Day 6: Amarillo to Santa Fe – 209 miles
Today we finally got to the Cadillac Ranch – a much anticipated stop off the I-40. We arrived armed with an orange spray canister and we were not disappointed. The attraction is an art installation where 10 cadillacs are partly buried in the middle of a field that stretches for miles around them with nothing, but broken stalks of grass, to break the horizon line. Visitors are free to leave their marks on the rusting cars, which are encrusted with 30 years of paint.
Cadillac ranch is a crazy place and a happy hour was spent there in the freezing wind making orange marks on the old cars, taking photos, enjoying the spectacle and wondering who on earth would abandon ten cars like that.
We also managed to stop at a trading post in another town along 66 (tiny but felt big compared to what we had previously been through), jam packed with memorabilia that added to the tight fit in the car. The friendly guy in the shop, who had moved south from Ohio to escape the snow, spent ages with us showing how the toys worked and rotating the jewelry displays for us.
Another milestone was reached today when we found the half-way point of Route 66. It was just a photo op really though as everything there was closed.
Today we left Texas and drove into New Mexico. You could almost tell where the border was. after the flatness and emptiness of the windy plains broken by a wind bent tree or a lonely cow, small mesas, bordered by red cliffs started to appear, which grow bigger and wider the further west we travelled. The architecture also changed dramatically – squat friendly buildings with sturdy, rounded walls. It all just felt more friendly and welcoming somehow.
Turning North from the I-40 for a rest day in Santa Fe further lightened the mood in the car, especially as we climbed a hill and snowy mountains came into sight.
It was a lovely day, made better by the knowledge that we would be able to change the car for a bigger one, that we had a rest day the following day and most importantly, our hotel room had separate bedrooms and a washing machine!
Day 7: A day in Santa Fe – 569 miles
This was the day when we stayed in one place – it was blissful to wander around Santa Fe (my happy place on this trip), browsing around the shops , chatting to the vendors and just exploring. It is a unique city with colorful splashes, a multitude of art, interesting shops and friendly, beautiful buildings. All this high in the mountains on a freezing cold day. What was there not to love?
The boy was particularly taken by the pigeons walking all over his feet while he was feeding snow to them. He also especially enjoyed the bug museum – a tiny place in a shopping mall run by two enthusiasts. One had a passion for collecting and pinning insect samples and the other for caring for poisonous, creepy insects and arachnids, as well as the odd reptile that could give you a nasty bite. The boy was allowed to handle some of the more creepy looking ones, including a tarantula, massive millepede, a whip spider and a massive, hissing cockroach, which made him jump a mile. My neck is itching just remembering it.
I also managed to get the car changed to a bigger van/people carrier, with the help ofBernard at the tiny airport in Santa Fe. The airport was one of the smallest I have ever seen with one check in desk, two car hire desks and a coffee shop.
Day 8: Santa Fe to Scottsdale, Pheonix – 569 miles
This was a long driving day and because of the distance we had to bypass some of the places that we wanted to visit. Pretty frustrating after driving all that way! We did do a small detor to the meteor crater, racing against time to get there before it closed, but we missed it by 5 minutes…! My head still can’t to grips with that – that a massive hole in the ground can be closed?
After leaving the mountains the landscape was mainly desert and deserted. But as we drove towards Arizona the landscape started to get craggier, redder and higher.
Day 9: Phoenix to Grand Canyon – 256 miles
After a refreshing night at Scotty Grannies friends’ beautiful house, Garnet flew in and joined us for breakfast. A joyful reunion over eggs and bagels!
We took a detour through Sedona valley – amazingly beautiful, and another addition to the bucket list! The road was windy and wonderful with photo ops on every corner. Even the boy was impressed.
We made it up to the Arizona Snow Bowl for an hours skiing before the lifts closed. After almost two years, it was great to be on skis again, even though the first run was quite nervy. By the end I was remembering how to ski again and managed two runs to the others three…
For our final night we stayed in a cabin on the rim of the Grand Canyon – pretty basic but a brilliant location!
Day 10: Grand Canyon to Thousand Oaks – 523 miles
Our last day on the road started early, watching the sun come up over the Grand Canyon. It was freezing, with snow on the ground, but very worth it watching the rocks change color as the rays hit them. One of the most perfect sunrises was followed perfectly by a helping of GF pancakes and coffee.
The drive was another long one and the boy managed to have his first In and Out Burger, spending the money that his tennis coach had given him for that purpose before we left Maryland.
Unexpectedly, the final crossing of a state line into California, was very low key. It wasn’t until we had driven a few miles up the road that we realized that we had done it! We drove through flat desert towards mountains and had a couple of stops to look at volcanic rocks.
We drove over the mountains along the last part of 66 before it crosses into California, hugging the sides and trying not to overturn on the hairpin bends. Scotty Granny had to change places and sit in the back so she didn’t have to look at sheer drops down the side. There were a few wild burros roaming around nonchalantly – even on the roads. They were abandoned years ago when the gold mining ceased. On the other side of the pass was a tiny town, stuck in time, packed with bikers and burros with every shop selling 66 memorabilia. Apparently they stage gun fights for fun every weekend. Can’t say that is my idea of fun really, but I guess you have to do something in these places.
One of the nicest parts of driving through the mountains and along the backroads are the number of random trees decorated with Christmas decorations. We passed a few people decorating trees with their cars parked precariously on the narrow mountain roads.
I drove the final hour into Thousand Oaks – after miles and miles of relatively few people it felt odd to be crowded in by cars on a five lane highway all rushing along impatiently…
Thanks again to Scotty Granny for everything and Garnet for believing in us!