In part five of the Route 66 journey, my dad and I were kicking up dust out of Texas and gobbling up Americana in the New Mexico desert like it was a Golden Corral. Now we are in Winslow, Arizona, which you might have heard of if you’ve ever heard music on the radio.
“Well I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see,” begins the Eagles hit “Take It Easy”. So the town of Winslow went ahead and built something never seen before: a full scale replica of a song.
The Standing On The Corner Park was built in 1999 and is part of Winslow’s effort to bring tourism back to the area. The story of how the I-40 interstate bypassed these towns and left them for dead is one we are hearing at nearly every stop. Winslow has a nice little restored downtown area with some gift shops. And damn, it was hot.
Elsewhere in Winslow, the effects of interstate I-40 are clear. The town is absolutely full of abandoned relics.
This bright Ford hot rod coupe stuck out against Winslow’s relics like a piece of turquoise in the sand.
Just down the street from the downtown tourist trap in Winslow is a stunning oasis in the desert. The La Posada hotel is one of the last great Fred Harvey railroad hotels. This place was incredible. I tried to book us a room here the day before, but sadly (and once we saw it, unsurprisingly) it was fully booked.
La Posada, considered one of architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s masterpieces, was gutted decades ago and used intermittently for railroad offices.
In the 1990s it was purchased by Alan Affeldt for next to nothing. It was a huge, derelict shithole, yet he and his wife turned it back into the stunner it is today. I would drive Route 66 again just for the chance to spend the night here. Or, you can take the train directly to the hotel: La Posada is still an Amtrak stop.
Back on the I-40, we were on the lookout for Route 66 landmarks on the side of the road. We found the now closed Meteor City Trading Post.
This was the moment my dad learned what a dreamcatcher was.
The Trading Post is housed in this amazing Native American (helmet?) and we read that efforts are being made to restore and reopen the place. It was super cool, hope it happens.
Just outside the Meteor City Trading Post.
So our next stop on the road took us to the actual Meteor Crater, which is the world’s largest known crater caused by, you guessed it, a meteor. But wait a second, who the fuck cares about that, the motherfucking FAMILY TRUCKSTER IS IN THE PARKING LOT.
Yes, it’s real. This is a perfect replica of the Family Truckster station wagon made famous in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation starring Chevy Chase. I was singing “Holiday Road” out loud taking pictures.
The best part is, it’s owned and being used by a family for a cross country road trip, kids and everything. My hero.
After having my mind blown in the parking lot, it was like oh cool a crater. No, seriously, this crater was amazing. I forgot to pop on the 14mm lens, but even still, it’s impossible to show in a photo how huge it was. The impact that created it must have been ridiculous.
We read about the area called Two Guns in the guide book. It’s got a long history, but these days it’s an abandoned campgrounds. Glad we didn’t read the part about rattlesnakes until after we left.
Here’s a classic Route 66 image: the Twin Arrows in Arizona. Unfortunately the name and imagery of this old icon has been reused for the casino up the street, but the wooden arrows still stand.
We started heading towards Flagstaff. I had always heard about the beauty of Sedona, and so we decided to make a Route 66 detour and head down there. Highway 89A, which you can take between Flagstaff and Sedona, is reputed to be silly beautiful.
But I fucked up, and we accidentally took the freeway down there. It was a blessing in disguise though. We ended up approaching Sedona from the south, which was incredible, and still drove 89A back to Flagstaff. One of the most beautiful drives ever. The landscape around here was supernatural. And 89A is a fun little twisty jaunt up the side of the mountain.
After days of eating tacos and burgers, we found a nice place in Flagstaff and had a good restorative healthy meal. We’re getting close to the end, but the Route is densely packed now and there’s still much to see. Stay tuned for part six: Seligman and beyond.