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Camp Verde Hoover Dam

17th July 2010

A Highland Festival and Getting My Kicks on Route 66

    My rough plan for the day was to rise early, head into Flagstaff for a shower and perhaps breakfast, and then head west taking the slightly longer but more scenic Route 66 option.
    I had my shower, but before sorting out breakfast, I came across a billboard advertising the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival (I did come across a hoard of pipers in kilts in the Weatherford Hotel the other evening) being held at the weekend in Fox Glenn Park. I thought this would be too good to miss, and worked out where the park was and made my way there.
Welsh League of Arizona
Irish Cultural Centre
Spinners, Weavers and Knitters
Scottish Warriors
    I, like many others, was told I couldn't park in the park, so like many others I trawled the side streets until I found a slot for the van. It was impossible to get lost, all I had to do was follow the kilts. Once inside the park, I was surrounded by stalls representing every clan this side of the moon. And it wasn't just Scottish clans, I came across stalls for the Welsh and Irish contingencies, and even a Norwegian stall!
    There were men and women in every tartan imaginable, all with American accents. One of the kilted chaps I spoke to, who was a piper in one of the bands, said that out of the group of 20 in his band, only two were Scottish by birth, the rest had Scottish blood in then from generations past.
    For breakfast I had Haggis pup (another word for a well seasoned sausage), mashed potatoes (not a patch on taties) and gravy. Neaps were not in the vocabulary. Basically it was bangers and mash, nothing to write home about at all. The other great favourite was the Irish corned beef sandwich. Hmm... I have missed out in my education somewhere.
    The lady at the Welsh League of Arizona stall said that she helped run Welsh classes in Phoenix. I wondered how many English folk give lessons in Navajo back in the UK. Wales would fit into Maricopa County in Arizona, and more people live in the county than in Wales. After uttering, "Diolch" for the information, I parted with a, "Pob hwyl" (For the uninitiated thank you and goodbye). I visited the Davidson clan stall and asked about the Harley branch. It took a wee while for them to cotton on, I thought it might have been my accent, and fortunately they saw the funny side.
    There were umpteen workshops running all weekend: e.g. learn to play the musical bones, learn to play the tin whistle, story telling, Irish poetry, Celtic appliqu�. I declined the whiskey tasting opportunities, and the memorabilia stalls didn't interest me at all.
Celtic Spring
    There were a couple of large marquees, each with a stage and seating. Different bands took the stage for their hour long stints, and they were excellent. The musicians were very talented, had a superb sense of rhythm, and got feet tapping and hands clapping. One group was all accomplished fiddle players, but they also took turns at Irish dancing. I'm sure that would not do anybody's knees any good. Another group comprised a piper, a guitar player, a drummer and a didgeridoo player ( the drone of the didgeridoo complimented the pipe drone), and the sound was phenomenal. I couldn't quite see how six women, the Gypsy Chicks Belly Dancers, fitted in though.
Massed Bands Procession
    A massed band procession took place, with the banners of all the clans being paraded behind. The spectators just loved all this "pomp and circumstance".
    In the sports arena, huge guys and also 'big' ladies were engaged in typical highland games sports. Swinging a heavy weight backwards and forwards between their legs before hauling it high into the air and behind them to get over a bar. Crumbs, if they got that wrong they could kill themselves. The women's' weights were 28lbs, the men had 42lbs and 56lbs options. Hammers were being thrown too, but I didn't hang around to see the caber tossing. I learned that these ranged in length from 8' to 20', and in weight from 28lbs to 120lbs.
Lady Putting the Shot
Tossing the Weight
Throwing the Hammer
    It was all an amazing spectacle; fancy coming all the way to Arizona to see my first Highland Festival. The spirit of the occasion was nicely summed up to me when I saw an old chap ride up on his motorbike with his bagpipes sitting in the side car, wearing his kilt and bonnet; unbelievable. The spectators clearly loved the event.
    However, after four hours, the monsoon season was catching up with the event, and I decided to clear out before I got soaked. You can only see so many kilts in a day. I did notice that male American kilt wearers didn't bother much with dignity, and fortunately they all wore shorts of sorts underneath, thank God!
    It was a sad occasion to leave Flagstaff, the place had really grown on me, there seemed so much going on there, and it was a natural hub to base myself for exploring the surrounding area. It just had a good feel to it.
Route 66 of Course
    I followed the I40 west, through heavy downpours until I got to Seligman, and then opted to go round the longer but more scenic fabled Route 66. I had been along a stretch of Route 66 many times in Flagstaff. The history of the road that would become Route 66 began in 1857 when Lt. Edward Beal led an expedition through this region to build a wagon road to California. This road was followed by many emigrants, and then by the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1882. Between 1880 and 1916 bicyclists, who were not happy with road conditions in the US, began the Good Roads Movement. This led to a Federal Act in 1916, and the creation of a system of US Highways. One of these, The National Old Trails Highway, stretched from Maryland to California. Originally the highway was to swerve south into Phoenix, but a delegation from Flagstaff was able to convince the builders to bring the road through northern Arizona. In 1921 a second Federal Highways Act led to an improved system, and the actual designation of the highway running from Chicago to Santa Monica as Route 66.
    Now Route 66 had become firmly established in the annals of Americana. The lore of the road painted romantic pictures of a simpler time. It conjured images of weary travelers in classic cars resting for the night at rustic auto courts in quaint little towns where mam and dad still ran the soda fountain and a dime store sold things for a dime. It quietly revered the sad lot of those people who were displaced from their homes and driven by the ravages of the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. It beckoned to the adventurer with the promise of new experiences and excitement beyond each turn. By now I considered myself more of an adventurer and traveler, rather than a tourist, and I just had to drive this 100 mile section.
    Driving along this road, which was now effectively bypassed by the I40 further south, gave me a tremendous sense of space both on the road and also in wide open countryside. Mountains were always visible not far from the road, but far enough to let me know that this was a big country. The road was never far from the railroad, and I would pass by mile long trains carrying all manner of freight to destinations I'd never know. The long wide valley that I was passing through allowed vision for many scores of miles, and I could see thunderstorm cells far in the distance, and I would try to modify my speed so as to avoid colliding with then.
    I stopped on one of the many long straight sections of the road to take some photos, and it was then that a glint caught my eye. I knew I had a problem with my front offside wheel and figured I would need to get the tracking sorted out at some point. I had not appreciated how bad it was, until I noticed that there was a lot of wear on the side of the tyre, and now it had worn down to the steel threads. This was serious, and I knew I had to get the tyre relaced as soon as possible. I proceeded at reduce speed to Peach Springs, hoping to find a garage there, but no such luck. I was informed there was a garage at the next town of Truxton, so I limped along to there. This town had a population that could be counted on two hands, but it did have a very small dilapidated garage. I pulled in assuming such a small run down place would not have a tyre for my vehicle. I could of course have used the small width spare, but that was for emergency use only, with a 50 mph limit attached to it. I just wanted a proper tyre.
Long Straight Route 66 with Thunderstorms on the Horizon
    There was just one guy there with his dogs, one of which didn't take kindly to strangers apparently, and he normally locked it in the back of the office when people turned up, but today it was stalking me at will. I showed him the problem and we wandered into his workshop where there was a large rack with all manner of tyres on it. He did find one that matched, but I knew it was a used tyre. I asked him the history of it. The previous owner had a blowout on one of his tyres, and wanted a new one to replace it, and decided to balance it out by having two new ones. I was not in a position to query this, and it looked in better condition than my other tyres. He charged me $40 for changing the tyre and balancing the wheel, which I thought was a bargain. Immersing the inflated tyre in water checking for leaks was his standard procedure too. He mentioned about the tracking problem, but he did not have the equipment to fix it. The nearest place would be Kingman, 50 miles further on. Of course by the time I would get there everything would be shut, and the following day would be Sunday. I'd tackle the problem some other time.
    While he was carrying out the task, a thunderstorm had overtaken his garage and it was belting it down and the lightening strikes were close by. I hung about and chatted for a while. I asked him how he survived in such an isolated area, with most of the traffic taking the I40. His father had bought the garage in 1978, and now he ran the garage, and he relied heavily on vehicles from the nearby Hualapai Indian Reservation. The Indians did have a garage in their territory at one time, but the owner of that wound it up when the outstanding monies owed to him exceeded $600k. This chap would only do work for them on a basis of cash up front. We watched the rain together, and he told me that this was the first rain he had fall on his garage in six months. He gathered I was traveling, and I got onto the topic of selling the vehicle. In his opinion, based on what he saw of the van, and the age and mileage, he thought a quick sale through a dealer might get me $1-1.5k, and a more measured sale might get me up to $3k. This gave me a warm feeling, not that I needed warming up in this climate. The guy was anxious to close shop, so I thanked him and headed back onto the road.
    I felt easier on my drive down to Kingman. The journey did become a little monotonous a little after Hackberry, there was a long, straight section of road like an arrow for over twenty miles. These builders learned a lot from the Romans.
    I arrived on the outskirts of Kingman, where I came across a very large Walmart. Most Walmarts allow travelers to park overnight in their car parks, and since this one stayed open until midnight and opened again at 6am, it would serve as a convenient restroom facility too. I knew it was taking liberties but Walmart permited it. It was in a retail park that contained the usual collection of fast food places. One of these was a Chinese eat-as-much-as-you-can restaurant, so for $6.50, I had a good feast before retiring to bed.
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Camp Verde Hoover Dam

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Last updated 19.7.2010