Sunday, August 02, 2009

979.3 (340.9) Miles to Winslow, Arizona

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Finally got a good look at Route 66 on a big loop from Kingman north of Flagstaff and over to Ash Fork. A note I wrote when I pulled over at one point:
I'm on an open stretch of 66 at Tuxton. White crosses dot the landscape from time to time, flowers, long extinguished candles, and faded pictures lie next to them abandoned long ago (or possibly yesterday) in memory and prayer.

Most of the day was spent navigating between 66 and 40. My two main sources of information on where to go are Michael Wallis' Route 66: The Mother Rode and the turn-by-turn directions to follow 66 from When 40 was built, from California to Oklahoma it essentially made 66 obsolete. The result of that is many parts of 66 have fallen into disrepair and disuse over the last decades, and there are parts that are just impassible, so 40 is the only way to keep going forward. The other result of the opening of 40 was the end of a lot of the outposts that dotted the Arizona (and going forward, the New Mexico) landscape. Two I passed late this evening, Two Guns and Twin Arrows, are nothing more than boarded up and abandoned gas stations and supply stops, relics of a bygone age of cross country travel that the Interstate, while making things a lot more convenient (which I was grateful for when I drove here 3 years ago), still leaves something to be desired and something that can't help but be missed, even for someone who wasn't alive to have seen it.

When I did my Arizona trip 5 years ago, I went to the Wupatki National Monument north of Flagstaff. 3 years ago, in the push to get east, I did not make the journey north. Today, I returned to the monument, which sits just east of Grand Canyon National Park, and drove around the loop road and spoke with some rangers about the park, the region, and places to see in New Mexico.

While in the park, I made sure to make a return "pilgrimage" to the Wukoki. Some of you may recognize the pictures of the ruin below as something of an online identity for me. I wrote this at the end of the trail leading to the ruin:

I'm standing below what has become my logo/identity of sorts over the last 5 years. I've used this image as my icon, and have identified with it wherever I have an online presence.

Why did I chose it? I'm not entirely sure. This outpost, ancient, standing against an open front, defies the ancient world to challenge it, and the modern world to understand it. The Wukoki stands guard at the interface between ancient and present, was here long before us, and will outlive all of our grandchildren.

But unlike the Grand Canyon or Petrified Forrest or Meteor Crater, the Wukoki isn't natural. It stands as a testament to what man can create, and makes us all today question the mark we will leave on the world, and the questions that mark will raise.

So now I'm in Winslow, Arizona, about 100 miles from the New Mexico border. One piece of advice I got before taking off was to just talk to people on the road. Tonight, that advice got me a free meal. I was walking over from the motel to an eatery of sorts across the street, when I saw a couple of guys doing the same thing. They walked around a little field, and me being me, I cut across it. I looked over at them and commented that I wondered if I shouldn't have done that. The three of us started talking, and they invited me to have dinner with them. One of the guys is moving from the Phoenix area to New Jersey, and his friend is helping him haul his stuff across the country. The one who was moving even picked up the tab for dinner, leaving the two of us to cover the tip.

Much nicer day than yesterday. With no schedule, I really settled in to just enjoy the drive. More of the same tomorrow, with more ruins, the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, and the Blue Mesa Trail. Then on to New Mexico and east.

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