Insights on “Must Do” on Route 66 and Their Outcomes

This trip of the Cousins 3 (C3) was a full year in planning.  One of the early decisions was to make it a fundraising project combined with a fun road trip.  All our efforts on both aspects have been rewarding, but just as a reminder the fundraising for cystic fibrosis and for colorectal cancer causes continues through May 31. If you have not contributed, please help us reach our goal of $10,000 during Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month.

So far as fun is concerned, we have had unplanned fun everyday.  See John’s and Mitch’s daily blogs to learn just what type of fun. I believe that what you will find are stories and intersections with people who are every day people with big hearts filled with kindness to us as complete strangers.

Nevertheless, Mitch and John had “must do” things to do on the trip.  Let’s start with Mitch’s and his desire to stay overnight in a tee pee.  There are many locations along Route 66 displaying tee pees, but only one on the original Route 66 that has overnight accommodations. Mitch’s choice was the Wig Wam Motel in Holbrook, AZ.

First, here is a little of trivia explained best by a joke:

Patient: Doctor, I can’t get any sleep.

Doctor: I’m sorry to hear that. Do you know why?

Patient: I can’t decide if I’m a tee pee or a wig wam.

Doctor: That’s easy.  You’re two tents (too tense)

Both tee pees and wigwams were used by different Native American tribes. Tee pees were pointed using primarily animal skins for covering while wigwams were rounded using primarily plant material for covering.

So we were assigned to Tee Pee #2 of 18.  All the tee pees were in a semicircle surrounding the office which looked like a former gas station.  In between the tee pees were old vehicles, mostly cars but some trucks.  None were in classic car show condition, but we were there for the experience of sleeping in a tee pee.

Did the experience include wooden poles covered with buffalo hide? No, it was more like a 2 x 4 lumber-framed cabin but with slanted walls, so slanted that the bathroom mirror mounted on the wall was at a 35 degree angle to the floor. Great for making sure your feet were clean, but not for combing your hair or for shaving.

Did the experience include a dirt floor with straw mats covered by animal skin for beds? No, it was tiled floor with woven rugs and two regular beds that had southwestern design comforters.

Did the experience include a small slit in the side to pull back for entry and access to the communal toilet? No, it had a regular door for a wood-framed house and a full bath with a tiny shower stall.

Did the experience include a fire pit and a simulated pow wow? No, but it had a wall mounted heater and air conditioning unit, a television with both satellite and wi-fi service.

Did the experience help one to know what it was like to live in a real tee pee? No, but it did make it possible to say, “Been there, done that.”

On to John’s “must do”.  He actually had two, but we had to pass on the renowned Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, NM because of delays in our schedule. But the other was the Bagdad Cafe in Newspring, CA.

When John said his on-line friend in France, Jean, told him he had to stop at this place, I thought we were going to some Middle Eastern restaurant like you would find in Baghdad, Iraq, but in fact we were going to a roadside cafe that had been the primary filming site of a movie called “Bagdad Cafe”.

While John had seen the movie released in 1988 because of Jean’s insistence that we stop,  I had never seen it.  When we got there, the cafe and surroundings were instantly recognizable to John, whereas I’m saying to myself, “This can’t be the place we had to stop and see.” 

A large tour bus was just loading and getting ready to leave filled with French tourists. I would later learn that 80% of all the foreign visitors are from France. It turns out that this movie has a cult-like following there, maybe like the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or “Napoleon Dynamite” in the US.

Was the yellow coffee dispenser in the movie still there? Yes

Was the corner table where Jack Palance always sat still there? Yes

Was the old Avion travel trailer used in the movie still there? Yes

We met the current owner, Andrea, but found her two assistants, Johnny and Corina, to be the best at answering questions about what from the movie was still part of the Bagdad Cafe.

When we got into our hotel for the evening, I found the movie on Amazon Prime and watched it. You should watch it if you like campy movies with convoluted story lines and subtle humor. 

It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (Calling You).  It later became a sitcom for two years starring Whoopi Goldberg. However, you can only fully appreciate the peculiar and charm of this movie if you’ve been to the Bagdad Cafe. Be advised: don’t come hungry.

Maybe you’re curious about my “must-do.” Believe it or not, all I wanted was to drive as much of the original Route 66 as possible instead of the five Interstate Highways as I have done six times before, but my only “must do” was seeing my daughter, Allison. She lives about 45 minutes from the start of Route 66 and 30 minutes from our first event for cystic fibrosis. 

All three of us have had help from family and friends in organizing this adventure, but Allison has contributed the most right from the start in March 2023 and until we all three crashed her apartment for two days as our staging location.  Thank you, Allison, for making our trip a  “can do.” 

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