11 January 2008

Irrational lampooned vacation

Two posts down, I referred to our stay at Motel 6 in El Paso, Texas. It was part of a big family trip in the Summer of 1977. In family lore, it's come to be known as "The Trip Out West." I was 12, and my brother was 8.

Said trip was quite the adventure. It was taken in a 1974 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon, yellow, with - yes - faux wood grain side panels ... our own Wagon Queen Family Truckster! Clamshell style back gate (with power glass), AM/FM radio with the infamous GM in-windshield antenna (read: piss-poor reception), and power windows. Oh, yeah, and - standard equipment on a typical Degenerate Motors vehicle - an oil leak. ("Where's the drip?", I can hear Dad saying)

We picnic'ed at roadside parks for lunch, and every day it was the same golldurned thing: Potato chips and deviled-ham sandwiches. Every golldurned day. And since that trip, I cannot even stand the look, sight or smell of deviled ham. I revile the stuff. I'm feeling queasy just thinking about it, I tell you.

More than three decades later, I can still remember the exact route we took, where we spent each night, and - in most cases - the name of the motel.

We left Tupelo, Mississippi some time in the afternoon, and headed up US-78 toward Memphis, then I-40 into Arkansas. It was already dark as we left Little Rock, and picked up I-30 toward The Big-Ass State That's Like A Whole 'Nuther Country.

Night #1:
The Sands Motel in Dallas, Texas. Outside, I sat on the grassy knoll while my brother Zaprudy ran the Super-8 movie camera. Mom and Dad came along in their Grand Safari Truckster. Mom was wearing a pink dress with pillbox hat, and Dad ....

Never mind, that's getting a little too morbid. And does that look like Jack Ruby's ghost coming over here to pistol-whip me?

I'd better hurry up and grab my textbooks from this "depository" before they run out of the one for my Antisocial Studies class.


Night #2:
After a long haul across Texas (borrrrrrr-innng!), we found ourselves in El Paso, and the tiny confines of our Motel 6 room, coin-op TV and all. The next morning saw us doing a tour of Juarez, Mexico.

Night #3:
Gallup, New Mexico. I do not remember the name of the motel, but what I do recall was that it was an older property, a tad bit run down, there was a Texaco station out front, and it was on the left side of the road. The interstate ended on each side of town; Gallup had yet to be bypassed. What I didn't know at the time was that the Gleck family was staying in a gen-ewe-ine Route 66 Motel. Ever the crazed road geek, even then, I had no idea the magnitude of roadside history we were part of. In 1977, US-66 was still a real highway (it would be decommissioned in 1985).

Night #4:
Kayenta, Arizona. After a fun-filled day exploring Meteor Crater, and experiencing the Grand Canyon, we were heading toward Four Corners -- the only spot in the U.S. where four states meet. It was getting dark, and we were on a two-lane desert road, the kind where you can see the town damn near 20 miles away before you actually reach it.

There weren't many lodging options in the northeast corner of Arizona, and we had no reservations of any kind. Dad was rocketing along the highway, and passed another car that was slow-pokin' along at a leisurely 80 MPH. This becomes important in a minute.

As we got toward Kayenta, we noticed that there wasn't much to this settlement. It was a small junction in the road, with a collection of houses, stores ... and a certain motel. We could see the Holiday Inn "Great Sign" miles away -- THIS, FRIENDS, IS WHY HOLIDAY INN WAS STOOOOPID TO GET RID OF THAT THING!! It was a beacon. Dad began rejoicing! That pulsating Great Sign was functioning as it should: a siren call of the roadside.

Dad pulled in and got out to see if any rooms were available. There was one. And only one. "But the phone doesn't work", the clerk told him. Dad replied just as I would have had such a scenario presented itself to me: "I DON'T CARE!"

As Dad walked out with the key ("she said give it to me, and I'll unlock the door" -er, um, anyway), the car we'd passed earlier pulled into the breezeway right beside us.

Sorry, no room at the inn.

Kayenta was a weird one -- it looked like a tiny place, no bigger than 1,000 people ... but by golly they had their own Holiday Inn!

Had there been no vacancy, we'd have been on the road for at least another two hours -- Durango, Colorado was the next evidence of civilization. And we would've missed the opportunity to see the Four Corners monument the next morning.

The room was good, the TV worked (if memory serves, it could pick up just one channel), the Holiday Inn restaurant didn't disappoint, and then we all slept nicely.

* to be continued *

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