Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shaken and stirred

Here in Ludlow, the big decision is where to have dinner. Ludlow Coffee Shop has real food but closes early (at 6).

Dairy Queen, located in the 76 station, stays open til 9. DQ has a huge menu but hardly any of it can be called food.

Talked to Danny this afternoon. "Ludlow? Huh..." he says and I can almost hear the keys clicking as he Google maps it. It's an exit off Interstate 40, just about 53 miles east of Barstow. 2 gas stations, a DQ, the coffee shop, and a motel. A rider asks the clerk at DQ if it's all owned by the same guy and she nods yes. No houses, not even a stoplight.

Rudy is keeping the daily count of stoplights. 341 the first day, 30 yesterday, 10 today. You get the idea... Most of today's were in Barstow itself. After that, the route was on the old surface of Route 66. If you're on the interstate Route 66 just looks like a regular frontage road. You have to ride the road to know what it is.

The first couple of hours we sail along on smooth pavement with a tailwind. 18 mph without touching the pedals. With each passing mile the landscape becomes more and more desert-colored. We screech into the driveway at the famous Sidewinder (Bagdad) Cafe early, before 10am. There are local characters around, and one of the two employees starts up the jukebox with the soundtrack from the movie. If you haven't seen Bagdad Cafe, it was filmed in this place, real name Newberry Springs. Despite fame it is still quirky and interesting. I like to imagine how the screenwriter could have conjured the characters and story line using this as raw material.

Souvenirs left by visitors from around the world cover the walls. In fact, Route 66 seems to be more popular with foreign tourists than with Americans. Probably 60% of the notes, plane ticket stubs, flags, T-shirts, etc. are left by French tourists. Their notes say more or less "we were here".

Why does someone come all this way to say that? What does it mean to them? Is it the place itself, or the dream of the movie? Is it the appeal of something entirely different than what's at home? The screenwriter of the movie was able work with something as close by as a roadtrip from LA to Las Vegas. They transformed an ordinary-looking place into a surreal, fantastic world...

A couple of canines gather hopefully around the PAC Tour truck. This is their hunting ground, and yes they get snacks.
Hand over all your beef jerky now!
A couple of miles later comes the first truly rough section of road. Not just bumpy, but really bone-rattling. Suddenly we start to understand why it's a short mileage day with lots of stops. Pavement needs to be maintained, or this is what happens. More like mountain biking. Like a different sport than the morning's ride. Riders migrate around the road, prospecting for the smoothest pavement.

The old road.
The white stripe on the right is the most reliable surface by far. When that's unrideable, I try the center line. Numb fingers and feet from rattling around. Slow going. 20 miles of that and we all have something to talk about at the Dairy Queen!

First prize 1 Mr. Misty, second prize 2 Mr. Misties.
Now back to dinner. At the Ludlow Coffee Shop you can read the history of the Ludlow area on the back of the menu. It was a prosperous train town where they replenished water for the steam engines. The water came from...Newberry Springs! Then gold was discovered and the name Bagdad was given to the area near the mine. Lots more people came. What happened to them, I don't know. They're definitely not here any more.

Today the high was around 93 degrees and tomorrow will be hotter. Tomorrow is a long day, more than 100 miles to Needles. As motel guests we get a bucket of ice at the Chevron station. I'm going to do that in the morning and fill up my Camelbak.

1 comment :

  1. I love, love, love the Route 66 painted on the road! How marvelous. Isn't it great to carry the camera, to capture finds like that? :) With speeds like that, though, I can see why you'd be hard pressed to pull over long enough to take a picture.
    The dog pic also made me smile.
    Oh, Needles... and I thought Barstow was bad... the ice is definitely a good idea. They say Needles is usually the hottest place in the continental US. Ride safe!