Coming to Vegas: Looking Back, and Ahead

LAS VEGAS: Made it to Vegas late Saturday afternoon, in time for our 40th wedding anniversary (today), 2,820 miles from home. This trip has been our anniversary gift to ourselves.

We left the Flagstaff KOA and with 250 miles to go to Vegas, took the time for a side trip to Sedona, a hair-raising ride of steep descents in the Coconino National Forest on U.S. 89, scary but spectacularly beautiful. We walked the tourist strip and took pictures, then headed back to Flagstaff the long way on I-17, avoiding the return climb up the mountain.

We battled through gridlock in Flagstaff back to 66 and headed west, stopping in Williams, which is full of railroad and logging history, but now a tourist gateway to the Grand Canyon. Predictably, it’s full of tourists. Unlike in so many other stops along 66, the hotels here that once catered to long-distance travelers have been rescued by the big chains, Rodeway, Holiday Inn, La Quinta, to accommodate Grand Canyon visitors. The old bars and gas stations are now cute restaurants and souvenir shops.

The idea now was to make it to Vegas and rendezvous with daughter Kathleen, who’s studying nursing here. We made our final 66 stop in Seligman Ariz., got ice cream at Angel Delgadillo’s Sno-Cone Drive-In and stopped by his souvenir shop.

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After visiting every state through which 66 passes except California, we said goodbye to the Mother Road and hit I-40 for Kingman, expecting an easy ride into Vegas on U.S. 95. Unfortunately, we were alerted that it was closed at Hoover Dam, forcing about a 40-mile detour, due west to Bullhead City, then 60 or so miles through empty 100-degree desert.

We straggled up the sun-blasted Strip looking for a reasonably priced restaurant, then collapsed in our hotel room. But we talked about the start of all those anniversaries—a steaming day at St. Mary’s Church in Nashville, the oldest Catholic church in the city and one of the few buildings not burned to the ground by Union forces in December 1864.

And we talked about the years that followed, the first three kids coming along, the crazy move to New Jersey for exactly one year (1986), when we welcomed Kathleen, our Jersey girl, just as the Army contract I was on fell apart and I made a sharp turn into the publishing business and we ended up in Virginia.

Lots of great adventures, in a great 40 years

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As we slogged across America, we were prompted to look back at those experiences, and find some context for where we’ve been and what we’ve done the past week. You may fly back and forth across the country for business or family connections, as we’ve done often over the years. Driving it, stepping out of the car and looking around, shopping in local stores, sleeping in a tent and second-rate motels—even for just a week—teaches you volumes more about the country. It teaches something about places distant from your own and gives you at least a cursory glimpse at the conditions and circumstances of those places, which affect the lives of the people who live in them. And you can’t help but take those glimpses and insights with you and try to offer them to others.

We fly back home tomorrow to attend to some medical things, leaving the van with Kathleen here in Vegas. We’re suspending posting to the blog for a while, until we can fly back out here, get the van, and pick up where we left off on our ride around America. Hope you’ll be back with us!

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