We will be in San Antonio until December 17, then back to Hawai'i. We took a walk down the Riverwalk and took in some of the lights and the city's Christmas tree at Travis Park.
The drive from Amarillo to San Antonio takes you through a few small west Texas towns. Each offers a glimpse into what it was like in the past. Many of the old buildings are still standing with the signs still readable. Our first stop was Post, TX a small town that is doing better than just hanging on. Post is the home of Jackson Brothers Meat Locker, a full service meat supplier and the producer of the finest beef jerky and smoked German sausage anywhere. The old Tower Theater sign is still there, too. Holly's Drive In is a cool old diner that is still operating.
Ballenger, TX is a town I've passed through before but never stopped. I'm glad we did this time. Pam and I had lunch at the Gonzalez Restaurant in the old Texas Grill site. The sign is still up and is a bit faded. Pam had tacos al pastor and I had the guiso, a meat stew. Both excellent. The owner was barely hanging on during the pandemic but now that lockdowns are lifted in Texas, the restaurant is nearing pre-pandemic business levels. I'm happy for her. Ballenger also has the old Texas Theater sign restored and the building still being used. Great old neon sign.
Paint Rock and Eden are small towns near each other and process wool from the sheep farmers in the area.
Headed east from California to Texas. Following parts of historic Route 66 through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The first stop on Route 66 was Ludlow, CA. The Ludlow Cafe is a small old school diner in the California desert.
Next, on I-40 (exit 219) in Arizona, was the ruins of Twin Arrows. Twin Arrows was an old trading post on Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow. The trading post was established in the late 1940s as the Canyon Padre Trading Post and soon changed the name to the Twin Arrows Trading Post. The trading post was easily recognizable by the two wooden arrows planted in the parking lot. The construction of Interstate 40 led to a decrease in road traffic and finally abandoned in 1995. This is one of my bucket list stops on Route 66.
Likewise, Meteor City, AZ (exit 239) was also a trading post on Route 66. It was first opened in 1938 as a service station. In 1941, the property was expanded to include a trading post where tourists could buy gas, groceries and curios. The geodesic dome was built in 1979 after the original building burned down in the 1960s. Reportedly, video is live streamed from the site 24/7.
We stopped to visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes Sate Park in Kane County, Utah, just outside of Kanab. The park features pink-hued sand dunes located beside red sandstone cliffs. The dunes are estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old. The park is popular with hikers on the dunes and off-road ATV use. It was just plain fun to walk on the dunes.
Pam and I were set on going to Capitol Reef NP until we met a young couple from Houston. They were just at Bryce Canyon and they said it had snowed that evening. That is something we wanted to see. Bryce is beautiful any time but even more so covered in snow. Granted, this was only a dusting but I'm not visiting in the middle of winter. We also made a quick trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park to see Chimney Rock.
From Moab, we travelled to Kanab. We plan to visit Grand Staircase-Escalante. On the way, there was snow everywhere. I stopped off to take a couple photos.
Our next stop on our trip is Moab, UT. Moab is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Canyonlands is one of the two Big Five national parks in Utah that Pam and I haven't yet visited. The other is Capitol Reef NP. On our drive through Apache County in Arizona, we experienced dust storms, known as haboobs. The first of these were pretty mild where visibility was down to maybe a quarter of a mile, however, just past Many Farms, AZ, a dust storm blew across a field and reduced visibility to mere feet. I completely lost sight of the pickup ahead of us. We all came to a complete stop on the highway. The storm cleared in about a minute and I was only five yards from the pickup. Another vehicle was maybe fifteen yards behind us. Scary not knowing if you'll run into the vehicle in front or being rear-ended by someone behind. Beyond that, a really nice five and half hour drive.
Once we got settled in Moab, we set out for Canyonlands. Pam and I decided to only visit the Islands in the Sky District of the park. Islands in the Sky is a flat topped mesa with spectacular views. And the views were just that, spectacular. That morning was cold, around thirty two degrees. It snowed overnight and there was still snow on the ground when we entered the park around 0730. We spent the entire morning and early afternoon at the many overlooks and went on a few short walks.
Canyonlands National Par
We also visited Arches NP again. Our last trip here we missed the hike to Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is the symbol of Utah, it is represented on the state's license plates. Nothing quite prepares you for the view from here. The trail is moderately strenuous and fairly well marked, a total of 2-1/2 miles round trip. The arch isn't visible at the end of the trail, you have to turn around a corner to see the it. It is absolutely breath taking and inspiring. We spent the better part of two-and-a-half hours hiking and looking at the arch. Well worth the effort.
Delicate Arch, Arches NP
From Amarillo we drove to Holbrook, AZ. This was just a stop to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. I just heard about it and just had to see it. First, though, we drove through Tucumcari, NM on historic Route 66. I do a lot of hunting for old signs and buildings. Plenty of that in Tucumcari. While not in Tucumcari, the Sun 'n Sand sign is one of the most photographed signs on Route 66 in Santa Rosa, NM. One of the must see signs and old motels is the Blue Swallow Motel. Beautifully restored with period American autos in front, the Blue Swallow has been in business since 1939. Time capsule spot. Another motel I stopped at was the Palomino Motel at the far end of the strip, old and a little worn but still in business with updated rooms. The sign hasn't been restored but it still is beautiful. I got a chance to talk a little story with Lila, the manager of the Palomino. She had a lot of stories of the hey day of Route 66 and the motels and businesses that are now gone. The Palomino has been in business since 1952.
The Petrified Forest National Park is known for its large deposits of petrified wood. The park is right off I-40 east of Holbrook.
Route 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico
Petrified Forest National Park
Now that travel isn't the headache as it was during the height of Covid-19, Pam and I are back on the mainland for another road trip, this time to finish up the Big Five in Utah. We've visited and hiked Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches. Now to catch up to Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. We're also visiting Arches again. The last visit we couldn't find a parking space at the trailhead to Delicate Arch. This time we will be starting at Delicate Arch and then hit the rest of Arches.
First stop: Amarillo, TX.
We love visiting Amarillo. Our first stop is always the Cadillac Ranch, one of the most iconic and recognizable public art pieces in the country. The Cadillac Ranch stands alongside old Route 66. According to RoadsideAmerica.com, it was built by a group of artists/hippies from San Francisco called The Ant Farm. Their patron was billionaire Stanley Marsh III. He wanted an art project that would baffle the locals. A tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac, ten Caddies from the 1949 Club Sedan to a 1963 Sedan de Ville were then half-buried, nose down in the dirt at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Quite a sight.
We stopped by the Dia de los Muertos Festival at Hemisfair in San Antonio. This is a huge cultural event in San Antonio. There is music, dancing, art and, of course, food and drink.
The festival is a two-day event brings together traditional art and culture to celebrate the Day of the Dead. One of the main events is the altar contest where members of the community build their own altars honoring departed loved ones for the celebration. One of the most iconic symbols used in the altars are the sugar skulls, calaveras de azucar.
We met a family who built an altar honoring their family. Their altar is an incredible piece of work. This was their first year at building an altar for this event. They had planned the work for an entire year. Truly an inspired work of art and love.