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Route 66, the Great Cold Rush

Route 66, the road of dreamers of the original road trip in the USA. Songs have been written about it, films made of it, dreams started and ended on its dusty stretch from Chicago to California. It featured importantly as one of the oldest and principal roads to go west and was one of the first to be fully paved (thanks to its popularity) by the 1930s. We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate our adventure through the US than by taking this route. Also, it fit in nicely with the trade routes aspect of Simon’s research project being that it was such an important cross continental artery for so many decades. Thesedays, it’s mostly taken over by the I-40, which sits stubbornly straight in a hostile landscape that the original route 66 meandered through gently.

We entered New Mexico in the desert, a cool sun blazing. The road was straight and as flat as an ironing board for miles. Signs were up frequently to watch out for rattle snakes but we expected none in the winter temperatures! There were also signs warning us against the Democrats so we took each with a small dose of skepticism.

Welcome to New Mexico!

Not a Harley rider yet


Route 66 is full of amazing old diner type restaurants and kitsch petrol stations. We pulled over for an afternoon coffee and found a small clutch of Harley riders, all over 60, who’d just ridden along for an hour or so to pick up a slice of pie and a coffee at a diner and ride home. Alex was invited to try sitting on one of the Harleys and it was heavier, with a completely different center of gravity to Freja, she won’t be changing bikes any day soon!  The rider bade us farewell and rode off into the sunset with his mates at low cruising speed.



We pulled over eventually to find a roadside campsite, well secluded behind some fencing and with very little traffic to disturb us. We were a little worried about the snake warning but more worried about all the burrows dug into the earth around the site. We managed to convince ourselves that they were flesh eating zombie monsters which were waiting for us to be sound asleep before coming out but as usual it was fine and they were probably rabbit warrens. We saw no creatures so we were safe!



The skies were amazingly clear the entire time and the dry air made a welcome change to the humid Mexican coast. There was hardly any traffic other than the occasional truck and the very occasional motorbiker going East.  We were making our way to the Grand Canyon which we were expecting to be pretty ordinary. Little did we know that it would be so spectacular!

Photographer at work







A break outside Los Lunas

We watched the landscape roll from desert stretches, to rocky hills, to fields of cotton. Everything was still with long unspoilt stretches of scrub and with the smell of dry sandy air. We were impressed at the depth and range of colours in the landscape and the changes in the light play across the space. This was ruined by one two mile section when we were downwind of a “beef production” company and the unbearable stench clung within the helmets. We rode past a fenced holding field which was jammed full of immoveable depressed cows that had no space to turn around let alone walk. Making a mental note not to eat beef from that company, we finally reached clean air again and breathed in deeply.

Photographer in situ

A few more nights of camping under clear and rich skies and we reached the Grand Canyon. The road suddenly started to twist and turn the closer it got as we wound our way towards the canyon itself. Trees began to spring up and the landscape became full of vegetation again and much cooler than the desert. At one point, it became too cold for camping so we resigned ourselves to staying a night in a cheap motel and emulation so many films we’ve loved. We ended up in a pretty dingy roadside motel but we both felt very luxurious as the room came with two large double beds which would work out well if a couple were to argue but thankfully we’re a peacekeeping sort.

route 66 starlight camping

…the alternative, the Golden Inn!







When we first came upon the Grand Canyon, we couldn’t quite believe it. We passed through a small village which advertised the entry and capitalised on its majesty. There were tourist shops selling all sorts of small gifts. The temperature had dropped considerably and we regretted not wearing our winter jackets on the bikes. However, once we’d entered the park it was quickly forgotten, the canyon opened up below us and all we could see were reds, greys and golds on a wrinkled landscape. The awesomeness and scale of the canyon threw us and we felt dwarfed by the sheer endlessness of it. Far below us, we could spot the Colorado river lazily turning through the crevasses of the canyon.

Relaxing on the edge of the world


After a few days exploring the Grand Canyon (too little time to truly experience it), we set back off on to Route 66 towards Las Vegas! En route we spotted a lot of Native American influences with Indian trading points and handmade goods for sale. The mercury rose back up to a comfortable 20 degrees and all of a sudden, we happened on to the Hoover dam nestled in the natural reservoirs of the landscape.  Its modest size and small neatness was incongruous with its use but it was impressive to see in the flesh!


We rejoined the road and saw we had transitioned into Nevada without realising! A time change later and a few miles more of road and we came upon Las Vegas, its well of lights welcoming us through the desert. Armed with $25 spending money, we tried our luck…. but as they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

Alex impressed by her fellow Engineering brethren

The Hoover Dam : Arizona

Strange landscape – these are solar energy farms!

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