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Adventures in Winslow, AZ

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on May 2, 2010

After lunch at Padilla’s, we were almost ready to finally hit the road.  We were headed almost 400 miles to Flagstaff, AZ, and we were excited to have our longest day behind us.  The drive across Texas had been long and boring, aside from our excursions in Amarillo.  Today would be equally long and boring, but we were going to see Arizona’s Painted Desert, directly adjacent to the Petrified Forest, and then onto Flagstaff.  We were both excited to see what the day had in store for us.

As we finished up our meal at Padilla’s, we jumped in the car to hit the road.  For those of you that are fans of our Facebook page, you probably know how this story ends, but for everyone else, it was nothing short of a VERY interesting day. 

Before we left town, we needed gas.  The gas station was right next to a point of interest on my “This Exit” iPhone application.  I pumped gas, while the Wife went and took a picture of this absurdly oversized arrow in the ground.

IMG_2938Finally, we were off to the Painted Desert.  On our road trip, we had been slowly taking care of administrative things associated with the move.  Things like closing utilities on the house in Charlotte, setting up new utilities in Vegas, and getting things like TV and internet services figured out.  Once we got into Western New Mexico, though, the phone service was so spotty, that we couldn’t talk long enough before the call being dropped to have a full conversation with the services.  We stopped in a small town to take care of electricity and gas, so we could have lights and hot water in Vegas.  While we were there, I went into a gas station to get some water, and I ended up getting some beef jerky.

Once the gas and electric were scheduled (gas not until Monday, so we’ll have to work out something for showers, I suppose), we drove across town to see another “This Exit” novelty – a huge guy on top of a muffler shop.

IMG_2942Well, I managed to miss the exit for the Painted Desert.  Wonderful.  I saw plenty of exits for the Petrified Forest, but not one for the Painted Desert.  I’m not sure if I just wasn’t paying attention, or if there were no signs, or what.  By the time we passed it, though, we decided that we would come back sometime and see both, and just make another whole trip out of it.  It’s only about 5 hours from Vegas, and not much over an hour from Sedona;  we’ll make it back.

As we continued on, the winds were getting pretty rough.  The little Corolla, fully-loaded-down with all our stuff, was pushed throughout our lane, and sometimes into the adjacent lane (or shoulder, as it were).  We could see up ahead that the wind was blowing the sand about.


The Wife saw a sign that said that I-40 was closed ahead, but I didn’t see it (perhaps an indicator as to why we missed the Painted Desert?).  We continued on, and sure enough, the interstate, for no apparent reason, was closed at Winslow, AZ.  Why? No answer.

We got off the interest, and queried our GPS to find a viable detour.  I’ll allow my Wife to find appropriate words to describe me feelings for our GPS, but suffice it to say, I don’t always find it easy to work with.  We did not find any such detour, so we decided to find a restaurant or bar to have a drink at before heading on.

We found a little hole in the wall bar.  We couldn’t get a picture of the outside because as soon as we got out of the car, the wind and dust was blowing hard enough that it was uncomfortable to stand in, so we just headed inside.  If there was a stereotypical bar that all west bars were modeled on, this was it.  Dark.  Small.  A couple pool tables.  A wooden bar.  It was almost surreal.

IMG_2976 We went ahead and ordered a drink.  There were several locals, including a friendly old drunk in his 70s that invited us to come sit with him at the bar.  At first, we were skeptical, but we looked at each other and figured we had each other, so we took a seat with him. 

We each ordered a 90 Shilling (Odell Brewing Company). 

 IMG_2973 The drunk, and I mean that in the most friendly way, was an interesting guy.  To be fair, it was 3:30 in the afternoon, he had clearly been drinking for some time, and continued to drink heavily while we were there.  We asked him why the interstate was closed, and he told us that there was a duststorm for the next 20 miles, and it wasn’t safe to drive.  In the past, there have been multi-car pileups on the stretch of desolate highway because of the visibility problems during duststorms, and today was the worst he’d seen.  He did, however, suggest that in 4ish hours, the winds would probably die down, and we could probably head on.  That was more of a detour than we were hoping for, to be honest, but we figured we’d embrace this opportunity to see a local culture that we would probably never, otherwise, be exposed to.  We love adventure, and it looks like we’d found yet another one.

We talked to John, the drunk, about what things were all about.  Turn out John, the drunk, had one time been John, the trucker, and John, the bartender.  He was also John, the father (several daughters; we never did get a final number on daughters, or if he had any sons, but he alluded to “lots”).  He was also John, the pollack [sic].  He must have mentioned at least once every 3 minutes that he was of Polish descent, but never did he say it in any kind of way that would help him be elected to public office. 

There were two bartenders.  I estimate that they were overstaffed by exactly one person.  Both, however, were friendly and efficient.  The Wife and I, however, did notice that each charged us different prices for the beers, depending on who served them.

We also met a mother/daughter couple that were headed to Vegas for the night to meet up with the daughter’s new husband.  Recently married, she (the daughter) was moving to Carlsbad, CA to be with her marine husband.  They were NOT happy about the holdup, but were doing their very best to enjoy the bar while they could. 

Another interesting fellow came in, a former marine, having served overseas during his four-year stint in the Corps, had returned home to see his mother and sister prior to starting a new job in the civilian world.

Or Jerry, the Flemish transplant, having spent most of his life in lush Washington State, moved to arid Winslow, AZ after years of his wife’s nagging.  Now that they had moved, she was less satisfied with it than she had hoped, and he actually had become quite enamored with the people of Winslow.  When I asked what he liked so much, he responded simply, “Everyone’s just so nice.”

There was even a quiet Native American fellow in the corner, watching and listening, and enjoying his beer, but not really bothering anyone.

Indeed, I felt like the bar could be the setting for a new run of the show “Cheers,” but set in the West.  All the characters were already there, and they WERE characters.  I wondered how WE might fit into the group of barflies.  I can only imagine that we looked like the city-slickers, with all the positive and negative connotations that came with it.  Everyone was wonderfully nice to us, though, so we enjoyed our time while we could.

As the storm raged on, we eventually had a hard time seeing anything outside.  The windows WERE dirty, but that’s mostly dirt and dust out there.

IMG_2235So we sat some more and enjoyed our newfound friends.  We really couldn’t leave, because the dirt was miserable to walk in.  It would tear at your skin, and get in your eyes (even with glasses on).  John, however, managed to order a couple cabs and come and go while we were holed up in the solace of the bar. 

Eventually the power went out.  Then it came back on.  It didn’t seem to phase anyone much.  It happened again, but this time, the power didn’t come back on.  Eventually, as it neared 6:30, the locals were beginning to confide in the visitors that it didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon (although, there had been a recent lull in the winds), and that we should probably all prepare to hunker down for the night.

The city slickers, though, took this as our cue to go find some food and find some information that was more appealing.  We headed out to the car in a short lull, and headed off to find some food.  Unfortunately, no one in town had any power.  Dinner was out of the question.  We contemplated getting a hotel, but thought we’d hold out until later, lest the winds died down after 9.  Our hotel reservation was confirmed in Flagstaff until 10, so we figured we could make the 40 minute drive at 9, and still be there in time. 

We pulled out the beef jerky.  The reason I bought it was because it was REALLY big.  I just couldn’t get over how big it was, so I bought it.  In hindsight, we were glad I bought it, because we were able to enjoy a little something to eat despite the power situation.

IMG_2979The power eventually came back on, and we made our way to a Sonic.  We ordered our food, and the power immediately went back out.  When it came back on 20 minutes later, the employees immediately began frantically serving meals, albeit remarkably slowly.  After an hour, when people that had come AFTER the power had come back on were getting served, we realized they must have lost our order somewhere along the way.  We ordered again.  In other circumstances, we would have left.  But let’s face it.  Where were we going to go?  What were we going to do?  Outside was nothing but flying grit.  The poor Sonic guy was sprinting from the door to the cars to deliver food.  At least here, we had light to read our books.  We would have surfed the web on our iPhones, but we only had EDGE coverage, and the internet access itself, was intermittent.  We enjoyed our books, and waited over 90 minutes for our food from the time we first arrived. 

IMG_2980After we ate, it was close to 9:30.  The road was still closed.  We called the hotel (Little America in Flagstaff) and let them know we would not be coming.  They were appreciative, and sympathetic, and indicated they would not charge us for the late cancellation.  We were appreciative for little blessings at this point.

It was time to find a hotel.  There were a surprisingly large number of hotels in the town that was so small.  We popped into a couple; no vacancy.  It seems waiting 8 hours to look for a room was a poor idea, and all the other stranded travelers had beaten us to the punch.  We started at the ChoiceHotels, where the Wife and I are both elite members.  No deal.  We eventually got to little motels far off the interstate.  Still no luck.  One thing, though, every innkeeper we talked to was so friendly and sympathetic, as if they would have offered us their truck to sleep in, if they had an extended cab.  We couldn’t believe how genuinely distraught others were over our, admittedly self-inflicted, condition. 

Finally, it was becoming more of a challenge to GET from the car to the hotel, than it was worth to find out they had no vacancy.  While there were still several more hotels in Winslow, we decided to sleep in our car.  With hundreds of trucks lining every inch of the roads, we managed to tuck in behind a truck in a parking lot, pulled out our blankets (the Wife thought we might have to sleep on the floor at the new house, so she had the foresight to pack blankets.  I Love my wife.), and tried to get some rest.

It was miserable sleep.  The car was small to begin with, and with all our close personal belongings, we couldn’t recline our seats much.  The wind continued to rock the car all night, howling like something out of a horror movie.  I managed to set the car alarm off a couple times, although I’m still not sure how.     Hopefully, tomorrow would be better.


4 Responses to “Adventures in Winslow, AZ”

  1. Michelle said

    Perhaps the popularity of The Eagles “Take It Easy” made Winslow a novelty and thus the abundance of hotels. 🙂 Thanks for the iPhone app mention; I will check it out.

    • Thank you! I have been trying to figure out what song referred to Winslow! Definitely check out the iPhone app. It was gifted to me by a friend, and I was skeptical. It’s got LOTS of points of interest (POIs), and includes information about how much the POI costs, how worthwhile it is, along with pictures and tips. From oversized pieces of Americana, to legitimate “must sees,” it’s a really well-done app.

  2. kath said

    Hey I know Winslows from that song!!

    And that beef jerky is sooo gross!

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