Retro Post—15-Aug-03 #6

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

One of my favorite spots in the southwest … our next destination, post-grad school?

Flagstaff, AZ

Population 52,894 (2000 census). Seat of Coconino County. Elevation about 7000 feet. Home to Lowell Observatory and Northern Arizona University. Incorporated as a town in June 1894.

The first permanent white settlement in the area (apart from an expedition of Mormons and a group of Bostonians) was by Tennessean sheep rancher Thomas McMillan in July 1876. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad came in 1881 and Flagstaff became a major railway stop.

The beauty of the Coconino National Forest and the San Francisco Mountains and the ponderosas, not to mention the low-key charm of the town of Flagstaff itself, was nothing short of spectacular. We arrived late yesterday evening on the tail end of a rowdy thunderstorm, and it took almost a half-hour to find our Best Western, which was located across the street from the main railroad running through the center of town. The hotel itself was quiet, though, and the occasional train noises were not that much of an impediment to sleep.

We didn’t stick around long enough to see a heck of a lot of the town—by the time we got ready for the next leg of our journey today, it was too late to do much of anything but get breakfast and do a little driving around the center of town. But what I saw, I liked a lot. I can imagine living here.

The stretch of country between Boulder City and Flagstaff is some of the most splendorous scenery I have ever seen. We had hoped to go out to a restaurant the night we got in, but because of the beagle’s presence and because it got too late by the time we finally got around to making a decision about where we wanted to go, we eventually ordered catered hotel take-out.

This morning we had breakfast at the Galaxy Diner on West Route 66. It was a fifties diner that looked like it had actually been around in the fifties—not one of those faux-fifties diners. The waitress seemed a little standoffish at first, but she gradually came around and was actually chatty by the end of the meal. She reminded me of a younger version of Polly Holliday’s Flo on the seventies sitcom “Alice.” The meal itself was fantastic—I had eggs and toast and potatoes with onions. I don’t remember what Steve had, but he was happy that this was the first place that we’d stopped where hot sauce was waiting on the table.

The town was pretty quiet when we were there. The main thing we noticed was how prominently NAU figured in the local newscasts. I also noticed that the Weather Channel frequently plays a snippet from Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” during its “Local on the 8s” breaks, which I thought was somewhat spacey, and thus somewhat appropriate, but also somewhat jarring mixed in with the Windham Hill and other MUZAK that usually gets played. One great part about being in Flagstaff was actually landing and walking around in a town that my Arizonan father had mentioned many times by name.

Mesa, my dad’s hometown, is 165 miles south of Flagstaff, in a completely different meterological and cultural zone of the state, but it still felt good to set foot on ground which it wasn’t that hard to imagine that he may have stepped on or ridden over at one time or another in the thirties or forties.

—Posted by Frank at 13:09:24 | 15-Aug-03