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My Route 66 adventure:

Discussion in 'Travel' started by Gatorrari, Sep 24, 2019.

  1. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Feb 27, 2004
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    I sought of "introduced" this thread in my previous thread asking for advice for the trip. As far as FChat is concerned, this is really O/T, since I left the 328 at home and made the trip in my Honda Civic coupe, which was an ideal vehicle. (I saw ONE Ferrari on the entire trip, in Beverly Hills, of course.) I am going to do this as one post for each day of the trip, and while you are free to comment, I'd prefer if you would please wait until I'm done with the report.

    I decided to squeeze the trip in between Labor Day and an important doctor's visit I had scheduled for Wednesday, 9/18. So I settled on a 15-day excursion that began and ended on Tuesdays. I had originally planned to do Route 66 in six days, but realized that meant beginning and ending the trip in major metropolitan areas at peak travel times. So I added 1/2 day at each end, making the total seven days and allowing me to leave Chicago and arrive in Santa Monica at lunchtime, which worked out much better.

    So the total broke down as follows: 2-1/2 days to get to the start, 7 days to drive the Route, 1-1/2 days to do a few things in Southern California, and 4 days to get home from CA to GA - total 15 days.

    I used Jim Hinckley's "Travel Route 66" and the map set "Here It Is!" by Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan to plan the route. To decide where to stay, I used Google Maps to divide the route into equal parts of about 340 miles; invariably these splits fell on lightly-inhabited places, so I looked east and west from each split until I found a place with suitable accommodations. Not surprisingly, some of these turned out to be iconic Route 66 towns like Tucumcari, Gallup and Kingman, which allowed me to stay at some equally-iconic lodgings. I used AAA and Trivago to find acceptable places. These were all available (with one exception that I will note later) at reasonable prices, and I booked them all before the trip.

    Next, day one - Thursday, Sept. 5.
     
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  3. Gatorrari

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    On my trip north, I stayed in Evansville, IN and Kenosha, WI. (Why go past Chicago? I had some personal business I was able to conduct in Racine on Thursday morning before heading south to Chicago.)

    As I headed south to downtown Chicago, I decided to get off I-94 and head east to the lake, and I approached the start of 66 on Lake Shore Drive, which I had never driven before. Soon I could see the important "Begin Historic Route 66" sign on the corner of Adams St and Michigan Ave. I immediately turned off into a parking garage, and after walking back to take a photo of the sign, walked to the landmark Berghoff restaurant for a nice German lunch. This would be an expensive start to the trip; while the Berghoff advertised "validated parking" in the garage, it didn't pay everything: instead of the normal rate of $42.50 (for two hours!) I still had to pay $16, which was almost as much as I had paid for lunch! I wonder how much all the cars I had to pass in the garage (I had to park on the roof, 12 stories up) paid for the privilege.

    At just after 1 PM I headed west and then southwest on Ogden Ave. I soon realized that I had underestimated the time it would take me to escape Chicagoland; even though the traffic was moving fine, the slow pace and many lights seemed to drag on. I made my first stop in Wilmington, 60 miles from the start, at 3:30, later than I had expected. This was at the Launching Pad, a drive-in style luncheonette that was typically Route 66, and its main attraction was a former "Muffler Man" which had been converted to the Gemini Giant. At some 20 feet tall, this fiberglass spaceman draws lots of attention, and I discovered that most of the other visitors at that time were a group of German motorcyclists who were doing the Route. Like most of the 66 attractions, they had a gift shop, and I made my most important purchase of the trip: a copy of the EZ 66 Guide for Travelers, which I realized that I should have had all along. This would be my guidebook for the rest of the trip; each night I would take it into my room and preview the next day's travels; during the day it would rest on my passenger seat, open to the current page. When it was safe to do so, I would occasionally pick it up and verify the route I was taking. (The current edition of the Guide is the 4th, from 2015, but it has just been reprinted without changes.)

    I continued south and the Route became more rural. At the town of Dwight was Ambler's Texaco, a delightful period gas station that was now a museum, though like many Route 66 attractions, their hours were short (10-4 in this case) and the place was closed, but it was still worth photographs. The fellow with the Indian motorcycle offered to move it, but I told him that it fit right in with the station.

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  4. Gatorrari

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    For much of central Illinois, Route 66 served as a frontage road to I-55. This was actually the last of three iterations of 66, dating to 1940, when most of the route was rebuilt as a four-lane divided highway. The first Google Maps image below shows the typical situation between towns: the former northbound roadway for 66 is now a two-lane, two-way roadway, while the former southbound roadway was used to build the northbound lanes of the new Interstate, with a new southbound roadway built at that time. You'll note that the gap between 66 and northbound I-55 is actually less than the gap between the two roadways of the Interstate.

    The second Google Maps image shows what happens when the Interstate veers away to bypass a community: the southbound roadway of 66 reappears, though it is no longer used and grass is coming up through the concrete roadbed. It appears that the four-lane alignment of 66 was used for a while after I-55 was opened, but eventually it was decided to shrink 66 to two lanes and abandon the southbound roadbed. There are other stretches of 66 further west where this situation occurs, though in many of these the pavement in the abandoned roadbed has been completely removed. (I know of at least one other highway where this occurs: where I-95 parallels the old US-301 south of Petersburg, VA.)

    By the time I got to Springfield it was dark, and I decided to make no other tourist stops the rest of the way. I was now on the oldest version of 66 in this part of Illinois, well-removed from I-55 and designated IL-4. I arrived at my stop for the night, the fine Carlin Villa Motel just south of Carlinville after 8 PM. I did not take a photo of the place; the photo below is off the web. Even though it shows outside doors to the rooms, they put me in a newer building in the back which, while still single-story, had an inside hallway. I found that most of the local eateries were closed or were preparing to close, so I settled for a burger at Hardee's, which was at least decent.

    Next, day two - Friday, Sept. 6.
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  5. Gatorrari

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    Surprisingly for a small, independent motel, the Carlin Villa served continental breakfast, much as you'd see nowadays in the modern chain motels. After I left, I determined that there was not much to see southbound on IL-4, so I cut back to the later 66 alignment that remained in close contact with I-55. I quickly found another service station gem in the form of Soulsby's Shell in Mt. Olive, which had been open from 1926 to 1991 but was now, of course, a museum which, of course, was closed because this time I was too early! (That would be a trend on the whole trip: I saw very few of the many museums on the route because I passed them at either the wrong time or on the wrong day!)

    As I approached the greater St. Louis area, the various alignments of 66 all merged and I began passing through the rather industrialized Illinois suburbs. A popular side trip is the the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which was the first Route 66 bridge across the Mississippi River but which was now restricted to pedestrians and bicycles. I had said before the trip that I was going to avoid side trips, especially dead-end ones, so I stayed on the later 66 route and crossed the river on the historic McKinley Bridge. Once in St. Louis, I thought about visiting the Gateway Arch, but I couldn't find convenient parking, so I stayed on I-44 to the Gratiot Ave exit to reconnect with 66 for the trip out of town. Gratiot becomes Chippewa St, where I found Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, there since 1941 (though the business dates to 1925). Of course, it was closed because I was too early, though someone inside did let me use the bathroom. Note the large variety of flavors; I particularly like "Terramizzou" which pays homage to the state university!

    On the outskirts of town, 66 disappears for a while so it is necessary to get on I-44. At the exit for Six Flags, 66 reappears and runs near I-44 for most of the rest of the state, though unlike Illinois, it does not act as a frontage road, being out of sight of the Interstate for most of the run and not sharing any roadbed. This section of the road is rather hilly - you've hard of the Ozark Mountains? - and neither 66 nor 44 run straight for any particular length. In Villa Ridge are a couple of abandoned motels which appear to be in pretty good condition; I understand that one was open until 2014. This is puzzling since both are in close proximity to an I-44 interchange. Hopefully someone will rescue one or the other and return them to proper glory.

    As lunchtime came, I stopped at a place called Skippy's Route 66 in Leasburg, a rather plain-looking place but with decent food and prices. It first opened in 1970 and has been under present ownership since 2000. (I neglected to take a photo so am using one off the web.) Further down the road in Cuba was a place called the Missouri Hick BBQ, which I had heard of, but I was not in a mood for BBQ, which I get plenty of at home! It and the nearby Wagon Wheel Motel were certainly photogenic, but I neglected to stop, so these are again web photos. From what I've read, the Wagon Wheel is certainly worth an overnight stop if you're there at the right time of day. Cuba has a number of neat murals in their downtown, which I looked at as I went by but didn't photograph.

    For most of the afternoon, 66 was an interesting drive though with no significant attractions. I-44 needed to be used for a couple of short stretches where 66 was impassable, mainly due to bridge issues. As I approached Springfield, I decided to abandon 66 for a while and took I-44 around to the west side of the city, picking up 66 again as it headed due west while the Interstate headed southwest for a spell. My last 45 miles of the day were on a stretch of road that ran almost straight, and well removed from the Interstate. This was the first two-lane stretch I saw that had a 65-mph speed limit, something not seen in Georgia. Right at the point where the limit dropped at the city limit of Carthage was my lodging for the night, the Best Budget Motel, another pleasant, single-story place like the Carlin Villa. The innkeeper told me about another way into town that used an older alignment of 66; I eventually used the newer one to go in and the older one to come back. He also told me about a local artist, one of whose works was at the gas station/convenience store across the road, in the form of a thresher turned into an airplane! After driving through town, I didn't see any eatery that tickled my fancy, so I had salmon at Long John Silver's, something not possible back home. And since it was Friday, I was able to add a crab cake for $1! Such a bargain.....

    Next, day three - Saturday, Sept. 7.
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  6. Gatorrari

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    The next day being Saturday would be fortunate because I would have to negotiate Oklahoma's two largest cities. At the beginning of the day's route, though, there would be a lot of zigzagging as 66 would alternate between stretches going due west and due south, which at least would keep me going in the right direction - southwest. So after leaving Carthage, I zigzagged my way through Carterville, Webb City and Joplin, and then headed due west to Galena, KS. The Kansas section of 66 is only 13 miles long, by far the shortest time 66 spends in any state (and the paralleling I-44 misses Kansas altogether, going directly from Missouri to Oklahoma). It was exciting for me because the last time I had been in a car in Kansas, it was riding with my parents on a cross-country trip in 1968!

    The road eventually turns due south and goes through Baxter Springs, home to a delightful Phillips 66 station. See the sign "Visitor Center Information"? Of course, it was closed, because I was too early. The second photo was taken from the same spot; all I did was spin around and get a nice shot of Baxter Springs' downtown, typical of the downtowns of many small towns that 66 and other U.S. highways went through. From there, the road goes due south into Oklahoma, where it continues to zigzag for over 40 miles. One of these towns is Commerce, well known as the hometown of one of my boyhood heroes, Mickey Mantle, pride of the Yankees. The later iteration of 66 there is called Mickey Mantle Blvd, but about the only other homage to him was a statue at the high school, which was off of the Route.

    I should point out that the "new" 66 route was mostly still four-lane, and while it crossed I-44 twice, stayed pretty far away from the superslab. The EZ Guide showed several places where the adventurous could explore earlier iterations of the Route, most of which were chancy, including one stretch of the original 9-foot-wide pavement! I made my first pit stop at a Sinclair station, which surprised me since I didn't know they were still in business! (I remember when they sold their eastern business to BP in the late '60s, and assumed that happened nationwide, since I hadn't seen a Sinclair station since!) You can see that they still use the dinosaur logo.

    Further down the road in Claremore, the sight of an M41 tank was an attention-getter; the J.M. Davis museum is allegedly the largest private arms collection around, but I didn't have time to visit. And in Catoosa, the well-know blue whale made me stop for a little bit. The whale is accompanied by a small beach and a playground, along with the inevitable souvenir shop; certainly a good place to stop if one has kids. Just south of Catoosa, the reappearance of I-44 marked the entrance to Tulsa. A little ways south of the Interstate was 11th St., which was 66's route into the city, both it and 44 headed due west towards downtown. On 11th, I was startled to see something not mentioned in the tourbooks, because it's only been there since May: Buck Atom is another Muffler Man and thus a cousin of Illinois' Gemini Giant. Saved from a scrap heap in Alberta, he is now a "space cowboy", seemingly wearing Woody's cowboy hat on top of Buzz Lightyear's helmet! The curio shop alongside is worth a stop, and they recommended a place for lunch.

    After passing downtown with no traffic (TGIS!) the road turns southwest. I was surprised to see a nice 4-8-4 steam locomotive from the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad (the Frisco) and stopped to snap a photo. A few miles further on and I found the recommended lunch stop, Arnold's Old Fashioned Hamburgers. I expected a stand-alone building (they had once had one) but instead it was a storefront in a nondescript shopping center. The place was busy and their formula was similar to Five Guys, though with a bigger choice of toppings. The service was adequately quick and the burger was exceptional.

    The route from there to Oklahoma City was a combination of fairly straight stretches and some more zigzags, though the due-west sections were now much longer than the due-south ones. The Route crossed I-44 on three separate occasions but generally remained some distance away. The Lincoln Motel in Chandler looked like another good place to stay if you're there at the right time. I bypassed a famous round barn in Arcadia before the road headed westbound into Edmond, OKC's main northern suburb. A little more zigzagging put me on Lincoln Blvd in OKC, heading due south toward the magnificent OK state capitol, located on a hill and hard to miss.

    A roundabout in front of the capitol turned me due west and that was signficant, because for the next 1200 miles, both 66 and its new Interstate partner, I-40, would basically go due west all the way. 66 initially was a busy multi-lane boulevard which gradually opened up and narrowed down as I headed west, and eventually we caught up with the Interstate. Some portions of 66 the rest of the way in OK acted as frontage roads for I-40, similar to what had happened in Illinois. My lodging for the night was on one such frontage road near Weatherford, and this time it was a current motel, a Holiday Inn Express, which I chose as the least expensive of a surprisingly-expensive bunch of hotels. But there was still Route 66 history to be had, because right alongside the motel was Lucille's Roadhouse. Lucille Hamon and her husband had operated a gas station on an older alignment of 66 until her death in 2000, and she became known as the "Mother of the Mother Road". A new diner was build in 2006 on the current 66, adjacent to an I-40 exit. The front of the Roadhouse echoes the look of the old station (which still exists) and inside one has the choice of eating from the same menu in either a steakhouse or a diner; naturally, I chose the latter, and of course the food was excellent.

    Next, day four - Sunday, Sept. 8.
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  8. tomc

    tomc Two Time F1 World Champ

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    Epic. I did a lot of Route 66 when I was a youngerc, single man, but in bits and pieces as part of other trips, usually for work.
    T
     
  9. Gatorrari

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    I figured that Sunday, the middle day of the trip, would be rather boring, since I was now on the Great Plains: almost dead flat, little foliage, and with 66 spending most of its time close to I-40. My first stop was at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, which was naturally closed, though this time the culprit was the day of the week, since they were only open from 1 to 4 on Sundays. Still, I got to look around the premises. The 14-foot kachina doll called Myrtle, which has been around since 1962, may not quite match the Muffler Men in impact but was still impressive.

    I took the third photo to show one of the many truss bridges along the 66 route. Some are still in use like this one; others have been downgraded to pedestrian use or closed entirely. I think a photo essay on The Bridges of Route 66 might be a good idea before more of these are lost to rust and time. It may look like the road is in the middle of nowhere, but if you look closely through the bridge you can see a green I-40 exit sign. And some of the many wind turbines now dotting the plains were in the immediate vicinity, their large 3-bladed propellers slowly turning. The last town in Oklahoma of interest was Erick, whose main streets are named for native son composers: Roger Miller ("King of the Road") and Sheb Wooley ("The Purple People Eater")!

    Considering the size of Texas, it is remarkable that it was the only state on 66 that I did not overnight in (aside from Kansas, of course), but then again, the panhandle is only 175 miles wide. Within 40 miles came the first section where 66 disappeared (aside from an earlier routing which had turned to dirt) and it was necessary to use I-40. That wasn't totally bad, since in these wide-open spaces, the speed limit on the superslab was 75 mph! As lunchtime approached, so did Amarillo, the largest city to be encountered on this day. The prominent eateries were all on the I-40 north frontage road, which here was NOT part of 66, which was passing thru downtown about 1/2 mile north. Best known is the famous Big Texan Ranch, whose main offering is on the next sign. I wasn't in the mood for a steak of any size, but the place still merited a look. I went one exit west and had a great plate of enchiladas at El Charro, a recommended Tex-Mex eatery.

    On the other side of the freeway I found the only welcome center on I-40; evidently Texas felt that 175 miles was not long enough to have one at each state line, so they put one in the middle. Nearby was the infamous Cadillac Ranch, which I skipped, since a bunch of old cars planted nose down in the ground and covered with graffiti is not my idea of something to waste time seeing. Instead I headed to downtown and picked up 66 again, which becomes the north frontage road for most of the next 40 miles. Adrian has the interesting Midpoint Cafe, which supposedly marks the midpoint of Route 66, though I don't know how accurate that is. I probably should have gone inside but decided to press onward. Shortly afterwards, 66 disappears again (aside from old dirt remnants) and it is necessary to take I-40 for the next 20 miles into New Mexico.

    At the first NM exit, 66 reappears, but the main reason to exit here is Russell's Travel Center, which includes a nice diner, a very complete travel and souvenir store, and a free museum, definitely worth the stop. Aside from classic cars, the collection includes a lot of memorabilia, including vintage Coke machines, cash registers, jukeboxes, M&M figures, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe items, and as you can see, dolls and transistor radios! (I think I once had a radio similar to the orange one.) After leaving Russell's, I stayed on 66, which switched from the north side of I-40 to the south side; when it switched back to the north side, it marked the entrance to Tucumcari, the most interesting overnight stop on my trip, and worth a separate post (or 2).
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  10. Gatorrari

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    The fictional Radiator Springs in the Pixar movie "Cars" was supposedly a composite of various Route 66 towns, but Tucumcari reminded me of it the most. A large number of businesses on 66 in town are still shuttered, and traffic on the four-lane is so light that you could practically cross without looking. Of course, it was Sunday, but even the next morning little had changed. After departing from I-40 east of town, there is about 3/4 mile of modern motels and gas stations, then about another mile of almost nothing until reaching Tucumcari itself. There is a short strip of about 4 blocks with some of the most iconic motels and businesses on all of Route 66. It's about 3/4 mile to the south edge of downtown, and this stretch is a mix of open and closed businesses. Relative prosperity continues for about another 1/2 mile, but the last 2 or so miles to the west interchange with I-40 is total desolation, with not even a single open gas station to serve motorists exiting there. An abandoned Shell station of fairly recent vintage, another gas station sign with no building, a burnt-out motel, another motel sign with no building, a couple of defunct restaurants and a small closed discount store - I was glad I entered town at the other end!

    THE place to stay - if you can get in, since there are only 12 rooms - is the Blue Swallow, probably the signature lodging on all of 66, and one most seen in tourbooks. Interestingly, each room has a garage alongside, so not only do you sleep indoors, so does your car! I'm surprised I hadn't seen that anywhere else, considering how hot it can get in the Southwest. (Fortunately, I encountered moderate temperatures; it was worse in the Southeast!) The Roadrunner Lodge and the Palomino are also icons, though the latter has largely disappeared from lists of recommended accommodations, in part because they charge about 1/2 as much as their competitors, which obviously has a negative effect. The Tee Pee curio store would be worth a stop, except that it was closed on Sunday. That also applied to the two recommended restaurants nearby. My lodging was the Motel Safari, which had opened in 1959 as a Best Western and was recently renovated. (The patio in the foreground once held a swimming pool.) Being a block away and across the street from the Blue Swallow, I was able to visit the latter and have a nice chat with its innkeeper. Both he and his counterpart at the Safari recommended a place near downtown called the Pow Wow (which had once had an attached motel itself) for dinner. It seemed to be about the only place around open for Sunday dinner and thus was quite busy, and I had yet another good plate of enchiladas. Next - the night lights of the Tucumcari strip.
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  11. Gatorrari

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    There are great lighted signs all along 66, but Tucumcari is said to have the best collection. Unfortunately the signature neon is gradually disappearing due to maintenance costs and is being replaced by backlighted signs like the one on the Safari. (I think the camel was supposed to be lighted as well.) You'll note that the Blue Swallow's neon not only lights its sign but also the motel itself, which may explain the place's popularity. I must admit that I took the Tee Pee's photo off the web, since it was not lighted on a Sunday evening.

    Next, day five - Monday, Sept. 9.
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  13. Gatorrari

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    After not spending any nights in Texas, it might seem unusual that I spent two nights in New Mexico, but NM actually has, by a small margin, the largest mileage on 66. A lot of it, though, has to be negotiated on I-40, beginning with 20 miles just west of Tucumcari. Then after 66 reappears for 20 more miles, it disappears again for nearly 100 miles, aside from a brief run into and out of the town of Santa Rosa. By this time the Great Plains had receded into the mirror and the road was passing through the southern part of the Rocky Mountains. But eventually 66 reappears for the 25-mile run into Albuquerque, passing thru what might be called "bedroom communities".

    Actually, Route 66 has two distinct identities in New Mexico. The post-1937 route, which I followed, runs straight across the state, the route I-40 replaced, passing thru Albuquerque from east to west. The pre-1937 route diverges north to Santa Fe, then heads down what is now the I-25 corridor, passes thru Albuquerque from north to south, goes about another 20 miles and then turns west and eventually rejoins the later routing. While I have never visited Santa Fe, now was not the time.

    The east-west route thru Albuquerque is on busy Central Avenue, which does have a few 66-related businesses, though I was unimpressed with the dining choices. I took a diversion a few miles north and visited the Unser Family Racing Museum, a must-see for fans of the Unser family or of IndyCar racing in general. I also found a nice little Italian place to have lunch before returning to 66 for the trip out of town.

    66 survives better west of Albuquerque than it did east of there; aside from one 23-mile gap, it runs alongside I-40, though not as a frontage road, for a substantial distance. What is most interesting here is the topography and how the new and old roads coped with it. The first photo again looks quite remote, but I-40 can be seen to the left, with a trio of eastbound 18-wheelers at the far left. Of course, this is the sort of scenery one just does not see in the east.

    After one more 11-mile gap, 66 reappears for its run into Gallup, where the most interesting place was my lodging for the night, the El Rancho Hotel, which was built in 1936 by the brother of famous movie director D.W. Griffith. It was popular in the '30s and '40s with stars filming one of the many Westerns made in the general vicinity, and has an impressive two-story lobby with winding staircases that reminded me a bit of the Titanic, or perhaps Gone With the Wind. Naturally, there were autographed photos of movie stars that had stayed there throughout the lobby. The hallways for rooms on the first two floors came right off of the lobby, while third-floor patrons had to use an additional back stairway. All the rooms had the name of a film star on the door, presumably someone who used to use the room. (My room was the Jane Fonda room, not one of my favorites, but the room was nice aside from a claustrophobic bathroom and shower that looked more like they belonged on a submarine!) I was a bit surprised to see fire escapes out the back window. Unfortunately the elevator was out of service, which made me glad that the night before, I had taken all of my laundry out of my suitcase and put it in laundry bags provided by the Motel Safari! The air conditioning wasn't working too well, though they told me it was really old-fashioned air cooling. Luckily the temperature outside was quite reasonable and I was comfortable, but I might consider avoiding the El Rancho on a hot night.

    Incidentally, the hotel has a Presidential Suite (named, not surprisingly, for Ronald Reagan, who stayed at the hotel during his acting days) and a Bridal Suite (which, surprisingly, did not have a name. I suggested perhaps Elizabeth Taylor as an obvious choice, even if she had never stayed there. She certainly was a bride often enough!).

    I figured there was no point in running all over Gallup looking for dinner, since, uniquely among the lodgings on my route, the El Rancho had its own restaurant, and a pretty good one, serving both American and Tex-Mex cuisine. The restaurant and adjacent lounge were open to the public and not just hotel guests. The hotel also had a nice gift shop with a very large selection of native American crafts; native American history is very important in that part of the country.

    One note about the last photo. Along with the hotel, the El Rancho had a separate two-story motel building off to the left of the parking lot, so the neon changed back and forth from "Hotel" to "Motel".

    Next, day six - Tuesday, Sept. 10.
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  14. tomc

    tomc Two Time F1 World Champ

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    Hah. Also our thought about the "other side" of Tucumcari when we last visited. Funny though, I don't remember that end of business 40 being so ramshackle from previous trips. We ate at Del's last time through. Quite good.

    We also ate at the Pow Wow Restaurant and Lizard Lounge on a previous trip out west. As I recall, the food was OK, the margaritas were icy cold after a long day on the road.
    T
     
  15. tomc

    tomc Two Time F1 World Champ

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    This is awesome! Thank you for sharing. Bringing back a lot of great memories. We had packed lunch, so stopped at Midpoint for a few pieces of pie.

    Cadillac Ranch is indeed a time waster.

    The Big Texan is great for the scenery. But, the food is nothing special IMO. Bbq at Tyler's is the food to eat in Amarillo. Or, just about any mom and pop Mexican restaurant.

    T
     
  16. Gatorrari

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    Leaving Gallup, 66 runs along I-40 all the way to the AZ border, crossing it twice, thru some great desert mountain scenery. The AZ welcome center at Lupton was closed for renovation, and about 8 miles later 66 dies and it is necessary to take I-40 for the next 65 miles. Again, there are some dirt excerpts of "old" 66, but these are either difficult, impassable, or illegal (being now on private property). Only at Holbrook can one exit the I to go thru town, where the major attraction is the Wigwam Motel, one of two remaining from the dozen or so that were built in the '30s and '40s. Supposedly the rooms are a bit odd but quite livable. (The Globetrotter Lodge across the road is a more conventional Route 66 motel.)

    From Holbrook to the next town, only 5 miles out of 33 is available of Route 66 off of the freeway. The next town is Winslow, once known mainly as the jumping-off point for trips to the nearby Meteor Crater (which I visited in 1979 and saw no need to return to). But a popular song changed all that, and the corner of 2nd and Kinsley (with 2nd being the eastbound lanes of 66) is now a major tourist spot. A giant Route 66 logo in the street spans the intersection, there is a statue of a musician (Glenn Frey?) holding a guitar and a wall mural depicting a hypothetical store window reflecting "a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford". And a real Ford flatbed truck sits at curbside, right where it would have to be to make that "reflection", though without the girl. (I guess a dummy in the truck would probably be likely to be stolen.) Of course the tourists there were all taking each other's photos "standin' on the corner" so I got my picture taken. The two shops on the opposite corners were both gift shops, as you might expect.

    Once out of Winslow, it is necessary to take I-40 for the next 40 miles, including the turnoff for the Meteor Crater and two defunct attraction sites called Two Guns and Twin Arrows. At Winona, 66 reappears, marking the approach to my lunch stop, Flagstaff. This marked the third day in a row that my lunch would be in the largest city on the day's route, all roughly in the center of their states. This one would be special, because I would not dine alone. The oldest son of my second cousin from Alaska is a sophomore at Northern Arizona U., and I had arranged with his mom to take him to lunch when I passed thru Flagstaff, provided that his class schedule permitted it. It did, and he chose the place, a nice one called Root Public House, just a few blocks from his apartment, where we ate outdoors on their upstairs patio under beautiful weather. (Flagstaff is so high up that it is surrounded by pine forests that makes it look more like Washington state, quite unlike the way most people think of Arizona, and MUCH cooler than Phoenix.) I think both of us enjoyed each other's company, as we were both far from home. (By the way, Flagstaff is much colder and snowier in the winter than his home town of Ketchikan!)

    West of Flagstaff, I-40 prevails for all except 7 miles until the next town, Williams, where I had stayed (in town on 66) in 2010 when I took the Grand Canyon Railway to the south rim. As in Winslow, 66 runs thru town on two adjacent one-way streets, and most of the action is on the eastbound side, which I had seen on my earlier visit, so I pressed onward. West of Williams, it is again I-40 for the next 20+ miles to Crookton, where begins the longest continuous surviving section of Route 66, which doesn't end until the river crossing into California, 160 miles later. The first 15 miles still parallels I-40, until the town of Seligman, where it can be said the the preservation movement for Route 66 began, thanks to a barber named Angel Delgadillo. He saw what was happening as the Interstates took over, and got together with other merchants located on 66 to start the first state association supporting the Route, which led to similar organizations in all the other states, and the posting of "Historic Route 66" and "66 Roadside Attraction" markers along the entire route. Angel had expanded his barber shop into a gift shop, and a block to the east his brother had opened the Snow Cap drive-in restaurant. Angel and his wife still run the gift shop, and I'm sorry now that I didn't stop in. These and the nearby Seligman Sundries store are still Route 66 icons.

    West of Seligman, 66 finally breaks free from I-40 and travels a long way north on a circuitous 90-mile trip to Kingman. As my photo shows, much of the road is straight, flat, and pretty deserted. Note that we have left both the mountains and pine forests behind and are largely back in a near-desert environment. The famous Grand Canyon Caverns are along this stretch, but I waited to stop in Peach Springs, where the Hualapai tribe runs the very modern Peach Springs Lodge, definitely not a traditional Route 66 lodging. 25 miles further on, I stopped at the Hackberry General Store, which looks like a junk shop, and in a way it is, but does have some interesting contents. After negotiating a left-hand curve that turns the road back to the southwest, 66 travels absolutely straight as an arrow for 18 miles to Kingman, passing the airport and some industrial parks before passing under I-40, which marks your return to civilization. Kingman was my overnight stop, but it deserves a separate post.
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  17. Gatorrari

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    My stop in Kingman was important because I had only packed enough clothes for 1/2 the full trip, and this was the evening I'd have to find a coin laundromat to ensure that I'd have something to wear on Wednesday! But I actually arrived early in Kingman, since I had forgotten that Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so I had actually gained an hour when I had entered the state that morning. So I had a little time to explore, beginning with their visitor center in a building called the Powerhouse, because that was its former purpose. Not only was the visitor center nice (making up in part for the I-40 welcome center having been closed that morning), but they had a good gift shop, and a bonus: a museum upstairs! Since I had missed out on so many Route 66 museums, it was nice to finally find one open. Even that was a close call: the fellow at the front desk said that they normally did not admit anyone within an hour of closing (which it was) but that in my case he'd make an exception, and he even waived the usual admission fee. It was very well done, with a good timeline about the road's history, and some nice displays like this diorama of an indigent Dust Bowl family loading up their truck for the rigorous trip west. They also had a nice little theater where they showed some very good short subjects (less than 10 minutes each) about the road and its impact on Kingman.

    After I left the Powerhouse, I found Locomotive Park across the street, which had another 4-8-4 steam loco on display, this time from the Santa Fe railroad. I found the bench made from a freight-car truck rather amusing. (I've seen those used as barbells as well.) I also spotted Mr. D'z Diner nearby, obviously converted from a former gas station, and decided that it might make a good choice for dinner. (I don't know if the little electric vehicle was actually used to make deliveries; I presume that it was only a display item.) I then headed to the El Trovatore Motel to check in; this was another traditional lodging that had been rescued from the dead and restored, and with an interesting location slightly below street level. I was surprised to find that the innkeeper was an Israeli, from Tel Aviv, and he was actually watching an Israeli news channel which was also available to guests in their rooms! (When I came back to the motel for good that evening, we had a nice chat about Israel and Middle East politics.) I confirmed that Mr. D'z was a good dinner choice, and he gave me the location of a laundromat near a Walmart just north of town. (Useful, since I had to buy something at Walmart anyway.)

    I decided to get the laundry done first, but I never could find the recommended place. Fortunately, I did find a laundromat adjacent to a Safeway that was very good. By the time I was done there, it was dark and I headed back to Mr. D'z for a nice meal. I didn't take the photo of the interior but I sat at one of the stools; there were two dining rooms, one to the left and one in front, and the place was still fairly busy even though it was a bit late for dinner. They had lots of artifacts, posters, and souvenirs, and you'll note the life-size statue of a rather skinny Elvis. Neon was a big deal in Kingman as well, though I believe the sign on the roof was supposed to be illuminated by exterior lights. The El Trovatore had its own share of neon, including their unique tower, and the fronts of the rooms displayed what was called the world's longest Route 66 map!

    Next, day seven - Wednesday, Sept. 11.
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  18. tomc

    tomc Two Time F1 World Champ

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    The wigwam rooms are indeed unusual but livable! And, on frosty nights take a really long time to heat up!
    T
     
  19. Gatorrari

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    What kind of heating setup did they have? And cooling, for that matter?
     
  20. G. Pepper

    G. Pepper Two Time F1 World Champ
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    You have inspired me to do some of the bits of 66 from LA to NM on my return from my WA to CA 101 adventure. This is a great thread! :)
     
  21. Gatorrari

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    Make sure you get a copy of the EZ 66 Guide (4th edition) before you go. It's slightly out of date and is idealized for east to west travel, but is does have west to east directions and is still a vital resource. Look at other 66 guides that have color photos and check lodging reviews online. (I suggest avoiding any lodgings that are not listed on Trivago, or are listed with red or orange ratings.)
     
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  22. Gatorrari

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    My last full day on the Route would be very interesting. Early in the day I'd be on a deserted road seemingly heading to nowhere, while I would end it on a busy boulevard in one of the world's great metropolises. And I'd go from 20 mph hairpin mountain curves to 80 mph on a flat superslab. The departure from Kingman would still be on 66 - remember, part of that longest continuous stretch that began before Seligman - on a notorious and somewhat scary road called the Oatman Hwy. Although the first 15 miles or so would be straight and flat, that would not last. This early stretch only had a 45 mph speed limit, probably because it went through washes which presumably put portions of the road under water after heavy rains, though on my trip they were bone dry. This modest limit resulted in an extraordinary sight on my instrument panel: having gotten gas in Kingman, my average-tankful-mpg meter had zeroed, and the combination of a straight, flat road and a modest speed limit saw the meter soar to 51.3 mpg, the highest I'd ever seen in the Civic!

    After passing an attraction called Cool Springs, the speed limit dropped to 25 and the road began to climb and curve. I don't know how long it took to get up to Sitgreaves Pass, but it took a while, and I wondered how those Dust Bowl people in their overloaded cars and trucks managed to make it up the mountain safely. (The road was not bypassed, by the alignment later used by I-40, until 1947.) Some of the hairpin turns had guardrails, but other similar curves didn't, and in some cases it appeared to be a long way down. Fortunately, the pavement was wide enough to allow the few oncoming cars to pass. After crossing the summit, the descent on the other side was just as wild but didn't take that long, since the road straightened out as I approached one of the more interesting places on the entire route: Oatman, which can either be described as a facsimile of a Western town of the late 1800s, or as a ghost town that has come back to life. It's rather kitschy and definitely a tourist trap, but delightfully original. I've been told that wild burros ofter roam the street unencumbered, but the only ones I saw were off the road a bit to the west.

    The road descended rather more gently after Oatman and was soon back on the level. I made a pit stop at a store in the community of Golden Shores and soon reached Topock, the end of that long stretch of 66, since it was necessary to get back on I-40 to cross the Colorado River into California. (The old Route 66 bridge was now used to carry a pipeline!) After about 5 miles in CA, it was possible to get back onto 66 for the run through Needles, often the hottest town in the U.S. - on this day it was forecast to reach 104 but earlier in the month it had reached 117! It had some typical Route 66 businesses, but I was appalled at the price of gasoline - everyone in town was over $4.00 for regular gas! I hoped that wasn't true of the whole state (it wasn't) and felt sorry for the residents.

    After leaving Needles, the road turns west and it was again necessary to briefly return to I-40. The exit for US-95 heading north to Las Vegas also incorporates 66; after about 7 miles the roads split and 66 heads west to a community called Goff, which seems to have a lot of residents but no services; I didn't even see a food store. The road then turns southwest and heads back to I-40 at Fenner. At this point, 66 would normally continue to a town called Amboy, but a portion of the road has been washed out for several years now, so the alternative is to get onto I-40, go 30 miles, then take a road due south for 11+ miles to get back to 66. Somehow I didn't think that was worth it, so I elected to stay on the Interstate; I'll catch Amboy on a later trip, maybe when Caltrans finally fixes the road and reopens it fully.

    This section of I-40 is rather bereft of services and it was approaching lunchtime. Fortunately, at Ludlow, the point where 66 meets back up with I-40, the Ludlow Cafe and its interesting A-frame provided passable cuisine. As the Dairy Queen, the only other eatery in Ludlow, was closed for renovation, the cafe was quite busy. From this point on, 66 paralleled I-40 all the way to Barstow except, uniquely, for a 3 mile section where it is necessary to use I-40, not because 66 does not exist, but because it passes through a Marine Corps Logistics Base and is thus off-limits to civilians!

    Barstow is a nice town with some Route 66 style businesses and lower gas prices than Needles! At this point, I-40 ends and the new partner to 66 is I-15, though for the run down to Victorville, the roads remained widely separated and 66 is quite entertaining. The trip through Victorville was pleasant, but then it was necessary to get on I-15, which was surprisingly busy headed down towards Cajon Summit and, eventually, L.A. The trip up and over the summit, where I-15 uses the old 66 right-of-way, is fun, but there is a sobering note here: at the summit, there was a prominent diner and motel called the Summit Inn, right on 66 and, later, at an exit off of I-15. A wildfire in 2016 burned the place to the ground, though the owners, who had just bought the place, vow to rebuild it in the same style as before; for the time being, all that's left is the large sign.

    About 6 miles past the summit, is is possible to exit onto Cajon Blvd, which carries 66 down into San Bernardino; the need to briefly get back onto I-15 at the I-215 interchange (as shown in the EZ Guide) has been eliminated by a new connection. 66 shifts from Cajon to southbound Mt Vernon Ave, but a right turn onto 5th St puts you going due west, which will carry on that way for some 50 miles to Pasadena on what is generally called Foothill Blvd. Some attractions here include the other Wigwam Motel and a newly restored Richfield station in Cucamonga. (The station previously had service bays to the right; no word as to whether those will be rebuilt.) My lodging for the next two nights was to be a reasonably-priced former Best Western property called the Ontario Airport Inn, so to reach it I eventually had to turn off of Foothill and go south for about 3 miles on Vineyard Ave. I had dinner at an Old Spaghetti Factory in nearby Cucamonga; worthwhile since the OSF in Atlanta closed about 8 years ago and the nearest one is now in Nashville! On Thursday I would tackle the last 60 miles to Santa Monica!
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  23. tomc

    tomc Two Time F1 World Champ

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    Hmm. It was a long while ago. As I recall, it was an old school in-wall heating unit. Like you used to see in last WW2 houses. If you made me guess, it was electric.
    T
     
  24. tomc

    tomc Two Time F1 World Champ

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    Looks like they added some to Oatman since we were there about 15 years ago. Did some off roading near by.
    T
     
  25. Gatorrari

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    My last day on 66 was going to be a short one, distance wise, about 60 miles, so there was no mad rush to hit the road. I waited until 9 PM to get the teeth taken out of the morning rush hour; I could see I-10 from outside my motel room door, and it was easing up by 9 compared to 7:30. It was a beautiful morning so I couldn't resist a couple of photos of the San Gabriel mountains. So I headed north, made the left turn onto Foothill Blvd, and continued westward. Traffic was fine but the inevitable congestion made it nearly a 3 hour trip, which I rather expected, since I wanted to be in Santa Monica for lunch. It was often hard to tell what city I was in because they changed rapidly and some were more careful in identifying themselves than others: Upland, Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas, Glendora, Azusa, Irwindale, Duarte and Monrovia. A couple of times I had to turn right or left to stay on 66, but the EZ Guide lived up to its name. There were a few businesses that identified with Route 66, but fewer than in the small towns; in the big city it just wasn't as important. I understand that a lot of the old motels were converted into low-rent apartments, so the signs disappeared and they disappeared into the background.

    In Pasadena, 66 became Colorado Blvd, and I realized that I was traveling the same route as the Rose Parade floats (and a certain little old lady). It has a bustling downtown of its own. There are two options to leave: the older one involves local streets and the majestic Colorado St bridge, but the newer one from 1940 included the first urban freeway in America, the Arroyo Seco Parkway. I needed a break from traffic signals, so I took the freeway, which I hadn't been on in at least 30 years, back when it was called the Pasadena Freeway. I exited onto Sunset Blvd, which headed northwestward, and then onto Santa Monica Blvd, heading westbound thru Hollywood and West Hollywood. It turned southwestbound in Beverly Hills, where I saw my only exotic cars of the entire trip: a Ferrari California, a Maserati GranTurismo, and a BMW i8. Once I crossed I-405 I knew I was almost there, made the left turn onto Lincoln Blvd, and when I got to Olympic Blvd, there was the sign! End Historic Route 66! And my journey, at least that part, was over. And my lunch decision was made, too, because right next to that sign was a classic Route 66 sign for Mel's Drive-in, with a classic architectural style to match. I went around the corner to park - no exorbitant fee this time - and enjoyed my meal. Since some people say you really need to end your trip at the Santa Monica Pier, I did just that after eating, though it was apparent there was no place to park on the pier, so I called it a day, glad to have reached my destination.

    Next, bonus coverage of the rest of my trip.
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  26. Gatorrari

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    I realized that I forgot a photo of the interior of Mel's in Santa Monica, which is clearly very 50-ish, with even some on-table jukeboxes. Here is also a photo of their menu cover, which promotes their history. There was a separate card on the table with healthy menu items they developed with some local guy named...Arnold Schwarzenegger!

    I also noted an interesting similarity between the first and last lodgings on the trip, the Carlin Villa in Illinois and the Ontario Airport Inn: both had buildings with either exterior or interior doors to the rooms, which I can't recall having seen before. And I forgot to mention that I had a nice chat at the Motel Safari in Tucumcari with some of the other guests, who happened to be from the Netherlands! I mentioned the German motorcyclists I encountered in Illinois; I was also told that some Japanese cyclists were doing the entire Route on bicycles! Now that is a bit crazy.
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  27. Gatorrari

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    When I was done with lunch at Mel's, what then? While I didn't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic heading back to Ontario, there was still time to do something, so I decided to head down to Venice Beach. The only other time I tried, years ago, I couldn't find parking near the beach and gave up. That almost happened again, but I spotted a metered space about 100 feet from the "boardwalk" for a rate of $2 for 40 minutes, which seemed fair. (The "boardwalk" in Venice is concrete and not wood but serves the same purpose as boardwalks at places like Asbury Park and Atlantic City.)

    The place certainly entertains a wide variety of people. I found the fabled Muscle Beach and was disappointed that all the weights were locked up and no one was working out. There is a gymnastics area in the sand behind the weight pit which a few people were using; the beach was moderately populated but no one was in the water (which I know would have been pretty cold). But at least I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in years. So the only guy with muscles was artificial and rather looked like the Incredible Hulk without the green tint!

    I left Venice at 2:30, which I thought was early enough to beat the rush hour. Wrong! From the time I got on the freeway, it crawled. I was able to take a grab shot of downtown L.A. while on the slow-moving Santa Monica Freeway (and I think that "slow-moving" should be added to its name). The Pomona Freeway was little better. I did make better time going back than I did going westbound, but on much better roads without traffic signals and pedestrians, 2-1/2 hours to go less than 60 miles is ridiculous. It was nearly 5 PM when I got back to the Airport Inn, and I just relaxed for a while before going to get dinner at El Pollo Loco.

    Next, a few closing notes.
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  28. Gatorrari

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    Okay, so that took care of Thursday. Basically a round trip from Ontario to the ocean, lunch and a little sightseeing took around 8 hours thanks to Los Angeles traffic! I wonder how the regular commuters don't go crazy. And aren't people still working at 2:30? So why are so many already on the freeways? Considering that the average price I saw in the metro area for regular gas was $3.75 (over $1 more per gallon than in Atlanta at that time) and there are now rail options that didn't exist in the past, why do they still put up with that traffic?

    On Friday (the 13th) I had planned to go down to San Diego to see a cousin, originally from Puerto Rico, who I hadn't seen in some 40 years. Unfortunately, I found out ahead of time that she was going to be out of town, but I decided to go to S.D. for variety, anyway. I checked out from the Airport Inn and eventually headed south on I-15, to eventually stay at a Rodeway Inn along I-8 near Qualcomm Stadium. But here's what else I did on the day:

    Yanks Air Museum at Chino Airport
    Planes of Fame Air Museum at Chino Airport
    Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego
    USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego

    I even got to take a ride on the San Diego Trolley to a shopping mall to have dinner at Smashburger. I never made it to Balboa Park, but I'd been there before.

    The trip back was much faster than Route 66: San Diego to Atlanta in four days, via I-8, I-10 and I-20, averaging 550 miles a day (vs 340 per day on 66), with no sightseeing. (There was an air museum near El Paso that I wanted to visit, but it was raining at the time, really the only inclement weather I encountered during the 15 days, so I passed it up.) For the record, my overnight stops were in Lordsburg, NM, Big Spring, TX and Ruston, LA. On the day I got home, Atlanta recorded an all-time record high for September of 98 degrees, so I'm glad I got home late in the day, and it began cooling off the next day.

    One thing that helped me on the fast trip home was the higher speed limits out west. I told you that I had already encountered 75 mph on Interstates from Texas westward; well, on a stretch of I-20 in west Texas, I saw this, which was a welcome sight!
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