I thought Arizona would be flat, and mostly brown.
I was wrong.
We woke up early to begin the long drive to Tucson from Holbrook. I wasn’t really looking forward to it because I thought the landscape wouldn’t be very interesting.
Around an hour into the drive is when we learned that Arizona has mountains. Really tall mountains.
The mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway seemed like little hills in comparison.
We drove up and down these huge mountains. Through the snowstorm at the top, then back down to calmer weather and then back up again into the snow.
It definitely was not the boring drive I was afraid of.
Just off of interstate 40, formally the old route 66, is Two Guns Ghost Town.
The land where this ghost town now sits, holds many stories.
A group of Native Americans were killed by an enemy tribe that set fire to a cave where they were hidden. After that tragic event, the area is now known as the Apache Death Cave. Years later the beginnings of a settlement started to appear as construction began on a railroad and bridges over the Canyon Diablo where the Apache Death Cave was. But this new settlement was a town of outlaws and bandits. Reportedly a group of men once robbed a train, stealing close to $200,000 and then buried it somewhere near the canyon rim. It has never been found.
Eventually a man named Harry Miller, who referred to himself as Crazy Chief Thunder, began the major construction of a town he wanted to call Two Guns.
The town included a small zoo with mountain lions, snakes, and other interesting creatures. He also apparently sold the skeletal remains of the Native Americans who died in the cave nearby.
Crazy Chief Thunder skipped town eventually after shooting a guy to death with whom he’d had a disagreement. The man’s widow kept the town going and opened a gas station, tourist store and campground. Unfortunately the gas station burned down in the 70s, and Two Guns slowly declined into a ghost town.
Now it sits, right next to the interstate, just some lonely graffiti covered buildings in the middle of the empty desert.
The setting sun was casting extreme shadows over the crumbling buildings as we arrived at the ghost town one chilly February day. The wind was tearing across the flat open land. No one else was around.
The desert is such a strange and mysterious place.
The interstate in my backyard, if followed long enough, will eventually lead to the small town of Holbrook Arizona.
It’s a little town that the old route 66 used to run right through until it got bypassed in recent years by the construction of big interstate 40. Holbrook also inspired the little desert town in the movie Cars.
The people behind the scenes of the movie Cars apparently spent some time in this cafe, planning out the movie.
(For some reason we didn’t eat there?!!)
We rolled into the town of Holbrook on a chilly late February afternoon, after spending the day wandering through the Petrified Forest. Old neon signs lined the streets, and big dinosaur statues guarded the many little gift shops scattered around. I wanted to walk around and explore the shops, but it seemed everything was closed. There was nobody around, except for a random car passing by here and there. With the cold wind blowing through, Holbrook felt like a bit of a ghost town. Or at least on its way to becoming a ghost town.
I dreamed of what it might be like, in the hot summer weather, and what it had been like many many years ago.
I still find it amusing, when I listen to the cars on the interstate behind my house, that this little town lies way down the road. And then I dream of racing off, back to the desert. It’s just 2000 miles down the road!
During the dive away from the Grand Canyon, towards northern Arizona, the landscape grew more and more like nothing I had ever seen.
Around every curve was an entire new world. It was a valley, with sharp red cliffs rising up to the sky. Then around just another curve, the road was on the top of a mountain, looking out over a flat golden plateau. Snow capped mountains stood in the distance.
It felt like another planet. Like Mars.
Every so often was a house, or a trailer, or what could be considered a minuscule town. But mostly, there was no sign of civilization.
The farther the drive, the more alien the landscape looked. Eventually the curvy desert roads led to this bridge. Red mountains surrounded the area, while the bright blue Colorado river flowed beneath the bridge, heading towards the Grand Canyon.
The goal was to reach Monument Valley by dusk, so not much time could be spent in this foreign place. But it stands out in my mind as one of my favorite areas of Arizona.
I hope to one day return.