Arizona, Food, Road Trip, Route 66

The $100 Hamburger – Road Version

A road trip burger destination needs a great road trip car.

Years ago, private pilots, when asked where they were flying for a day trip, would often respond, “To get a $100 hamburger.” It meant they wanted to get up in the air and fly anywhere. Halfway through the day they would land at a little airport, pop into the ubiquitous cafe and have a hamburger before flying home. The hamburger was often nothing special and cost $5-$10. The day, though, cost fuel, time and hours on the engine — about $100 worth. It has become the way to describe a day trip with no real destination in mind. Some airport cafes are actually serving up burgers that are delicious, rarely are they worth $100.

This weekend, Greg and I were both wanting a hamburger. We didn’t want fast food. We thought about making one at home. We talked about places to get a good hamburger. Then we remembered Delgadillos Snow Cap on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona.

We’d been there before. We even blogged about that burger when we drove Route 66. Our mouths were watering just thinking about it. We had the obvious answer to our question. Delgadillos!

What does a hamburger on Route 66 have to do with a pilot’s idea of a $100 hamburger? Well … Delgadillos is about three hours away from where we live. We figured driving three hours each way for a hamburger made about as much sense as spending $100 and several hours to fly somewhere for a burger. Thus, our road trip for a burger is a lot like a flight to nowhere. 

We hopped in the car just before 9 am. We guessed that would put us at Delgadillo’s right at noon … perfect for that burger. We hit the road with a full tank of gas, top down under 91 sunny, beautiful degrees. 

Our route took us north on the back roads, through valleys with different microclimates evidenced by the change from Saguaro cactus-filled hillsides to pine-tree-covered mountains as we climbed to 6100 feet. We passed vast fields of golden grasses being munched by herds of cattle as we approached Interstate 40. 

On the west side of the historic part of Seligman, Delgadillo’s welcomes visitors.

Two exits west and the sign pointed to Seligman and Peach Springs! Our stomachs were growling. The clock was blaring 12:10pm. LUNCHTIME! Just off the exit there it was — Delgadillo’s Snow Cap!

We parked on the side of the restaurant and followed the painted roadway on the sidewalk to the door boasting a neon “Sorry, We’re Open” sign. Delgadillo’s is well-known for pranks and gags … the welcome sign fit right in.

Double checking the order.

We lucked out … there was no line. We walked up and a bandana-clad employee took our order – an oink (bacon burger), a choink (bacon burger with cheese), an order of fries to share and two chocolate shakes. Her eyes twinkled as she squirted me with mustard (it’s fake and I fell for it AGAIN!) We headed out to the patio to wait for our order and sipped the thick, delicious shakes.

The burgers and fries were PERFECT! The bun was crisp-toasted on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The burgers boasted an incredible grilled crunch. The fries included an optimal mix of crunchy and soft for dipping in the squeezed-out-of-packets ketchup and mayonnaise. We sat in the shade and devoured our lunch with glee as the lunch crowd filed in behind us.

Tanking up for the drive home.

Back into the car, top up in the heat of the day. One more fill up and headed home we chatted about how perfect the weather was, how light the traffic was and what fun it is to do something crazy and spontaneous — the road trip version of the $100 hamburger.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … sometimes you just have to jump in the car and go get a burger.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip, Travel

Road Jams

I am a music lover. It’s rare to be in our home and not hear music playing. Greg and I have created music playlists for all kinds of moods. We’ve discovered channels on Amazon Music and Sirius XM that are go-tos for us. But there’s nothing quite like creating a playlist for a special occasion.

Creating your own soundtrack is fun and indulgent. When I learned how to drive not everyone even had a radio in the car. You turned the radio dial carefully to tune in your favorite station and when the signal faded, you searched for a new frequency to get the music you wanted to hear. It wasn’t long before “search” and “scan” buttons made finding the stations easier. If you were lucky you could pop in a cassette or maybe even a CD. I remember my parents even pushing the play button on 8-tracks!

Lucky for us, technology has made creating your own playlist a breeze. But what do you play for cruising down the highway? That depends on where you are going, who you are with, what music you love … there are as many ideas as there are kinds of music.

I love a good mix. Driving down the highway on my own, I’m tuning into songs I can sing along with. I belt out tunes I know, thankful no one can hear me screeching out the (sometimes wrong) lyrics to songs I love.

Greg and I can always sing along with songs from the 70s. We hit up 70s on 7 on SiriusXM regularly around town, but sometimes you want control of the playlist. You take those standards, add in a few one-hit-wonders, opt for a few “recorded live” versions and — VOILA — the perfect road trip soundtrack.

Whether you love classic rock or classical, country or rap, oldies or pop hits, there’s a great combination of tunes that will make that long drive more fun. What the heck, throw on an entire album you love if that’s the mood you’re in.

No matter where you’re headed — cross country or to Puerto Backyarda — create yourself a playlist that makes you happy! 

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Why not sing along while you’re catching the sites? 

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Arizona, Road Trip

Where To From Here?

I had planned to spend my spring exploring all the tourist sites I could get to within a few hours of Phoenix. I created a list and mapped out weekends. Then Covid-19 wrecked my plans. No worries, I thought, I’ll just wait til the coast is clear.

It might not be totally clear, but things are opening back up. Some restaurants are offering dine-in meals, others have perfected the take-out options. Tourist sites are limiting visitors, but are open. It’s time to hit the road.

Here’s a few places in Arizona Greg and I plan to explore over the coming months while we stick close to home, but still get out there and see little pieces of the world. We’ll share our thoughts, impressions, and lessons learned traveling in a post-Covid world.

Tombstone and Bisbee. This is a long weekend. We plan on watching the re-creation of Gunfight at the OK Corral, taking a trip down into the mine and wandering the streets and shops of Bisbee, which was Arizona’s commercial center in the late 1800s..

Cottonwood. We’ve been there before, but we want to go back and sample the wines and pop into the shops and maybe wander off to explore the nature trails along the Verde River.

Flagstaff. There’s so much to see and do in this Arizona mountain town. The Lowell Observatory is on our short list, but so is a winery in town that neighbors told us offers a chance to mix your own blend. 

Wickenburg. For us, this nearby town is a day trip and worth waiting for one of the many festivals that surround the town square. 

Jerome. I love Jerome, another mining town built into the side of a mountain. We’ve been there a couple of times, but I haven’t taken the time to share my observations and pictures with my blog readers … so I’ll head back with my trusty camera (OK, it’s my phone) and bring back images and ideas for you.

Scenic drives. We’ve mapped out a couple of roads to explore. As a reader of this blog, you probably know we like getting off the beaten track and finding these hidden highways, so you can expect a few route suggestions.

Hiking trails and parks. These will have to wait until the fall since our temperatures are already climbing over 100° most days. 

If you have any ideas of places we need to see or things you want us to explore for you, drop me a comment. In the meantime, stay tuned …

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. We’re headed off to see what we can find close to home.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Road Trip

What Was That?

On a last-minute trip to the San Fernando Valley over the weekend, we decided to take the “long way” home.  From Santa Clarita we headed out the 14 Freeway to Pearblossom Highway and up curvy mountain roads to Crestview. We meandered through Big Bear with a stop for lunch and down the mountain, navigating hairpin turns and marveling at the stunning views. 

We turned to head through Yucca Valley heading east towards Arizona on a ribbon of a highway that stretched further than the eye could see. As we drove along through desert vistas and deserted roadways, we noticed we were alone. At one point, we didn’t see another car or sign of civilization for about 30 minutes … well not exactly.

We did spot a couple of freight trains slowly chugging along to points unknown. Suddenly, off in the distance, a water pumping plant nestled in against the base of a mountain on the valley’s edge appeared. In a few more miles we spotted the turnoff to the pumping station and a shocking sign of civilization. Right there in the middle of nowhere was a makeshift direction sign. Dozens of hand-painted arrows were nailed to a pole. We slowed to a stop, snapped a couple of pictures and continued on. 

The Rice Shoe Tree

In another 15 minutes or so … at least I think it was about that long, we stopped keeping track of time somewhere on that lonely road … another strange site appeared. This time it was a run-down gas station overhead heavily laden with shoes. What looked like hundreds of pairs of shoes hung haphazardly. 

For the second time we scratched our heads and wondered what we were seeing. Why were these strange sites out here in the middle of nowhere? 

As we stopped for dinner, we grabbed our phones and googled the spots. I’ll let you check out the stories behind our fun desert finds. Read the story of the California Highway 62 sign post. Read the story of the Rice Shoe Tree. 

You’ve seen me recommend getting off the highway and taking back roads many times on this blog. This weekend was another reminder of what makes the back roads so much fun.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, hidden gems are just one of the reasons to get out there and start exploring.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Flying, Road Trip, Travel

The Sky and Stars Beckon

Editor’s Note: This post was written May 5, 2020

Alan Shepard in Freedom 7 (NASA Photo)

On this date in 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space when his Redstone rocket-powered Mercury capsule Freedom 7 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. My mother has told me on numerous occasions that she took me outside our home near Orlando to watch the lone astronaut rise toward the heavens, as history was made. 

I was six-months old to the day … too young to have remembered that moment. But I’ve always wondered whether that solitary act sparked my life-long passion for aviation and space travel. I remember my first commercial airplane trip a few years later — an Eastern Airlines trip from Atlanta to Orlando in a Lockheed Electra. I also remember when my best friend’s grandfather took me on my first flight in a small general aviation airplane — a short trip in a Piper Tri-Pacer when I was about 8 or so. That flight forever planted the seed to learn to fly, which actually happened some 25 years later. A few years later, I was sweating the moment when I finished my FAA-mandated check ride that would determine whether I’d be certified to fly on instruments (I passed). I remember being glued to the TV when Neil Armstrong planted the first steps on the moon … and the moment I heard on the radio about the Challenger disaster. 

Just today, someone on Facebook posted a video of a place nearby where I could get my seaplane rating … sparking the urge to, once again, combine my love of flying with water. These moments are like signposts along a seemingly never-ending road of aviation and space travel experiences that I hope, one day, might ultimately involve the ability for me and you to actually travel in space.

Greg and Judy take off from Charlottesville, VA airport in Sept. 2017

Long-time readers know my love for road trips, but also appreciate my continued love of air travel. To me, the journey is just as important as the destination. Despite all the hassles with commercial air travel today (Pre-COVID) — the lines, security, crowds, etc. — it’s still worth it to look out the window at the world below. I’d rather follow our route on my laptop using an aviation app, trying to identify cities, lakes, rivers and other landmarks, than watch a movie or read a book. Get work done?  Fuggedaboudit. 

Always a window seat for me!

All of us feed our wanderlust in different ways.  Some like cruises, some can’t stand boats. Some like to hike and climb, some like to sit on a beach where the only exercise involves lifting a cocktail from table to mouth. Some are in it for the sights, some for the tastes of fine food and wine. And that’s really the point … focus on whatever drives YOUR passion for travel and feed off that. Do what YOU want to do, don’t be led by what others think you should enjoy.

Me, I keep looking at those lone contrails in the sky and dream of the next flight … to wherever it may lead. Because there’s a whole world out there, waiting to be explored. I’ll be the one with the window seat, nose pressed to the glass, looking at the ground below, and to the stars above.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Musings, Road Trip, The World A to Z, Travel

Ya Gotta Love Texas

Editor’s Note:  A year ago, Greg posted the following on his Facebook feed as we wrapped our cross-country trip to our new home in Arizona. When it popped-up as a memory yesterday, we were both struck by the humor and thought it would be fun to share here. CAUTION: Strong language.

Caution, rant ahead (but in a good way…sorta).

Will this road ever end? (Photo © 2020 Judy Romano)

Let’s talk about Texas. It’s a big f’in state. So big that we spent 9-1/2 hours getting from the CENTER of the state (Waco) to the western border (El Paso). We can see New Mexico (and frankly, Mexico) outside our hotel window, but we’re still in Texas. Shit (or as they say here, “Sheeee-it”). We went from tree-lined streets and roads through the vast nothingness of west Texas. We drove through a town that on its “welcome to” billboard praised its band. I guess their football time was such a west Texas embarrassment that the band got top billing. That’s not a bad thing…when I was in high school, people came to games to see MY award-winning, kick-ass, LA All City Champion, take-on-all-comers high school band. But I’m sure they don’t talk about it in the diner in this west Texas town. Heck, the Sheriff at the gas station didn’t even give me crap about my foreign sports car with the Virginia tags…probably out of embarrassment for their football team.

But I digress. Let’s talk about the bad things about Texas. From Beaumont to Waco, we collected more bugs on the front of the Spider than a fly strip in a dairy farm. We collected an equal amount between Waco and the aforementioned embarrassed by its football team west Texas town. There, the bugs were replaced by a hellacious wind straight on the nose that lowered our gas mileage into ’70s American muscle car territory (okay, that’s exaggeration but it was pretty sucky for us) and stirred up dust reminiscent of Los Angeles smog in the late 60s. We skirted a few dust devils that looked like they could suck up the Spider like Dorothy’s tornado sucked-up the wicked witch of the west on her bike.

Speaking of driving, the roads SUCK. They’re not smooth in any way. I think they lay down tar by pushing it through a potato peeler. When you drive a two-seat sports car, you feel every bump and the performance tires complain. When the road is no smoother than a cheese grater, you long for smooth interstates, but alas, even there the road surface was akin to the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. No wonder everyone there drives a big truck or SUV…lots of suspension to soak up the crappy roads.

But here’s the good thing about Texas roads…speed limits. In Texas, they assume you’re not a candy-assed driver. They have two-lane roads with speed limits set at 75 mph. You read that right. Seventy-five f’in miles per hour on a two lane rural road with driveways and tractors and animals of all kinds. I’ve heard that armadillos, in particular, can take out a suspension…of course, by the looks of it, a Ford F250 can take out an armadillo pretty well, too. In most states, brand new four-lane highways still have speed limits topping 55 mph. Texas says screw that! If you can’t handle driving that fast on a rural road or drive 80 on the Interstate, stay out of our state….pansy.

Home … and away from Texas. (Photo © 2020 Judy Romano)

Finally, there’s one other good thing about Texas…the people are creepily nice. I didn’t meet a soul who didn’t say good morning/afternoon/evening, offer a tip on a good restaurant, hold the door for you, or let in a driver into traffic (okay there were the two a-holes that cut in front of me thinking they could accelerate their POS Toyota pick-up to 75 in five seconds flat, but at least they weren’t pansies). They smile, say ma’am, sir and thank y’all and simply dare you to dislike them. But it’s just not possible.

So thank you, Texas, for being, well, Texas. You still need to remember that you are part of the U.S. of A. and not your own damned country. But we’re happy to have you — God knows, we don’t want you against us — and happy that you continue to show us that not giving a damn has its merits.

Rant over. That is all.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Diversion, Road Trip, Travel

Over the Desert and Through the Hills

NOTE: Greg and I got lucky amid all the Coronavirus restrictions. We planned to spend the spring exploring our new backyard … day and weekend road trips in and around Arizona. That means we really didn’t have to cancel any plans or reservations AND we could still do much of what we had hoped to … until the end of March. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued stay-at-home orders and foiled the rest of our plans. Luckily, we managed to get a fun, scenic road trip in before the order was issued. As long as the new restrictions are in place, we are following the orders and staying put. You should, too.

Route 60 weaves through the Superstition Mountains.

The Valley of the Sun is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation and includes nearly 15,000 square miles of desert and mountain foothills. Top down on the Fiat, we leave the house on a sunny Sunday morning on the west end of the valley. The plan: drive across the valley and up into the Superstition Mountains to Globe. Staying off the highways as much as possible will turn the drive into a six-hour excursion. 

Spring is a great time to enjoy the desert, with moderate temperatures and wildflowers in bloom.We head out Route 60 through the Queen Creek Tunnel and into stone-lined canyons as we climb to nearly 5,000 feet. The views along the route are stunning. Rock formations and twisting roads climb and curve. Around one curve, we spot the old road far beneath us and the historic Pinto Creek Bridge. It appears to be part of a hiking trail today. Several small groups  walk along the dirt road leading to the old structure; dozens of other trails weave through the stone outcroppings.

Through another pass the scene shifts dramatically. The brown and red stones give way to rocks bleached nearly white by the sun and copper mining operations turn natural rock formations into strip-mined flat tiers. A few more turns finds us in Miami then Globe. We stop to enjoy our picnic lunch on the trunk of the car before following the signs to cruise through the old town of Globe. Frankly, there isn’t much to see here, but the drive alone is worth it.

With the sun high in the sky, we turn around and head back down to the valley for the picturesque drive home. At a junction, we turn left instead of going straight to explore some new backroads and areas we’ve not yet seen. 

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. In these hard times of “social distancing,” there’s no getting out to stroll the towns along the way or enjoy tourist sites, but you can still enjoy the stunning views!

Stay safe and keep dreaming of future travels.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Distractions, Diversion, Road Trip

The Great Outdoors as Therapy for Troubled Times

Social Distancing. Mandatory Telework. Who has toilet paper?

The Coronavirus has created a new vernacular; some fear this intrusion in our lives may become the “new normal.” But there is always something we can do to improve our own health and well-being … get outside.

After a week mostly cooped-up in the house — Judy running the business, me doing my day job —  Saturday dawned bright and sunny with temps forecast to rise to the mid-70s. Plans to do spring house-cleaning quickly vanished. We threw a picnic lunch together, hopped in the car, put the top down and headed out.

The plan was simple. After a stop in central Phoenix to pick up some wine we had ordered at a recent festival (see “Spring is Festival Season”), we’d head due south on Central Avenue to the point where South Mountain rises from the Valley of the Sun and enters the South Mountain Park and Preserve. The road twists and turns up the mountain to the TV antenna-filled summit. At 2,330 feet, the views of the valley from Dobbins Summit were spectacular with photo opportunities galore. Farther down the road was the Gila Valley overlook, with views to the south and east of town. The sky was so clear you could almost see Tucson! (not really, but you get the point.)

We ate our simple picnic of sandwiches and iced tea under the shade of a ramada (spanish for open porch), one of many throughout the park. We munched as hikers tightened the laces on their boots and grabbed bottles of water to take on some of the 51 miles of trails the park offers. We didn’t hike this day, but we’ll be back to do so, or to possibly let a horse do the work for us, available from the Ponderosa Stables at the park’s entrance.

On this gorgeous day, we weren’t the only ones enjoying this opportunity to be outside. For the most part, people kept up their physical distancing, but smiles abounded and talk was not about the difficulties but about how great life could be when you simply get outdoors.

Refreshed, we drove down the mountain and went home via side streets and roads, avoiding the highway to enjoy the sun in our faces and the breeze in our hair. All in all, the trip took us about four hours but it felt like we were days away from the daily (and new) routines of our lives. It was a great reminder there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … go outside and see it!

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

Distractions, Diversion, Road Trip, Travel

London Bridge is NOT Falling Down

We all probably sang this little ditty as a child: “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”

London Bridge is in Havasu City, Arizona.

Well … guess what … no it is not! I’ve seen it. London Bridge is strong and beautiful and well-traveled in the warm Arizona sunshine. Yep … Arizona! We visited the bridge on a beautiful, blue-sky day recently. The bridge connects the mainland with a small island in Lake Havasu.

British and US flags fly from the bridge.

To be fair, a lot of people didn’t know that the famous London span was sold to a developer back in 1968. Robert McCullough took the bridge apart brick-by-brick and shipped it across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal and then by train to Lake Havasu, Arizona. It was reassembled in the hopes of attracting people to the area and it worked.

Along the sides of the bridge, the Star Spangled Banner blows in the breeze along with the Union Jack. A few fellow sightseers snapped pictures (like me). We popped into a restaurant with a view of the bridge and I ate fish and chips. It was the most British-sounding meal option on the menu.

Fish and chips are a classic British lunch.

Lake Havasu is a great destination for boaters and those seeking a little water fun, otherwise the only reason to go there is to see the bridge from the song of our youth. It is about an hour south of Interstate 40 and 90 minutes-or-so north of Interstate 10 — not exactly on the beaten track. Was it worth it? I think so. We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the diversion off the highway. We marveled at the story of how the bridge came to Arizona and appreciate that it is a little piece of London here in the desert

The US is loaded with little oddities to see and London Bridge is one of them. Why not check it out? After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored, find something quirky to see once in a while.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020

The World A to Z

The Topanga Vintage Market

Ever watch those flea market makeover shows on HGTV and wonder, “Where are these flea markets with all this cool stuff?” I think I found one!

We are spending a few days in the San Fernando Valley northwest of Los Angeles. As we drive past Pierce College, I see a sign for the Topanga Vintage Market. YAY! Finally, we’re here on the fourth Sunday of the month! I turned to Greg and said, “Guess what we’re doing?”

Bargain shoppers head to the Topanga Vintage Market.

The market officially opens at 8am with more than 100 vendors. It’s a reasonable $4 per person to get in (free for Veterans and their families) and it’s well worth the price. 

If you’re in the market for vintage clothing – this is the place. Several of the vendors are even sporting their wares.

Tsotchkes? This place has tsotchkes galore. I love the collection of vintage ash trays. I spot a selection of mirrors in amazing condition. Looking for a dial telephone? There are many options throughout the market.

Furniture is a little limited, but what is here is a really fun combination of like-new condition and ready-to-be-refurbished, mostly mid-century stuff. A smattering of vendors offer what I think of as flea market items – comic books, used-but-not-classic kids items, lamps and whatnot that you’d find in a resale store – you get the point.

Coffee to the stars?

While you stroll the aisles under the gorgeous, Southern California sunshine, you can also grab a coffee or snack from one of the several food trucks on site. Parking is plentiful  and even interspersed with classic cars — it is LA after all. 

Giant tiki statues sit among planters and glassware.

We grab a business card from a guy selling big tiki statues for a future purchase. He says he’s at this market most of the time and if he’s not there, we can call him. Hey … you never know when you might need a giant tiki statue, right?

After all, there’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored … take a break from landmarks and check out a local open-air market wherever you travel.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2020