Let me let you in on a little secret. As we travel across the country I obviously want to see some of the major tourist destinations like The Grand Canyon and Crater Lake. However, I also like to see weird stuff. Here is my secret on how I find weird Roadside attractions. It is the website www.roadsideamerica.com. Whenever we are in an area I check out the site to see if there is anything strange that we can visit.
Holbrook, Arizona was the ultimate jackpot in roadside attractions. We are talking strange, unique and sometimes a little sad stuff.
There was The Wigwam Hotel that actually contains tepees. Wigwams have round tops. You would think if they named their business wigwam hotel it would have wigwams but you would be wrong. Anyway the tepees are small one bedroom hotel rooms. The place is a little run down but still worth seeing if you are passing through.
You can also find dinosaurs at almost every rock shop and tourist trap store. If I would have stopped to take a picture of each Dinosaur we would have never left.
You will probably notice from the photos that the Dinosaurs are probably impostors in the fact that they don’t seem to be based as much on actual dinosaurs as opposed to some guy that learned about Dinosaurs from the Flintstones.
I wonder about the kid that grows up in Holbrook his whole life and when he leaves he finds that folk art Dinosaurs aren’t on every corner of every street. Does he become disillusioned with the world? Does he feel cheated and run back to Holbrook as fast as he can so he can bask in the shadow of these cold blooded Jurassic models until his heart is full? Maybe he does.
If you are going to go anywhere in Holbrook, stop at Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. It has the most amazing collection of petrified wood and rocks from all over the world. I could have stayed there for hours. In addition to petrified wood, you will also find Wild Bill the 2.9 million year old fossilized alligator skeleton.
Jim Gray’s is on the road that takes you to the Petrified Forest National Park South Entrance which is the best side of the park in my opinion. Holbrook is worth a stop when you are crossing I-40 from Albuquerque to Flagstaff. You will definitely see some original items!
In a hidden spot (not really hidden it’s a tourist destination) there is a decommissioned Titan 2 missile base that can be toured if you have the right credentials (cold hard cash) and if you know the secret password (we would like to go in the 12:30 tour.) It is a great experience of you can get there and I was glad my kids could learn more about the cold war that I grew up in.
Supposedly there are and were so many nuclear bombs in order to have Mutually Assured Destruction. Essentially the idea that if everyone can destroy enough that no one would survive, we will keep a kind of tenuous peace. Pretty scary stuff.
You wouldn’t know there was a huge base underground from what it looks like above ground.
We started the tour with a movie. I was hoping to see War Games but it was just a historical documentary. Then we went down the hatch.
There were two guys with keys that would shoot the missile off if it became necessary. Mason and his friend Brody had the opportunity to turn the keys and launch the now defunct missile.
The missile itself was 103 feet long and if deployed above ground it could destroy 30 square miles, not including the damage caused by fallout. Pretty Scary.
The year was 1992. I was a geeky high school student and I remember taking a break from Super Tecmo Bowl to read my current issue of Popular Science magazine only to discover the wonder of a new ongoing project called Biosphere 2. A closed system experiment in which 8 “bionauts” were enclosed inside a glass building that contained a jungle, an ocean, a desert, and everything they would need to survive. I was so psyched about it and I looked forward to the year 2016 when I would be able to live on Mars in a closed system because of their work.
Fast forward to 2016 and I don’t live on Mars, I live in a house on wheels. I did however get to visit the place I used to dream of as a kid. The Jendens invited us to go and I was pretty geeked out. It is currently owned by the University of Arizona and they do various research projects within it’s walls. Anyone can go there and take a tour like we did. It was everything my high school self dreamed it would be.
The jungle was pretty amazing. It was so hot and humid in this area. if you look closely you might be able to see a camouflaged Predator in there. Maybe not.
The ocean wasn’t as cool because everything in it died long ago. They put something in the glass that blocks out certain parts of the sunlight that coral needed to survive so it all died off. At least it looked pretty.
The desert was dry and hot. Who would of thought?
The story of the 8 people that lived there is almost as fascinating as the structure. They didn’t have enough food and oxygen so they were under a lot of stress. They broke into factions and I guess it got pretty dodgy.
The tour lasted about an hour and a half. If you are near Tucson and you are a geek I recommend you visit.
Oil and Wine
My wounds are bound
With Oil and
Oil drawn from intense pressure
Between two great stones
Between sky and earth
In a garden
While they slept
Wine the color of blood
the color of the sun as it set on a hill
On two thieves
And in between them
We are fortunate to see a lot of cool things on the road. I think it is human nature to become accustomed to things when you see them a lot. In the following video Marisa and I discuss the fact that some of the wonders we are seeing aren’t necessarily as amazing as we think they should be and what we are trying to learn from it.
The night we arrived in the Casa Grande RV park we met the Jendens. It was so nice to meet people crazier than us. Why are they crazier? They are from New Zealand and decided to do an RV trip like us through the United States. Can you imagine leaving your life and traveling a country on the other side of the world? They are my new heroes.
Sometimes you just meet people and you feel like you have known them a long time. This is how we felt about the Jendens. It was so awesome for our kids to spend time with others their age. We did quite a few tihngs together as you will see over the next few posts, and I’m sure we will meet up with them again. You can follow their adventure on their blog.
Good friends always help you learn and they taught us some great New Zealand terms …..although we can’t get the accent down.
Bits and Pieces: Stuff
Example: We ran over to the store to get some bits and pieces for dinner.
Example: After school I would go buy a pocket full of lollies.
Chilly Bin: Cooler
Example: Put the soda in the chilly bin to keep it cold.
Caravan: Trailer or RV
Example: We live in a caravan.
Jandal: Flip flops
Example: Put on your Jandals before going to the beach.
Example: Your Kiwi accent is a bit dodgy.
Example: Wear your togs to the pool.
South of Phoenix we stayed in the nicest RV Park that we have been to called the Casa Grande RV Resort. Not only was it a nice place, the people that were staying there were among the nicest we have come across. There were a lot of snowbirds there so they had activities every day.
Our new friends the Jendens (more on them tomorrow) invited us to an trip that a bunch of the residents were going to the next day. Upon asking what it was my heart filled with joy. They were going to a pizza place in Mesa called Organ Stop Pizza that had a pipe organ. I was in like Flynn. How many chances will we get to listen to a pipe organ while we eat pizza?
This Wurlitzer was insane! It was made in 1927. It’s current value is over $5 million and it has over 6000 pipes. It was so surreal to sit there eating pizza while listening to the massive organ play it’s tunes.
The pizza OK and you can’t have any conversations while the music is playing but it was worth going once. 20 years form now when I say remember when we went to the pizza place with the Organ we will all remember.
Here is a little full time travel terminology for you. Some of us that live in a fifth wheels call our fifth wheels Fivers. We also call normal houses sticks and bricks. I liked living in stick and brick house and I will live in one again but while I have lived in a Fiver I haven’t missed a lot of things about our house.
Today is a little different. We are in a small town in Arizona surrounded by dirt and dust and the winds are gusting at up to 60 miles an hour. Needless to say we are rocking around like a boat in a storm and it is a little disconcerting to feel your home be whipped around by Mother Nature. We are all trapped inside our tin can waiting for a calm in the storm so we can go outside. If I was in my house in Utah I probably wouldn’t even notice the wind.
Sitting inside my fifth wheel with the wind rocking me around, I think of the winds that come up in life. When I start getting blown about by trials what do I do? Do I let them push me where they want? Do I drift about and let them dictate to me where I will go? Sometimes when the winds are strong enough I think I succeed by digging in and not falling back. At other times I need to push through them and move forward towards my goals. What do you do to keep moving forward when the winds are blowing?
I’m going to be honest with you all. We went to Route 66 while we were staying in Williams, Arizona and we didn’t get any kicks. All of my life people have told me I can get my kicks there. I don’t even know what kicks are. The kids these days call shoes kicks but I don’t think that is what everyone is talking about when they talk about kicks. I asked some of the store owners what if they knew where I could get kicks and they just looked at me with a blank stare.
Instead of kicks, I got a picture with Elvis (I don’t think he was real).
We showed the kids an old fashioned soda machine.
We walked up and down the main street. It was quaint and fun to think of what it must have been like when Route 66 was a main thoroughfare.For a small town there wer a lot of stores and restaurants.
It was fun to see a part of American history. I have a feeling we are going to see more of Route 66 as we plan to travel the 40 across Arizona and New Mexico in the near future. Maybe I will get another chance to get my kicks.
The Grand Canyon is so grand that we decided to visit it for two days. That’s pretty rare for us to visit the same place twice because we have a lot to see and do.
We hopped on a free bus at the visitors center and rode to the Bright Angel Trail. This is an amazing trail that will take you all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon if you are insane enough to try. We are crazy, but not loco enough to take a six year old to the bottom. Especially when the path was covered with ice. It was recommended that we have hiking sticks or a walking staff like Gandalf. We ignored the recommendation.
I’m not a big fan of icy trails next to monster cliffs. This trail felt more like something that a Hobbit would have to walk along to find some amulet that would save the world. Not a fun place for a family hike. There were some nice views though.
We didn’t get far enough to find an amulet that will defeat the Eye of Sauron. We didn’t really even get far enough to deserve a dip into the bag of granola. We did have fun yelling at the people that were going up the path “You Shall Not Pass” in our best Gandalf impression. They ignored our warning. Maybe it was because we didn’t have a staff to slam down.