California to MissouriTue, Nov 20, 2018 in Travel
I arrived in the Bay Area to the terrible air quality resulting from the wildfires burning across Northern California, including the catastrophic Camp Fire. San Bruno Mountain was barely visible from SFO and downtown was a hazy outline from Treasure Island. It was great to catch up with friends and spend time in the East Bay and Monterey where I lived a total of 29 years.
From Carmel we meandered down Highway 1 along the coast, having a last lunch at Ventana high up in the hills near Big Sur. The winding road was the most scenic portion of the entire journey on a cloud free afternoon, south of the wildfire smoke. Turning inland just past Cambria, Highway 46 winds through the coastal hills through booming Paso Robles and out to the Central Valley. Past the torn up landscape of Lost Hills oil rigs by I-5 the drive was slow going behind trucks. We stopped at a 99 cent store parking lot in Wasco to feed dogs, unfortunately discovering in the dim light weeds sticking to their fur. After the trek through the Tehachapi Pass it was late getting into Barstow making it the first stop.
From Barstow through Needles and Kingman up into the mountains and Flagstaff went from the dry desert to mountain snow alongside the highway. It was getting late in eastern Arizona so we settled into Holbrook for the night, visiting the Petrified Forest the next day. The namesake fossils were formed when downed logs in rivers were buried with volcanic ash, replacing the internal structure with silica forming quartz, colored by trace iron oxide. This leaves wonderful large mineral deposits still retaining the shape of the originating trees. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in the 1880s and later Route 66 brought tourism right through the park. On a chilly November morning we passed only a handful of other visitors.
I was unfamiliar with the movie The Petrified Forest, an Achie Mayo adaptation of a 1935 Broadway production. The story has little to do with the park beside being set a diner there during the Great Depression.
Being late in the year there was little fervor in mid November roadside tourism. Continuing on I-40 we made good time through Gallup (sopapillas!) and Albuquerque to Tucumcari. Once a busy rail junction and then a major stop on the Mother Road the town is most notable to me through its reference in westerns and is today fairly quiet. Del's offered some tasty enchiladas under their vintage neon sign.
From Tucumcari we turned northeast and across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles through to Kansas. The wind swept High Plains were brutal while trying to walk the occasionally fussy dogs. The Wizard of Oz makes no reference to Dorothy's specific home town but Liberal, Kansas makes claim to the title, with statues across town, a museum, and a replica house. Stopping to have a late lunch we found options limited by a train blocking the main street, Kansas Ave, that didn't move out until after we had finished eating.
Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, was even larger than I had envisioned. We were able to find a nice hotel downtown just a couple of blocks from the river. From there it was a relatively quick segment back to KC including the entire length of the Kansas Turnpike.