29. Mai 2015

Route 66 - The Mother Road

Gateway Arch St. Louis, Missouri (387 seconds shutter speed)

Once in our lifetime we wanted to travel on the Route 66. The Mother Road, the road of luck and pain, of adventures and nightmares. The road which led Steinbecks Family Joad in his novel „The Grapes of Wrath“ from Oklahoma to California. A novel you should only read when in a good mental condition. 

On a cold and rainy November night we booked the flights to Chicago and 4 weeks later from Los Angeles back to Switzerland. We rented a car (I was dreaming of an old Ford Mustang) even though we had to pay a heavy penalty using the drop-off location LAX. (750 USD) „Imaging something is better than remembering something“ says John Irving. The rest of the winter, Sabina and I spent our time planning and organizing the route and finding the places we wanted to see (there are thousands of Route 66-related spots).

But before we started our 4-weeks journey to Chicago on the 26th April we had to do one of the hardest things in life. We had to say goodbye to a very close friend of ours. She got the diagnosis (0/100) in early February. When we visited her in the hospital a few days before we left, she said: „The cancer will kill me before you guys return.“ And she was right. Our thoughts were with this warm, friendly and graceful woman and will always be a part of the journey.

I write this post in English, for those who hadn't noticed it so far, it is not my mother tongue. Be glad that you don’t have to listen to my accent…

The people and the situations I describe are just a glimpse of something, I don’t mean my post as a description of the status of USA or as a generally valid opinion of the people living in the States or about my colleagues, the tourists. The story may have turned in another way if we had chosen a different crossroad. „Life turns on a dime“ Stephen King says. Imaging what can happen when you knock on the wrong door!

After a bumpy landing and a computerized immigration process (though there were some humans at work still) we were looking forward to our rental car from Dollar. An old Ford or something similar in mind, the lady at the counter told us, that there are not many cars left today. But she had a brand new one for us, a Hyundai Tucson. A HYUNDAI ??? Others are traveling the route with a Harley, an Oldtimer or at least in a fat American SUV. And we, we should do the 2448 miles in a plain vanilla model from South Korea? Holy cow. But, after 4000 miles driving this car, I liked it very much, as did Sabina!

Chicago, the Windy or Second City ! But "windy" doesn’t mean only the cold wind from north which is freezing to the bone in wintertime. No, a journalist from the New York Times wanted to know, why Chicago won the contest against New York for the World’s Columbian Exposition 1893. He wrote that he met "windy" guys. So it stands also for the character of the Chicagoans (hey, all things change!). And "second" doesn’t mean number 2 behind New York. The legend tells us, that on a cold October day, the cow Daisy milked by her farmer didn’t appreciate his cold hands. She wanted to kick his backside, but, unfortunately, she was hitting the gas lamp. The night Chicago died. 300‘000 people lost their homes in the fire of October 1871. But Chicago was built a SECOND time. The same year the Chicagoans reversed the river course.  Back in these times they threw the garbage and excrement into the river and due to the fact that they took the drinking water from Lake Michigan, people got seriously ill. They found the solution digging only 12 feet deep and turned the water course into the Illinois and Michigan Canal. That’s the reason why the riverboats have to enter Lake Michigan via a floodgate. Ever since then the water flows into the Gulf of Mexico instead of into the Atlantic Ocean. Chicago has a turbulent history and there’s a lot to discover (have a look at the pics).

We started the Route 66, like millions of travelers, at Lou’ Mitchells Restaurant and Bakery. Our favorite author Rand McNally whose book was on Sabina's knees, says "avoid Highways" set our GPS and checking the signs of the route, it's easy to follow the 66. Our first stop was at a bar on the outskirts of Chicago. I asked the bartender if I could take some pics. "I have to call my boss" she answered without moving an inch. If you ever call your boss, ask him, if you are doing well, being unfriendly to strangers, serving the Cokes in slow-motion and giving the visitors the feeling "piss off". Get your kicks on Route 66. 

We thought, we would make it to St. Louis on the first day. But despite the first part of the 66 is not that famous, we have seen some pretty little spots. The Joliet Prison (Blues Brothers, 1980), the bridges (okay, not that little) of Joliet, the Rich & Creamy on Broadway, the Riviera Restaurant (today closed) in Gardner and then many cornfields and lonely farm houses. It was night when we drove through Bloomington. We agreed to stop and stay for the night. I'd never heard of Bloomington, but there were many other travelers tired like we were. First of all, the motels were fully booked (on a MONDAY in April in the middle of nowhere???). Finally we found a place in a DAYS INN or so. And we got our first impression what we should expect from traveling the Route 66. Not the big, breathtaking things, no, small and old buildings and long, long roads. We also realized, that we would never make it to Los Angeles, if we avoided the Highways.

The next day we planned to make a stop at Becky's Barn in Auburn. We went up the private road to the farm buildings. Only one person was there and didn't take notice of us. So we turned the car and down the road we checked how to continue. Suddenly a red car stopped and the guy from Becky's shouted at us with the cars color all over his face: "What do you think you are doing, driving to my house, taking pictures and now blocking my entry!" (far, far away, there was some traffic, but here at this spot, only some crows were looking at us) I didn't want to make this guy more angry, so we jumped in the car and drove south. For sure we were lucky that he didn't see, that before he arrived we had done something we usually do at the motorway services. 

Somewhere near Mt Polaski I took a very nice shot of the Carlyle Cemetery Mt Polaski and in Lincoln we saw a second awesome cupola of the Logan County Courthouse (1st, Chicago Cultural Center). I didn't have to pass the security check but the officer got a little bit nervous, when my cam (on the floor) started the beeps of the delayed-action shutter release.

When we got out of the car in front of Deck's Drug Store in Girard, an elderly man asked why we were taking some pics. Please, not a third time a dispute with a local. But this was Bill Deck. A very friendly guy, former owner of the store and a good story teller. He invited us to take as many pictures as we wanted and talked about his family and the drugs in the good old days. Cocaine must have been a popular and an often used thing... 

Finally, we arrived in St. Louis. At the "Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch" we got a room with a view! The Gateway Arch in front of us! This Arch is really impressive. 630 ft (192 m) tall and one can go to the top. I will do so next time. St. Louis is a calm town and home of the Cardinals, a famous Baseball-Team. I guess they play a very good 2015 regular season. I will never understand the game (and I tried hard), but I am a European guy, it's fine that I do understand Football ("Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" - my favorite). 

I remembered that I had seen a very nice picture from a lobby in St. Louis. I googled (how could people travel without google back in the days??) and I found the Union Station of St. Louis Doubletree Hotel by Hilton. I can tell you guys, this is a must stop whenever your path crosses St. Louis. The most beautiful lobby of the World. And if you can manage to be there on a Friday night you will see a perfect light-show! I will never forget it. When I was shooting big shots in this incredible hall a security officer came along. My wife thought: Oh no, he must delete the pics, as in the mega-cities it is not unusual, that it is forbidden to take photos, especially with a tripod. (on Top of the Rock in New York, you have to pay 1800 USD per hour for shooting with a tripod…). But this guy only asked me if I'm happy with my results! Thank you, yes I am!

Maybe we are wrong, but we thought that there is not much to see on Route 66 from St. Louis to Oklahoma and we decided to leave the Route and were heading for Nashville, Tennessee, the Music City and home of the Country Music Hall of Fame (a honor I will never get - people are paying me for not singing). In Nashville, I met many new brothers (even there were many more in Memphis and some sisters, too). Though, I'm pretty sure, my father never visited the States:-). On Broadway we could listen to the (not only Country) live bands and had a good time, like the two days we spent later in Memphis, the home of the Blues. On Wednesday night, they close Beale Street for cars and the sound of bikes (mostly Harleys) takes place. An unforgettable happening! And no, we didn't see Elvis.

We went back to Route 66 by driving over Little Rock. And when you put Okla as a target into your GPS, you will find out, if you are the guy, who should travel the Route 66. Your computerized system says: " Drive 467 Miles". If you like that, you're fine, if not, book a 2 weeks all vacation in Orlando, Florida. We watched the road unroll. It ran straight as a string all the way to the horizon and this will happen many more times, before you reach Santa Monica, California. On these long distance drives you will get another view of things that happened, you forgive somebody's faults and you see your own actions in another light. An emotional state which could lead to addiction. 

We passed Oklahoma only resting one night in Shawnee. Oklahoma, which suffered from severe storms and tornados this April and May. In the evening hours we arrived in Tucumcari, New Mexico, 900 miles from Memphis. We stayed at the Roadrunner Motel, a place we would chose again. In this town the motels of Route 66 are rebuilt and with murals worth to take pictures of (found out the two murals of the rider who lost his horse). We took some nice shots of the Motel Blue Swallow, a famous spot, pictured millions of times. And if you get lucky, you will meet the "mural-Linda" and the "living-Linda" when you take your lunch at Pow Wow Inn. 

We left Tucumcari and were heading for Las Vegas and Santa Fé. Las Vegas is a quiet town and Santa Fé a pretty nice one, with 200 galleries and a place to be for rich and famous people. If you drive to Albuquerque (Albukerki) put "Madrid" in your GPS and it  will take you on the Turquoise Trail. You will drive through a little town, but today famous because the Road Movie "Wild Hogs" (with John Travolta) was captured there. Soon, we made some pics of Albuquerque which has a large community of Mexican natives driving the big, fat, custom-made cars. We rested in Gallup, where you could spend the night in Hotel El Rancho ("charm of yesterday, convenience of tomorrow", okay, they forgot to mention "prices of today"). 

Flagstaff was our next target. A town with good sport and music bars and the gateway to Grand Canyon (with the famous spot, where you will see some elks, that's for sure:-)). Be prepared for cold nights, Flagstaff is 6900 feet high (2100 m) and is also a well known ski resort. There's a lot to discover, take your time. As a Route 66 traveler you should stay at Hotel Weatherford or at Hotel Monte Vista. Check out the history and do not be scared of the ghosts of Monte Vista. 

In Seligman, we met a Swiss girl (Uschi) with her German friend Thomas running the best shop for Route 66 souvenirs (and where Thomas serves one of the best cappuccino all over the World). If you follow the old route, you will see Hackberry, with the famous General Store and the Corvette in front of it, before arriving at Kingman.

Kingman, a spot on Route 66 which is a little bit overrated, is the gateway to the old 66 and in Oatman you can attend (noon, 2pm) to a Hollywood type act of drama. Only the donkeys were not very impressed about this performance and they were rather keen on food, even ice-cream from an old lady. 

Next stop was Needles, where the Colorado River showed that it is carrying water, still. We arrived in Laughlin, not on Route 66, and to be honest, we didn't want to go there (I took the wrong exit, uh-uh only 70 miles detour…).

Back on Route 66, Roy's Motel and Cafe (forget about Motel, at least for an overnight accommodation)  in Amboy was a spot I always wanted to see. Yes, it was worth to seeing it. Finally, tired, we checked in at Motel 66 in Barstow. For us, the end of our journey on the Main Street of USA - Route 66. From there, you can go to Las Vegas or to Death Valley (which we did). Very sad, staying at the Motel, we also got the news, that our beloved friend had passed away at the age of 58. She was a big character, RIP. 

Death Valley, a place where people calm down, well, some are banging their heads against the wall, because the Internet-Access is very, very limited and these poor guys, social media addicted, cannot tell the World where they are:-). One of the best places we have ever seen. But, after three nights, we had to hit the road again. To our final destination, Santa Monica, the very end of Route 66. But the traffic in LA sucks, and, to all my Asian friends: You didn't tell me, but, please say yes: You had an Asian-gathering in LA these days, didn't you? 

Is it worth traveling the Mother Road? Yes! We met so many friendly people, like always, when we are in the States. But, Henry Cole, I cannot imagine, that you made it all the way on your Harley within two weeks. If so, you are a hero! And for followers: Needless to say, you should like long distance trips. And if you travel Route 66, you will find your own spots and favorite places.

The worst of our tour? Everything has an End. But for now, we are a part of the Main Street of the USA. God bless you!

North Avenue Beach or Carribbean Sea?
get out on the ledge if you dare
have a look down at 1353 feet in the air
whenever I see the Buckingham Fountain I have to think of Al Bundy's 5 TD in ONE (Highschool)- game
Streets of Chicago
a first spot on the Route 66, a little bit outside of Chicago
The Willis Tower far away
The L, the rapid transit system serving the City of Chicago
The Center of the City (taken from an L-car)
many bridges are crossing the Chicago River (taken from an L-car)
that's what I call a McDonald's
Chicagos Millenium Park Bean
The cupola of the Chicago Cultural Center
Bands are playing in the CCC
The first sign on the Route 
a Joliet bridge (what a construction)
not the last long road to be seen on the journey
 on Route 66 there is traffic still
 stormy weather is near
 Illinois is proud to be a part of the Route
in front the Original Route 66

The Carlyle Cemetery Mt Pulaski, Illinois or the Sky is the limit
the cupola in Lincoln Logan County Courthouse
 a Route 66 Motel
Bill Deck, owner of Doc's Soda Fountain
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis
a room with a view
sunrise (out of our room)
Chain of Rocks Bridge
The Mississippi (left, at the horizon, St. Louis)

The Lobby of the Union Station Hotel Doubletree (2500 ISO, 1/50, 5.0)
The bar
Gateway Arch St. Louis
Cargill Factory in Pontoon Beach, Illinois (vis-a-vis St. Louis)
Made for photographers, thank you
St. Louis Skyline
the lightshow in the Lobby of the Union Station Hotel
 the light show is world class, I'm impressed, a feast for the eyes
the Lobby
view from the balcony
of ghosts and photographers
another spot in the Hotel
the entry
a step back in time
this is what I call a Hotel Bar
 the old railway station

 Coca-Cola is it
impressive Arch
 lookout at the top ot the arch
 Union Electric (out of order, I guess) 

Skyline of Nashville
 "Missisippi" Riverboat driving up the Cumberland River
Sabina enjoying the view from the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge
Broadway (US Highway 70), the famous street in Nashville
a bus driving round the Corner of Legends
beautiful Harley 
and the biker
it's not easy to stop shooting the pretty nice neon signs
a last one of the vivid broadway
a very nice Lobby as well, the Union Station Hotel Nashville
a friendly cabby
river front in Memphis, a Mississippi Scow passing the Hernando de Soto Bridge
much more traffic on Beale Street
Wednesday Bike Night on Beale Street
Thanks for posing, Brother
driving down the street, not only once, most of the bikers are coming back a few times
only Beale Street in mind
hey, Sisters

your welcome
Thanks for posing, Brothers
the happy guy from the Blues City Café, thank you for the pic
terrible weather in Oklahoma (here Shawnee), we got lucky and passed the State the day when the weather was good (in terms of these times)
a turn in the road - very seldom:-)
that will be a good one, Sabina
straight as a string to the horizon, I love it!
near Amarillo, to have a shop at the highway, doesn't mean it will survive
the Roadrunner Lodge in Tucumcari, I can highly recommend it
David (Owner) started the engine, thank you
the famous Blue Swallow Motel close to the Roadrunner Lodge (often fully booked)
there are a lot of murals, waiting for being captured on film
hm, when we were there, Joe was not back
you will check it out, where his horse is waiting, I'm pretty sure
I love the old American cars
I'm sure you will take more than one pic of the Blue Swallow
without words
 many nice spot worth being pictured of
 Palomino Motel, no lights in the dark (2015)
 a step back in time
 like painted
 Blue Swallow by day
 not everything is renovated
 old and new times
 you can't forget it when you are in Tucumcari
 the roof of a gas station
modern art
 the Wash Lady
 Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari
 out of order
Sabina 2011
Sabina 2015
an inside mural (Pow Wow Inn)
cheers (Pow Wow Inn)
 just great paintings
Mural- and living-Linda (and President of All-Rite Towing)
Sabina cannot believe it...
at the west end of Tucumcari, not survived
hit the road, a street between Tucumcari and Las Vegas NM
the friendly lady of the Diner in Madrid
The Diner, famous as Wild Hogs was filmed in Madrid
what a ceiling, toilet of the Sister Bar in Albuquerque
The Bar of the Sister Bar
Central Avenue NW, Albuquerque
Sabina must have been here once before
Main Street in Gallup, just kidding, but between the main streets...
there are millions of signs on Route 66 which are worth to take a photo
Between Gallup and Holbrook, Arizona
not that I know...
This is Emeritus Professor Rubén L Meneses. 57 years later, he visited The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ, where the guy on the picture, Chester E. Lewis, hired him. It was his first job in the USA, just coming from Mexico, without speaking one word English. A heartwarming story.
"Two guns", but I miss the "No diving"-sign!
Interstate 40, far away at the horizon, the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff
GC gateway Flagstaff
of murders and ghosts...
here they are…
Hotel Weatherford
a floor at the Hotel Monte Vista
the famous Museum Club on Route 66 in Flagstaff
The Crown Railroad Café in Flagstaff
a busy railway station, Flagstaff, (LA or Chicago, your choice)
on HW 180 Flagstaff to Grand Canyon
cited down-trees
HW 180 (direction Flagstaff)
always awesome
it's a long way down...
Colorado River
the Canyon
Desert View Point

The owner of the barber shop is one of the responsible person, that the Route 66 is still alive
Seligman, AZ
out of Seligman
Hackberry, visitors always welcome...
that's what I call a men's room, the restroom inside the General Store!
often seen… the freight trains
Kingman, AZ
Andy Devine, a famous actor, born in Flagstaff, grown up in Kingman (1905-1977)
Mr. D'z, unfortunately we were not hungry
"Skyline" of Kingman
Flashlights can improve your pics...
a scenic one
be sure to book the "original" Motel 66
the clouds were always at the horizon (I don't like pure blue skies)
heading from Kingman to Oatman
Cool Springs
a Route 66 must have picture
only 1500 miles to go, North Dakota his target!
the Hollywood-type act of drama in Oatman
that's not a fake
one gunman died on the road!!!
every day the same story, bored donkey(s)
close to Needles
The Colorado River in Needles
Color TV! Oh, the good old times!
The Colorado River near Laughlin (not on Route 66)
the reason why it is called "heading" to?
Roy's Motel and Café and Mike, running the Café Shop
since I heard about the Route 66, this spot was always in my mind
an icon of the Route 66
The lobby of Motel 66 in Barstow
Cemetery of Calico. Our thoughts were with our passed away friend. And yes: Until we meet again!
Near Barstow, avoiding the heavy traffic of the Interstate 15 (LV-LA)
Mural at Motel 66, Barstow
Bill Tomlinson, running the Route 66 museum in Barstow, and, as an addicted traveler, but too old for hitting the roads, very happy to welcome visitors (now, the World comes to us)
Railway Station Barstow
Main Street of Barstow
unfortunately, most of the neon-signs are not illuminated
Just couldn't check out the difference of Motel 66 Barstow and...
Route 66 Motel Barstow (here we stayed 2 nights)
everywhere... Route 66
looking at this picture, your heart should beat faster, then you'll love the Route 66
Searles Valley
a lookout into Panamint Valley
Panamint Valley Road, unpaved (ca. 3 miles of about 50)
 Stovepipe Wells (Hotel)

 Stovepipe Wells, some rooms with a nice view of the Mesquite Sand Dunes
at the entry of Mosaic Valley, nice overlook of the Dunes
my wife Sabina and our Chinese Friends in the Mosaic Canyon
 this small canyon are very danger when heavy rain falls
Stovepipe wells resort in the middle of the desert of Death Valley
Furnace Creek (25 miles southeast of Stovepipe Wells) holds the world record for the highest reliably reported air temperature (134 Fahrenheit, 56.7 Celsius) in 1913!!!
General Store at Stovepipe Wells
 fantastic nights
 the only restaurant and bar in Stovepipe Wells (food is pretty good)
 take a bath until midnight, you are on the hottest spot on earth
Agathe and … a very friendly french couple we met late at night at the hotel
wonderful light: Mequite Flat Sand Dunes
you can take nice pictures from many points far away from the Mesquite Sand Dunes
the blue hour: really pretty
a few minutes before it was yellow light
fantastic outlook

Dantes View, overlooking Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level (86 m) lowest point of North America
Lookout, the famous Zabriskie Point

crossroad of Panamint Valley
 Father Crowly Point, an overlook of the Panamint Valley
California 190

an awesome spot, Cinder Rock at Fossil Falls (Little Lake Overlook) very close to the US 395
we couldn't stop taking pics

little lake overview (a bumpy 5 miles drive, unpaved)
one more

uh-uh, we did it
Santa Monica Beac
 at the end of the pier
 Ferris wheel on the pier

don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened
traffic jam, I hate it
the 1'327'854'730andmore pictured sign

Downtown (unfortunately it was a day with grey light)
voracious giant, LA (at the horizon, Long Beach, 30 miles linear distance)

so long guys