What a week!
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As many of you know, I spent a little over a week in Tucson attending a seminar and shooting near Davis-Monthan Air Force base, home of the famous Airplane Graveyard.
Leaving Tucson, heading back to Redding, I tried to stay on Route 66 to infuse my soul with a little highway history. Never having traveled that historic highway, I was quite impressed with what I saw. Granted, I only drove a small section of 66 from Flagstaff to Barstow, but it gave me a taste of what it must have been like to travel the country during the courtship days of its love affair with the automobile.
Little towns were scattered along the route, some dead and empty, and some turned into tourist traps complete with gunslingers and donkeys, trying to make something out of what remained of their glory days before Interstate 40 took it all away.
Route 66 is a Nationally designated Historic Highway, and I suppose the DOT intends to keep it that way. With I-40 getting the bulk of the DOT's maintenance attention, Route 66 becomes sort of an afterthought. It's asphalt pavement ran the gamut from patched and tolerable to crumbling away, and many sections of it nearly shook the fillings out of my teeth.
It's one redeeming factor is its beauty as a road. This two-lane artery into the heart of America's past ranged from winding serpentine paths barely large enough for the RV, to long, beautiful straightaways that disappeared into the horizon.
Along those winding turns and long stretches of blacktop are the towns that served as rest stops for the traveler heading to the eden of the West Coast. The towns that drew me away from that mesmerizing highway are not the tourist traps with "antique" signs and t-shirts, but rather the places that are forgotten, the places where a hardy few still eke out a living, and the places where empty buildings stand as a reminder of better days.
One of those places was a town called Amboy. Located in California, southwest of Vegas, in the Mojave Desert, Amboy is one of those little towns that had once had a life, but lost it when the interstate came through. It was an important stopover on the way to the coast, but now sits as nothing more than a quaint photo opportunity for those creative souls with cameras.
From time to time, people will stop in Amboy to take snapshots of Roy's Motel and Cafe, a Route 66 icon, built as a stopover for motorists traveling the highway during the glory days of the motor camp.
Back in the '20s, hotels could be found in most cities and vacation destinations, but when it came to traveling the backroads of America, roadside motels were non-existent. If you had to spend the night somewhere during your trip, you either slept in the car or set up a tent.
Enter the motor camp... For only a few dollars, the four-wheeled traveler and his family could stay the night in a cute little cabin or cottage complete with all the amenities of home. Over time, the motor camps gave way to motels, and another page in history's great book was turned.
Amboy never had a chance to grow much beyond "stopover" town, but it grew big enough to have its own school. Now deserted and abandoned, Amboy School sits right next to Roy's Motel, preserved by the dry desert climate and the absence of time.
(I have to ask the question... is there a difference between deserted and abandoned? The dictionary says they mean the same thing. But do they? Does one imply that people are coming back? Can one empty place be both?)
The desert landscape of the Mojave helps to define the solitude of the Amboy schoolyard, where laughing children have been replaced by tumbleweeds and empty chairs. As you walk through the halls of the buildings, you find textbooks and book reports, some boxed up as if to be moved, and the rest scattered across counters and floors like the last day of school, when, as students, we would empty our lockers and throw our papers in the air in triumph of making it to another summer. But the boisterous laughter bouncing through the halls is gone. The only sounds are the breeze blowing through the open doorways, mice scurrying behind the bookshelves, and the echoes of children playing in the schoolyard, as their voices are carried off by the wind.
The drive back to Redding from Tucson was great, until... Thursday night... I pulled over at a park next to Mono Lake to rest for the night. The next morning... engine trouble. The RV had been running fine this whole time, then, all of a sudden, this problem pops up. No warning signs whatsoever. Friday morning I called AAA, Winnebago, Freightliner, and Cummins to help either solve the problem or find a tow to a service center. As it turns out, the engine needs to be diagnosed by a Cummins-certified technician (who hooks it up to a computer), and the nearest Cummins-certified service center is near Reno, Nevada, about 3 hours away.
It took most of Friday to arrange a pickup with AAA. But, the first tow truck that they sent me was way too small, despite them having the size and weight of my vehicle in their notes. So I sat for another day, trying to arrange a tow. I ended up having to call a tow service in Sparks, near Reno, and make arrangements on my own for them to come out and get me. For whatever reason, AAA couldn't do that for me. Nine hours later I'm in Sparks, Nevada waiting for the Cummins service center to open up on Monday.
Fortunately, I still have power, fuel, heat and food, so at least I'm comfortable while I wait. And, as I've mentioned in previous posts, there is good to be found in every situation. And, as if to prove that point, every delay that I encounter has opened another door for me and my project.
I wonder what door this will open...