Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Road Trip 3: Climbing to Flagstaff

Needles, California.  8:00 AM and it's already 90 degrees.  The temperature is predicted to climb to 108 later in the day, and 116 over the weekend.

It's time to get on the road.

* * * * * * * *

Heading East from Needles, the highway starts to rise.  It is still desert, but the land starts to take on more interesting shapes.  There is more vegetation, and it's a bit more green.  The road twists and turns a bit, following the terrain, rather than lying dead straight.

The Colorado River comes as a surprise.  Suddenly, in the midst of the parched landscape, there is a sleek modern bridge across a narrow swath of incredible blue water.  Midway across the bridge there is a marker:  I am now in Arizona.

Across the river the land becomes dry again, and the road climbs a bit more steeply.  Nothing looks like the mountains I am used to...  the California Sierras.  There are no jagged, rocky peaks,  Instead there are tall hills, brownish red, and buttes like something from and old western movie.

By the time I reach Kingman, the elevation is 3,500 feet.  Seligman, my next destination, is over 5,200.

* * * * * * * *

Along the way, I have a flat tire, and I call AAA Roadside Assistance.  The dispatcher asks if I have water, and access to shade.  This isn't Silicon Valley!

While I wait, I see a truck with a light bar on top.  I watch as it goes by, wondering if it's my AAA service.  The truck turns around and drives back.  Up close I see that it's a park service truck.  The driver asks if I need anything...  he saw me watching as he drove by.

A bit later another car stops to ask if I need help.  People seem to watch out for one another here.  It's definitely not Silicon Valley.

The AAA driver arrives a few minutes later.  He asks if I have water.

* * * * * * * *

In Kingman, and again in Seligman, I turn off I-40 onto portions of the old Route 66...  America's first great highway, the mother road, main street of America. Today the old, winding highway has been bypassed, along with many of the communities it passed through.  It's lined with decaying buildings. Small stretches have been rejuvenated as tourist mecca's, paying nostalgic homage to the 40's, 50's, and 60's.

I visit some museums, a couple of souvenir shops, and a diner.  It's fun, and I learn a bit about the history of the road and the communities.

Leaving Seligman, I see a coyote by the road.  I think it's a good sign.

* * * * * * * *

I arrive in Flagstaff by  mid-afternoon.  Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet, and finally there are trees...  the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the world.  The trees are refreshing, but they seem stunted by lack of water.  It's like a forest of miniature trees.

I stop at a small cafe for a cold drink before I find a hotel for the night.  Later, I decide to walk back to the cafe for dinner.  Clouds have moved in, and it rains a bit.  It's amazing after the past few days!

The cafe is also amazing.  It's definitely a "foodie" place.  I have a wonderful creamy carrot soup, soda bread, and pasta with mushrooms.

It's been a good day.

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