Moab and Route 66

The sun peeks at us camped out in the desert.

I got a great night’s sleep in the back of the Jeep. I stayed pretty warm, though it was 26 degrees (-3 C) when I woke up. When beams of light struck the inside of my car, I opened the door to get the above photograph of the sunrise. Then I tucked myself back inside the warm sleeping bag and waited to wake fully.

Frost on the windows of the Jeep.

I felt refreshed and excited to be camping out there, and was eager to get on down the road. In no time at all, after a couple more shots, I did exactly that.

Desert glows like fire.
My Jeep casts a shadow.
In mere minutes, I was back on the highway, heading into Moab.

I had camped north of Moab, Utah, just outside of Arches National Park. I have been to the park before, and knew it was wonderful, but I would have to skip it on this trip. I saw good reviews of a place called Jailhouse Cafe, and went there for breakfast.

Named Jailhouse Cafe because the building did serve that purpose at one point in history.
These two stood outside to greet arriving guests and get them quickly to a table. I chose to sit indoors because it was still very cold outside. After breakfast, the two guys agreed to take my photo.
In the Shamrock Run T-shirt

I asked the guys to take a picture of me in my bright green Shamrock Run T-shirt because at that very moment, Pedro was getting ready to run in the 2022 Shamrock Run in Portland. I sent the pic to him as the best I could do for supporting him in the race, since I was so far away.

After my tummy was sated, I had the presence of mind to look around me. Moab is not only a beautiful town, but beautifully situated. It really reminded me of the fictional town of Radiator Springs, in the Pixar movie Cars.

A screenshot from the movie Cars, set in Radiator Springs. Note the red rocks in the background. {image from the Pixar fandom website:}
A screen shot I grabbed from the movie.
And another, as the camera pans backward.
Red rock cliffs rise behind the town of Moab.
It’s a beautiful town.

Though I had skipped Arches National Park, I knew there was another arch coming up that was quite close to the highway, and I planned to stop. Soon I arrived at Wilson’s Arch. I parked and climbed up to stand in the arch.

The view of Wilson’s Arch from the highway.
The view from inside the arch. Isn’t it spectacular?
Another perspective.
Looking the other direction.

I’m going to skip ahead in my story and show you some shots from the city of Holbrook, Arizona, because it also reminded me of the town of Radiator Springs. Twenty-four hours later, I was in a different desert town, on my way to look for some petroglyphs, and saw this place:

This scene made me think once more of Radiator Springs.

This hotel rents out rooms shaped like tipis. This motel calls them “wigwams” here, but wigwams are low, domed homes, and a tipi is shaped like these. It is an example of what is called “microaggressions,” in which non-Native people use Native culture in a disrespectful way. It’s not a crime, or obviously hurtful, but in reality it is hostile and demeaning. The message here is that there is no value in understanding what a wigwam is, and the more important thing is to use a foreign word because it sounds cool, or whatever their reason is. The message is also that this is normal and acceptable, when its disrespectful and harmful. To add insult to injury, the town of Holbrook is surrounded by Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Apache reservations, so Native people are subjected to this scene daily.

But after I got done being annoyed, the scene once more reminded me of Radiator Springs. And when I got closer, I saw the old cars parked around and just had to stop.

Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona.
The cars are hilarious. (To me, that is) The cars, VW bus, and trucks are reminiscent of characters in the movie.

I noticed all around me the references to Route 66. The old famous east-west American road trip highway goes right through Holbrook. (Route 66 does not go through Moab, which was up north in Utah, just so I don’t confuse you) This highway opened up in 1926 and connected Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. I realized that with so many similarities, the fake city in the animated movie Cars must have been designed with Moab and Holbrook in mind, and the story of the city in the movie was the story of Route 66. I was delighted with the discovery. And yes, I am 52 years old and I love animated movies and watch them over and over, just like a kid.

“Historic Arizona US 66”
This part of the road is the old Route 66 and the businesses still look much the same as they did when this was a popular route. Like the movie, many of them are closed, or in their last days.
Signage reminds travelers of this highway’s iconic heritage.

Today, portions of Route 66 are marked and managed by the National Park Service.

Thank you for bearing with me while I got off topic a little bit there. In my next post I’ll tell you about the end of my day, when I finally reached Arizona, my destination state, and explored Petrified Forest National Park.

9 thoughts on “Moab and Route 66

  1. Radiator Springs! That’s exactly what came to my mind when I saw your photos of Moab and Holbrook. And those cars in Holbrook really resemble some of the characters in Cars. That third shot of the desert glow is mind-blowing! In a way, it reminds me of the images of the Outback in Australia.

    1. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who thought of Radiator Springs! I’ll bet the hotel gets many tourists who stop for photos, or even stay there, because it’s so much like the movie. I think it’s pretty neat that, first of all an old highway is famous for representing a particular time and mood of America, but second of all that portions of the highway are managed and tourists come just to drive on it – probably because their parents told them about it. What an idea. oooh, Australia! I hadn’t thought of that, but yes! That particular glow is so similar to shots I’ve seen from the continent, which I have yet to visit.

  2. I’ve been through there many times and feel very much the same as you. I wouldn’t stay in that motel either for the same reason. It felt very disrespectful. Of course, we take being disrespectful of our native peoples to an unimaginable level. It never seems to get better.

    1. Oh, I should have thought you would know the place. It’s so close to you! Yes, it was frustrating to see it, and I’m sure the owners have been approached by someone suggesting that they change the name. But they have not. They’re probably the same types of people who think we should keep our sports teams named after Natives for nostalgic reasons. But it is getting better. It really is. I see proud Native representation all over the place now, and I don’t recall seeing it so much before. The Black Lives Matter movement really helped, interestingly.

    1. Thank you Derrick! Wilson’s Arch looks so impressive, doesn’t it? I parked in a wide spot on the side of the highway, and grabbed my camera, and just started climbing. There isn’t really a trail, but some worn areas where others had my idea also. It is bare, steep rock up near the top, and scary for an amateur like to me to climb, but I did it! I was chatting with a long-haul truck driver who was also pulled over at the bottom, and had the hood of his truck up to do some maintenance. He saw my camera and my face turned upward and he followed my gaze. “Wow!” he said, “I had no idea that was there, when I pulled over.” I was glad to have helped him notice. 🙂

  3. Haven’t seen The Cars but now I want to. 🙂 I’d be tempted to let these Wigwam people have a piece of mind. I adore your shamrock top door photo!! It may have been for Pedro, but I’m just as happy to see it. 🙂

    1. You might like Cars! It’s about racing cars, but is designed to appeal to sports-minded people, and you are one. It has a couple secondary stories too, and it’s heartwarming and enjoyable. One core message is the importance of making friends, and then valuing and respecting how they can contribute to your life if you listen to them and trust them, and learning to give and share among friends. The desert landscapes in the movie are so much like what I saw all day long on this day and the next, during my road trip. I’m totally going to watch this movie tonight, now that I’m home. 🙂

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