August 23, 2018
FLAGSTAFF Ariz. : We finished doing laundry Thursday evening. The Monterey Motel had a laundry room opposite ours, so we got a bunch of quarters and washed and dried clothes, the way we did before we got married. We sat waiting for the dryer to finish on a bench in the parking lot, as the evening faded, talking about pre-celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary (which is Sunday) by washing clothes. Strange, but fun.
As it happened the dryer didn’t completely dry the stuff, so we festooned every flat surface in the motel room with damp clothes and turned the air conditioner up for the night.
This morning we had a nice break from the just-the-two-of-us week. Our former Lake Ridge next-door neighbors, Ernie and Juanita, had moved to Albuquerque 12 years ago. We’ve kept in touch, and were able to connect with them for a relaxing, get-caught-up breakfast before hitting the road.
As we headed out on I-40W again, looking for a spot to pick up 66, we both sensed that the trip was sorting itself out—it now had been a full week since we drove into West Virginia for the start of all this. Eight states in seven days, plus brief brushes with Maryland and Kentucky. A rush of adventures in each one. Why didn’t we do this years ago?
We shifted from the interstate to 66 a few miles out and drove through pretty country, along sharp turns to Laguna, where the two lanes stretch out through craggy hills and thick scrub. Not much to see at Paraje, the next town. Budville, farther along, is the site of the Budville Gas Station, established by H.N. “Bud” Rice and his wife Flossie in 1928. We read that most cars that broke down from Albuquerque to Grants were towed there. The station was robbed in 1967 and Bud was murdered, but Flossie kept it going until the late 1970s. It’s still standing, boarded up and overgrown.
We then drove through Grants, a larger town that like so many others housed dozens of shut-down motels and service stations. Why are they still there, you wonder, decades after closing. The simple answer is: because they tell us something about the history of the community, the region, the people who lived there and those who passed through. Something about America.
We made one more stop on 66, at the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, nearly at the Arizona state line. The El Rancho was founded by D.W. Griffith’s brother, Joe Massaglia, in the late 1930s as a fun spot for movie stars: Hepburn, Wayne, Douglas, Bogart, Jane Wyman, Mae West, and more. Their photos line the walls. We picked up souvenirs for the grandsons and headed out.
Arizona starts you with a barrage of “Indian Trading Posts.” Nothing much to see on 66 here. We were pressed for time but stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park, with a gift shop and café, but lacking a forest, as far as we could see. Next problem: with lightening flashing on the horizon, camping in a state park seemed like a bad idea. Hotels in Flagstaff are expensive. But the sun came out again, and when our phones worked I tried to find a KOA. We hit 66 again to see the “largest ponderosa pine forest in the world” although we’re not sure what one looks like. Where we’d sleep looked like a problem, but Sandy turned the van out of the forest: the KOA was right in front of us. “Oh my God, it’s right here!” she yelled. We got a site, cooked dinner, and bundled up against a chilly night.