Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Roadtrip chic aside, it was always going to take a massive dose of Americana to get me in the driving vacation mood. Luckily our first overnight layover at Williams, AZ proved just the ticket. Williams - named after William Williams, an early 19th century explorer said to have trapped beaver in the area - lies bang on Route 66, the old Chicago to LA highway immortalised in countless Hollywood flicks. Fittingly, for a newish Mom, Route 66 is also known as the 'Mother Road'. (And 'America's Main Street'.)
These days Route 66 exists more in tourist souvenir shops than actual asphalt; the highway was superseded by the creation of a new interstate road system that bypassed towns like Williams. Happily for Williams' residents, the town earned its place in the Route 66 hall of fame by being the last to be decommissioned in 1984.
Visit today, though, and it will feel more like 1954: many of the motels lining the curbside have kept their original neon signage. As had the diner we dragged Louis out to; with its radio dial set permanently to Elvis-esque Fifties classics I half expected the Fonz to saunter in while we were eating our dinner.
Just as well it was out of season; Williams chockfull of tourists would be a different story. At least the passing throngs - the town lies just 60 miles from the Grand Canyon's southern rim - have thrown a lifeline to the shops along its Main Street, more than can be said about many other US towns these days. One mini moan though: for the light sleepers among you, be warned that bedding down at a motel, albeit a glamorous boutiqueised one carefully selected by DJ to make up for the horrors of Las Vegas, has one big drawback - the passing traffic can make it darn noisy.
Amid the bright lights of the Strip, it's easy to forget that these days Nevada holds another claim to fame besides being home to Las Vegas: Nevada is the epicentre of the sub-prime crisis that triggered the economic meltdown now gripping the world.
We had barely to pull out of the rental car parking lot to see evidence of the foreclosure crisis. Massive signs invited you to a Las Vegas foreclosed homes auction that very weekend, while boarded up windows and carless driveways on estate after estate told their own story.
We, too, got a taste of the trials and tribulations of foreclosed America. Our quest for a Wholefoods went awry after the branch we were searching for on a strip mall in the exurbs turned out to have shut up shop long ago. (We could have settled for a Wal-Mart but how would we have squared that with our DC arugula-munching liberal class souls? Especially as we drove past a couple of placard-bearing protesters decrying Wal-Mart's labour standards.)
Had Louis not been mid mini-meltdown we might have popped in to check out Tesco's Fresh & Easy chain as I'd have been interested to see it. Next time.