This morning, Best Buy will be installing the new double-din head unit with Apple Car Play, so we can use GPS on our phones more easily. I had given Best Buy all the details on email so knew they’d be prepared in advance, and nothing would go wrong. Or so I thought.
I rocked up for my 10.30 appointment, to find that they hadn’t ordered the mounting kit needed for my car. Yes, the request was in the email I had sent, saying what I wanted done and what they needed to supply, but that didn’t get read apparently. They did try calling me they said, but didn’t bother emailing. How long to get a mount kit? At least 7 days. I was out of there at that point, no reason to hang around.
So instead I’ve ordered the mount kit and the head unit I want online, and am having them sent to my cousin’s house in Phoenix, and I’ll do the install myself. I’d normally install it myself anyway, but a lack of tools doesn’t make me keen to try.
Back at the Air BNB, I took the reversing cam out of the box, wanting to spend the now spare-time installing the cable for it, so it will be ready to connect to the head unit in Phoenix. On a hot Los Angeles day, there I was outside in the sun, trying to run a cable from the back of the Corvette to the front. I have the cuts to prove it. Those who say General Motors cars of the 90s were not well made should try doing this. Everything is tight, very few gaps and everything really well made and designed. But that means it’s almost impossible to get that cable through from the number plate to the inside of the car. I spend 90 minutes in the sun, dismantling more and more of the car to try and get that freaking cable to the cabin.
YouTube suggests that I can route it through the same hole as the antenna cable, but I can only just see that grommet, let alone trying to get another cable through there. Oh, for a drill. I give up at this point, and it will have to wait until Phoenix as well.
We’d always planned to take the car for a decent drive today, to see how she runs for the long trip ahead. On the advice of the previous owner, we headed to Mt Baldy, which apparently has some awesome driving roads and views. Since it’s a good 90 minutes’ drive away, it was going to be a good way to see how the car behaves.
But, LA…couldn’t live there. The traffic is horrendous, and we spent a lot of time either stopped, or crawling along. Our fuel economy since I first filled the tank is 19.8L/100km. Not good.
After forever, we got to the road that leads to Mt Baldy, which is actually a ski field in the winter. Who knew? We drive up the mountain, noting the bear crossing sign on the way up. It is a stunning place, and instantly reminds us of Colorado more than California. A quick drive around at the highest point you can drive to, we headed down to a parking area and took a walk along the side of a river. I must admit, this is a pretty nice place and so very different from LA.
We grabbed a coffee at Mt Baldy Lodge on the way down (still 4,000 feet above sea level though), and then turned right onto Glendora Ridge Road. It was at the point that I thought we’d found the ‘driver’s road’ that the previous owner had talked about. He said this is the road that a lot of guys in LA take their cars out to test them on.
I can see why. It’s quiet – we only come across a few other cars – and the corners are to die for. Tight 10mp/h turns, dips and rises, and a stunning view to go with it, as we drive along the ridge. It’s a excellent place to take the Corvette, and I’ve got to say it’s impressed me on this road. The car may be 29 years old, but the turn-in is superb, the steering feel excellent and the cornering almost flat. It almost falls into the turns, and responds beautifully to acceleration coming out of them. From memory, the C4 Corvette was the first production car to break 1.0g, and it shows. Those 275/40 tyres do not want to let go. The brakes could do with a bit more power and a lot more feel, but the rest of the car is perfect on this road.
This road goes on off for 20 or so miles, when we wind back down and into civilisation. That was fun.
Lunchtime now, and we head to the old Route 66 and find a diner called Mr Ds. As you can imagine, they’re cashing in on being on Route 66, with Mother Road memorabilia adorning the walls, booths with red vinyl and a juke box in the corner. Still, the food is good, and the prices not bad either.
We left Mr Ds, crossed the road and then I felt it. Puncture. Hobbling along (on my new tyres!), I pulled off the road and spent some time lowering the spare tyre. Luckily I had already checked it to make sure it was there and had air in, and where the jack and wheel brace were. But oh man, it was hot. Thirty-four degrees, and I’m outside doing physical work. I got it done as quickly as possible, then headed to the closest American Tires store, for a free puncture repair. It only took an extra hour out of our day, and now I have actually put the spare on, I know the story. But I’m hoping that’s the first and last time. The spare is a space saver, and there’s no way the normal wheel would fit into the spare carrier, so if we are loaded up and on the road, there’s no places to put the wheel except maybe on my wife’s lap.
It was time to head back to our Air BNB, and the traffic meant it took two solid hours. But we had achieved what we set out to do, and the car is all set for the next 5 weeks and 10,000km. We hope.
This is it – today we hit the road proper. We headed straight to Santa Monica Pier, the Saturday traffic seeming to be as bad as the rest of the week. Santa Monica Pier isn’t actually the original location of the end point of Route 66, but there’s an official sign there, and the location was sort of moved to there by local businessman. It will do for us.
And yes, I know – this is the end of Route 66, not the beginning. Route 66 was for all those people wanting to come from the other side of America to the West Coast. But being Kiwis, we do it a little differently, so we are doing Route 66 in reverse. Get over it.
Obligatory photo done, we grabbed coffee and hit the road. We’re trying to do Route 66 where we can, but also being mindful that if we did, it would take forever. You can still drive through longish stretches of Route 66 in places like Pasadena or San Bernardino, but there are literally hundreds of sets of traffic lights to go through to do it. We’re going to aim for the highlights, or places where we’ve already decided we want to go.
We cruised through Pasadena and San Bernardino though, then on toward Barstow, our first official stop. Getting off the I40 interstate, Barstow is only a minute from the off ramp. It’s a quieter town now, but still quaint in places, and they are definitely cashing in on Route 66 status, with lots of signs along the side of the road. Time to grab a coffee and some donuts, incredibly the donut shop did not have AC, and with the heat of the ovens in there, it felt like an oven in the shop. Crazy.
Onwards we drove, and then pulled off the interstate into the town of Needles, which has the award for one of the hottest places in the USA. It’s done it for us too, as for the first time the temperature outside hits 108 degrees, or 42 Celsius.
Needles all done, we headed off to go to the old mining town of Oatman, Arizona. Actually, heading out of Needles we crossed a bridge into Arizona, our second state for this trip.
As a family, we went to Oatman ten years ago with our kids, telling them all about the wild burros. Burros roam the streets we said, eating food from your hand. In 2009, it was too hot and there were no burros to be seen. This time though, we don’t even make it to Oatman, and stumble across some on the road – they were on the road itself. We pulled over, and sensing a chance of food, they almost ran to us. We didn’t have any food, but they were still friendly enough.
It was almost 6pm now, so we got back into the car and drove the last few miles into Oatman, passing more burros on the way. They are all very friendly, and will quickly approach you for food, with shops on the main street of this historic Route 66 town selling burro food. But we’re too late for any shops to be open, and if I’m honest, that was fine by me. The last time we came here it was packed with people. This time at 6pm, we were nearly the only ones there, and I even manage to get the car in the middle of the town for a photo, since there’s almost no traffic.
Darkness had come since being in Oatman, and without telling my wife, I’m really conscious of how low we are on fuel. The dash is telling me we’re running on reserve, and we’ve got another 26 miles of driving – some of it up hill, with lots of corners – to get to the next town of Kingman, where we’re going to stay tonight. I’m driving with fuel economy in mind now, coasting as much as possible and keeping a keen eye on my instant MPG figure on the dash. But we did make it, paying $3.19 a gallon to fill the car up with Premium, or around NZ$1.30 a litre.
That’s today over, as we book into a Quality Inn in Kingman, including a cooked breakfast for US$61 for the night. Tomorrow, it’s a drive to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we can walk out onto a glass platform overlooking the canyon.
Today was going to be a long one, so it was time to fill up on a big cooked breakfast. For most hotels in the US, breakfast is included, but we’ve seen a huge variation in quality right across the US on other trips, with some of them bordering on inedible. The Quality Inn we stayed at in Kingman wasn’t quite at that level, but let’s just say I went with a continental breakfast for a reason. The scrambled eggs (always powered, always rubbery) looked terrible, the sausages looked like they’d been out partying all night, and the hash browns were simply bits of grated potato thrown on a hot plate for a few seconds. No thank you.
After a non-cooked breakfast, we headed away from Kingman and drove straight to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Almost no traffic on the road, we only passed a few cars in an hour of driving. Fine by me, as I let the car have its head a few times where it was safe.
In 2007 we went to the Grand Canyon, as the West Rim attraction was still in construction. This includes a glass walkway, sticking out from the canyon wall, so you can see directly below you to the bottom, 2,000 feet away. It was hot as hell – around 38 degrees before lunchtime – and crowds weren’t too bad at all. We’d picked a good day/time to be here. The walk out over the canyon was breath-taking in some ways, but we were a bit put off. The entire time we were outside trying to take in the majesty of the location, all we could hear were the professional photographers telling people how to stand, were to look etc, so they could take a bunch of photos to sell to them. It took the edge off the visit, and we didn’t spend half as long on the glass walkway as we had planned. For the extra cost of doing that part of it, we wouldn’t do it again.
But we did do the zip lining over the canyon. It doesn’t actually go over the full canyon, but parts of it. It’s been featured in Amazing Race, so we knew we’d have to do it. After paying US$71 each, we got geared up and taken to the first platform, which takes you 1,000 feet to another platform, with the highest point 500 feet above the canyon floor. I was a bit disappointed with the ride. Sure, it was great to look down, but I only hit 32mp/h on the ride, and felt like I could have gone twice as fast. Once on the next platform, were got geared up again, and then went on a 2,000 foot ride, with the canyon floor 700 feet below us. Very picturesque, but this time I only managed 29mp/h, and for me the ride was about the speed. Still worth doing, but not if you’re in it for a fast ride.
That over, it was the end of the day and we headed to back to Kingman, then on through Peach Springs, to our overnight stay at the Grand Canyons Caverns. They have cabins here, so we are booked in, and tomorrow we’ll do the caverns tour, and then spend the rest of the day on Route 66 exploring some of the smaller towns.