The latex business is slow in the summer so I took off to work on another project: a photo book of my cat, Mr. Mahj, as we took to the roads of America for a month.
We left on a Sunday, and drove like mad to get past the sprawling states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illionois. During that two day ride the only things that caught my attention were “the rubber capital of America” (Akron, Ohio), and a sign for foot-high pies. (I stopped, only to discover they lied and the pies were only about 6″ high!) It wasn’t until we arrived in St. Louis with its massive Gateway Arch (“Gateway to the West”, that I felt truly on holiday.
We spent the night with a friend and dined on steak in Kansas City. The next day we visited various Kansas highlights including the very accurate Museum of Oz. Mr. Mahj strutted through the exhibits for many a photo op. Our next stop was Cawker City to see the world’s largest cat toy, also known as a ball of string. It was 10 feet in diameter and smelt a bit rank, but Mr. Mahj took it all in stride.
Next, south to Lucas and one of Kansas’ eight wonders—The Garden of Eden, where, at the age of 62, local eccentric Samuel Perry Dinsmoor began work on his life-long art project and final resting place, by adorning his house with concrete sculptures of gods and devils. Since his death his mummified body is available for all to see: providing they came early enough that it wasn’t closed.
From there we headed into Oklahoma to follow Route 66 west towards Amarillo, Texas and Cadillac Ranch (where a local millionaire had 10 Cadillacs half buried, nose down in the dirt along side the highway). Unfortunately we did not see either Bug Ranch (VWs in the dirt, or Combine Ranch (tractors in the dirt). What an absurdist sense of humor those Texans have!
Although we had looked forward to Route 66, it was rather a disappointment. It was rather depressing to pass all the neglected towns and closed businesses with their cool broken signs, reminders of an era of road trips past.
So we decided to head south to Roswell, New Mexico to get photos of Mr. Mahj at the alien crash site. New Mexico is perhaps my favorite state so I was delighted to see more of it. After that we stopped in Santa Fe, then Taos where I ended spending the night in the Emergency Room with breathing problems due to the high altitude. That cut that part of the trip short which was disappointing as I’ve really enjoyed Taos in the past but then being able to breathe is more important.
A brief stop at Los Alamos, then off to Albuquerque, too late for a hot air balloon ride but lots of route 66 kitsch and neon. It was much more interesting that I had imagined and much to my surprise I’d like to return at some point in the distant future. Next we made our way to Gallop and spent our 3rd and final night in New Mexico, getting out just in time to avoid a growing forest fire.
In Arizona the hot 40-mile-an-hour winds helped fuel huge forest fires in the south so we headed to the incredibly beautiful and bizarre Petrified Forest, then west to the Meteor Crater, where astronauts train for walking on the moon, with a quick stop for a photo-op on a giant Jack Rabbit in Winslow.
At the Grand Canyon, Mr. Mahj didn’t seem too impressed as he did his catwalk on scenic overlooks or tried to find relief from the heat under the shade of a scraggly bush. Numerous photo ops later we made a short pit stop at the Hoover Damn where the concrete was so hot he refused to set foot out of his bag until we arrived in Las Vegas.
Mr. Mahj is a great traveling companion (for a cat). He surveyed the passing countryside from the vantage spot of a comfy pillow, eagerly leaping out for walks and adoration at every opportunity, and hopping into his bag to be transported back to the car when he’d seen enough.
Our most Route 66-like stay was at the “Holiday Motel” just off Las Vegas Boulevard. We sat by the water and listened to the screams of brave tourists as they plunged 108 stories from the top of the Stratosphere across the road. This is really more what I imagined accommodations would be on the road: a huge old animated neon sign and a small pool by the roadside as a relief from the day’s heat.