Club Members Lloyd & Gill Hall recently completed the famous Route 66 trip, this trip was planned to coincide with Lloyd's 60th Birthday. Another couple on this trip were Peter and Serda from New Zealand wrote a very comprehensive holiday review which has been included in its entiriety as it will be of interest to anyone else planning this famous trip in the future. The tour company were www.eaglerider.com
There was ice on the bikes and the temperature was 27° Fahrenheit (about -2.5° Celsius!). However by the time we were ready to ride, April and Deejay had cleaned the ice off for everyone. April would often wander around the bikes with her little can of spray and a cloth, cleaning our windshields for us as well. So it was a chilly start but the air was crisp and the sky bright blue as we set off on a 60-mile run to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. Lala called a warm-up stop after about 20 miles but most of us felt we could do the rest in one hit - Lala checked with everyone and off we went. We crossed into Arizona and after stopping at the Visitors' Centre we headed into the Desert, which, along with the Petrified Forest, covers 146 square miles (380 km). It takes its name for the multitude of colours ranging from lavenders to shades of gray with vibrant reds, oranges and pinks. It is a huge expanse of badland hills and buttes and although barren and austere, it is a beautiful landscape in a rainbow of colours.
Much of the Painted Desert region is located within the Navajo Nation where Navajo and the Hopi people have lived for at least five hundred and one thousand years, respectively. Route 66 used to run right through the Desert and the Petrified Forest and it was on this road that we set out on our own to see the sights. The Desert looks like an artist's palette - and there are Indian petroglyphs (rock engravings) on Newspaper Rock, dating from hundreds of years ago. The petrified logs are just like rock versions of the originals and the story of how they got to be petrified is interesting. The high, dry plateau surrounding the Petrified Forest National Park was once a vast floodplain. To the south, tall pine-like trees grew along the headwaters of the many rivers and streams and reptiles, amphibians and small dinosaurs lived among a variety of ferns, palms and other plants.
trees were later washed down into the floodplain and were covered by silt, mud
and volcanic ash, this blanket of deposits cut off oxygen and slowed the logs'
Gradually silica-bearing ground waters seeped through the logs and, bit by bit,
encased the original wood with silica deposits. As the process continued, the
silica crystallized into quartz, and the logs were preserved as petrified wood.
The area is also rich in other fossilized plants and animals That was about 225
million years ago in the late Triassic Period. After that time, the area sank,
was flooded and was covered with freshwater sediments. Later the area was lifted
far above sea level, and this uplift created stresses that cracked the giant logs.
Still later, in recent geological time, wind and water wore away the gradually
accumulated layers of hardened sediments. Now the petrified logs and fossilized
animal and plant remains are exposed on the land's surface and the Painted Desert
has its present sculpted form. It was amazing to be able to walk around the logs
just lying in the open - some of them are huge.
We regrouped at a souvenir shop and in a back room there were some dinosaur fossils still encased in rock. We lost a lot of time waiting for people to finish their shopping and this would cause some problems later on. We rode on to Holbrook to visit the Wigwam Motels - all the rooms are individual Indian teepees and each has an old American car parked outside. They were part of a motel chain of which only 3 still remain of the original seven. They were parodied in the movie "Cars" with a traffic-cone motel called "The Cozy Cone" and are still available to book as accommodation and are apparently quite comfortable. Chester Lewis built them in 1950 and the motel is still run by his 3 children who fully renovated the 15 wigwams in 1988 in keeping with the '50s style. Next stop was the corner in Winslow, Arizona made famous in the Eagles song "Take It Easy" - there was even a flat-bed Ford parked nearby: Well, I'm a standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona Such a fine sight to see It's a girl my Lord in a flat-bed Ford Slowin' down to take a look at me
Winslow suffered badly when Route 66 was replaced by Interstate 40, but the popularity of the song led to renewed attention for the town. The scene described in the song is replicated as a trompe-l'oeil mural painted on the side of a building in Standin' on the Corner Park. In 2004, a fire destroyed the building on which the mural was painted although the wall and mural survived. In 2006, the city of Winslow bought the property where the building had stood. The wall with the mural was preserved and the rest of the building torn down. There is a giant Route 66 sign-painted in the intersection and dodging the traffic, photos were taken of the braver among us. The corner is off the main road and is a quiet little enclave without the hype that often happens in the US. There was a gift shop opposite but it was quite unobtrusive.
It was a neat place to stop - the music was played and all who wanted to, danced on the street. Now we had an 80-mile dash to the town of Grand Canyon. Some of us had booked for a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon and we had to be there by 4pm - however the earlier delays had put the pressure on and we split into two groups. Sirda and I joined the flight group and we basically rode straight through to the airport. The road climbed to 8000 feet and curved through beautiful forested countryside.
We arrived in time and went in to be weighed - a helicopter needs to be balanced and we were divided into weight groups and allocated seats accordingly. We took off and flew low over the trees towards the canyon while a recording told us about what we were about to see although nothing could have prepared us as we swept over the rim of the Grand Canyon itself - 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and up to a mile deep (1800 metres). We only flew over a small section but it is stupendous! Nearly two billion years of the Earth's geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock as the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. We could pick out the many features of the Canyon - the Great Pyramid, Temple of Isis, Shiva Temple and the Buddha Cloister - It was a fantastic way to finish the day. We got to the hotel and were undecided where to eat. I had a chat to the concierge who gave me a map of the little town of Grand Canyon. We saw there was a general store and so made our way about half a mile up the road. We bought cheese, crackers and salami plus a 3 litre cask of wine! We had a party in our room that night! It was a nice change not to eat out.
The next morning it was only 26°F (-3 °C) but it was only a short ride up to the South Rim of the Canyon. When you are standing on the edge of this huge chasm, you really appreciate just how amazing it is. Being there made me value the flight yesterday even more. We posed as close to the edge as we dared - not wanting to become another of the many fatalities caused by overzealous photographic efforts. The day was warming up quickly and we were in for a hot one. There is even a hotel way down in the Canyon - the Phantom Ranch, which is only accessible by floating down the river, by hiking, or by riding a mule! Native Americans have lived in the area for over 4000 years - the Paiutes, the Cerbat and the Navajo had been settled there for over 600 years before they were moved onto reservations in 1882. Our trike riding duo - Chris and Sue - had been to the South Rim before so had decided to head off to the Skywalk - a round trip of some 400 miles. The Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge extending 70 feet out and suspended 4000 feet over the Grand Canyon itself. The floor is made of glass panes, which can support 100 pounds per square foot. Still it would take a strong stomach to step out onto a transparent panel so far above the canyon floor. Anyway Chris and Sue rode out there and endured 20 miles on unpaved heavily rutted roads before being charged $75(US) each for the privilege of parking and walking out onto the bridge! They rejoined the group in Laughlin in the evening.
Our morning stop was in Williams, Arizona, which has gone down in history as being the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed. This was in 1984, a year before the road itself was decommissioned as a state highway. Williams has kept its charm and we enjoyed a cup of tea in the old whorehouse and walked the main street with its restored shops and diners. Over one shop was a huge mural that proclaimed " Freedom is not Free" with the stars and stripes, the eagle, the coats of arms from the services and the famous flag raising by 5 Marines and a Navy corpsman on Iwo Jima in March 1945.
When Seligman was bypassed in 1978, they didn't take it lying down - the town is known as the birthplace of historic Route 66 because it is where the rejuvenation of 66 as an historic highway began. The residents felt forgotten by the world so, led by Angel Delgadillo (of Seligman) and along with fellow enthusiasts from Kingman (just up the road) they founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and through their efforts Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman became known as "Historic Route 66" - these are the roads that we had been riding on the tour as their success inspired the formation of other Route 66 Associations in seven other states, as well as seven international associations. Seligman has the honour of being the first stop on the longest uninterrupted stretch left of Route 66 heading west - about 160 miles through to Topeck. We rode as far as Oatman (100 miles) before turning off towards Laughlin. They have also replaced the Burma-Shave adverts along the highway - Burma-Shave was an American brand of brushless shaving cream that became famous for its advertising gimmick of posting humorous rhyming poems on small, sequential, highway-billboard signs - they are placed a few hundred yards apart. Here are a couple of examples: Dinah doesn't / Treat him right / But if he'd / Shave / Dyna-mite! / Burma-Shave Slow down, Pa / Sakes alive / Ma missed signs / Four / And five / Burma-Shave Seligman is a wonder of restored Route 66 splendour and the home of the famous Roadkill Café. Sirda and I checked out the shops and then opted for lunch alfresco in a little park with a rotunda.
had been told to rendezvous at the Roadkill after lunch and so Sirda and I dutifully
rode up to the café, waving to Deejay as we went. At the cafe, only Lee
was there and then bikes started to ride by. Lala had told us that there was a
60 mile stretch of road from Seligman to Hackberry that we could ride ourselves.
Clearly no-one was bothering to meet up at the Roadkill. After the 3rd bike, I
thought 'Bugger this!" so we geared up and set out in pursuit of David and
Amanda on their BMW. I wasn't sure if there were any turnoffs and I didn't know
where we were supposed to meet up so I had to catch the bike ahead to be safe.
I suppose I could have waited for the next bike from behind but I didn't actually
consider that option so the speed started to creep up. I always know when I have
exceeded Sirda's boundaries as I get a severe dig in
the ribs - it seems that today was one of those times - I got more than a couple
of "digs"! I was keeping David in sight when we shot over a rise to
see the local Old Bill getting into his patrol car. I buttoned off but he knew
we and the other bikes were pushing it - we were lucky he was otherwise occupied
when we saw him. So we continued down this very, very straight piece of road to
the Hackberry General Store - an apparently derelict oasis in the middle of nowhere
with a very nice 1957 Red Corvette parked outside. There is a stunning '50s vintage
diner inside (unfortunately closed) but there was a motherlode of '66 memorabilia
with some very good bargains. Our purchases only amounted to ice-blocks as the
day had become very hot and dry. As more bikes arrived, the word was that our
erstwhile American cop had pulled over two bikes - Neil and Michelle, and Steve
and Liz. Finally they pulled into the store and it turned out that Steve has been
given a ticket for dangerous driving. Apparently Steve and Liz had pulled alongside
Neil and Michelle so that Liz could take a photo of the other bike against the
landscape. This was on a road where you could see for miles in every direction
and the pillion was the photographer! I think the cop was just pissed that he
couldn't get anyone for speeding so he decided to take out his frustration where
he could. The irony is that Steve has just retired from the Police in the UK!
He also celebrated his 50th birthday on the tour.
Next stop was the Mother Road Harley dealer in Kingman although there were more farm and quad bikes on display than Harleys plus a new 1800 Gold Wing - very nice. It was getting well into the afternoon but we still had some surprises in store for us. Lala had been promising us some twisty roads to ride and especially after the run to Hackberry, I was really looking forward to it as we carried on down old Route 66 to a place called Cold Springs - yet another isolated shop and mini-museum. I don't think the proprietor did too well out of us that day as we were shopped out. I had made sure we were the first bike behind Lala as we pulled in as she intended to send us off at intervals to enjoy the 9 miles ands 122 corners through to Oatman. She rode on ahead to find a spot to photograph each of us on the road and Preacher managed the staged take-off. I got away first and settled into the ride - the Electraglide is not the most agile of bikes and I didn't know the road but it was a very enjoyable run. The road surface was poor but the corners just kept coming - up and over the hill, sweeping down past the mines and into Oatman - a town where time appeared to have stopped in the 1880s, judging by the building facades and the boardwalks.
found a place to park at the far end of town outside the derelict Glory Hole Hotel,
took off our helmets etc and waited for the rest of the bikes to roll in. It wasn't
long before the first bike pulled up - surprisingly it was Preacher who had been
the last bike to leave Cold Springs and had to overtake 18 other bikes to arrive
first after me - very impressive, as was the very satisfied grin on his bearded
face. Most of the town was closed but we wandered along the main street almost
expecting see Wyatt Earp and the Dalton brothers or at least the ghost of John
Wayne saunter from one of the back alleys! One shop was open so we had a look
around - knives are on sale everywhere and Preacher quite openly wore a large
sheath knife on his belt. This shop has the usual range including flick knives
but there was also a big collection of knuckledusters and truncheon-like clubs.
When I commented that all these would be illegal in New Zealand, the lady behind
the counter was insistent that the availability and legality of these weapons
was the reason that they had a low crime rate - I didn't have the facts to argue
but I am pretty sure that the US has a significantly
higher rate of violent crime than we do. However each to their own I suppose.
It was dark by the time we reached Laughlin and I think that was just the way that Preacher and Lala had planned it. The road took us along the river opposite this casino town and a fantastic display of neon lit up the facades of the many casinos, reflecting them in the quiet waters. We then crossed a bridge and rode into the main street to our hotel (and casino) - the Aquarius. Although Laughlin is small in comparison to Las Vegas, it seemed big and brash and garish as the casinos competed for business in the bright lights on the skyline. Laughlin is famous for being the home of the Laughlin River Run - an annual biker rally that draws tens of thousands every year. It started back in 1983 with about 400 participants and has since grown into the largest biker gathering in the western United States. The 2002 rally was marred by a major fight between the Hells Angels and the Mongols at Harrah's Laughlin Casino that left three dead and 13 injured - all captured on CCTV.
Today was to be our shortest riding day of the tour - only 100 miles (160 kms). This was to give us more time to explore Las Vegas. We backtracked towards Kingman so we could pick up old Route 66. We were riding through primarily desert country now and the road would climb a hill, then drop down and across the valley before climbing the next rise. The Golden Valley is literally surrounded by mountains - to the north and northwest is the Lava Mountains, and to the southeast, the Almond range. The valley is probably one of the most secluded areas in the Mojave and the town of Golden Valley was clearly visible among the scrubby vegetation as we descended but almost disappeared among the mesquite and Joshua trees as we rode through, only to reappear as we climbed the next ridge. The buildings are single-storey and well spread out and they tend to blend in with their surroundings. Our first stop was to be the Hoover Dam - Route 66 used to go over the dam but an impressive new bridge over it was completed in 2010. However true to form, Lala took us over the bridge and then down to and over the dam. We stopped first at the Lake Mead lookout - Lake Mead was formed from the dammed waters and is the largest reservoir in the States, covering 250 square miles (640 sq kms), which is actually bigger than Lake Taupo (238 sq miles or 616 sq kms).
The Hoover Dam itself was completed in 1935 at a cost of $US49 million and over 100 lives. It is 1244 feet (379m) long and 726 feet (221m) high and holds back 32.5 cubic kilometres of water. The exterior decoration is Art Deco in keeping with the era and the designers incorporated motifs from the local Navajo and Pueblo tribes. The dedication plaza has a 30 ft high bronze sculpture of two winged figures flanking a flagpole called "Winged Figures of the Republic". We went over the dam and up the other side to a vantage point where we could look back at it and the new bridge, which was as striking in its modernity as the dam would have been in the '30s. It is the highest and longest arched concrete bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It was getting really hot and we were glad to be back on the bikes for the final run through Boulder City and into Las Vegas. Lala took us right up the Strip past all the casinos - Caesar's Palace, the Venetian, the Flamingo - all the names that we already knew from the movies. We were staying in the Excalibur, named for King Arthur's sword and with turrets and towers straight from Camelot. As usual the rooms were roomy and comfortable. Our first concern was a late lunch, which was had at Baja Fresh - serving Tex-Mex food, which we both enjoy and which is generally gluten-free. We took a stroll next door to the Luxor, modeled on the Great Pyramid of Giza. Stunning as it was from the outside, the inside is stunning, featuring larger-than-life reproductions of Pharaoh statues and Egyptian symbols, and scriptures carved on the walls.
That afternoon 3 couples on the tour decided to renew their vows in the Chopper Chapel at the Harley Davidson Café - David and Amanda from Australia, and Mikhail and Marina, Ivan and Elena from Russia. Sirda suggested that we should do the same but I reminded her that I hadn't forgotten the original ones just yet (it's only been 30 years!). It was really fun and we enjoyed supporting our tour companions for what was an important occasion for them. The café has a long conveyor belt that revolves around the whole café and has various H-D models suspended from it.
It wasn't operating that day we were there but Preacher said that it is quite freaky as the bikes sway and shake as they pass over your head. Las Vegas really comes to life when darkness falls although in Vegas, it is never really dark - the neon takes care of that. Canadian Paul joined Sirda and I on our exploration down the Strip, which is about 4 miles long and we walked there and back! He had been here before and was a really good guide.
On our excursion we:
· Admired New York, New York and walked along the Brooklyn Bridge (but were not so keen on the roller coaster)
· Wondered at the erupting volcano at the Mirage
· Were enthralled with the musical fountain display at the Bellagio
· Loved the Pirate Ship at Treasure Island
· Were impressed with the Venetia with its canals and gondoliers and St Mark's Square
· Loved Paris and the Eiffel Tower
· Were overwhelmed with the sheer size of Caesar's Palace
· And more.
It was a great evening and made all the more memorable by sharing it with Paul. Dave and Martin looked the little worse for wear in the morning. They had managed to find an all night tattooist and now sported matching Route 66 shield tattoos on their calves!
Early start - clear and hot (and getting hotter) as we headed for Victorville - our first night in California. We were still riding across the Mojave Desert - wide-open arid scenery and two-lane blacktop as far as the eye could see. The air was so clear that the mesas and cliffs in the distance looked like they were painted onto the landscape. On the way out of Vegas, we cruised along the Veterans' Highway - each section is dedicated to a particular conflict - WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Persian, Global War on Terror. We happened to be riding behind Mark, an American from Florida and a Vietnam vet himself. As we passed the dedication sign for Vietnam, he saluted the sign as he rode by - those of us that were lucky enough not to have been involved in these wars, can never know what experiences Mark and his fellow soldiers have suffered. Mark was on the tour with his best mate Ray and they constantly chatted over their intercom. They have clearly been riding companions for years.
First stop was an old school house in Goffs, a nearly deserted one-time railroad town at Route 66's high point in the East Mojave Desert. It is unique in design (mission style) and construction (wood frame and stucco over steel mesh) and was built in 1914 - the classroom was also used for dances, church services, and community affairs of all kinds and there are two large covered porches, which was where the custodian gave us the history of Goffs and the schoolhouse. He and his wife had been volunteers traveling miles every weekend to support the restoration of Goffs before being offered the chance to live onsite. They are clearly passionate about it as they also take oral histories from the local farmers and retired railway workers.
It was a long hot ride to Amboy where we stopped at Roy's Motel and Café. Amboy has been a railhead/staging post since 1858 and purportedly still has its water delivered by railcars or trucked in from outside. Although Amboy now has a population of fewer than 10; during the heyday of Route 66, after WWII and before the opening of Interstate 40 in 1974, Roy's alone employed up to 90 full time employees to service its garage, gas station, motel and café. The town died overnight when Interstate 40 opened in 1973 taking away all the traffic that used to travel through Amboy on Route 66.
Today was perfect; the sun was shining on Roy's with its 1950s charm and the Route 66 logos in the road and there was not a car in sight. The road disappears in a straight line for miles in both directions at Amboy so we put Martin's bike by the Route 66 sign in the middle of it and posed for the obligatory photos. There is also a huge 6000-year-old volcanic crater nearby rising 250 feet from the desert floor right beside old Route 66 as you ride by.
The Bottle Tree Ranch created by Elmer Long in Oro Grande was our next stop and is one of the most impressive attractions along Route 66, featuring hundreds with bottle-filled trees. Elmer has welded "arms" onto tall metal poles and then stuck bottles onto the arms to create the bottle trees. The trees are topped off with weird bits and pieces - guns, toy cars, trombones etc. We rode on into Victorville where we stopped at the first and only motel on the tour. It was a little tired and old fashioned but clean and comfortable. Sirda and I caught up on our washing. Michelle from the UK turned 40 and had a party in the local diner!
Another early start- our last day on the bikes as we were to ride into LA to the end of Route 66 on Santa Monica Pier. We took the freeway out of Victorville and onto the last section of old Route 66 that we would ride. It follows the freeway then turns right and more or less stops. Our last view of the original Mother Road was from an embankment looking back a mile or so down the asphalt ribbon of road that has meant so much to millions of travellers and now had become part of our collective memories. We had shared so much, so many miles and we were so nearly at the end.
It was getting very hot and the air-cooled Harley V-twin wasn't helping much, especially as we got held up in traffic - the rear cylinder exhaust was roasting my leg and I'd rather not say how the engine heat was affecting my nether regions. We hauled up onto the freeway and headed for Hollywood! Somehow Preacher, Lala, April and Deejay managed to keep us together in a white knuckle ride down a sun-drenched and very busy 4-6 lane highway. We stuck mainly to the centre lanes and took our chances on the interchanges. We were still together when we pulled off onto the parking building right by Hollywood Boulevard.
We walked down the boulevard and checked out Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the hand- and footprints of the stars. We were all dying for a drink (non-alcoholic of course) and as it was Lloyd's 60th birthday, we all thought Hooters was the most appropriate place to go. We bowled on in and ordered 6 Cokes. There were two young very attractive waitresses on duty who were happy to pose with Lloyd under the Hooters sign, and by the grin on his face, I think he will remember where he was that particular birthday! Surprisingly the drinks weren't expensive!
Back onto the bikes - for the first and only time it was Sirda and I who held everyone up as we were last back to the rendezvous. Onto Beverly Hills where Lala led us through some very expensive properties - some probably more valuable that the GDP of certain small countries. We photostopped at the Beverly Hills sign and we were never more grateful to April and her water. The heat was tremendous and some were feeling the effects very badly.
The final part of our ride was through Santa Monica to the famous pier - now officially the westernmost point and end of Route 66. The original pre-1939 alignment of Route 66 ended in downtown Los Angeles. Later it was changed and eventually ended up in Santa Monica. Technically the Santa Monica Pier is not the real end of Route 66 as it ends a block away from the pier at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. The Will Rogers Highway Dedication Plaque is across the street in Palisades Park, but the pier is close enough to count!
We rode right onto the pier, clattering across the wooden planks that form the decking. We parked up and suddenly the realization that it was all over dawned on us. We hugged and shook hands and high-fived each other. Exhilaration tinged with sadness. It had been a fabulous two weeks and we would soon part ways with our newfound friends - and as we had traveled from all across the world there was a note of finality in our celebrations as we stood in the sun on that wooden pier.
We had some time to wander around and there is a tall sign proclaiming the "end of the trail" where we took our last group photo. We all grabbed a bite to eat and watched the world go by - families and couples promenading and watching the street entertainers. The beach below the pier was busy with swimmers and sunbathers.
And then it was time to go - to ride to EagleRiders, return the bikes and catch the bus to our hotel - right on the Pacific Ocean at Redondo Beach. The bikes were checked and signed out - I don't know of anyone having to pay for any untoward wear and tear but then I didn't ask Mikhail and Ivan. I had the opportunity to meet Shawn Fetcher, the manager of EagleRiders in LA - a really nice guy who is keen to make the riding experience for us the best it can be. I think we may be back for more!
That night Shawn hosted our farewell dinner at a local seafood restaurant - absolutely beautiful food with an almost open bar. It was a great end to a great trip. We had been really lucky with the weather only one day with some wind and rain, otherwise perfect riding weather, if a little hot at times and we had seen and shared so much. Everyone was a little subdued but the evening went really well. I had a chat with Ivan and Mikhail, our Russian boys - it turns out that they have a Harley V-Rod and Valkyrie Rune back home in the Ukraine.