Thursday, 13 September 2012

Day 15 - There are holes in the planet

We woke up this morning very excited because we had another day of Arizona ahead of us and today we got to go to the Grand Canyon.  But before any of that excitement we had to say goodbye to  Holbrook passing one of two surviving Wigwam motels on our way out. (We are booked to stay in the other on in San Bernadino in a few days time).

If this reminds you of the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars then your brain is doing it's job because it should.
Route 66 has many relics of gas stations and roadside shops / diners that are now entirely devoted to serving the tourist trade who are driving the route. We passed one that wasn't in our guidebook that was called Geronimo's so of course we had to stop.  We'd been led to believe that cactuses were plentiful on Route 66 but this turns out to be a marketing lie.  Arizona is full of cactus but they are almost all much further south.  In particular we wanted the type of cactus that looks like a demented coatrack or a human with uneven arms.  Stopping at Geronimo's we found a metal example and so of course took some pictures as compensation for not being able to get the real thing.
Pretending to be a cactus next to a metal sculpture also pretending to be a cactus.
The Jack Rabbit Trading Post is another one of those places that is now a gift shop with history.  In years gone by there were billboards up and down R66 that did a countdown mileage to the store culminating with the famous sign outside that says "Here it is". Now only that one remains but the store is well worth a visit just for that and the large climbable bunny statue outside.
As if the giant black bunny wasn't enough - the helpful sign tells you that you've made it.

Rachael rides the rabbit.
One of the Eagles most popular hits is a song called "Take it easy". Winslow's claim to fame is that one of the lines in the song says "Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona" and so of course they have a corner setup just like the song says with a mural and an absolutely enormous Route 66 sign painted on the floor.  The gift shop on the adjacent corner actually pumps the Eagles out on to the street just in case anyone didn't know about the song.

We weren't sure if we were on the right road until we saw the sign.
 Moving on we stopped off at Meteor City (lol its a roadside stop not a city) where there is another gift shop and also the worlds longest map of Route 66.  At this point I could be snarky and point out that long maps of Route 66 are probably only to be found in the USA and therefore the "World" designation is pointless, but it's a rather nice map so I won't. Also the gift shop is a geodesic dome and the lady in there was lovely so we'd definitely recommend it as a stop for novelty value.

A few miles down the road we stopped at the Meteor Crater which gives Meteor City it's name.  It's a bloody impressive hole in the ground. And while it was a little on the expensive side to visit ($16 each which included the museum and full 1hr guided tour that we didn't have time to take) we felt it was well worth the time and effort.  There was also another gift shop where I felt compelled to spend money. At this point I've given up all pretence that I'm going to fit everything I've bought in my cases.  I'm seriously considering chartering my own plane to get all my tourist tat home.

A pretty big hole in the ground.
When speed limit signs have a sense of humour you know you are in an awesome place.
The EZ guide to route 66 suggested the next interesting place to stop was another roadside attraction called Twin Arrows.  Its at the end of one of the dead end sections of R66 which are pretty common in Arizona as most of the original road was literally overridden by I-40 and doesn't exist any more.  The barriers around Twin Arrows and lack of anywhere to park suggested that it wasn't really up to receiving visitors but we managed to put it's most prominent feature to good use before looping back the way we came and getting back on the interstate.

Struck down by a huge arrow, the lizard couldn't even bask because the pesky sun was hiding behind a cloud.
 On our way to Flagstaff we cruised through the town of Winona. We had some expectations here because Winona is in the song. And by "the song" I mean THE song. In "Get your kicks on route 66" we are implored to "don't forget Winona" and I kind of understand why because the place is pretty instantly forgettable.
Flagstaff was a contradiction and we really didn't give it much time to be honest.  We had better places to be but I'm jumping ahead... What we saw of Flagstaff was part strip mall and part cute arty quarter but we buzzed through because we had a date with a helicopter to see the Grand Canyon.  Let me say that again - WE WENT IN A HELICOPTER TO THE GRAND CANYON!

LOOK!! Still can't believe we actually got to do this.
Needless to say it was un-fucking-believable and honestly I think I may need a month for it to sink in.  Rachael and I ended up having the whole aircraft to ourselves with just our pilot Dale.  She was fantastic and it was a totally smooth ride even going over the rim of the canyon which I had expected to get a bit choppy.  We took video and about a million pictures but none of it does it justice - the english language is insufficient when describing the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon from our helicopter. EPIC doesn't cover it.
I think I could sit looking at it for the rest of my life and never get bored.  They have a saying at Grand Canyon Helicopters "Leave no footprint" - it's because they believe the most ecologically sound way to experience it is from the air.  I wouldn't know if thats true, but I can say that it was an unforgettable experience and No.1 on our must do list for visiting this area.  We also drove into the park and visited one of the viewing areas on the south rim - but the experience from the air is totally different and is so much more.

Tonight we are staying in the town of Tusayan just south of the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park and we had dinner with some fellow Route 66-ers we've met a few times on the way.  The main topic of conversation of course was the Grand Canyon.  I'm warning you now - I'm going to be bloody boring on this subject for a long time.  Can't see it ever getting old.

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