days. She said we were the first couple she had met that had actually visited all three of the surviving wigwam motels (hard to believe, but there you have it).

Saddened but happy to have made even a small connection with a Route 66 icon, we then made our way up the road to another old Route 66 motel known as Brad's Desert Inn. I highly suspect that Brad no longer owns or runs the Desert Inn, but the fella who signed out the room to us was no friendlier than he needed to be, our room was no more luxurious than it needed to be, and the trains running nearby were no more rumbly than they needed to be.

Dinner on Holbrook's stretch of the Mother Road presented several historic choices to us, however we chose Joe and Aggie's Cafe. I tried the beef and bean stuffed sopapilla slathered in their specialty green chile sauce while S chose the local favorite cheese crisp with ground beef topped with the same amazing family recipe green chili sauce. Both were utterly unique and utterly palate pleasing.

While getting the lowdown from owner Joe on the visit to his joint by John Lasseter and Michael Wallis during their Cars prep, we met up with a fellow So Cal road traveler who was heading toward Hugo, OK, to do some work on a house he owns there in circus town Oklahoma, USA.

Sure it's a small world, but something about Route 66 attractions seems to bring us all together.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bedding down with a Swallow in Tucumcari

Greetings from Room #2 at the historic Route 66 attraction, The Blue Swallow Motel.

Wifey and I have once again left the environs of our small town to venture across our great nation in search of all things kitschy in celebration of our wedding anniversary (10 years).

Long suffering readers of YASTM are in the know to our annual October tradition, but those of you who aren't, click here for a summary and recap of just what the heck is going on.

This year, we're Arizona bound.

After a crocodile tear-filled farewell by my 5-year old and a hearty "Don't forget to bring me a present..." backwards salute goodbye from our almost-9-year old, we piled into the import family truckster, topped the tank off with $2.99 a gallon 10% ethanol dino juice and rolled out of Dodge early this morning, the sight of my in-laws waving at us in the rear view mirror.

It took about 4-hours of constant conversation between Wifey and I to make up for the last few days of lost time we've not been able to spend with each other due to the ramped up directions our lives have taken as of late. By the time our vocal chords were growing weary of yapping, our grumbly stomachs and terminal hunger for cheesy-Americana at it's worst/finest, found us pulling off the highway and into the acres-and-acres of free parking belonging to this establishment.

You guessed it, the Big Texan in Amarillo, home of the free 72 oz. steak (if you can eat it in an hour, along with a salad, baked potato, friend shrimp and soft-baked roll the size of...well, Texas.

No, we didn't attempt the freebie cardiac angina meal, opting instead to share the 12 oz. ribeye, salad (with a dressing from the past called, roquefort - ask your grandparents kiddies, they'll remember this dressing), rolls, and a baked potato (with all the trimmings and then some) the size of well, again, Texas.

Several bigfoots, um, I mean gentlemen were in the throes of attempting to secure their free meal while we dined, and even though I'm all for gluttony of the culinary kind, watching these fellas down their chow was more consumption than I needed to witness. Still, it was fun to hear the guy with the HAT periodically yell out that table 57 had 12 minutes to go, while table 3 was down to his last 7 minutes.

Leaving the Lone Star state and it's impressively large (but still tacky as McMansion tract homes) Visitor Centers behind, we made a protein-fueled beeline for the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.

Pulling off I-40 at Tucumcari's Route 66 access road, Wifey and I breathed a collective sigh of relief to be back in the land of ancient blacktop, motor court hotels with neon signs, and curio shops offering nothing of what you need, but everything of what you want.

Tucumcari's stretch of the Mother Road has certainly seen better days, but in the 45 minutes or so it took us to cruise up and down the town's 66 drag, and stumble upon the vintage Odeon Theatre in the old downtown district where we'll be spending a few hours tonight catching a flick, that tingly sensation of being submerged in something bigger, older, and cooler, pleasantly oozed out from behind our mini-mall and gated-community flooded senses.

Checking into the Blue Swallow Motel was painless.

Parking our 4-door import into the garage adjacent to our room was effortless (although how Howard "Happy Days" Cunningham fit his 4-door Desoto into one of these garages is beyond me).

And popping open my iBook and finding 3 bars of open wireless service via the Blue Swallow was priceless (even got 2 bars from the Motel Safari across the street).