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Route 66, part III:
Las Vegas to Albuquerque

Leaving Las Vegas via Lake Mead

Leaving Las Vegas on a warm, sunny day, let's travel via Lake Mead.

From Interstate 15, north of the Las Vegas town centre, north of the Fremont Street casino area, go east on Lake Mead Boulevard, State Highway 147.

Reaching the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, turn south along the lake, stopping at any site that attracts you. Have a refreshing swim in the desert and a picnic. This was the site of the infamous Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee honeymoon video (Thieves carted away a safe containing their intimate personal video of their honeymoon on a houseboat on Lake Mead while their home was being renovated. The video ended up on the Internet).

Continue south along Lakeshore Road to U.S. Highway 93.

Go east and south on U.S. Highway 93 to Hoover Dam, named after Herbert Hoover, one of the most vilified presidents in U.S. history, who served during the start of the Great Depression, which became the most severe economic downturn in U.S. history. Eventually some 25 percent of Americans became unemployed with many others working just part-time. In spite of his failure to reverse the depression, however, many consider Hoover to have been a good and honorable man

Hoover Dam, initiated by President Hoover, an engineer by training, and once called Boulder Dam while memories of Hoover's presidency were still strong, gave work to thousands during the depression in the 1930's--a beacon of hope in those dark times--and fostered the growth of Las Vegas, which until then was a small railroad town. All those well-paid unmarried dam workers attracted enough sin to make Las Vegas notorious during the Great Depression, and Vegas, of course, never looked back.

Continue south on 93 into Arizona to Interstate 40 at Kingman, an historic Route 66 town.

Joining old Route 66

Drive east on I-40, and watch the countryside become more scenic as the road rises in elevation into an area of more rainfall.

Just east of Kingman, we should branch north and east on an old portion of U.S. Highway 66, now called State Highway 66. Some of the old roadside businesses have been lovingly cared for, but for the most part the modern era has passed by this region, whose countryside is quite pleasant.

At Seligman, travel east again on I-40, which traces the route of old Highway 66 as far as Oklahoma City.

The Interstate continues to rise in elevation until we are travelling through a dense pine forest. Be careful with cigarettes and other fires, as this region gets very dry during the early summer.

At Ash Fork, turn south on State Highway 89 toward Prescott.

Just north of Prescott, travel northeast on State Highway 89A.

Be sure to plan some time in the picturesque old copper mining town of Jerome on this route.

Next comes Sedona, the so-called new age "high energy" spot. People swear that they are vitalized by the vibrations here. Dr. Voyageur gets high just by being in beautiful Arizona and New Mexico, so he feels no contrast.

Regardless of its energy level, Sedona stands out for the beauty of its setting. Sedona, surrounded by colourful rock formations, is lovely by any measure.

Sedona is a nice place for lunch, but an extremely expensive place to spend the night.

North of town, Highway 89A follows the incredibly beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. Be sure to allow time for a stop at Slide Rock State Park for a refreshing dip. This area, too, has great beauty at all times of year.

Reaching Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon

Soon, we arrive in fast-growing Flagstaff, set in the northern Arizona forest, which has numerous budget accommodation choices, including hostels (all very close to the old Santa Fe, now Amtrak, depot, which lies just south of Flagstaff's western-style town centre), Motel 6's, and other motels, all of which are heavily booked throughout the summer. Most accommodation in Flagstaff is along either the busy Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway or Interstate 40 or both, so expect some noise.

This university town has lots of budget restaurants, too, including a Furr's Cafeteria within easy walking distance of the Greyhound station. You will find a helpful visitors centre in the Amtrak station.

From Flagstaff take U.S. Highway 180 north, which joins State Highway 64, to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Or, drive over to Williams, west of Flagstaff, and then take the Grand Canyon Railway to the national park.

Based on its detours, some Route 66 purists may not like Dr. Voyageur's itinerary. For example, the Grand Canyon like Las Vegas was never located on Route 66. Nevertheles, most Route 66 travellers, if they had time, visited the Grand Canyon, including many of those travelling by railway. Even the Route 66 grand opening celebration in 1926 extended beyond the end of the highway at Chicago all the way to New York City.

As far in advance as possible, try to book the Mather Campground at Grand Canyon Village within a short walk to the rim. Call 1 800 365-2267. Have a credit card available to pay in advance.

If Mather is not available, take any campground, or use a hostel or KOA-type campground or motel in Flagstaff. Book at least two nights if you stay in Flagstaff. You will also find a small selection of more expensive hotels within the national park, but during the summer these are often booked far in advance.

As already mentioned, the best activities here are sunrise and sunset walks along the trail that follows the rim of the canyon, so, if possible, try to stay overnight.

In Summer, do not--do not--plan to walk down into the canyon, unless you are in fantastically good shape. Even the summer burro rides into the canyon are torturous due to the extreme heat.

The temperature at the rim may be quite tolerable--30c or so--but as we descend into the canyon the temperature gets hotter and hotter and hotter. Remember, too, that we will have to walk back up or ride back up those steep trails.

From the Grand Canyon, drive east along State Highway 64 to U.S. Highway 89. Along this route are various canyon overlooks.

Turn north on Highway 89 to U.S. Highway 160.

Go east on 160 to Tuba City.

For some time we have been travelling through the Navajo Indian Reservation, one of the largest areas set aside for native people in the U.S., and soon we will transit the Hopi Indian Reservation as well.

Nevertheless, all is not well. There is real poverty here, though not the crushing poverty of the malnutritioned. And, much to Dr. Voyageur's surprise, there is often little respect for the land, as judged from a European point of view.

Household trash lines the highways, as it surprisingly lines some railways in France. However, few cultures have been forced to undergo the changes of these native people in the last two centuries, so we will not criticize the rubbish, which may be the result of a small minority within the tribe, and of course we will not add to it.

From Tuba City, we take Highway 264 across these large reserves with their plateaus and small villages into New Mexico. Those wanting a more intimate experience of the history here may detour north to the ruins of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. This fascinating and popular spot is reachable by dirt road, and guides with horses are available to take you deep into the canyon.

We continue eastbound on Highway 264 to U.S. Highway 666.

We will not linger on 666 for long, as the unlucky 666 combination seems to bring a remarkably high accident rate to this infamous highway. Drive extra carefully here!

Turn south on 666 to Gallup, New Mexico, a sort of rough trading centre for the reservations and ranches of the region and a major stop on Interstate 40. Just north of I-40, still on Highway 666, we find a Furr's Cafeteria on the right filled mostly with locals and--of course--Dr. Voyageur enjoying tasty, inexpensive meals.

Turn east on I-40, which passes some interesting country until it descends into the Rio Grande River valley near Albuquerque. Worth a short detour at Grants are the rock and lava formations of El Malpais National Monument, which is south of I-40 along State Highway 53.

For the next leg of your Route 66 trip, see Part IV: Albuquerque to the Mississippi River.

Go to >> Route 66, part I: Introduction
Go to >> Part II: Santa Monica to Las Vegas
Go to >> Part III: Las Vegas to Albuquerque
Go to >> Part IV: Albuquerque to the Mississippi River
Go to >> Part V: Mississippi River to Virginia
Go to >> Part VI: Understanding the War Between the States
Go to >> Part VII: Virginia to Washington, D.C.
Go to >> Part VIII: Washington, D.C. to New York City
Go to >> Part IX: Planning your Route 66 trip

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