In June 2022 Dani and I flew to LA and rented and SUV to bring some keepsakes from Grandma Marjorie’s house back to Chicago. We wanted to take our time and visit interesting attractions over a two-week drive. The original idea was to follow Route 66, but using Roadtrippers I found there were lots more interesting stops if we made our own route.
After loading two wooden trunks of china and a few boxes of antique curios into the car we headed for our first overnight stay, in San Bernardino, at one of the two surviving Wigwam motels. The room was actually a lot nice than we were expecting, and it was, indeed, neat to sleep in a teepee. Most of the rest of our accommodations would be Airbnbs, and all were really nice.
We made a quick stop to admire some dinosaurs in Cabazon.
Then we made the long drive across the desert to Phoenix, arriving early enough that we had time to spend the 106-degree afternoon at the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium.
On the way to Sedona we stopped at a couple of wineries and followed the recommendation of the pourer at Chateau Tumbleweed to visit the cute mountainside town of Jerome. Sedona is a pretty setting, but the town is just a tourist trap.
About twenty miles outside of Flagstaff you’ll find Twin Arrows… if you hurry. They’re already down to one arrow.
Continuing across the desert we stopped at the spectacular Meteor Crater, which I remember being impressed by in my childhood.
Then it was time for lunch and a photo op on the corner in Winslow Arizona made famous in the Eagle’s Takin’ It Easy.
We drove through the petrified forest, and on to Albequerque. We’d hoped to stop at a lava tube ice cave(!) but forgot about the time change.
The next day we spent quite a bit of time in the excellent National Museum of Nuclear Science & History and then took the Sandia Peak Tramway up to 10,300 feet, and a panoramic view of very flat Albequerque. That may sound high, but it’s worth noting that much of this trip was at six to seven thousand feet. It’s easy to forget how high the high desert is.
We took the scenic route to Santa Fe, stopping at the fascinating Tinkertown, one man’s life’s work of building miniature dioramas and collecting… well, just about everything imaginable. He has passed away, but his wife continues to run the place, and I highly recommend it as a fun and funky stop.
Santa Fe wasn’t terribly interesting, but we happened to be there during their Pride Festival, which was fun to walk through. I had intended to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, but hadn’t made reservations, and didn’t want to wait, so we headed for Taos by scenic backroads.
We spent two nights at Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa in Taos. After all the driving, I figured it would give us a chance to relax, and that was indeed the case, although in a somewhat unexpected way. Our two-bedroom suite was beautiful, spacious, and decorated in a Japanese style. It was the perfect place to hang out when it started to monsoon for both days!
Unfortunately, its perfection didn’t extend to the roof, and I was awakened early in the morning by water dripping onto my head. I don’t think rain is that unusual this time of year in Taos, but the roof was leaking like a sieve. I called maintenance, and a very young kid said they couldn’t fix it, handed me two buckets, and left.
So that’s how we moved to Texas. The Texas-themed room, I mean. Which was identical except for Texan decor (I use antlers in all of my decorating) instead of Japanese, and the absence of a hole in the roof. Despite the steady rain, our stay was quite pleasant. We enjoyed relaxing in the room and grazing in the bar.
Now a week into our trip, we turned North and headed for Colorado Springs, stopping at the bizarre Bishop’s Castle on the way. The work of one crazy, antisocial guy, this very-not-OSHA-approved flight of fancy is still under construction. It’s definitely Colorado’s most unique roadside attraction, and well worth taking the scenic route to explore it.
I’ve always wanted to visit Michael Garman’s Magic Town, and the northern trajectory of our trip was designed specifically for this. Dani and I missed it on our previous Colorado road trip, and it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss.
It represents over forty years of the artist’s life, with intricate and evocative carved people, detailed buildings, and great use of mirrors and Pepper’s Ghost effects to create an entire walkthrough miniature town. It’s hard to convey just how neat this is.
Kansas has more cool attractions than I would have guessed. The Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City is one of the best I’ve been to. It features a large new building with great use of audio/video displays to present historic figures telling their stories in period settings. Then you have a chance to walk through a street of interconnected shops filled with historical displays and costumed performers acting as shopkeepers, bartenders, and other characters.
It’s also worth spending the night in quaint Hutchinson Kansas to afford plenty of time to see the Kansas Underground Salt Museum (STRATACA). You descend 650 feet into a working salt mine to see the process and explore its history. There’s an informative tram tour and a train that runs on the original tracks. The mine is also used for records and artifacts storage of Hollywood films and props, so there are exhibits devoted to that as well.
We had more stops planned for St. Louis and in Iowa, but Dani was getting a sore throat, so we decided to catch those later, and made a 733-mile beeline from Kansas to Chicago, arriving three days early. We’ll go back and pick up the rest of those stops on some future mini-road trip.
Total distance traveled: 2660 miles in 10 days. Here’s our complete itinerary including our stays and restaurants: