Three Years of Sordid and Personal Tales from a World Traveler
Category: If you’re in the area
Had to really struggle on coming up with a name for this category of travel, and ultimately turned to my friend Rover@home to help me out cause I was blanking and she’s particularly talented with words. If you’re in the area is cute little towns, and low level tourist attractions that I’m not sure anyone should actually go out of their way to see, but that if you’re in the area anyway, you might want to check it out.
the reason, in my mind, is because it is where THE real Dorothy, Dorthy Gale, she of the Wizard of Oz, is buried…
Dorothy Louise Gage, born June 11 1898, and died November of that same year. She was the niece of Frank L Baum, and he made her immortal.
FINDING the grave wasn’t all that easy. Just as you come into the graveyard there’s a caretaker’s house, with a map, but it’s not all that easy to follow. There’s also a memorial garden there in her memory, but that’s not the grave.
In the images below, the top left one shows the statue on the left edge, and the grave (just in front of the tree in the back right corner, in the shade) where it sits between the two green bushes.
I ended up at first on the road between the plot section at the back edge of the graveyard. From there I found the statue easily enough but it was just far enough from the actual grave as to sort of mislead you (you’re in the right plot, you just can’t spot the grave). So I went back to the house asked various locals visiting their loved ones (who seemed to have no idea that in fact Dorothy was buried there, let alone where), checked the map again, and this time found the road in FRONT of the lot, where the big plaque showing the statue AND the grave is located. With that, and now knowing what the grave looked like, I was able with some effort to find the grave.
The same graveyard has the graves for Adlai Stevenson (Governor of Illinois from 1948 to 1953, has an expressway named after him) but I don’t care as much about him… He’s just a politician, time will forget about him
For the life of me I’m not sure WHY the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma has become one of Route 66’s must see locations.It’s noted on ALL the lists. But, it was built in the early 1970’s, so it’s not even concurrent to the route’s hay-day, and on top of that it’s not even particularly impressive. It started off as a roadside attraction, a sort of very low rent amusement/water park…. (the whale offers multiple ways to slide in to the water) …. but when compared to pretty much ever amusement park or water park out there… I’m talking really really low rent.
AND, considering it’s supposed to be a water slide type thing, you’re not even allowed to swim in the water there anymore…
It’s fairly close to The Nut House, which also for the life of me doesn’t deserve its acclaim. All I can thing of is that folks traveling the route are sort of desperate for things to see along it at time (there’s really NOT much in the way of mother nature to look at along this stretch of the road) and were grateful for almost anything diverting where they could stop and stretch their legs.
That said, according to wikipedia it’s actually made it on to TV more than a few times (usually as part of a reality TV show).
This is another one of those places where current maps tell you 66 is one road, when it’s deathly obvious that it’s not. As your driving along on a modern concrete highway bridge, off to the left there’s an antique metal one with a massive Route 66 sign on it.
I double backed to learn it was two lane bridge, brick paved bridge connected to what was the ORIGINAL route 66 in this area, i.e., the Ozark Trail .
…and the road that I took to get here is a deviation from that route… which can clearly be seen going off into the distance from the bridge (and cutting the 2nd leg of a sort of V from the road current maps tell me is 66).
When I got close to the bridge I found these guys their social media folks who have a blog page for the dogs and their dogs travel Route 66. When I doubled back to the other side I found the same couple with their dogs also trying to get onto the actual 66
These guys apparently travel all over take photos of their pups lined up in a row, and then sell them to people. I ran into them finishing off their Route 66 collection… they told me they don’t do it as one big trip, they do it section by section as fits their schedules.
The king of the road Is no more….‘tis sad. NONE of the web sites that I looked at told me this, heck even GOOGLE… which knows all… didn’t tell me this (when I was charting the trip… between then and now someone informed them, so this closure must be pretty recent) … So when I got there I was pretty nonplussed to discover an empty building with blocked out windows, and when I peaked in all I saw was an empty room.
That said, I was going to seriously cheat on this one anyway. My mom used to bake, that was until she discovered the Sarah Lee factory that was about a 15 minute drive from our house that had an ACTUAL outlet store that sold items that had failed their “perfection” tests… so like the icing was lopsided or the crust was not perfectly flat, etc., which they then sold at a deep discount. From then on, she just bought their stuff and presented it as her own work. That said…
Think of it as a memory of things passed … (pun intended)
Just west of the Navajo Army Depot in Bellemont, Arizona, where Route 66 officially rejoins I-40, there is an old neglected piece of Road 66 that you can’t really transverse because it no longer all connects (and has been renamed Bellemont Camp Road).
This is what one of them looks like, it is mostly unused because it dead ends, and is no longer kept up by the government. But because of that we get to see the OLD pavement, and for some reason it’s RED instead of black …
I had noticed this particular feature of the “OLD 66” before in Oro Grande, California, this time on a road that had been kept up, so I couldn’t really get a good look at it. What it looked like was a red road had black top placed over it… but the red was a bit wider so it sort of leaked out the sides
Back in the late 1980’s one of my favorite movies was The Bagdad Cafe. It’s a movie about a run down cafe/motel on Route 66, and definitely worth seeing. Anyway, the shooting location, which had been known as the Sidewinder Cafe (before the movie came out) is REAL, although it’s in Newberry Springs (the town of Bagdad which isn’t that far away was leveled after traffic was redirected from Route 66 to I-40, and before traveling the OLD route 66 became a thing) and this week I got to visit it.
As much as I love me some bumper stickers… I don’t like what they’ve done with the interior of the place
San Francisco really isn’t a steak town. Having grown up in Chicago, which IS, the whole time I was living in SF I kept wondering where a girl had to go to get a decent one (seriously in SF you pay a lot for very little when it comes to steak). That place as it turned out, was — according to all my friends — Harris Ranch, an actual cattle ranch (and the largest one on American’s west coast) about halfway between SF and LA off of California Route 5, that is also a store, a hotel, and a gas station.
The thing that first strikes you any time you drive past Harris Ranch is that it’s something of an oasis in the desert.
The owners really have built something very grand out here in the middle of not very much, and I often wondered what the cost of it was in terms of their water bill.This is particularly true during the summers when California is traditionally completely dry (seriously, for those who don’t know, it is HIGHLY abnormal for California to get any rain during the summer months), and this is especially true these last few years which have been a growing drought; the greenness of the place really shocks your eyes.
That said, all along the way I kept seeing signs alongside the road saying things like, “is water wasted when it’s used to grow food?” And “This dust bowl courtesy of the federal government.” There’s apparently a political war going on between the conservationists, the farmers with regards to the water issue… but I don’t have the time or energy to delve into it here. (It’s important to remember that while the cities of California vote mostly democratic, the rural farm areas, such as where Harris Ranch is located tend to vote Republican.
That said, Harris Ranch clearly understand who their customer base is…. namely the rich customers who commute between SF and LA, some of whom are willing to put their money where their mouths are in terms of their concern for the environment by buying insanely expensive electric cars.
That said, there’s something new at Harris which wasn’t there last time I visited… a BBQ option at cheaper prices being sold out of the gas station part of the place.
Plus a selection of their steaks to go again, from the gas station’s mini-mart. If however you go to the main building (a really gorgeous hacienda type building), you’ll find not only a much bigger gift shop, but a butcher shop section in the gift store that’s about twice as big as what’s in the gas station — with more cut options, sausages, etc.
In this building there are also three different restaurants. The first is a bar, which offers up alcohol and slightly cheaper cuts of meat.
The 2nd is a family style restaurant, which is walk in, but again with the slightly cheaper cuts of meat, and a wider menu (to appeal to families) with kids, etc., where you can buy things ‘ala carte‘
And then the third option is their high-end restaurant, which normally requires reservations, has only their best cuts of meat, and the main comes with a selection of sides, a soup, etc. (NOT ala carte).
THIS is where I opted to eat, because in addition to better cuts of meat, which I wasn’t going to eat, it had a wider sea food selection. I got a bowl of gazpacho
For my drink I had their watermelon iced tea, and then for my main I ordered their scallops dish, which is intended to go ON TOP of the steak… and their vegetable platter.
The Soup was very good… and then I waited 45 minutes for my mains to show up. Finally (when my iPhone’s battery was starting to fail) I called over a waiter and asked “how many hours am I going to have to wait for my main dish?” The waitress who had taken my order over heard, ran over, apologized and then told me it was all her fault, she’d forgotten to put the order in. Her manager then came over said they’d have my food out in a jiffy, and that my bill was on them…. SO they screwed up big time, but as the food was free, I can’t complain too much…
That said, I was pretty unimpressed with everything I ate… So Harris, is great for the steaks but seems to have to get its act together otherwise.
Casa de’Fruta in Hollister, California, has been a mainstay tourist trap on the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles, pretty much for forever (apparently they’re celebrating their 100th anniversary). It started out as a fruit and nuts stand and has since then expanded to being a multi building tourist trap with a market, a gift store, a coffee shop, a restaurants, and distractions for the kids. AND if you want to sleep there there’s both a motel and an RV park. That said, it’s a MAJOR tourist trap and really only good as a place to stretch your legs.
IF all you want to do is to buy fruit, I passed any number of mom and pop stands set up along farms in the area that probably have better prices… but they all lack the sort of tourist trap shtick that this place has.
I find it ironic that not only do they allow you to taste their wines (see below, they have their own brands) — they’ve actually begun to push them at you (just what every traveler should do before getting back on the highway)… while at the same time you’re no longer allowed to taste their nuts or candies before you buy them by the pound. (They used to, allow you to taste them, but no more)
That said, this place used to be all about the flavored almonds… but I didn’t see any for sale this time…. just a lot of wine
The place has actually become kind of huge — I don’t remember it being this big 20 odd years ago… the last time I was here
There’s now a set up for “mining gold” (even though the gold rush never really happened this far south of SF… it was more north) where you buy bags of the sluice to pan…
There’s a 2nd shop that mostly sells wine (again), gifts and some deli sandwiches and things that might go on said sandwiches
There are rides for the kids (a merry-go-round AND a train)
A building devoted to all things sweet and sugary (of course, it’s placed directly adjacent to the kids area) — and coffee for the adults (after drinking all that wine you’ll need it).
And now there’s a 24 hour restaurant, selling pretty normal diner types dishes. No I did not eat here.
Currently situated in the middle of the intersection at South 88th Street and Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines, Iowa (not far from I-80), lies the Huston Family Cemetery. It was named for James B. Huston, the patriarch of one of the first families to settle in Dallas County (in the 1840’s) and the LAST person buried at the plot (in 1889). The cemetery is unusual in that it now sits in the center of a roundabout in what was once a rural area, but that is no only about a mile away from a Costco, and as there’s already been one instance of a drunk driver driving through the site, it might end up being moved — although there is some talk of moving the roads instead.
The area which I’m fairly sure was completely rural a few years ago (like the other grave in a middle of the road I visited in Indiana) is to the graveyards detriment being developed REALLY quickly, according to the locals I spoke to … so much so that — like I already said– there’s a Costco about a mile directly down the road (with a gas station, which I filled up at).
The Huston Cemetery consists of 19 graves that date back to the late 1880’s, and are located near to The family’s original home — which is still standing nearby. The home is HIGHLY historical, as it was once a stage-coach station, a tavern, the local post office AND a stop on the Underground Railroad. The family patriarch, James B. Huston, was the first attorney in Dallas County (where the graves are situated)
According the city’s website, the first two former slave girls, both named Harper, who apparently had “died on their way to freedom” were the first individuals buried there — although this is conflicted by a report from another site, which claims the two girls were part of family that was on its way to Kansas to become part of John Brown’s raiders. They were followed by James Huston’s wife, Nancy Hill Huston, and six of their children, all of whom died young — so there’s a sad story to be told from these stones.
On interstate-80 in Walcott, Iowa, you’ll find Iowa-80, which is about four times larger than the average truck stop and as such is advertised as “The World’s largest Truckstop” (their’s no verification to their claim). That said, while its primary focus is on the diverse needs of truckers, it is definitely worth a stop to the average automobile driver on the Interstate 80 … if only because of some of its surprising attributesI used to drive through this truck stop on a semi regular basis back when I lived in San Francisco… and always used to be highly amused at the diverse selection of goods
A large section of the “tourist” area is devoted to veterans and their families, and has pro-military bumper stickers and a display of military medals.
Many years ago I bought a collection of a different (and funnier) version of the “when it has to be destroyed” bumper sticker — which I STILL have on my car — only the original version was a variation on the FedEx advertising campaign, “when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight“… I was sad to see this newer version of the sticker had removed the world “overnight” and hence destroyed the joke.On this same level of the store you’ll find their 24-hour all you can eat buffet restaurant, “Home cooking” (with ala cart options), a HUGE food court with a wide selection of fast food options (plus more shopping choices and a game room) — but none of this is the surprising parts… for that you have to check into the levels of the place (and its multiple floors) that cater to the truckers.
So for instance, while showers and a public laundry are normal services at truck stops (in addition to what this sign shows there’s also a TV lounge and a library upstairs, again, kind of normal for truck stops), what I’ve never seen before is one with a barber, dentist and chiropractor before… and I’ve stopped at more than a few over the years … nor have I seen one that has a theater with a constant stream of movies (although in this day and age that’s much easier to pull off than it was the first time I stopped here, over 20 years ago). While I was there they announced that the movie resident evil was going to start playing in the upstairs movie theater.
Then if you walk towards the Truckers entrance to the building (on the other side, and down a level), you’ll find another GINORMOUS super-store that has everything the discerning truck owner might want from basic comfort items that anyone who spends a lot of time in their car might want, to the ones someone who actually sleeps there might need:
To stuff that ONLY a trucker might be attracted to, in order to “Pimp out his truck” including different colored steering wheels, fancy chrome sidings and exhaust pipes,
multicolored lights and the obligatory sexy lady to put on your truck…. what’s kind of cool is that door of that yellow truck (which I SHIT YOU NOT, is sitting on a rotating floor — look at the ground beneath it, that continually ROTATES) is left open so that anyone can climb up and sit in the truck if they like… including children — although I didn’t see anyone actually do it.
One of the cool things they have down there is a customization “while you wait” shop that can make anything from bumper stickers to customer embroidered hats or shirts with any image you bring to them as photograph.
Also, if you have the time, in a seperate building BEHIND the Truckstop, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Trucking — I didn’t have time this trip, but intend to go there next time.