June 10, 2019 Day 2 Miles 450
From Winslow, AZ To Death Valley, CA
Roads Traveled I-40, AZ 93, I-11, I-215 NV 160, Bell Vista Ave., CA 160
Stayed at the Inn at Death Valley
The view today from La Posada, beside the railroad tracks in Winslow was brightened by the flower gardens surrounding the hotel. What an inspiring morning with interviews with Allen Affeldt, owner and restorer of La Posada and John Sharpe, owner of The Turquoise Room Restaurant. Both of these men were gracious enough to meet with me and share their visions.
Allen has spent the last 19 years slowly saving and the restoring La Posada. It was slated to be torn down when Allen acquired it. His restoration has lovingly brought back the historic elements. Still a work in progress, he tells me. The museum, WAT (Winslow Arts Trust) opened this year in the old train depot. The next project will involve creating 6 suites under the ballroom, in a basement area that has been used for storage. Each time we visit, we have been delighted at seeing the way the hotel is thriving and continuing to offer more and more to a traveller crossing Arizona on I-40 (the old Route 66!).
What really impressed me, though, was Allen’s passion for making a difference. Owning the hotel is clearly not about beds or the money. He spoke of how important it is to him that the hotel revitalizes the town of Winslow and provide opportunity for the residents. Honoring the vision of gifted architect, Mary Colter, his restoration and enlargement of the original hotel uses materials and furnishings that give a visitor the feel of stepping back in time. It would be easy to imagine being a traveler right off the Santa Fe Railway spending the night in this Fred Harvey hotel, being served by the classic Harvey Girls. Allen has made Winslow at destination that extends beyond “Standing on a Corner”.
John Sharpe owns The Turquoise Room Restaurant within La Posada. It is unusual for a chef to own a restaurant within a hotel, but Allen enticed John to come to Winslow when he began the restoration. A renowned chef, originally from northern England and then the owner restaurants in Southern California, John has been in Winslow now for 19 years. The Turquoise Room has earned many accolades and John earned the James Beard Award for the creativeness he has brought to this restaurant. Local foods are featured on an unusual menu with choices you won’t find anywhere else.
I had imagined when I asked John for an interview, that we would be talking about food. Surprisingly, the conversation went in another direction. His vision and inspiration, like Allen’s, extends beyond the basic business of producing legendary dishes.
The theme that emerged was about relationships. He spoke of how important the relationships he had with the farmers and suppliers made a difference in being able to obtain foods. For years, every Sunday morning, he has shopped at the Flagstaff Farmer’s Market buying fresh from the farm produce for the week. His Churro Lamb is free-range reared by Irene Bennally in the wild lands of Two Grey Hills on the Navajo Nation.
It isn’t just about producing a great meal, he told me, it was about that person walking away feeling great about how they were treated.
And the last relationship piece was how he felt about his staff and how the restaurant provided over 60 jobs to Winslow residents that, otherwise, might not have this kind of an opportunity. He mentioned our enthusiastic waitress from last night, Joanie, and the one who took care of us as we chatted, Ann, were both mothers.
What inspiration! Please go to Winslow and experience this for yourself!
On the road again…..
After my interviews, we hopped in the car for today’s road trip. One of the longest (7 hours) legs of the journey, we pulled out of Winslow and headed west on I-40. Before Flagstaff, the snow covered 12,633 ft. Mt. Humphreys loomed in the distance. Hard to believe there is still snow on the mountains in June in Arizona.
An hour or so later, as we drove through Williams, we could see smoke filling the sky from another wildfire to the south. It was a good ways south of the highway, so it didn’t slow us down. The pine trees started to give way to high desert as we barreled on west. This is one of the few days we will be on an Interstate.
At Seligman, we found the Snow Cap Cafe for lunch. A busy little outpost, built in 1953 with scrap lumber from the Santa Fe Rail yards, these days, the tour buses bring tourists. We had great chiliburger and perfect onion rings. Bub was please to get a chocolate malt to sustain him for the afternoon.
We’d never been to Seligman. As we drove though, it seemed the whole town was a tourist Mecca (or trap-depending on your definitions). Road Kill Cafe was at the west end of town, with gift and novelty shops, lining the road. Old Route 66 went through here and the Route 66 Motel offers lodging that looked very basic.
On the road again….
only 5 more hours to Death Valley. We drove I-40 across northern Arizona’s wide, flatlands to Kingman. Turning north here on AZ 93 towards Las Vegas.
The view remained fairly desolate and barely inhabited for miles and miles.
Around 3 PM, we hit the Las Vegas traffic and made our way towards Pahrump, avoiding the Strip. Of course, in the distance, the space needle and the casinos provided a surreal view.
Between Las Vegas an Pahrump, we encountered the first construction. The highway was restricted on one lane in each direction for a long way. New construction subdivisions were numerous. Looks like Las Vegas is continuing to expand as baby-boomers crave retirement away from the cold and the snow.
You can get Fireworks in Pahrump all year round and, given the propensity of billboards, it appeared to be of economic importance.
We headed into California from here. We argued a little over the next road. Bub had our AAA map and I’d asked the car’s guidance system and Roadtrippers which road to take. Bub didn’t like that Bell Vista Ave. didn’t have a highway number and was only a very little grey line on his map. Google said it was 25 minutes quicker, so, as the driver, I did it my way. And it worked. A two lane road with almost no one else spanned about 30 miles to the California line. We laughed when the car said, “Welcome to California.”
The land was wide open with a little scrubrush and little else, but rocks, and vultures. Can you imagine how it must have been traversing this by wagon 150 years ago?
Death Valley is the largest National Park in the Country, encompassing 3,099,770 acres.
About 5:30, we come through the desolate boulders and salt fields. We have descended from 3000 ft. To 190 below sea level in about an hour.
The Inn at Death Valley was built in 1930 as part of the 20 Mule Team Borax operation. It has recently undergone a $100 Million renovation. We stayed here 10 years ago and loved the pool, which is fed by a Spring that is at 87 degrees year round.
Our room is spacious and opens to a patio with views of the Valley and Mountains surrounding it.
A fruit and cheese plate welcomes us and provides a perfect compliment to a glass of Keeling Schaffer wine. Life is good.
We’ll be here for 2 days to relax and explore.