2014 Trip 7, Nov. 29-30, So. Cal and Thanksgiving in Flagstaff

Flagstaff,AZ Saturday Nov. 29 and Sunday Nov. 30

The more relaxed pace of the second half of this trip continues. On Saturday we said good-bye to Jude and Lacey who returned home to NM. The four of us went to the Riordan mansion in Flagstaff. This is a state historic site. Flagstaff, like many towns along the 35th parallel in Arizona, was founded on the railroad and lumbering. The 35th parallel was chosen for the westward trail for emigrants on the way to CA as it passed through the area in the late 1850s because it was relatively free of snow and farther north from the rebel sympathizers in southern Arizona. In the late 1880s, the railroad followed the same basic route. The largest stand of Ponderosa pine in the U.S. is in this area; the pine was an integral part of the railroad expansion, used for ties and fuel for steam engines. Much of the remaining Ponderosa pine is in the Coconino National Forest and creates great vacationing opportunities. The San Francisco peaks, one of which at 12,633 feet is the highest in AZ, offer skiing in winter.

The eldest Riordan brother came to Flagstaff to take a job at the Ayer Lumber Company. This was later retitled the Arizona Lumber and Timber company. He managed the company and then bought it. His two younger brothers came out to join him from Chicago and subsequently bought the company from the eldest brother.

The three Reardon brothers represent another rags to riches story in the United States. The lumber company had the contract to supply railroad ties for what became the Santa Fe railroad. They parlayed that contract into the largest lumber mill in Flagstaff, and it became the main economic source of jobs in Flagstaff for over 50 years. Similar to many economic entrepreneurs in new communities, they also undertook major efforts to support the community. This included establishing a reservoir to provide drinking water for the city, providing financial support for the first churches, and providing land for what has become Northern Arizona University.

Riordan Mansion; this view  of the back  shows  the design better.

Riordan Mansion; this view of the back shows the design better.

Close up of one end of the Riordan mansion

Close up of one end of the Riordan mansion

The two younger brothers ended up marrying two sisters. The families got along well. They decided, after living in smaller first homes, to build what became a twin home with similar living units on each end with a common family room in the middle. This 13,000 square-foot combined unit was built in the Arts and Crafts style, also called Craftsman, which was designed by the same architect, Charles Whittlesey, who designed El Tovar lodge at the Grand Canyon. The home contained modern devices like electricity and plumbing, as well as utilizing native materials and unique concepts that maximized air flow in those days without air conditioning. The property, actually each of the two homes, was donated to the state by the heirs of the Riordans in 1978 and 1986.

We decided to have dinner out that evening and ate at Brix in Flagstaff for an excellent meal. Afterwards we walked among the brightly lit Christmas trees at the Little America motel, host to the North Pole Experience, a unique Christmas experience for families.

The Route 66 museum in Kingman AZ

The Route 66 museum in Kingman AZ

Sunday was our day to drive to Las Vegas, for the last three nights of trips seven. This drive retraced our steps to Kingman Arizona so we did visit the small route 66 museum in Kingman. Route 66 has become something of an American icon. Route 66 was one of the very first US national highway following a trail from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles, California. It also followed the 35th parallel as it went through New Mexico and Arizona and parts of California.

The road has become famous, partially due to the song “Get your kicks on Route 66” and the TV show “Route 66” in the 1960s. It was also immortalized in John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” about the dust bowl in the southern U.S. We did discover in the museum that less than 10% of the people who migrated from the dust bowl area of Kansas, Oklahoma,Texas, etc to CA stayed in CA; most returning home within a few years. There are books and mementos and tours of the area Route 66 covered, as well as postings where the “historic” Route 66 exists, since the highway was replaced by Interstate 40 in most of the southern portions of the route. Route 66 also represents to many people the “Good Old Days” of road side diners, friendlier people, the initial era of family travel, etc.

Driving to Vegas

Driving to Vegas

Leaving Kingman we drove through the desert again, watching the migration of cars from Las Vegas who were returning to the Phoenix area after the Thanksgiving weekend. Our journey took us through the Lake Mead National Recreation area, much larger than just Lake Mead-which was created by the Hoover Dam. In this area, they have created wildlife bridges similar to the ones we saw in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada. Here the primary wildlife being protected are the desert bighorn sheep.

View of Colorado RIver south of Hoover Dam

View of Colorado RIver south of Hoover Dam

The new bridge over the Colorado River,avoiding the drive over the dam itself.

The new bridge over the Colorado River,avoiding the drive over the dam itself.

Lake Mead at much lower  level, note salt level on island and how far marina has been moved from plains to the left

Lake Mead at much lower level, note salt level on island and how far marina has been moved from plains to the left

We have visited and toured Hoover dam several times. Times have changed, however. We were not planning on a tour, since we had done that before, but we did drive through the area. The new bridge over the Colorado River means that the road over the dam is just used for access and parking. A few years ago, we had taken the back exit on the Arizona side of the dam and explored the desert area. Nowadays it has been sealed off. The parking garage and closest parking lot to the dam each charge $10 per vehicle. We passed on that opportunity and instead visited the Lake Mead National Recreation Area visitor center. Is a very nice visitor center, with a good video of the recreation area and great views. We picked up a trail map of a potential hike, depending on our schedule. Of course, Chris obtained a stamp for her national parks passport.

We are staying at the Trump Towers. This has been taken over extensively by Hilton Grand Vacation Club. We have a fantastic rate, the “price” also, however, includes a two-hour timeshare spiel this afternoon. Our one-bedroom unit with kitchen, jacuzzi, etc is on the 33rd floor that has a great view ranging from the Wynn casino over to the western mountains. The three TVs include one embedded in the bathroom mirror. The two terry cloth robes they provide are very soft and comfortable.

Ed and Chris Monday December 1 8:45 AM

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “2014 Trip 7, Nov. 29-30, So. Cal and Thanksgiving in Flagstaff

  1. Mary Stusek

    Ed, this is so interesting. I’ve been to Flagstaff many times, but I never knew about the 35th parallel and the trails west. I’d better slow down and learn like my cousin. I love the photos. You have such wide-ranging interests. Thanks for taking us along.

  2. Joyce

    So happy to have you with us a few days! Enjoy all the warmth you can before heading home.

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