We had some downtime today with a leisurely drive west to Flagstaff via Winslow: the whole journey being an hour and twenty minutes, if we had not stopped off in Winslow.
There’s only one thing for which tourists come to Winslow – to have their photograph taken on a particular street corner, right on Route 66, where a bronze statue of a hitch-hiker stands at a street light, guitar in hand, in front of a shop window. It’s all a facade – an official Standin’ on the Corner Park, flocked by lovers of the Eagles song Take it Easy – the words of the song including the line standin’ on the corner in Winslow Arizona.
If you were staying in Winslow, you could do no better than the 1920’s La Posada Hotel. It was built as one of the greatest ‘railroad hotels’ when people used trains instead of cars – the doors at the back of the hotel leading you right onto a platform, where you can catch your Amtrak train. The hotel was closed in 1959, when cars superceded trains for getting around and was reinvented in 1999, less as a hotel and more as a work of art. The size of its interior is out of proportion to its modest but beautiful frontage. We expored its interior for ages, checking out each room’s interesting and unusual decor and artifacts. Paintings by Tina Mion were especially interesting, depicting life in an unusual and frankly disturbing way. Whatever you may think of her paintings you’ll find it hard to drag yourself away.
We did manage to drag ourselves away eventually and headed for Flagstaff and took refuge from the heat of the day in a friendly sports bar…
…and enjoyed Happy Hour (or two) with quesedillas and chicken wings surrounded by at least twenty TV screens showing baseball and American football mainly, before checking in to the Monte Vista hotel; an historic and slightly expensive establishment considering how difficult it is to park your car and the fact that breakfast is not included. But it is haunted and furniture moves around by itself and mysterious women are seen sitting in rocking chairs at windows, so we can’t complain about the price. It’s reported that many people have the distinct impression that they are being watched and wake up in the night convinced that someone has a hand over their mouth. I get that all the time but it’s always Rachel!
There’s not much to do in Flagstaff but one thing we managed to do within walking distance was visit the Lowell Observatory, high up on a hill at the edge of town. The most striking thing about getting there is that there are no sidewalks up the hillside as only cars are catered for – something very common here in the States.
Once there, we listened to talks on the universe, Mars and the discovery of Pluto, which happened right here in Flagstaff. It’s a working observatory with scientists doing real and ongoing work in the field of Astronomy.
Some of the most recent images of Mars were amazing and many were indistinguishable from remote places on earth. We even saw a photograph of one of the Mars ‘rovers’, taken from orbit, its tyre tracks clearly visible as it continues its exploration of the Martian surface. One of the most striking images was of Earth taken from Mars, complete with the orbiting Moon. Later, when the sun had set, we went outside and were able to view Mars and Jupiter (and their moons) through portable telescopes and were given a talk on what we could see in the night sky including the Milky Way galaxy, of which we are a part. It was a really great experience and very humbling and it was lovely to see how young and enthusiastic the scientists at the Observatory were.
We ended the day with cocktails in the hotel’s cocktail lounge watching a karaoke in progress, until we realised, by about 10pm, that we were at least 30 years older than the oldest person in there. We slipped out and retired to bed with a good book!
Next, we visit Sedona.