Recently I found a set of prints from our first family roadtrip. It's always saddened me that we wrote so little about that initial adventure - and that I lost several pages of a recent attempt to summarize that trip to an accidental deletion of the only file I'd saved. A few memories from our first Route 66 trip can be found on a previous note on summer roadtrips, I offered some detail about the motels we visited in an early version of our Motel Americana website, and Jenny wrote some brief notes in her journal, but there are few photos from that time that contain our feelings from the trip. Thus it's pretty cool to have these images (a couple also found in other scattered locations) collected in one place. They help me collect my thoughts a bit.
As depicted in the above pic, Jenny, Vienna, and I visited Cadillac Ranch, which is slightly west of Amarillo, Texas. Tourists encountering this site often bring cans of spray paint to mark up the cars, a practice that is tacitly accepted by the folks who maintain this private art exhibit to the glory and folly of America's auto-centric civilization.
Below (the next day), we stood for a portrait from our "tepee" at Wigwam Village in Holbrook, Arizona. I remember using a payphone to make a reservation the previous night and then racing to arrive before the office closed, marveling at the deep red buttes that flew by while we roared toward the sunset. I'm fairly sure we snagged the last room. Incidentally, this is one of three remaining "Villages" based on a motel concept created by Frank A. Redford.
The next image (below), featuring Vienna atop a fiberglass rabbit, was taken at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City, Arizona (one of my favorite places). Vienna was six years old at the time - then as now, a real cutie. See that sombrero? For some reason, our daughter wanted one of those tourist trinkets more than anything. I couldn't begin to guess where that souvenir ended up.
No doubt, a highlight of our journey was an overnight excursion to the Grand Canyon. We made a print of the image below and sealed it in a postcard acetate that made its way to Jenny's grandmother. That print resides today in an album she keeps. I remember us entering the national park so late that the ticket booth wasn't staffed, which was a good thing. We had a tight budget - even more than we anticipated, for reasons noted below - and we needed to save every penny.
I vividly remember the hike partway into the canyon. Our daughter (again, fairly young at the time) understandably grew tired of the exertion, and we all suffered with each step upward. Even so, we loved the chance to watch the rock squirrels scamper and cavort. Signs made it plain that folks are not supposed to feed the creatures, and I've since come to understand the wisdom of these admonitions. But as the picture shows, I just couldn't resist sharing a tiny morsel.
By the way, see the tacky trucker's hat I'm wearing? That was Jenny's gift to me the morning after we'd been robbed by some loser who broke into our car as we played miniature golf in St. Louis. Right then, the first night of our trip, I seriously considered ditching the entire thing, just turning around and heading back. We felt so violated and vulnerable so far from home. Continuing onward just didn't seem worth the hassle. But the next morning, seeing that goofy-looking hat in Jenny's hand as she returned from calling the bank and switching our accounts, I had to smile. Perhaps we should continue on this trip after all, I figured. I'm so glad we did.
This final image (below), taken in an era when we didn't quite understand the need to avoid backlighting in outdoor settings, comes from some point near our western terminus.
On that trip back in '96, starting in Ohio, we drove to St. Louis and then navigated the Mother Road all the way to the California border, just past Needles. Completing that westward trek, we turned north for a visit to Vegas and southern Utah, whereupon we rolled east through the plains states before taking a quick jog northward to Chicago and finally back home to Ohio. None of us had ever traveled such distances by car; Jenny and I came from families for whom such tourism was a luxury. But we were hooked by the experience.
Today we take a serious roadtrip about once a year. Each trip has been memorable, and some are even recalled as exceeding the adventure of "66 in 96." But there's no trip like the first one.
Learn more: I developed a somewhat more detailed summary of my most recent trip along the Mother Road. Check it out: 66 in 08
(Photographs by Jenny Wood)