The next stage of our sojourn was to visit Meteor Crater and then attempt to locate a portion, or portions, of Route 66. We had breakfast at a diner, across from the Flagstaff train station, along the section of the famous roadway that passes through the town. The decor of the midcentury diner seemed frozen in time, much like our motel of the previous night. The town of Flagstaff possesses a certain charm with it's vintage western architecture and laid back vibe. We took a short walk through it's historic section before setting off.
Meteor Crater is located along a 4 lane highway that was once a 2 lane stretch of Route 66. Along the way are the ruins of a roadside zoo called "The Lion's Den" and a restaurant and gift shop called "Two Arrows". It looked as if it was abandoned but two twenty foot arrows sticking out of the ground still announced it's presence. After the wealth of natural wonders we had experienced over the past few days Meteor Crater was something of a let down. It is a large hole in the ground, with, of course a gift shop standing next to it's entrance. We came to call it "Big Ass Hole in the Ground". The idea of what happened there is more impressive than the site itself. After waiting out a rain shower we pressed on in our search of more of the remnants of the iconic Route 66.
That day we experienced the weather phenomenon of desert pop up rain showers. In the Midwest storms move in waves over the earth. Storms are big and contiguous, soaking large areas at one time. In the desert that day a small cloud would appear and a small area would get a quick dousing of rain. Then the cloud would disappear. As we drove through the desert in bright sun we would watch as a patch of earth a mile away would get drenched. It reminded me of San Francisco's microclimes, where I could stand dry on one side of a street watching it rain on the other side.
Like the rain showers the signs for Route 66 would also pop up and then disappear. We soon came to realize that Route 66 had become the frontage road for the small towns in the area. More modern road builders decided a straight line was a more efficient way to get from one point to the next, as opposed to the more meandering feel of Route 66. Straight lines are more efficient, however less interesting. Straight lines in our modern roadway system have now made it possible to drive from coast to coast with out really seeing anything. Instead of a road going over or around an obstacle, such as a hill or mountain, we simply blow a hole in it and build through it's center to make sure we get where we are going on time.
Ironically, when we did turn off the interstate onto Route 66 the first thing we encountered was a long, yardstick straight stretch of road. With no cars visible for miles in either direction my friend decided to "open up" the car to see how fast it would go. When we got to 100 mph I suggested that the experiment was over. He agreed and we returned to a more moderate speed.
A stretch of the original route has been restored as a tourist attraction. It begins in Seligman AZ. There is a short section of the main street restored to it's look of the 1950's, complete with vintage cars parked along the sides of the road. Several stores sell all things Route 66. Sweatshirts, tee shirts, magnets, virtually anything that can be printed or decaled. The road follows the terrain. It rises up then descends, twists and turns through the desert landscape.
As we drove we discussed our next move. We had that night and the next before our flight home out of Las Vegas. After several options were passed back and forth we settled on spending the last portion of the vacation back in Vegas. We had been in the car quite a bit and decompressing by a pool sounded inviting. We stopped at a Denny's in Kingston AZ. My friend, with great foresight, had brought with him a Las Vegas guidebook. Taking it into the restaurant we ordered lunch then started making calls to Vegas hotels. We found affordable accommodations at the Luxor, made the reservation and headed off to the adult playground in the desert.
Along the way we crossed over the Hoover Dam. I have a problem with dams because of their negative effect on the enviorment, but from a purely aesthetic and architectural standpoint, this dam is an Art Deco masterwork. It was late afternoon as we passed the famed "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign and checked into our room inside a giant pyramid made of black glass with a real bright light on top.