Between all the ruins we planned to stop and have some fun at Slide Rock, a rocky stretch of river that forms a rough but exciting natural water slide
. Driving along the highway to Slide Rock, we wondered about all the parked cars crammed into every bit of available space on both sides of the road. We started to worry a bit when we noticed the line of cars waiting to get in. This line began more than a mile from the gate. Then we saw the river. Well, we saw the few patches of river and its banks that weren't crammed with bodies. Having been on the road for a few weeks, we hadn't kept any track of days or dates. It turned out that we'd made it to Slide Rock on a Saturday. And not just any Saturday, but the Saturday of Memorial Weekend, the first holiday long weekend of Summer. One thing I've noticed about long weekends is that Americans flock to water like migrating birds. They seem to prefer lakes and rivers to coastal beaches. During the holidays, even the people who live near the beach pack up their huge motorhomes and drive inland a couple of hours so that they can park them among hundreds of other tightly packed motorhomes on a lake shore or river bank. So after fighting the hordes to make it to the river's edge, we bumped and bobbed our way through the rocks a couple of times and decided to move on to somewhere quieter.
Actually we raced back to Flagstaff to catch a swing dance at a cool 50s diner. Flagstaff, another Route 66 town, maintains a certain 50s feel in some parts of town, but not to the same extent that Kingman does
. Nor are the Route 66 buildings in Flagstaff nearly as dilapidated as Kingman's. The dance floor at the Galaxy Diner consisted of a patch of linoleum between the register and the front door, with customers edging their way around the dancers to reach their tables. I believe that we were actually providing the entertainment for the diners, and the dance floor kept shrinking as we drew more and more onlookers. While in Flagstaff we also learned the cowboy swing at the Museum Club, a Route 66 original that has been in business since 1931. With a giant forked tree for a doorway, huge tree trunk pillars and a big wooden dance floor, this log cabin bar is the most charming 66 building we've seen so far. It may also be the last, as we will be leaving Route 66 for a more Northerly route into New Mexico.
After leaving Grand Canyon, we embarked on a three day local history lesson. The lesson began at Sunset Crater, a volcano that exploded only 1000 years ago and drove a lot of the migration that led to the various Indian cliff dwellings dotted around the area. After spending a night in Flagstaff, we observed some of these dwellings at Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle. These two misnomers were bestowed upon the Sinagua ruins by early settlers who assumed that the dwellings had been built by Aztecs, despite a discrepancy of about 500 years and more than 2000 miles. The next day we visited Walnut Canyon, yet another cliff dwelling ruin. There are so many Indian ruins in the area that you could spend weeks exploring them all. The ruins that we spent time at were absolutely amazing. Imagine multi-story structures built into cracks and caves in great stone walls, hundreds of feet from the top or bottom of the sheer cliffs. It's even harder to imagine the daily struggle of getting resources such as food, water and timber to their homes, hauling them up from the valley floor or lowering them down from the cliffs above.