Day 23, November 2, 1997: Yuma to Seligman, AZ

Get your kicks on Route 66... Well, I can't admit to having any kicks today but I did enjoy driving on that famous route again. Actually I'm staying the night at the "Historic Route 66 Motel" in Seligman, the eastern point on the longest remaining section of highway. It seemed appropriate to stay at this old motel rather than look for a modern one in Flagstaff. This motel clearly has been here for many decades and the semi-deco look and plumbing aren't the only clues. Many of the rooms have plaques on them of the "Washington Slept Here" variety. Mine says that Will Rogers Jr. slept in this room, another hosted Burl Ives, and other lesser luminaries stayed in other rooms. Even Martin Milner, star of the old Route 66 TV series stayed here.

Driving north from Yuma took me from high to higher desert with occasional dips to the low and hot places. Fortunately the hot spells were not as bad as yesterday's. Seligman is actually at almost exactly one mile altitude and the weather was quite pleasant when I got here and might actually dip into the 40s tonight.

On the way north I was within a short distance of the Colorado River. Water in the desert attracts one thing more than any other - people. There are communities on the river and the series of artificial lakes on it including Parker and Lake Havasu City. Parker Dam was originally meant for power production and irrigation but it is now a magnet for tourists and retirees.

Even more amazing is Lake Havasu. The town there wasn't started until 1964 and the current population is around 30,000. Even more amusing to me is that part of the city's attraction is based on ignorance (or fraud depending on how you look at it). In the early days, a developer was looking for some sort of attraction and finally settled upon the "London Bridge". Well, it was London Bridge, condemned by the city government as not worth keeping. The local developer purchased it for a song, had it torn apart, and reassembled in the desert. The ignorance comes into the story because most people hearing "London Bridge" visualize "Tower Bridge" and rush to Lake Havasu to see this amazing structure. What they get is a plain stone bridge with very little to recommend it artistically or historically. Now one can see such attractions as "The World Famous English Village" which is actually a shopping mall. Even routine buildings in the area feature faux castle architecture with crenelated towers. Gack!

Another new sight for me were the "long term visitor's areas" along the highway. These are spaces in the desert set aside for motor home and trailer parking for a seemingly huge number of northerners who "snowbird" down to warmer climes for the winter. These areas sometimes extend for miles along the highway and vehicles can be seen dotting the landscape for miles back from the highway. Allowing that these spaces feature no water, no sewage system, no power, no telephone, no mail delivery, it must take a special sort of dedication of or desperation to stay there for months on end. I hate the cold as much as any person might, but even I wouldn't put up with that for too long. Guess I'm just spoiled.

Two pictures today. The first shows the sort of image that pops into my alleged mind when I hear the word "Arizona". The other shows a through-the-windshield view of old Route 66>. Even after all these years it looks pretty much the same as the first time I drove it back in 197?. One missed picture is of the highway sign telling motorists that they are crossing "Holy Moses Wash". I really should have gone back to take that one to add to my collection but was too lazy.

Actually, the old stretch of highway probably looks about the same as it did in 193?. It seems a shame that so much recent history was lost when the old route was abandoned. One attraction, though, is doing business in the same location: The Grand Canyon Caverns. It is still there, still tacky, and still worth a stop if you are in the area. Where else might you take an express elevator ride down into the bowels of the earth and see a naturally mummified bobcat in a cavern? The 45-minute guided tours leave every half hour as they have for the past 40-or-so years and the price is still under $10.

Tomorrow I will head south again to get back on the edge via a tricky route the computer chose for me. Ever the optimist about its abilities, I'm going to try to stay with that route even though it seems to go through some strange backwaters (or perhaps in Arizona backrocks or backsagebrushes might be more appropriate). The trip back down to the border may well take longer than the trip north but there is no hurry about making it back as we continue our 12,000-mile tour of the edge of the USA.

You will be receiving this e-mail at least a day late as this old motel has a frustratingly modern digital telephone system that will not work with a modem.


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