Westward ho!

We left Prescott, Arizona on Tuesday, headed for Needles, California. For those of you Snoopy fans, his brother Spike lives in the desert near Needles.

Spike, Snoopy’s older brother, lives in the desert outside Needles, CA. (image © Charles Schultz)

Max would like to meet a cool hand like Spike, but unfortunately we didn’t find him!

Needles is just over the Colorado River from Arizona on old Route 66 – a few miles beyond the river if you are traveling on I-40, which we were. The drive from Prescott to Needles was short compared to some of our driving days.

Tumbleweed needed gas, so when we reached the Seligman exit we pulled off and filled up. Seligman was only two miles from the gas station at the exit, so I decided to drive over and check it out:

Note that this sign says Seligman is the Birth Place of Route 66!

It’s not much more than a wide spot in the road, about three or four blocks of old 1960s businesses turned into Route 66 memorabilia:
I love the guy in the yellow suit with the welcome sign!

Looks like the 50s never died in Seligman.

Ever onward, we drove through the same kind of country we’ve been seeing for the past few days – red rock, grazing lands, Santa Fe railroad tracks running parallel to I-40 about 1/2 mile out, the occasional small herd of cattle, and not much else to write home about.

Before I knew it, we were in Pacific Time and crossing over the border to California! After 38 days on the road, we finally made it to our third time zone.

When we checked in at the Motel 6 in Needles, I found out where I could get the car washed – Tumbleweed needed a bath after traveling through some nasty weather back a ways. I also asked if there was any kind of dog park (not holding out much hope that there was) and found out it was just across the road and uphill from our motel.

Max has been such a patient guy all these days in the car, with not as much off-leash exercise as I’d like to see him getting, so I made that park our first stop. I threw the tennis ball and he brought it back for another round over and over again until I knew he was tuckered out.

When we first start playing ball, he races full tilt to get it, and races back to me, making a big circle past and around me before he gives it up for another round. I know he’s close to quitting (although he never gives up!) when he trots after the ball and lopes back with it – without the big circle – directly to my outstretched hand.

Needles is a pretty quiet town – not much going on right now anyway. I’m guessing it’s more of a summer water sports town since there’s a marina on the river. I had lunch at the Original Route 66 Burger Hut – a damn good burger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake. Come on! Ya gotta do it at the original place, right?

Max got the last bite of my burger – no bun, and no fries!

The car was clean, but needed a new left headlight, so we stopped in at a NAPA place and they replaced it for me. Bill, the service manager, thought Max was quite the dog, and told me all about his Portuguese Water Dog. I’m finding that there are dog people, and then there’s the rest of the world! Dog people will tell you all about their pooch, while asking lots of questions about yours – all while and letting him climb all over them, tail wagging, tongue washing their happy faces! Bill was right up there.

While the headlight was being installed, we walked around town for a half hour and discovered this old wagon:

Look closely and you’ll see that Max’s ears are flying. The wind has been intense for the past few days.

This morning, we went back to the park on our way out of town, and had a rematch. After about 35 minutes, Max was ready to get in the car for a few hours drive to Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park.

I’ve wanted to drive the Mojave Desert for many years, but I have to say that I’m starting to think deserts are overrated. You have your basic flat road, dirty, scruffy, rocky, soil on both sides for MILES in all directions, mountains WAY off in the distance, scraggly vegetation, gorgeous blue sky (today anyway), and no radio stations… thank you Apple for the iPod!

There you have it – the long road through the desert…

This was the only business along the road to Twentynine Palms that was open. Everything else was closed, boarded up or with gaping holes where windows and doors used to be.

Along the way, we passed through Amboy – another wide spot in the road, whose dubious (in my humble opinion) claim to fame being the American Chloride Corporation’s operation to mine calcium chloride from the desert floor. Ever wonder where that salt you put on the driveway in the winter comes from? Maybe from right here in Amboy, CA.

That’s not snow folks. It’s calcium chloride waiting to be scraped up from the desert floor. These salt pans went on for miles.

Twentynine Palms sounds better than it is – another small desert town with the main drag being the road through to somewhere else, the usual chain motels on the fringes, and a handful of chain fast food places. The one promising place for lunch – a café on the main drag, wouldn’t even allow Max on the outside patio. Dog friendly, this town is NOT.

After we checked in, we headed out to Joshua Tree National Park for an afternoon of driving, stopping, and viewing. We’re too early for the spring bloom, so it wasn’t much different than some of the roads we’ve been driving – except for the Joshua trees:

Some of these Joshua Trees were just amazing.

The red rock formations:

Tumbleweed, next to a rather interesting red rock formation.

This area is called “Jumbo Rocks.”

Look at that big chunk of rock balanced up there!

The cactus garden:

These Cholla cacti (pronounced choy-a) look soft, but are not. This cactus garden is off-limits to pets, and there were signs warning not to touch the cactus.

And the view from the end of the road called Keys View which overlooks Palm Springs and the Salton Sea (35 miles away but visible):

If you look off beyond those mountains, you’ll see the Salton Sea.

Max was only allowed on any paved roads or paths, so our forays into the desert were limited. I had a good time, and I’m hoping that Max did also. He’s not complaining so I think all is good.

Max is getting so well-behaved that I can pose him, drop the leash, and ask him to wait while I take his photo.

Meanwhile, all this driving without radio has given me time to think. While this trip has had its moments of despair (mild, but still…) and times when I wanted to turn around and go home, I was realizing that it’s truly one of the biggest things I have ever done. It’s also been one of the most frustrating, rewarding, enlightening, despairing, lonely, solitary (which is different from lonely), and uplifting things all in one.

I am grateful that I can take my work on the road, and that I have the luxury of time, a marvelous traveling companion, and a reliable, comfortable Tumbleweed to carry us along the road.

I’m also grateful that I had the courage to set out on my own, with just my puppy for company. It’s turned out to be the exact right thing to do at this point in my life. By the time we return home, we will both be changed forever.


About Maureen Farr

I am a graphic and web designer – and the publisher of the print version of Arts Guide, a free guide highlighting the arts, dining, events, and more on the coast of Maine. In addition, I am a visual artist working in mixed media and encaustic, as well as creating found object jewelry. I am currently at work revising a short novel that I wrote as a participant in the 32nd Annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
This entry was posted in California, California desert, Eating out on a road trip, Joshua Tree National Park, Musings, National Parks, On the Road, Random thoughts, Traveling with a dog, Traveling wth a poodle, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Westward ho!

  1. Nice post! Too bad you didn’t find Spike–I would have loved to have seen how he’s doing these days!

    You’re really seeing some amazing stuff, but I can totally see how the deserts must be feeling like all one big stretch of dirt, cacti, rocks and road. . . At first it’s probably interesting, being a Mainer, and then. . . Not so much, as they say! But I loved your pictures from this round–beautiful! And I would dearly love to see a real Joshua Tree for myself someday–probably it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as I think. . .

    Well, keep on keeping on, Momo! Talk to you today? xoxo Cin

    • Maureen Farr says:

      They are interesting trees but personally I wouldn’t plan a trip just to see them. also, the desert has its beauty, but I think I am tired of spiny thorny places that are hard on Max’s feet! we are heading out now to go back to the dog-UNfriendly caf so I can have breakfast before we leave town.

  2. Buzz Masters says:

    Your courage is noted and thought of daily in this house. You are truly passing through one poetic territory and into another. When it is time for you to return, we will welcome this Maureen Of The Road back home. But until then, ride on!

    I wish I had known you were going to be in Prescott as two of my closest friends live there!

    • Maureen Farr says:

      I wish you had known too! but how could you? I drove into Prescott from our motel on the fringe the morning we left. Found it to be a nice town, with a beautiful courthouse park in the center! found a good coffee place – but can’t recollect its name at the moment. we are in thousand oaks, ca tonight – heading up the coast tomorrow towards big sur and on to san francisco and oakland. from there, it’s on to northern ca and portland, or to stay with my good friend for a while. maybe I should post a rough itinerary so anyone who knows somebody in my general vicinity can let me know!

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