Square State Tour

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Day 6
Stuck in four states

Fri, Oct 5, 2007

9:30 am
1,179 miles from home

Moab, Nevada

It's very windy, which makes packing the car a bit of a challenge, especially when it's time to pack the tent (which has been drying out in the garage). But eventually, all the bits of the tent are smushed into place and covered with the rest of our luggage and we're ready to hit the road.

The T-Man (Robert's pet tumbleweed) has survived driving at 90 mph, but is finally swept from the car by the wind. We bid a fond farewell to his little bits, but are glad we're not transporting any noxious plants across state lines. (According to Jane, tumbleweeds are stickery, hard to get rid of, and end up everywhere you don't want them. Sounds like blackberry bushes in the Northwest.)

9:45 am

Our first stop? A fabulous place that Jane & Jim almost forgot to show us! Plus—it's a new addition to our list of offbeat roadside attractions. We are proud to present: The Volkswagen Graveyard (tada!)


The Volkswagen Graveyard (née Tom Tom's Volkswagen Museum & Parts)

At one point, it was Tom Tom's Volkswagen Museum & Parts and was owned by a fellow named Tom (hence the name). He started collecting VW's and word got out and people started donating more to him. Earlier this year he died and the store closed up.

But the VW's are still there, along with a dozen cats or so (junkyard cats?) that somebody continues to feed. (Jane says "This is Moab—it could be anybody.")

Junkyard cats

There are all kinds of VW's here—buses, bugs, squarebacks, Karmann Ghias, even the odd Porsche. Most of them you can't really get to because they're packed door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper and there're no passageways. When Tom was selling them for parts or restoration, and people wanted one from the middle, they'd use a crane to get it.

A raft of Karmann Ghias

Some of the buses are stuffed full of spare parts. We see a few bugs that look pretty good, and others that are just shells. One bug has got a bush growing inside it. The effect is pretty awesome.

A flowering VW bug

Robert stops to kick a Type III squareback just like one he used to own (it caused him a fair amount of grief), and we all stare in wonder. Then we pet a few of the cats and wander off.

If you want to visit, it's at the corner of Mill Creek Rd and Spanish Valley Drive in Moab (the official address is 1809 Mill Creek Dr). We can't promise it'll be there much longer—his estate may decide that maybe the property could be put to better use. But as long as it's there, it's a must-see in Moab.

10:00 am

We stop by the "Red Rock Bakery," which is also a coffee shop, for breakfast. Per usual at every place we've been in Moab, they greet Jane & Jim by name and we get introduced to the owners, Howard and Amanda, who serve up Jim's "regular."

It's good food and we buy a couple of sandwiches to eat on the road.

11:03 am
1,204 miles

Hole N"The Rock, Utah

It's hard to miss Hole N"The Rock because there're letters six feet tall painted on a rock wall next to the highway. In fact, you know it's coming for about a mile before you get there. And it really is spelled with a double-quote after the "N": Hole N"The Rock, so don't holler at us about it.

Could this be it?

We pay the $4 per person (usually $5, but Robert scored a coupon) and get a private tour of the place.

The Hole is the project of Albert and Gladys Christensen, and is basically a house carved into the side of a rocky red hill. It started out as a diner, with the diner part being carved into the hillside (it's now the gift shop). They had a commercial kitchen carved out of the rock, too, complete with a rock deep fat fryer.

When uranium was discovered nearby (there was LOTS of uranium near here and it really jump-started the town) the diner took off. Over the years, Albert carved more and more rooms out of the side of the hill until he reached about 14 total. It's essentially a large room with some smaller rooms coming off of it and windows to the outside, so you don't feel like you're trapped underground.

All of it was carved or blasted by Albert his own self, with Gladys cleaning up the rock bits. There's even a fireplace with two 10" holes leading out for ventilation.

Albert was also taught himself how to stuff animals, and his first effort, Harry their mule is on display. Harry looks scary—great patches of missing hair and much visible stitching. There are a couple of stuffed horses, too. Albert was better at carving rock than at stuffing animals.

He was also a painter and he was every bit as good at painting as he was at taxidermy.

Albert died of a heart attack in 1957 at age 53. Gladys lived on, closed the diner, set up a gift shop, and led tours through the home. She also made jewelry to sell in the gift shop. Polished bits of glass from beer and Coke bottles were the best sellers (she called them desert glass).

Finally, Gladys died in 1974 and they're both buried in (what else) an area that Albert carved out of the rock just around the corner from their home.

Gladys & Albert's final resting place

It's now owned by some private investors who don't seem interested in changing much of it. It's gradually accumulated various other oddball things (a two-story outhouse, an oversize suit of armor, a portable jail) and added a convenience store and a petting zoo (although "zoo" is a bit of a reach—there's some emus, an ostrich, a miniature donkey and some pot-bellied pigs). There's a statue of a golfer made from golf club parts, and a jeep covered with license plates and a giant bone on the top (and, no, we have no idea why the bone is there).

It's an odd, quiet sort of goofy attraction that's well worth the visit. Especially if you're on your way out of town (which we are).

12:00 pm

We bid a fond farewell to Hole N"The Rock and head south. Because Jim has the day off, he and Jane decide to show us a few more interesting places, driving along with us as we head south.

*sigh* We have a correction to yesterday's correction about the mountains near Moab. It turns out that not only are they not the Rocky Mountains, they're also not the "La Salle" mountains. They are, officially, the "La Sal" mountains. We're pretty sure about this one (we've checked several different maps), so this should be it on the subject.

12:11 pm
1,214 miles

Wilson Arch, Utah

We stop across the highway from "Wilson Arch," which is a sandstone arch carved into the rock by natural forces. There's a whole park nearby, full of more than 1100 natural arches. But we figure, hey, you stop by the roadside and take a picture of one and you've pretty much got the experience, you know?

This is exactly the sort of attitude that drives John (our Unimog driver from yesterday) batshit. But he's not with us, so we do it anyway.

12:42 pm
1,241 miles

Newspaper Rock, Utah

Jane & Jim then lead us to "Newspaper Rock" which is an attraction about 10 miles off the highway on the way to the Canyonlands National Park. It's a wall with petroglyphs carved into it over the years.

The plaque explains that there's no way to date petroglyphs, so nobody really knows how old they are (but we suspect the one that says "C. D. Gonzales 6/3/54" is more recent than some of the others). They think the pictures go back about 2,000 years. And nobody knows what they mean—it could all be doodling or maybe, "For a good time, call Nyagh." We're pretty sure we see pictures showing space aliens landing and selling time-shares to early settlers.

It's fascinating, though, and we're glad we stopped to see it.

1:15 pm
1,261 miles

The scenery finally shifts and some trees appear. We're happy to see them.

1:16 pm
1,262 miles

The trees are now gone and we're back to scrub desert. We're sorry to see them go.

2:30 pm
1,320 miles

The desert has now changed from whitish sand to reddish sand. Otherwise, it remains about the same.

2:40 pm
1,328 miles

We've turned onto highway 162 in southern Utah and apparently have stumbled onto a den of Episcopalians. There's St. Christopher's Episcopal Church & Gift Shop and not four miles down the road there's St. John the Baptizer Episcopal Church (but no gift shop).

2:55 pm
1,347 miles


We cross from Utah into Colorado, adding another square state to our Square State Tour! For reasons known only to Coloradites (Coloradonians?) the highway we are on changes from 162 to 41 (all the other times we crossed state lines, the highways kept their same numbers).

3:10 pm
1,362 miles

Four Corners (AZ, UT, CO, NM)

If you draw state borders using a ruler and making a lot of square states, you will eventually end up with a place where four of the corners of the square states all meet. This place is known as "Four Corners" and is where the bottom right of Utah, the bottom left of Colorado, the upper right of Arizona, and the upper left of New Mexico all run into each other.

It's on Navajo land and they've set up a simple tourist attraction. It costs $3 per person to enter (the sign says: "Cars: $3 per person; Busses: $3 per person").

There's a row of sheds selling crafts along one side, and a big metal plaque with the state borders drawn and labeled and a convenient photography platform.

As Robert closes the door to the PT Cruiser, he turns to Laura and says "Did I just lock my keys in the car?"

Sure enough. And Laura left her purse in the car, too. All our keys are inside the very locked car. With the headlights on.

Fortunately, Jane and Dr Jim have AAA, so she calls them, telling the little white lie that she was driving our car when the lockout occurred. The AAA rep asks Jane what state she's in, but the person on the other end has never heard of Four Corners Monument. So Jane offers to be in any one of the four states that the rep would like her to be. Just pick one.

This further confuses the AAA rep, who doesn't like this ambiguity. Jane finally decides to go with New Mexico, since we're a good 100 feet inside the New Mexican border ("although we can push it to Arizona, if you'd like").

AAA assures us the locksmith will be there by 4:05 pm, which isn't too bad.

We head off to the monument where we race from state to state and get worn out. Robert does a jig in four states while brushing his teeth. We're glad they're all in the same time zone, or he'd be jet lagged.

Then we browse the row of Navajo craft shops. There's some nice stuff, and Laura picks up some pretty hair ornaments, and we settle in to wait.

3:50 pm

AAA calls us back to inform us that when they said the truck would be there by 4:05, they really meant it'd be there about 5:30 pm. We were willing to wait around until 4:05, but 5:30 is too long to wait.

So Jim heads off to find a coat hanger, and Laura heads off to the entry gate to see if they can help. After a few minutes, Jim comes back with a coat hanger. Laura's visit to the guard gate results in the arrival of Norman, a Navajo who doesn't say a word the entire time, but is a handy guy.

Soon a Navajo woman with a screwdriver joins the team, and then a white guy named Steve comes over and says, "I've got some tools in my truck" and returns with a pry bar and a little grabber gadget.

In about 12 minutes the door is unlocked to great cheers from all.


Humanity: 1
AAA: 0

We call AAA back and tell them "Never mind" and saddle up to head out. We bid Jane & Jim a fond farewell, as they are headed back to Moab and we are headed on to points east.

4:15 pm

We leave Colorado and enter New Mexico, which welcomes us and informs us that it is the "Land of Enchantment." We're not sure what that means, but we hope no spells are involved.

5:17 pm
1,411 miles

New Mexico

We've been driving through more of the Navajo reservation along a state highway. We notice that there are a lot of "Roadside Restaurants." These are little stops with handmade signs offering food for sale, such as turkey leg, mutton stew, corn, and hot green chili.

The dining areas range from picnic tables to lean-tos made from plywood. It's sort of a twist on the roadside produce stand. The reservation isn't subject to state laws for restaurants.

5:40 pm
1,431 miles

Farmington, New Mexico

We pull into Farmington, a middling-sized town in New Mexico and find a room at the Journey Inn (the Call of the Wild Lounge was closed, to our great disappointment). This is a seriously low-rent place— there's no coffee maker, no desk or table, the toilet paper sits on the toilet tank, and the phones have labels from some hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.

We relax by watching an episode of Meerkat Manor, which we've never seen, but are soon hooked on. It's the one where Axel is saved and adopted, but Flower gets killed defending her cubs from a snake. We shed a tear for Flower and then head out for dinner.

There is, of course, no Internet connection here, but we think we have a lead on a Wi-Fi connection in town. If you're reading this, it worked.

Tomorrow: In Alien country!

Robert & Laura
Square State Tour

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