So after several exceedingly busy but strangely relaxing days it was finally time to bid farewell to San Diego and hit the road once more. The day started unwelcomingly early as we left our hotel at 5am to catch a bus to the airport. The public transport in SD has been excellent and another tick in the box for moving to this fine city. A short hop on a plane and we touched down in Las Vegas. We only saw the airport but even that is vastly reminiscent of Back To The Future in 2015 as it just has giant TV screens everywhere urging you to spend spend spend (not to mention slot machines to relieve you of your money. I can’t begin to imagine what the actual city itself is like.
Anyway, we didn’t stick around to find out because we had several places to visit today. We started with the Hoover Dam, which is spectacular not just as a feat of engineering but also as an Art Deco architectural delight. It really is a joy to behold, as are the sparkling blue waters of Lake Mead which it holds back.
Despite still being early in the day we had already begun to feel a huge temperature change from being on the coast. Over the last two weeks we’ve had lovely sunny days but without any humidity and it’s been absolutely lovely, nothing like the sweatiness we have to endure over on the East coast. Now we’re in the desert, however, the temperature has shot up to around 100F although it’s still not humid thankfully.
We hit the road again and this time pottered off down the historic Route 66, which technically no longer exists and is hardly used. In fact, for the 75 miles or so that we were on it we saw virtually no other cars and hardly any signs of civilization at all. It would have been quite peaceful if not for the constant nagging thought that if the car broke down it could be years before anyone found us (or at least half an hour, which in that heat would feel like weeks). The one thing we did see quite a lot of was dust devils, which are kind of like mini tornadoes. Well, technically not because to be a tornado it has to reach from the ground to a cloud and these were only a few feet high but hey, it’s still very much disconcerting to see something like that up close (and these were no more than a couple of feet from us at times) when you’re on your own in the middle of nowhere.
The other thing that struck me was how sad it was to see all the abandoned businesses along the route because it is no longer used by traffic. I’ve read many an article about them but it’s another thing entirely to actually see a small gathering of abandoned buildings that still have all their big advertising outside but are completely empty inside. Every so often we would come to a junction with an Interstate that would have lots of passing business and these would have a handful of Route 66 themed stores but these just seemed a bit Disney and not properly authentic.
At the end of our trip along Route 66 we called into the Lowell Observatory for a spot of stargazing. Amongst other things, we were able to look at the Moon, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter through some big telescopes. The skies are so clear out here that you can see so much in the night sky, in fact you can almost see too much and it becomes confusing to pick out any constellations. I’m not complaining though. Any excuse to gaze up at the heavens is all right by me.
At the end of a very long day in which we covered three states, we finally arrived at our motel for the night in Flagstaff. I’m pleased to say that, despite being part of a chain, this is the first place I’ve stayed that properly feels like an old-fashioned traditional motel. It is two floors with exterior walkways and all the cars are parked out front. It’s actually on Route 66 and it even has a train track running alongside it that has those massively long trains that take about five minutes to go past because you just can’t see the end of them. We took a wrong turning on the way here and found ourselves along what looks to be the main street with all the bars and other things along it, and it was all lit up in neon and looked just like the set from Northern Exposure or one of those eighties films where Kevin Bacon or Patrick Swayze is the troubled kid who needs to deal with his personal issues before he can get the girl. It’s exactly what I always thought of when I imagined visiting small town America. I think I’ve finally found what I was looking for.