Four Corners Trip, Summer 2004

Friday, May 28 - Mojave, Ludlow, Essex, Needles - 233 miles
Saturday - Oatman, Vivian, Cool Springs, Kingman, Hackberry, Caverns - 290 miles
Sunday - Grand Canyon Caverns, Seligman, Ash Fork, Flagstaff - 105 miles
Monday - Painted Desert, Tuba City, Citadel Ruins, Monument Valley, Cortez, Co.- 118 miles
Tuesday - Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Shiprock, St Michael's - 247 miles
Wed - Window Rock, Fort Yellowhorse, Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, Two Guns, Canyon Diablo, Williams - 274 miles
Thurs - Needles, Dagget, Barstow - 314 miles
Friday, June 4 - Home 222 ? miles

Friday, day 1

After a short but surprising light six am rain, John, Jena and her boyfriend, Andrew took off to San Francisco to visit J & J's dad for two weeks in Mississippi. Sam showed up to move in and baby sit the house, garden and animals, bless her heart. We loaded up the jeep, hugged the cats, kitties and the dogs, who were fairly upset at being left behind again. Rocky, the twenty five cent garage sale racoon puppet jeep mascot was taken off the gear shift for the trip. This was Rocky's first trip, our first big trip in the jeep and our first trip since last summer. We drove off giggling like kids.

I have an embarrassingly long and extensive check list for our trips, but it always needs updating and we usually forget something. A few miles down the road we realized we had forgotten the binoculars, the cassettes and my fingernail file, heaven forbid, which is available only at a Sally's store. Oh well. We made a fast stop to raid Selma's Walmart for cassettes only to see a Sally's! Oh, this is going to be a grand trip. There were these huge air vents (?) sticking out of the Walmart parking lot so I made up a story about the secret bomb shelter below the Selma parking lot. David topped that one with the little known fact that those tall, man sized cactus are really personal bomb shelters. You just have to know which prickly thingie to pull to get it to open. We really are nuts.

Lunch was a return trip to Mike's Roadhouse Cafe in Mojave. We got out of the car to hit head on to a truly incredible wind that stayed with us almost the entire trip. The restaurant is full of wonderful kids' pedal cars and decent, dependable food. While Dave gassed up I popped into the Mojave Thrift and found more blue and grey ties for my crazy quilt and a lovely (although plastic) Indian style necklace for six bucks. When asked about the wind, the clerk said the weather in Mojave is either hot, cold or windy, period. We wondered why she stays.

Off onto Route 66, the landscape was covered in black rock, later identified as basalt. In Ludlow, we made our first attempt to locate an old ghost town named Old Dominion. The directions I received said to take the road next the Dairy Queen and the house. Sure enough, there is the house next to the Dairy Queen. We went a few miles on the rarely used desert dirt road before we decided to trip around a bit amongst the lava rocks and then turn back. I don't think we are going to ever be truly devoted ghost town hunters.

The next treasure hunt named Lanfair was near a town called Essex. Finding Essex itself was the first challenge. Population questionable. Since we had vague directions (NE of town, very hard to find,) there were too many roads to pick from and both people who lived there didn't exactly seem friendly, we kept going. Sunflower Spring Road sure made us wonder what happened to the town as there was nary a sunflower or any signs of a spring or evidence either ever existed anywhere.

We ended the day at the Traveler's Inn in Needles. We were lucky to have found a room for any price considering it was Memorial weekend and the abundance of families and boats as far as the eye could see. Stopping for snacks and water at a friendly grocery store, we asked for directions to Jedro's Steakhouse. The clerk didn't recognize the name at all, but recommended the Wagon Wheel truck stop which turned out to be Jedro's Wagon Wheel Steakhouse. <insert muffled mutterings here> They had plentiful servings of grand food for a reasonable price. The people watching was, uh, interesting. We bought little "Dave" and "Anne" CA license plates for our dash board. In the lobby was a huge chart showing the miles to various cities in the US all the way to Maine and Europe. We saw that Modesto was listed, but then, way on the side of the chart under "Other Important Places" was Merced!

Saturday, day 2

A lovely morning with little wind and we headed back onto Route 66 after inspecting the abandoned grand Hotel Las Graces. This had to have been some place in it's day and we vow if we ever win the lottery we will provide the twelve million needed to redevelop it. There was an fantastic plant outside the Needles Nursery, a yellow cluster like Cleome with brilliant red tendrils. This turns out to be a Yellow Bird of Paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesi.

In a tiny town named Golden Shores was the Crafty Coyote with a 50% off sign. Who could resist? We bought two clay suns and two strings of clay bells for eleven dollars! We groaned a bit about not having any more room and that would be absolutely the last purchase. (Uh huh!)

On our way to Oatman, David did one of his soon to become famous 'slam on the brakes and back ups.' As he will state, there is always something of great interest. This time, someone had taken the time and trouble to make signs next to the cactus along side the road, stating the names of each type. We later learned the trippy fuzzy looking ones are called Jumping Cholla. Apparently those spikes are known to jump out and getcha. Yikes.

While Oatman is a tourist trap, it is a neat old town with ruins and burros wandering freely, one of which decided he really liked David. Of course the local tourist shops sell bags of carrots! Off to find the ghost town of Vivian two miles outside of Oatman with backup directions from an old grizzly type guy whose look said he couldn't figure why we would even be interested. This one we found, except that it was occupied and had "Trespassers will be shot" signs all over. Thanks, guy. Our first four wheel excursion occurred here when we realized we would have to go all the way back several miles on the dirt road (if you can call it that) or jump a huge lump and the paved road we finally found. David eagerly put Betsy in four wheel, I closed my eyes, held my breath, prayed and tried not to hold on for dear life. Betsy (and I) did extremely well, and she received the first of many dash board pats.

We traveled through some pretty incredible formations with names like Thimble Mountain, trying to identify each one from the variety of maps we had. We were still at the "Wow!" stage at this point and had not yet encountered the "Yeah, neat, another rock" syndrome. Some where along here I started to notice the desolate, isolated house trailers out in the distance, all alone in the middle of the desert, no trees, no landscaping, no tv antennaes, no satelite dishes, no Starbucks, just hot, hot sun. I can't imagine living there. Nope. What do these people do all day?

On the way down into Kingman there was one building, only one building the entire way, mind you, where we stopped. Two grand old coots were there, sitting around in rockers at Cool Springs. Classic. We got talking about ghost towns and such to discover one of them was from Merced and had owned a local garage there. After many of these encounters we are still amazed at what a small world it can be. They recommended a mine called King Tut where supposedly you can find gold nuggets in the long neglected tailings.

In Kingman (Oh, a town!!!!) we went into JA Steakhouse for lunch where they had a smoking section! (Yesss!) The waiter finally became friendly (quiet little guy) and asked where we were from. He said he only knew of one small town in California and, of course, we asked which one. He replied we would not know it and we insisted. It was teeny tiny Willits, where my mother lives and we all laughed and compared stories about Willits. Great hamburgers and fries.

The search for the King Tut mine was almost endless, but we did see a great deal of scenery, including many more isolated trailers. What DO these people do all day? We stopped at a small grocery store for directions to learn the mine was privately owned now and we turned back. There was a kicky camping place with cabins we might consider returning to one day if we are ever headed to Lake Mead. Even on our fruitless side trips we feel there is something worth seeing, and sure enough, we found two grown baby vultures way up in a nest on a pole waiting on mama to bring them their next meal. Yum!

Another side road was twenty five miles of wash board road (bu bu bu bu bu), led past an old abandoned rock house (click, click, click), the Music Mountains and countless cattle guards, sheep, cactus and dead trailers before returning to Route 66. Man, is pavement wonderful stuff or what? Even Rocky had a peaked look to him after that road.

Hackberry General Store is a gas. It is literally covered with Route 66 memorabilia, including the red flying horse from the old gas stations. Too bad it was closed, but we do have almost an entire roll of film of the store. On the side of the building was a set of old Burma shave signs. Remember those? Too cool. Across the highway is the occupied ghost town of Hackberry including a cemetary and several picturesque buildings. I delighted to see that lovely plant we saw in Needles again. David took a picture of me blantantly stealing seeds from the plant just before I stepped onto the cactus that went through my moccasins and into my toe with little or no effort. Ouch, ouch, ouchie. Did I mention the entire excuse for this trip was to seek and find new moccasins?

Nightfall led us to the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn where we decided to stop for the night. There we met Deputy Dawg at the counter. I think his real name was Cliffy or something. A really nice guy. He sports a huge western hat, a six shooter, a stun gun and a badge that upon closer inspection reads, "Security Guard." He declared Arizona the last state where you can wear a side arm and that he is the local law as it takes hours to get the sheriff out this far. The diner is closed but there was an fancy Indian place [Attitude -1, food -1, service -1 = -3] back a bit that he states is still open. Well, they were then. By the time we got back there is was 8:58 and they proclaimed themselves closed without giving our hungry, desperate and tired faces a second glance. Back to the Inn to raid their small collection of crackers and supplies. Deputy Dawg sadly declares, "Sorry bout that, those lazy Indians are like that." A delightful picnic [Price +1, company +1, casual atmosphere +1 = 3] in the whitewashed brick room and to bed.

Sunday, day 3

We got up bright and early and up to the caverns by nine. Okay, okay, so nine is not bright and early by some standards, but we are on vacation! The caverns were truly great and worth the trip. We could have killed the tour guide if he told one more stupid memorized joke, but hey, it was still great. The prehistoric giant sloth and the mountain lion who fell into the caverns and died trying to get out was sad. The place was declared a bomb shelter during the Cuban crisis and still contains enough food and water to feed two thousand people for two weeks and because of the complete lack of moisture down there it is still fresh. We just kept wondering where they would find two thousand people way out there. A quick lunch at their cafe [0] and off we go.

Seligman was next. We filled up while we watched a group of bikers have a hot dog toss with their three wheelers. Hilarious. The biker mama on the back would shoot out a hot dog from her mouth as they pass a certain line and who ever gets closest wins. The referee kept yelling "Blow, dont suck!" and we left laughing. This stop was also the most expensive gas at $2.40 a gallon. We had only gotten down the road by a few miles when David noticed the gas gauge that had not worked since we bought the car registered a full tank. More delightful signs of a good trip.

You have to make a fast stop at the Roadkill Cafe, even if it just to peek inside. Rocky shivered when we drove up, poor little guy.

Ash Fork is where they harvest Arizona flagstone and that's about it. We are talking acres upon acres of this stuff all packaged up and ready to go. Lovely stuff. According to one of our books you can find volcanic bombs and picture rock here, so we head off to more washboard road in the red dirt. We never did see the bombs but we have a bag load of the picture rock which turns out to be only chunks of sandstone that will look great in the yard.

That's when we finally hit Flagstaff and we are in love with Flagstaff, locally known as "Flag." Trees, trees and more trees. Los Gatos attitude, sixties atmosphere. David wants to find a hemp store he remembered so we park near downtown. Shhh...we are officially in our second childhood. There are young hippie type local homeless kids that make us nervous and we watch from a short distance while a blonde girl makes her way down the street checking out all the cars. When she gets to ours she actually tries the doors, so we chased her off and reparked the car in a bit of a more populated area.

This is my kind of town. A little store called Animas had clothes that should be found in the Haight and we leave with a tie dye shirt for me. I could have spent a few hundred there easily. I also now own a peace symbol bumper and another that says, "Peace Please" while David picked out "Friends don't let friends vote Republican." Our dashboard is getting kinda crowded. My favorite tee shirt we saw was for an infant with a brightly coloured fish on it and "Grandpa says I'm a keeper." On the return trip to the car we spied an art fair and we knew we were going to be in Flagstaff a bit longer. The leaf guy was incredible. He takes real leaves and makes ceramic duplicates, some of which were several feet long. Stunning.

We ate at the Red Lobster after registering at the Travel Lodge.  Civilization can be grand! Weird noises kept us up all night. I remembered to bring Rocky in this time, so he got to see his first motel room.

Monday, day 4

This is our fourth day out, making it Monday, but I wrote 'Sunday, Memorial Day' in the diary, so I guess this was the beginning of the "What day IS it anyway?" confusion. It is great to be on vacation and not worry about what day it is. We started the day with Starbucks coffee. Perfect.

North to parts unknown on 89 leads us to a detour on the way to 160, a little side road called 6731. The washboard isn't as bad as usual and we can actually get up to speeds of twenty five mph through the painted desert. We are still oohing and aahing, stopping to admire the miles of millions and millions of rocks seemingly placed precisely one inch apart, all a different colour and texture. The wind is ferocious and I have to pin my hair out the way for filiming. I hear this sound, unidentifiable monster sound. Looking around, I finally see a huge dust devil come over the rise and yell at David to film it. My brain is wondering how that is going to feel when it hits me and then it finally veers off another direction. I don't know if I was more relieved or disappointed. He also got my wild, excited hooping and hollering about it, but no one will ever see that part of the tape.

In a small town called Tuba City we stopped at the only place there for lunch, Kate's Cafe. There was a guy selling a handmade basket for fourty dollars and we thought that was rather high and we were not truly interested in a shallow basket anyway. Now are are really confused about the time because the cafe clock was an hour ahead of David's watch. Arizona doesn't do daylight savings time but the reservations do. Go figure. An Indian at the next booth had a delicious looking burger so we ordered those, and the Indian laughed. An hour later both our stomachs were in turmoil and I will wonder forever if I unknowingly had a dog burger. [Food when we ate it +1, food an hour after we ate it -1, food later that evening -1 = -1].

The ruins in the ??????? were another serious highlight. The Citadel ruins were spectacular, up on a hill with just a few minutes walk to the top on a trail next to the edge of nothing where you can see the remains of the individual rooms and view everything around you for miles. Very humbling. You do have to brace yourself against the high winds that continue to stalk us at every stop, and at one pueblo I thought I was going to get knocked on my behind during one blast. We saw a (as in one) brightly coloured lizard there who posed for us I then realized that there is more wildlife in our own yard than in the entire state of Arizona.

Monument Valley was double wow. We had to cross the Utah state line to the entrance to the park, so we are up to two state lines so far. The prices in the gift shop made me choke, $550 for the smallest rug, and $150 for the identical basket we saw at Kate's Cafe. If it were not for that burger, we might have headed back there and bought the guy's basket as an investment. We did get some cedar incense and two polished rocks made in Brazil. Brazil??? Hey, they are truly beautiful! We are starting to look at the rocks with a different perspective, so after the walk to to the Visitor's Center and a converstion with a great old trucker from Georgia, we decide to head on before dark. Besides, we got chased out of the park at closing time.

Kayenta must have been an unremarkable wide spot in the road for I only made the gas mileage entry. By dark we had climbed to Cortez, Colorado, crossing the third state line and reaching some insane elevation around seven thousand feet. The town was already asleep when we checked into the Days Inn after stopping at a Safeway for a fruit and salad picnic dinner and shivering in the parking lot. Here we discovered they have a local television channel devoted to tourists concerning the area, the Indians and the history of their numerous trading posts. We swear to come back to visit more of Colorado someday. The news said Phoenix would reach 108 on Thursday and it looked like the kids were getting a whopping from some severe thunderstorms. There is nothing in the world like a Mississippi thunderstorm!

Tuesday, day five

Now we have really gotten our times confused so we give it all up and really sleep in, woken by the maid knocking at the door. Ooops. Quick shower, grab and pack,sit Rocky up behind my seat so he can see. A quick stop at Walmart (Wow, they have a Walmart?) for tee shirts for David, a red tank top and cigarettes for me. When we saw the $22 price of a carton we bought two, wondering if three would qualify as smuggling. Since we have unintentionally evolved to eating our first meal about two or three in the afternoon, we stop at a really neat little place in town called Magpie's Coffeehouse for mochas and such and head off to Mesa Verde, crossing into New Mexico and back, making number five and six. (Is this right??)

Mesa Verde was the show stopper. Nothing could have prepared me for this one and I wish we had been able to stay at least another day to tour all the sites. Unknownst to me, David was having difficulty comprehending information and I noticed we were surprisingly not in the best of moods. Upon reflection, we think we were both suffering from elevation differences, being at over 7000 feet and living at sea level. After great deliberation and confusion about the different sites and trying to make up both our minds, I settled on taking the Cliff Palace tour. I personally think it was a great decision after seeing the pictures of tourists hanging onto a ladder on the side of a cliff with a million foot drop climbing up to the Balcony house and hearing about the strenous climb and tiny tunnels to the Long House.

We were not disappointed. Another two rolls of film were shot here, and the ladder climb out that looked so ominous from the ruins was actually a piece of cake. If we ever return, we will see all the other sites. You are able to walk into the ruins within reason and it was simply fantastic.

After an expensive hot dog and bowl of chili at their cafe [Price -1 = -1] we headed off back down to a tolerable 6000 feet at Four Corners our original destination. We imposed on other tourists to take our picture on the monument declaring the cross section of the four states, toured the obnoxious Indian craft booths, ate the Indian bread [0] and bought a few trinkets. Good thing I am a cheap date, preferring a small refrigerator magnet to the weighty, expensive, overpriced turquoise jewelry! Now this brings up the question of just how many state lines we crossed, but I leave the count at one more, bringing us to seven once we headed out towards Shiprock, New Mexico.

Now Shiprock is cool, but it is looking like just another rock by now, this one is just huge, strangely shaped, doesn't even resemble a ship at all and stranded in the middle of absolutely nothing else except more flat desert. Mobile homes being taken down the roads here are as common as driving slowly behind a tractor at home. A lovely but lonely drive through Washington Pass brings us to the cheapest gas we have seen on the trip at $2.01 a gallon, instant tall pines and aspens, and even real grass pastures. The horses freely meandering along side the road was weird, but not as bizarre as the many loose cows right on the roads we would see in Window Rock. We weren't even sure we were in Window Rock for a while there, and could not see anything that would qualify as a window as we crossed our eighth state line. We stopped in the one motel in Saint Michael's, Navajoland Days Inn and I have absolutely no record of where we ate dinner. Odd.

Wednesday, day 6

Morning brought a quick tour of the Saint Michaels' Church museum and the search for Window Rock which was easy to find once you knew where to look. There is this huge round hole waaaay up in the peak of rock and it's truly impressive. What I have not mentioned is the continuous awe that we are immersed in when we have viewed all these phenominal feats of nature and auras of rich history. Window Rock is both, despite being real close to being 'rocked out'. The stop was great even without the added attraction of watching a girl with her family slide down inside the window only to get stuck on the ledge, unable to climb back out. After thirty minutes of watching and wondering when we should go get a ranger, I cheered and applauded her exit at long last. A local flea market provided some odd small beads, a secret purchase of a horse hair pot for David's birthday and some great cheap beaded necklaces and bracelets.

A long eventless drive down 12 to 40 again brought us to Fort Yellowhorse. I just about died laughing to see this place, tourist trap USA. Plastic statues of elk, eagles, deer all over the side of the rock formations. Bigger than life bright yellow store signs everywhere. "Made by REAL Indians!" David said that since I have seen the real thing, now I need to see this stuff. But, but, there is the store where David found my moccasins three years ago on his Four Corners trip. I am holding my breath as we walk in and I scan the store for shoes. Get outta my way, I see em!!

Ready for this? Not only do they have the soft sole I have searched endlessly for, they are brown, my size, the only pair left AND half price. Life doesn't get any better than this. David even bought himself a pair! I won't admit to how many pairs we left with, but we don't have to go back for, uh, a few years. Plus, they gave us a catalog and we can order them long distance! Moccasins today, tomorrow, the world! That was one happy woman continuing on our way west of 40.

A silly note is that after buying the long awaited, the long searched for mocassins, I left the store wearing my old ones. They are like old, familiar, comfy friends, not to be casually discarded upon the discovery of new ones.

When we reached Petrified Forest, we agreed we were simply rocked out. The only two ravens this side of the New Mexico border argued over my tossed crackers and we dutifully took one toured walk to see the hundreds of petrified wood fragments scattered about like broken soldiers. The Newspaper Rock drawings were recorded, and that was neat despite the continuing winds. The beauty of the polished rock was astounding, but since it was near the high nineties, we decided to move on. I did manage to purchase three small pieces at the local tourist/video/hardware/grocery store just outside the park. Rocky was accidentally tossed out of the car on a turn but quickly retrieved thanks to David's quick reactions. He was crumbled and bruised but not seriously injured, poor thing.

If I spy a couple taking pictures (the hubby shooting the wife alone) I will ask if they would like me to take a picture of both if them. People are usually quite delighted. This was where I encountered the couple who didn't want us to take their picture as they were sick of each other!

We were starving by the time we got to Holbrook at four and found Joe and Aggie's on Route 66, the oldest restaurant in town for good reason. They serve a great burger and delicious fries.

We had planned on visiting Canyon De Sheilly after Fort Defiance (which we skipped on after being entranced in Window Rock by the stuck climber) but after Mesa Verde, David felt that we had seen the best and would be only disappointed after that. We thought we had seen everything worth seeing. Not!

At Meteor Crater you climb stairs to the Visitor Center, take an elevator up a flight or two, take more stairs to another area, climb a few more and take a breather. Looking around, you see stairs to the left and wonder when is this going to end? Where is this crater? Then, suddenly, you realize where you are. Right in front of you, is this, this hole. This huge, massive, gigantic, enormous hole. One mile across, 550 feet deep. You might even forget about that wind for a minute you are so stunned. There is a platform hanging out over the crater you can walk onto and look through stationary telescopes to see several highlights. The one that gets you is the one labeled "Six foot astronaut and three foot wide US flag." Say what? No way! Sure enough, there are the center of the crater at the very bottom is a mine shaft surrounded by a chain link fence and guess what's on the fence? Yup. A plywood six foot astronaut and three foot wide US flag. Focusing on him and then slowly panning out to the entire crater was a delight. I did it over and over and over again. Bye bye!

Ok, then the noise. Remember noises? Weird noises. Here comes another one. This was unidentifiable, period. Never heard anything like it. While I am still trying to wrap my mind around this noise, a sudden burst of wind whips up from the crater and we all hang on to the rails for dear life. That's just about the time we and another couple scattered off that platform with the guys making comments about a particular piece of anatomy being puckered up. <insert a few shivers here> A walk up another set of stairs (puff, puff) to the crater's rim provided a breath taking view of the entire surrounding. After we had our fill of celestory awe we head down to the museum for a good collection of delights.

This was even more memorable because of the Muttering Man. This guy, alone, a bit older than we are, is dressed nicely, classic tourist clothes, safari hat, camera around his neck, hovering a bit too close to us for comfort. I keep moving along, he keeps moving along with us, I place a protective hand on my purse. He starts muttering and whispering as he looks at the posters and pictures. "They're coming! They're coming!" changed to "Holes.....see the holes.....the holes...." We bought a few rocks for my son's rock collection, a postcard picture of the crater taken from the air (awesome) and we get heck away from that guy. Admittedly, we used to pull things like that as teens, quietly freak people out doing weird stuff, but I swear this guy was for real.

We left, still stunned by the immensity of the crater, headed off to Two Guns. This is supposed to be a famous place where the Apache and Navajo constantly came to fight it out. Now there is one abandoned gas station and a huge sign that says "Welcome to Two Guns" where some one has hand written in "Not" above it all. There are some rock ruins nearby to the south of 40 and after closer inspection, appear to be some what recent. We did not figure out why there was wood slats and barbed wire above the rock walls, just like a concentration camp. Weird.

I had read about Canyon Diablo and we thought that was it except the directions said it was two miles north off 40. Headed out that way we found a dirt road that rapidly became a rock road at best. Just about two miles and thirty minutes later, the road came to a dead stop at the train tracks with no way to cross over. During this entire trip we could always count on seeing another train, one after another, more trains and longer trains than I have ever seen in my life. Anyway, there on the side of the road was a knocked over sign that said "Road Closed." Duh! We could see what we thought might be old abandoned buildings a mile or so to the left across the tracks. David wanted to ride on the edge of the railroad tracks (remember constant trains, 24/7?) but thankfully the sun was in our eyes, so we turned back. On the way back we stopped to inspect and procure one of the hundreds of whitish rocks with deep scars scattered over the area. Since we were in that vast desolute area we could see at the crater, we thought this must be some of the limestone that was shot out to a five mile radius when the meteor landed.

As we were nearing the pavement road again we saw the top of a perfect circle showing above the overpass. I am thinking male hogans are round, but not THAT big. It was the moon! A full pink moon with that grin, and of course, we quickly stopped the car as we had so many times these past few days, grabbed our cameras and took pictures. A Brit in a 4 by 4 stopped to ask if we were enjoying ourselves, we talked about ghost town hunting and such for a bit before heading on down the road again.

Our next stop was Williams, very similar and as lovely as Flagstaff. If we ever have to move inland, either place would be fine. And they have a Walmart and a Taco Bell. Mandatory. Oh, and a Starbucks. It was getting dark and we stopped at Goldies Route 66 Diner, voted our favorite food stop of the entire trip. We were offered smoking or non-smoking, and my eyes must have indicated we were from California. (This was the only the second restaurant that offered this in the whole state.) The owner said, "Welcome to the real world." The entire smoking section and staff was involved in the following jokes when David said, "It's like a sign that says Cancer Permitted Here." Goldie's received a definite two and three quarters star rating (too far to plan a trip around) with more delicious food than you could possibly eat in one sitting for an incredibly low price, to say nothing of the personalities of the employees and customers.

They recommended two cheap local smoking motels and we ended up at The Westerner. We made it to Safeway before it closed at ten and headed off to bed, exhausted.

Thursday, day 7

The bed ended up to be so hard that David never woke when I got out of bed to leave the horse hair pot on his nightstand with a Happy Birthday note in it. We headed back to Goldie's for another fantastic meal where we were warmly greeted by the owner and inspected by the local police sitting at the counter. As we drove out of town, the old fashioned Grand Canyon train departed, cheerfully tooting it's whistle.

Highway 40 was dodging crazed semi's and even Rocky wasn't interested in looking out the window any more. We just wanted to get home to our own soft bed and familar little house. Since the speed limit was back up to 75, autos and trucks alike, we made good time and decided to stop in Kingman after all, hopefully to find a pet shop where I could play with a ferret (a no-no in California) for a minute or two. The attempt to find the one and only pet shop was funny with the feed store employees arguing whether the pet store had truly closed or not. This was made even funnier when we found the shop which had a notice on the front door, something to the effect of "Because of the rumours, we are posting that we are NOT closing. The Fish Store is closing and we don't know anything about it." Alas, they just sold the last two ferrets. Back on the road again.

Needles brought our ninth state line crossing and 65 mph speed limits where we stopped for gas only to be greeted by a blasting 112 degree heat. We thought maybe we should wait until the next day to cross the Mojave, but we truly wanted to just get home. Besides, Betsy had performed so well we thought we would have no problem. David checked the water and oil and off we go. By the first exit to Dagget, she had red lined something terrible. There was absolutely nothing there, so we limped to the next exit where there, again, was absolutely nothing. Now the temp gauge was maxed big time so we managed to stop under probably the only trees in town next to the town's park and trailer museum after almost being run over by some guy in a small blue water service truck.

David used the general principal five gallons of water, the two gallons of drinking water and I spent many trips to the park's drinking fountain with water bottles for more water. My plea at the museum for a garden hose was met by that same guy with a basically out right refusal to help. When I asked where the closest service station was, he said down the road one mile. I asked which road (there were four or five at the park going off in all sorts of directions) and his stare told me not to ask anything else of him. The girl at the desk said he knew perfectly well that wasn't true, the gas station was three miles away. I left without a word, thinking some pretty nasty thoughts about the population of Dagget and got more water out of the drinking fountain, one quarter cup at a time, praying and praying.

David thankfully managed to get the jeep cooled off but only after he turned it off as it was revving extremely high and would not quit. Betsy gave some shuddering spurts and burps, I figured I had heard her last dying gasp but literally teared up when David started her up. We tenderly drove down the road almost cheering but massive pinging and clanking started just as we approached some sort of repair station where we pulled in. A guy came out of the garage and said, "Got it a bit hot, heh?"

The next few hours were simply gruesome. What made the event tolerable was the people, Wayne and Toni at the garage, INF, who went out of their way to ease our terrible situation as best they could, calling for bus schedules if we needed them, offering us a ride into Barstow for the night, gently delivering the $1300 estimate to repair the jeep. I went outside to play with the dog and pray. We finally reached David's youngest daughter, Kristi, who would be down to get us the next morning. They even sung Happy Birthday to David with me in their lobby and Toni presented him with a Rice Krispies Treat in lieu of a cake. Absolutely priceless. David will remember this birthday forever.

We went through the jeep, hurriedly getting what we could not live without and loading it in the back of a tow truck while we chatted and Wayne used his digital thermometer to measure the heat off the white paint on the jeep (121) and the asphalt in the sun (149). I finally took my new moccasins out of the box and put them on. These are the world's most expensive moccasins. Come by and I will let ya touch em.

The driver, Alex took us into Barstow to the Motel 6, room 140. The bare essentials but almost home. We ate at the Coco's down the street [Slow food delivery -1, our attitudes weren't the best +1 = 0] and finally went to sleep in the heat.

Friday, day 8

This carless, transportationless morning brought a search for coffee in the lobby, watching a pair of nesting turtle doves, watching television while David checked his email, Rocky waited patiently and I played with my collection of rocks, waiting for Kristi's arrival. No, I could not have left them behind in the jeep.

I adore Kristi anyway, but it was really super to see her smiling face pull up. We piled in her Tahoe and took off, asap. Lunch was at El Serape.[3] Pixilated in Pixley keeps coming to mind, and I have now experienced the world's best Chili Relleno, bar none. There was a quick stop at the Valley Farms Fruit Stand to peek at the grandest junk and get gas followed a few hours later by arriving in Merced. Oh, home sweet home. Arriving at the house was a surreal experience, to hug the dogs, cats, kitties, exclaim at the garden's growth, admire the twelve foot sunflowers, groan at the mass quantity of weeds in a previously weedless yard, take two foot squash off the vines, put a dozen or more plants in Kristi's car and sit down.

Home. At last.

A sad note. After we got the jeep back (to the tune of $1400) we took the jeep to Yosemite a week later and broke down on the return trip in Mariposa. Same problem. Overheating. The jeep dealer in Merced repaired her  this time (another $1400) and assured us that the block had not been torqued or tightened down properly by the previous repair mechanic. That was one expensive pair of moccasins.

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