|Saguaro National Park. Saguaros live 200 years and can reach 78 feet (~24m) tall.|
This lack of Porsches was puzzling, considering the very active Arizona Region of the Porsche Club of America; perhaps we frequented the wrong neighborhoods. Where we were, 85% of the vehicles were pickup trucks of vague vintage, except for the tourists' cars and the like. In my perspective the exciting parts of the state mainly reside in the Navajo Nation, where a utilitarian truck is the obvious option. Sports car? No. Most of the Navajo Nation is located in Arizona; it sits in three states and it is the largest land area assigned to a mainly autonomous Native American jurisdiction within the United States.
Anyway, driving in Arizona, in any sort of 'car', was a real treat to me, even in my small rental Ford. The paved roads are deliciously smooth and sinuous, the landscape is stunning always, the scale of the spaces is humbling, the air is mainly clear - unless there is a haboob happening, which is routine, but it was simply very windy when we were there. Back home the frost-heaved highways keep the speed of all travel modest, and your Porsche's suspension gets mercilessly tested by those Quebec roads, but slowly. Mine is still in my shop awaiting dry dirt roads, instead of mud.
Arizona offers a surreal and curiously spiritual experience to the visitor, and I don't even regard myself as a spiritual person.
The first sentence of Albert Einstein's wonderful essay An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man is the following: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious—the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty." This says a great deal about how you might feel upon first seeing Monument Valley, or Antelope Canyon, or the Grand Canyon, or Canyon de Chelly. They overwhelm, but they are real and directly before you even though they are part of the 'other' as they stand alone, timeless, and alive. And unfathomable, and beautiful. Etherial is an overused word and is somehow unexpected in this case, but it works, never mind the stone and colossal scale.
|Spider Rock (800 feet or ~244 meters tall) in Canyon de Chelly is considered a center of the Navajo spiritual universe.|
Going to all of these places during the heavy tourist season would result in another impression, but if you aim your camera away from the gawkers you may be okay. The heavy tourist season hadn't started yet; we were okay.
You can drive into Canyon de Chelly, too, but there are restrictions as to the type of vehicle permitted, plus there you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide. This is better all around if you feel that you have to do your own driving. Forget any Porsche but a Cayenne in these places, and note that all-wheel drive vehicles are not allowed in Canyon de Chelly. Maybe that excludes the Cayenne, too.
More of the sublime before we get to the ridiculous. Antelope Canyon is a sublime 'slot' canyon in Navajo land on the northern edge of Arizona. I was told that there are about 150 slot canyons on Navajo land, but south of Interstate Highway 70 in Utah there are over 1,000, also they exist all over the world. None are as commercially exploited as Antelope is and there is a mixed blessing and also curse in this. It is said that Antelope is the most dramatic and exotic of all; of course this is subjective and self-serving as an appraisal, since this description was provided by one of the mandatory Navajo guides in upper Antelope, and the Navajos know which side their bread is buttered on. They know too well about commercialization, but also not well enough.
The Mother Road
Before the building of the Interstate Highway System ten years after WWII - a project championed by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower - the roadways across the U.S.A. were small, slow, sometimes unpaved, spottily marked, and unevenly mapped. Eisenhower envisioned a high-capacity, well-marked, and fast system of roads connecting all areas of the United States, so that even remote parts of the country could have access to improved transport, commerce, and easy freedom of travel.
Nevertheless, the first single highway that reached from the east of the country all the way to Los Angeles on the west coast, and that was paved all the way, was U.S. Route 66.
|The road signs were individualized by state. |
This one has rare glass reflectors in the '66'.
Running through the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, the highway became one of the most famous roads in America. For decades, this historic path served thousands who were migrating west, especially during the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930's.
Over the years, the road underwent many improvements and realignments, changing its course and overall length, and moving its endpoint farther west to Santa Monica, California. (The preceding five sentences are paraphrased from the website Legends of America.)
As happened with the earlier trans-continental railroads in the U.S., and Canada, towns sprang up along 66's path, businesses were invented to service those towns, as well as travelers passing through them. Some of those businesses were a bit goofy. There is a lot more info on the Web about this road, so let me get to my recent experience of artifacts left along its path.
Today, many of the small towns along the no longer official Route 66 are shabby and somewhat derelict, at least in my limited experience. We wound up in Holbrook, AZ, one evening. Basically it fits this description. Here we found the Wigwam Motel #6, one of three remaining of the original seven 'Wigwam Villages'. It is a quintessential example of vulgar Americana and, therefore, fits nicely into the experience of visiting run-down small towns along a defunct piece of roadway, fruitlessly looking to spot at least one Porsche in Arizona.
Chester E. Lewis built #6 in 1950, which makes it the last to be constructed, maybe, as there seems to be some confusion over the final franchise built vs. the last Wigwam Village built - that was not a franchise. In any case, it's based on the design of Frank A. Redford, who built the first example in 1933. Lewis purchased rights to Redford's design, as well as the right to use the name "Wigwam Village" (although it's identified on its sign as 'Wigwam Motel') but with a novel royalty agreement to use the name: coin operated radios were installed in Lewis's Wigwam Village, and every dime (10¢) inserted for 30 minutes of listening would be sent to Redford as payment for the name's use.
Old cars and other junk that Chester favored are scattered around the motel to give a sort of time-warp effect, bringing you back to the '50's and '60's when this place was newer, in a time preceding the Interstate Highway, which later bypassed Holbrook. Chester's daughter, Elinor, still presides at the registration desk of this family-run relic of 66's heyday. I enjoyed it for its pure silliness.
Finally, I did see one, and only one Porsche in Arizona. It was a Cayenne, and I saw it on the south side of Tucson, near the airport. I'm sorry, I'm probably insulting the owner of that SUV, but it looked for all the world like a pimpmobile. I thought I was in Chicago, or New York where such vehicles regularly run around. Maybe not Porsche pimpmobiles in those places, so this must have been unique to the environs of Tucson.
I apologize to you, too, but I don't have a picture of the 'car' because I was driving and that Cayenne scooted by at too excited a pace to grab a photo, but there was no mistaking it. Pure pimpmobile. This means extra, extra wide whitewall tires, so it didn't have the current, trendy low profile rubber seen on giant diameter wheels that are ubiquitous, but it did seem to have chrome wheel spinners, along with absolute tonnage of other chrome bits. There was a massive hood ornament, plus other shiny gizmos attached up there - little fins and things; of course the windows were blacked out, and that 'mobile' was a bright bronze, almost copper color. I might carry on, but I'm sure you can imagine it and I hope you aren't ill.
Poor Arizona. That state is filled with natural and cultural wonders, but I'm unable to include a brazen pimpmobile as being culturally significant, even if it was a Porsche. Perhaps that's my mistake. My innocent 40+ year old 911 was there to greet me when I got home. That was nice.
There was much more to Arizona, but thanks for reading as much as you did. Maybe some day. . .