Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 2

Needles, CA to Williams, AZ — 199 miles

After our long, 600 mile previous day, the promise of a leisurely stroll exploring the Mother Road was just what we all needed.



[click to go to an interactive map]

Sleeping 3-across on the bed, Stella fell off the end several times and, generally, there was tossy-turny sleep for most of us. Tired or not, Maia’s internal alarm clock is quite reliable and the rest of us were awakened sooner than we’d have liked. Round abouts 8:30, we stretched our legs and casually ambled toward the nearby breakfast hole. The girls were psyched to find a Pegasus around the corner.

Look, a Pagasus!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000sec, 28mm focal L., map

So, today is Easter Sunday. The girls very much noticed that the Easter Bunny didn’t pay a visit to our motel room and, rather seriously, wondered if all the goods were left in the house at San Jose. After all, the Easter Bunny might not know we aren’t home!

Elise takes her artwork seriously

Nikon D600, ISO 560, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 50mm focal L., ~691ft from prev photo, map

Sing it! — We’ve been work’n on the railroad, all the give long day…

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/2000sec, 50mm focal L., ~795ft from prev photo, map

After breakfast, we took the long way back to peek at the nearby railroad tracks. This is the BNSF’s primary east-west route and sees frequent trains. The odds were in our favor of seeing a train if we could hang out for 10-15 minutes. The girls were quite efficient at finding tie spikes that had worked themselves out of service. But, alas, 10 minutes waiting by the track was the limit before the boredom kicked in.

Tired of waiting for the train

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/3200sec, 52mm focal L., map

Naturally, a few minutes after we started back to the motel, along comes a nice slow mover that shouldn’t have been scary for the kids.

Threes minutes after we left.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000sec, 36mm focal L., map

The Easter Bunny finds our car!

Nikon D600, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., ~743ft from prev photo, map

After a quick packing up and loading, the girls discovered that the Easter Bunny magic happens in the car when you are on the road! The few curious questions about “how did the Easter Bunny know which car was ours”, and “how did he have keys to get into the car” were soon forgotten upon digging into the treasures.

Happy Easter!

Nikon D600, ISO 250, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., map

Discarded — yet, restored facade.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000sec, 44mm focal L., ~0.3mi from prev photo, map, @ 10 MPH

At the outskirts of Needles, they put their best face for the west-bound traffic. It is the “preferred” direction to travel the Mother road, after all.

The real adventure begins

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/800sec, 48mm focal L., ~1.4mi from prev photo, map

Yet again, Maia refused to participate in a shot with her sisters. A few minutes afterward, she climbed up and asked me to take a picture in the same location. Snooze and lose, kiddo!

Wagon wheel for sale!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/640sec, 50mm focal L., map

Heading to Oatman on the original alignment.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/500sec, 62mm focal L., ~12.0mi from prev photo, map, @ 53 MPH

After a brief run on I40 to get over the river, we headed towards Oatman and the Black Mountains. This alignment was bypassed in ’53 and the road deteriorated away with the busted gold mines. Today, they keep it passably paved to preserve the legacy.

Into the Black Mountains.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/640sec, 27mm focal L., ~5.5mi from prev photo, map

The desert was alive and blooming. These prickly, fuzzy cacti piqued our attention along the road.

Paging any botanist to the white courtesy phone.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/500sec, 44mm focal L., ~566ft from prev photo, map

The Oatman welcoming committee — Now, can I haz some food!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/1000sec, 70mm focal L., ~4.7mi from prev photo, map

Oatman is a former boom town that once supported a population ten thousand strong. Now it’s just a tourist trap that seems to survive from people stopping to feed and pet the not-at-all-wild burros that roam freely around the town. Naturally, the girls were all too excited to pet them. The foals got all the love.

The sticker on its head says “STOP, do not feed me anything”

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1000sec, 29mm focal L., ~343ft from prev photo, map

We witnessed several drive by shootings in Oatman.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/500sec, 56mm focal L., map

Protected airspace

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/100sec, 31mm focal L., map

Hitched up — not going anywhere.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/3.2, 1/1600sec, 24mm focal L., map

Desert in bloom

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/640sec, 62mm focal L., map

Don’t let the Pigeon drive the tractor!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/400sec, 24mm focal L., map

The tractor was a big hit.

Wait, you didn’t give me the key…

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/400sec, 26mm focal L., map

American Gothic — with rainbow rocks

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/400sec, 31mm focal L., ~399ft from prev photo, map

From mining to tourism.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/320sec, 60mm focal L., map

After getting our fill of trinket stores, we made some sandwiches and headed on down the road while enjoying the vittles.

Over the Black Mountains east of Oatman.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/400sec, 32mm focal L., ~1.2mi from prev photo, map

The story of the burros in Oatman is: about 70 years ago the mine(s?) went bust and the miners up and left town, abandoning their pack animals to fend for themselves. The burros that frequent the town of are anything but wild as they’ve are fed good and plenty by the tourists. However, on the other side of the Black Mountains, we ran across a wild herd. They were very skittish and hastily ran off as I tried to get closer for a better shot.

The REAL wild burros — were not happy about my visit.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/200sec, 70mm focal L., ~6.2mi from prev photo, map

Brunswick Hotel — circa 1903

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/640sec, 44mm focal L., ~16mi from prev photo, map

Motel Nostalgia

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/800sec, 24mm focal L., ~0.6mi from prev photo, map

The Route 66 nostalgia is everywhere in Kingman. It must have been quite the popular stop back in the day.

Easter Island, Arizona?

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/320sec, 27mm focal L., ~21mi from prev photo, map, @ 60 MPH

Elastic man

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/640sec, 70mm focal L., ~15mi from prev photo, map

Departing Kingman, Valerie was reading the guide book and stumbled upon the “Grand Canyon Caverns” where you can take a 21 story elevator ride into the ground to see the largest DRY cavern in the US.

Soo, “Grand Canyon Caves”? Is is part of the park?

Nope.

Ohh. So, it’s near the Grand Canyon?

Well, 63 miles near.

Then, it’s just shamelessly using the name?

Not really. Among other names, it used to be called “Dinosaur Cave”. However, in the 50′s scientists wanted to know where the air flow in the cave was going, so they set off numerous red smoke flares. A few weeks later, they observed red smoke seeping from the rocks in the Grand Canyon some 63 miles away!

A random unexpected stop along the way.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/100sec, 70mm focal L., ~19mi from prev photo, map

Visitors used to be lowered on a rope the 150′ to the bottom of the natural entrance of the cave. It was 2 bits to get lowered down, and they found that visitors were willing to pay any amount to be hauled back up!

A little caver humor

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/125sec, 38mm focal L., map

The modern way to get to the caves.

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.0, 1/10sec, 32mm focal L., map

Shortly after exiting the elevator. — Colored lights illuminate the way

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/13sec, 24mm focal L., map

The second largest cavern of the tour.

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/40sec, 24mm focal L., map

Because the caverns are totally dry (2% relative humidity), there are none of the stalactites or stalagmites that one may think of in an “attraction cave”. This delicate helictite wasn’t formed in the displayed spot, but supposedly came from the cave.

A rare form of Selenite (gypsum)

Nikon D600, ISO 160, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 70mm focal L., map

During the Cuban missile crisis, the feds thought it would be a swell idea to make the cave a viable bomb shelter. They proceeded to load in enough food and water for 2000 people to live uncomfortably for 2 weeks. Nowadays, you can buy your family a two week reservation to dine on the pictured supplies for the low, low price of $7300! Act now, the reservation is only good for 10 years. When the proverbial $hit hits the fan and you actually, ya know, NEED a bomb shelter, getting out to the middle-of-no-where Arizona is, of course, your problem to solve.

Bomb shelter fodder

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/20sec, 24mm focal L., map


Nikon D600, ISO 360, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., map

Trundling up to check out the bobcat

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., map

In case it’s not completely clear which provisions were deposited in the ’60′s, they’re on the right.

Another look at the bomb shelter supplies

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/15sec, 24mm focal L., map

As part of building the elevator, the Hualapai Indians requested that the natural entrance be sealed off since they used it as a burial ground for 2 of their members.

The old way in — down a rope, and then onto a steep suspension bridge (chute?)

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/30sec, 26mm focal L., map

I didn’t get a picture of it, but, “Gertie” left some terrible evidence of suffering judging by the claw marks on the cave walls as it desperately tried to find a way out.

“Gertie” — A recreation of the extinct Giant Ground Sloth that fell in.

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 28mm focal L., map

Say, “Cheese” — (hand-held, no flash, in a dark corner of the cave)

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/8sec, 36mm focal L., map

And, in case you didn’t want to purchase a bomb shelter reservation, you can stay overnight in this well equipped motel room for the low, low price of $700 per night. You’re advised not to wander off into the remote parts of the cave, but, no one is there to stop you…

The oldest, darkest, deepest motel room — or, so they say.

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/40sec, 24mm focal L., map

Mama Maia and her long suffering children

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 36mm focal L., map

T-Rex tail time!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/400sec, 24mm focal L., map

After the caverns, we made our way to Williams, where our pre-paid room turned out to be unavailable due to electrical problems. But, never you fret; we have a sister property that you can stay at!

Worst motel room of the trip. Not at all similar to the property we had booked.

And with that note, I’m going to purge the thought form my memory and sign off with happy thoughts about the yummy Arizona brewed beer we had with dinner at the crazy Irish bar/Mexican restaurant.

Tomorrow, we see a very deep, long hole in the ground!

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