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July 2013

On The Road to a Virtual Voyage!

I figured a  “Throwback Thursday” would be a most appropriate time to wax nostalgic and invite you to join me on my next virtual vacation!  This weekend I will set off on a wondrous adventure “across the pond”  touring southern England!  As if that weren’t fabulous enough, I’m traveling with my daughter Sara, just the two of us, as her graduation gift before she heads off to college next month! 

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  During my 25+ years at ABC7, many of you have watched Sara grow up over the years - here’s the nostalgic part - and during that time she has become an incredible traveler! 








She took her first cruise before she was 2 - at 4, she was climbing pyramids in Mexico!

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At 6, Sara accompanied me and my Mom on a trip to Spain - 3 generations in our mother country! At 10, Sara was sightseeing through ancient Greece; at 12 she experienced the glaciers of Alaska!

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I took her to President Obama’s first inauguration - we explored the holy land together with members of our congregation.

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I chaperoned a high school choir trip to Ireland, and back in the states we took road trips to our national parks and the entire stretch of Rt. 66!  Sara’s 18th birthday with a destination party to the “Happiest Place on Earth!”

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I now invite you to join us on our next adventure, as I share our discoveries in London and many other historic places in the UK.  We arrive at Heathrow Airport Monday August 4th; posts on Facebook and Twitter soon to follow!  As this is an “interactive vacation,” feel free to make suggestions, ask questions or give advice - this is the first time in the UK for both of us!

 https://www.facebook.com/RozVaronABC7   https://twitter.com/rozvaronABC7 

One more thing - a heartfelt thanks to my incredibly understanding husband for giving Sara and I this special bonding time while he stays at home.  Besides, someone has to watch the dogs, right?!


Bon Voyage!




On The Road to Rt. 66 - Barstow CA to Santa Monica CA


I woke up this morning with mixed emotions - for the past 9 days I had been looking so forward to reaching our final stop on Rt. 66, and now that it was rapidly approaching I didn’t want the journey to end!  Coffee in hand, we pulled out of Barstow on our way to Santa Monica. I wanted to capture as many images as I could of the iconic road as we drove west, mountains beckoning.

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In the town of Helandale, a rather unusual sight pops up  seemingly out of nowhere! Elmer Long’s Bottle Cactus Ranch is filled with trees made of bottles - hundreds of them!  Long created this unusual display after inheriting a huge bottle collection from his father. Quite a colorful spot in the middle of the desert!

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The next town gave us an opportunity to do some antiquing at the Oro Grande Antique Station.  I found some interesting items, but I think they would go over the weigh limit in my suitcase!

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More movie history in Victorville - a stop at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe - great Rt. 66 road food, and a feature in the film “Kill Bill.” What more would you want in a cafe?!


Heading south between Angeles National Forest and San Bernadino National Forest, the scenery was breathtaking against the clear blue sky!


More fun sights on Foothill Blvd! The Wigwam Village Motel in Rialto, and Bono’s Giant Orange Stand in Fontana.  The motel is open - the juice stand has closed!

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The city of Rancho Cucamonga had many beautiful Rt. 66 displays, both along side and above the roadway. 

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Next town over, the Madonna Of The Trail pays tribute to the pioneer mothers who traveled west with their husbands. From serious to surreal - more towering fiberglass as chicken boy looks down on us from a rooftop in L.A.!

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For lunch, we decided on a recommendation from the “Road Trip 66” app we’d been following - Mom’s Tamales in Lincoln Heights.  All I can say is WOW! Best tamales I’ve had outside of Mexico - seriously!

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Past Los Angeles, Rt. 66 follows Santa Monica Blvd.  We passed several famous sights: The Hollywood Forever Cemetery - the final resting place of many famous actors, directors and producers; The Troubadour, where many famed musicians and performers got their start.

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At long last, we hit the end point of Rt. 66 at Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Avenue, where we received a certificate for making the 2,448 mile journey from Chicago! 

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It is bittersweet, but the experience will stay with me for a lifetime.  As we know, life is a journey, not a destination - this was just part of the journey!





On The Road to Rt. 66 - Needles CA to Barstow CA

As we began the 9th day of our Rt. 66 journey, we thought we would, as the song says, “Take it Easy,” and only travel the 155 miles from Needles to Barstow.  We had breakfast at The Wagon Wheel - a Rt. 66 favorite. 


With a high of 105-degrees predicted for our drive through the desert, we loaded up with ice and water and hit the road.  One thing I noticed driving the Mother Road through California - there were very few street signs marking Historic Rt. 66 - instead the iconic shields were on the pavement itself!

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Driving through the Mojave Desert was hot - our car thermometer was proof, but that did not take away from the majestic beauty of the mountains in the distance.


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As this is monsoon season here in the desert southwest, we found ourselves driving into threatening looking storm systems with severe lightening in the distance.


Fortunately the storms stayed to the north allowing us to partake in the “Rock Art” along the railroad berm just east of the town of Amboy!  There is a several mile stretch decorated with initials, greetings, signatures - all spelled out in rocks!  And yes, Facebook fans - I did watch out for snakes and other desert critters!

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Our next stop was a National Natural Landmark - The Amboy Crater and Lava Field.  The crater is an extinct 250 ft. high volcanic cinder cone that lies within a 27 square lava field in the Mojave Desert.  You can hike to the top of the cone, but with temps topping out at 108-degrees, we chose to take pictures under the shade of the visitors’ lookout!  

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One of the most delightful things about driving Rt. 66 is the people you meet along the way.  The people in every town we’ve visited have been more than hospitable and all have had stories to tell.  Travelers, like ourselves, have conveyed the same amount of enthusiasm and wonder, venturing cross country on this historic highway. We met Scott and Linda, driving Rt. 66 on a motorcycle from New York! Now that's a road trip!


Roy’s Motel and Cafe is one of only a few left along this stretch of 66 in the desert and comes with an interesting story.  Amboy was a railroad town before Rt. 66.  When the highway, and the subsequent travelers came through during the Great Depression, Roy Crowl opened a diner with great success.  When I-40 rerouted traffic around Amboy, the town died.  Fast-forward to 2005 - Albert Okura, owner of the Juan Pollo Restuarants bought the entire town, and is said to be in the process of restoring many structures.  It was looking good as we drove by!


Our final stop today, the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs.  It was the inspiration for the 1988 film “Bagdad Cafe” which was filmed in the area.


Overnight in Barstow - tomorrow our final destination on Rt. 66 - Santa Monica!



On The Road to Rt. 66 - Flagstaff AZ to Needles CA


Have you ever had a day that felt like three jammed into one?! Well that was our day on Rt. 66 from Flagstaff AZ to Needles CA - and I mean that in a good way!  We started with a late breakfast as the Galaxy Diner - a ‘50s style eatery with great food to go with the retro decor!

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Our first stop after breakfast - what is said to be the highest point along Rt. 66 - elevation 7,410 ft. along Brannigan Park Rd in Bellemont, AZ, in Kaibab National Forest.  Nearby in the town of Parks, an Auto Tour sign marks the original alignment. 



The next stop is Williams, where you have the option to take the train on a side trip to the Grand Canyon.  Since we’ve seen that magnificent site on previous vacations, we opted to walk through Williams, which has become a mecca for all things Rt. 66!

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All that site-seeing (and shopping!) worked up an appetite - good thing the Road Kill Cafe in Seligman was  just a short drive away!  Yes, the food was DELICIOUS!

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We had hoped to take a side trip down Diamond Creek Road to see the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the Colorado River, but due to the heavy rains over the past several days, the road was currently flooded and impassable.  Instead, we stopped at the General Store in Hackberry and found a treasure trove of Rt. 66 memorabilia and souvenirs! 

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Entering Kingman, the scenery changed once again - a quaint town against a backdrop of rugged mountains. No shortage of Rt. 66 history here, from the welcoming water towers to the train depot-turned museum.  Driving through the mountains, the rains moved in and here’s where things got interesting….


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Fortunately my husband is an exceptional driver - and the rain let up!  As we approached the town of Oatman, we were greeted by the infamous burros!


Oatman Arizona was a gold mining town in the early 1900’s with more than 3500 residents.  Today, it is described as a “living ghost town” with perhaps 100 residents, but for visitors along Rt. 66, this throwback to the Old West is a must-see!

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The drive leaving Oatman is just as scenic, especially since we had sun glistening from the mountain tops and a rainbow to boot. 

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There were many times we felt like we had the road to ourselves.  And out here, in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, there is still a reminder that we are traveling on the most historic stretch of roadway in America!

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We are now just 22 miles from our stop for the night, Needles California.  We follow the old Rt. 66 alignment as we cross into California, but somehow this road is no longer an options - it is filled with rocks and impassable.


We take to the interstate and within minutes found ourselves approaching the town of Needles, so names for its pointed mountain peaks.  We pause for a picture, and pause for a night’s rest! Tomorrow we take on the Mojave Desert! Water, water, water!



On The Road to Rt. 66 Albuquerque NM to Flagstaff AZ

Another 370-plus miles on the odometer today, as we bid farewell to Albuquerque - destination, Flagstaff AZ.  The morning started out in a GRAND way, crossing the Rio Grande!

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We passed plenty of Rt. 66 signage - some new, many vintage ,as the scenery became less and less residential.

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A stop near the town of Thoreau was a must to snap a pic at the Continental Divide marker - wouldn’t you know it?! There was a HUGE souvenir shop across the road to mark the occasion!

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By now we were ready for lunch and decided to stop in Gallup.  We’ve been using this incredible app, “Road Trip 66” to help guide us - one recommendation was Earl’s Family Restaurant.  As we pulled up, the place was packed - a very good sign! 


Native American artisans sell handmade crafts, both inside and out.  Sara found something special, for someone special!  We even had a friendly chat with owner Ralph Richards, giving us some helpful tips for our continuing journey.  













As we crossed the border into Arizona, the scenery changed again - we saw wild horses taking shelter from the heat in a tunnel under I-40.  We saw “Fort Courage” in the form of yet another souvenir shop, modeled after the ‘60s sit-com “F-Troop!”












The highpoint of the day was a two-fer, courtesy of Mother Nature. Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.  I have never seen anything like this and will hold on to these incredibly beautiful images for as long as humanly possible.


About half-way between the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest you’ll find “Newspaper Rock,” so named because of the thousands of petroglyphs, images scratched on stone, that were made by the native peoples hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

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Appropriately enough, there is a spot dedicated to where Rt. 66 cut through the park ,with an old model car - to the left, you can see the line of old telephone poles that still mark the road bed of Historic Rt. 66.


I could have spent days, rather than hours capturing the magnificent structures and vibrant hues, but with the storms looming and the temperature dropping, we knew we were on borrowed time!











When the rain hit, we’d made it to Winslow and were still able to snap a shot of the giant wooden indian, guiding people to the Sweetland Furniture  Company!  


The rains became heavy - even blinding for a stretch, but we were not going to let that stop us from visiting the “Take It Easy” corner, made famous by the Eagles 1972 hit song!  I just love pop culture!


We finally rolled in to Flagstaff - tomorrow we hit the road again - and prepare for a ride through the desert!






On The Road to Rt. 66 - Exploring Albuquerque


It is our 6th day traveling Rt. 66.  We’ve been averaging over 300 miles a day, but today logged  only 78.  We spent it driving in and around Albuquerque!


Our first stop, the Sandia Mountains located within the Cibola National Forest.


We explored a bit first, checking out the ski slopes and hiking trails dipping in and out of the clouds.  Quite an experience!

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After a break from the high altitude, we ventured west to the Petroglyph National Monument.  This National Park contains more than 20,000 images carved in stone - some recognizable as animals or people, others more mysterious.

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Archeologists estimate most of the images were made 400 to 700 years ago by the ancestors of today’s Native people. Some images, however, may be 2000 to 3000 years old.

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In our limited amount of time we were able to hike 3 short trails and see dozens of petroglyphs.  One can only imagine the significance these images represented hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago.

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Our day ended with dinner in Albuquerque’s Old Town at a charming Mexican/American restaurant.  The vibrant colors of the sunset over the mountains were just a taste of things to come as we leave the "Land of Enchantment," and continue our road trip west tomorrow. 

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Next stop - Flagstaff Arizona!


On The Road to Rt. 66 - Santa Fe NM to Albuquerque NM


Santa Fe New Mexico has to be one of the most charming cities I’ve ever seen.  From the historic adobe architecture to the hundreds of art galleries, it is a feast for the eyes.

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We began our day with a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Musuem, which houses the largest number of works from this iconic artist in the world!  














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I have been a Georgia O'Keeffe aficionado for as long as I can remember - especially since my world class art photographer uncle, Malcolm Varon, had an opportunity to spend time with O’Keeffe, taking pictures of her, as well as her artwork. 

















Imagine my surprise, and delight not only seeing Malcolm’s name in the short movie credits, but also on several prints, books and calendars in the gift shop!  So proud to be related to this incredibly talented photographer!

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We continued to enjoy this picture perfect day walking around the plaza, taking in the sites and sounds, and lunch at an outdoor cafe.

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Of course we couldn’t leave Santa Fe until I found a little somethin’ somethin’ for myself!


We got back on the road, headed to Albuquerque - our next stop on Rt. 66.  The bright sunshine was quicklyr eplaced with clouds - ominous clouds as we continued south. Radar showed some fast-moving storms, along with flash flood alerts! We decided to stay on I-25 most of the way, just in case!  


Fortunately the heavy storms missed us, and we made our way safely to Albuquerque, back on Rt. 66! 












Tomorrow we explore the history, culture and Rt. 66 significance of this famed southwestern city.


On The Road to Rt. 66 - Amarillo TX to Santa Fe NM

Our Rt. 66 adventure took an artistic turn today!  They say everything is big in Texas, right?  That especially holds true for this larger-than-life art in Amarillo!


Not too far from Amarillo, we hit a milestone in Adrian Texas - the half-way point! Only 1,139 miles to go!

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We marked the occasion at The MidPoint Cafe, “Home of the Ugly Pie Crust.” Yes, it was delicious!

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A mere 22 miles, and we were entering New Mexico - here’s where the driving got a little hairy!


Once we got on the stretch of Rt. 66 that shared the interstate, the surroundings took on a completely different attitude - serene, majestic, inviting.  This truly is God’s country.


We took the pre-1937 route that brought us into Santa Fe, arriving with enough time to take in a little sight-seeing before dinner.  We visited San Miguel Mission, said to be the oldest standing church in the U.S., built in 1610.  Across the street is the oldest house in Santa Fe (and according to their literature, in the U.S.!), built in 1646.

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We walked through town at dusk, and while many of the wonderful shops and boutiques were closed, the park was alive with a summer concert.

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Tomorrow we continue to explore Santa Fe, and then on to Albuquerque.  ¡Buenas Noches!


On The Road to Rt. 66 - Tulsa OK to Amarillo TX

For those of you following my adventure along The Great American Highway, preparing for a road trip of your own, a word of advice - however much time you think you’ll need, DOUBLE IT!  Who knew Oklahoma was such a big state?!  Another jam-packed day, logging 380+ miles on the Mother Road.  

Leaving Tulsa there were many reminders that we were in the Oil Capital of The World. The Ozark Trail alignment featured old, rusted oil tanks, symbols of the oil boom prosperity during the hey day of Rt. 66.


We drove through many small towns filled with former gas stations-turned-cafes, shops, or simply tourist attractions along America’s Main Street.  We stopped for lunch in Arcadia Oklahoma at Pop’s - a one-of-a-kind restaurant both inside and out!


It took quite a bit longer than we thought to drive through Oklahoma - we actually veered back on the interstate for a bit to save some time! Closer to the Texas border we tipped our hat to Will Rogers at the landmark plaque dedicating Rt. 66 as Will Rogers Highway.


We took pictures at the state line (are those holes in the sign what I think they are??)


We saw the stunning 1936 art deco design of the U-Drop Inn, in Shamrock TX.  We marveled at the purposely crooked Leaning Tower of Britten, designed to catch a tourist’s eye and get them to stop in Groom TX!  And we, well I, couldn’t pass up another photo op at the first Phillips 66 gas station in Texas in the town of McLean.

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Shortly before 9:00 pm we pulled into Amarillo to catch a few zzzzz’s, but first, dinner at The Big Texan Restaurant, home of the Free 72 oz. steak (if you can eat it in an hour!). Imaging their confusion when my daughter and I ordered a 6 oz filet - to share between us!!


Tomorrow - destination Santa Fe NM!



On The Road to Rt. 66 - Kirkwood, MO to Tulsa, OK

Day 2 along the Mother Road began with a stop at the Rt. 66 State Park in Eureka, Missouri. This 419 acre park along the Meramec River has several inviting trails, but we were more interested in the Visitor Center Museum, filled with Rt. 66 memorabilia!


The rolling hills of the Show Me State are quite scenic, varying from vast greenery to the many Rt. 66 roadside attractions.

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In Springfield Missouri, we came across a giant paper cup! Actually, it’s part of the architecture of the building that housed the Solo Cup Company.  This particular plant closed in 2011 - the building is still vacant.


 Dale’s Barber Shop in Joplin, Missouri originated in 1929 as a Shamrock gas station; it was converted into a barber shop in 1962 until the owner retired in 2004.


As we approached the Kansas state line we stopped for a quick pic at the Hogs and Hot Rods Saloon. Back in the day, Kansas used to be a dry state, making this 1925 state line honkey tonk a popular destination!


Kansas has the shortest stretch of Rt. 66 of all the states - only 13 miles - but we found plenty to see!  The Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store is a throwback to the general store days of yesteryear - complete with pink flamingos on the lawn! 


The Rainbow Arch Bridge, built in 1926, is on the national Register of Historic Places, and you can still drive over it!


Entering Oklahoma, Rt. 66 takes us through Quapaw, once a booming mining town as depicted in one of the many Quapaw murals.

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In Miami (pronounced my-am-uh, from the Native American tribe) we see the Coleman Theater. Built in 1929 in the Spanish Revival style, it was a vaudville and movie palace.  It remains open to this day.


After traveling over 425 miles today through 3 states, we’re ready to hit the hay in Tulsa OK!  Tomorrow we’ll hit the half-way mark on the way to Amarillo TX!


On The Road to Rt. 66 - Chicago to Kirkwood, MO


Our first day driving Rt. 66 was filled with surprises around every turn.  We started, literally at point zero - downtown Chicago at Michigan & Adams.  We drove down Ogden Avenue, snapping pics along the way. We spent quite a bit of time on Joliet Road, eventually making our way to Joliet - lots of Blues Brothers sightings there!




















In Wilmington we found the first of many larger-than-life fiberglass statues - the Gemini Giant at the (now closed) Launching Pad Drive-In.


Do not pass go, do not collect $200 - go directly to jail! In Gardner, the 2-cell jail built in 1906 is a popular photo op.  I couldn’t resist!










More photo ops presented in Odell at a restored Standard Sinclair station, built in 1932. It is now an information center and souvenir shop. Check out Christine, showing off the old cash register!

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My biggest surprise came as we drove into Pontiac.  Mayor Bob Russell and many others in town were waiting for us at the Rt. 66 Museum - they even put up welcome signs!   The power of social media!

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Two hours later (I could have spent 2 days!), we hit the road again.  I had to stop at Funks Grove to try the much talked about maple sirup!  So glad I did!


Time was passing much too quickly to take in all the sites on my list.  We continued on to St. Louis, driving over the Mighty Mississippi to Kirkwood, ready for a well-deserved night’s rest.  Day 1 under our belts - tomorrow, we drive through Missouri into Oklahoma, destination Tulsa!