From Kingman we had a quick drive down to Santa Claus…once a colorful old-school developer’s dream, a cashing-in-on-Christmas-to-sell-Real-Estate that didn’t work at all, though it proved immensely popular while it was maintained — Jane Russell maybe threw a party here. Arizona Highways provides a short history here. Robert Heinlein wrote a story in which it featured (‘Cliff and the Calories‘), which is rather hilarious.
The sign read Santa Claus, Arizona. I blinked at it, thinking I was at last seeing a mirage. There was a gas station, all right, but that wasn’t all.
You know what most desert gas stations look like – put together out of odds and ends. Here was a beautiful fairytale cottage with wavy candy stripes in the shingles. It had a broad brick chimney – and Santa Claus was about to climb down the chimney!
Maureen, I said, you’ve overdone this starvation business; now you are out of your head.
Between the station and the cottage were two incredible little dolls’ houses. One was marked Cinderella’s House and Mistress Mary Quite Contrary was making the garden grow. The other one needed no sign; the Three Little Pigs, and Big Bad Wolf was stuck in its chimney.
“Kid stuff!” says Junior, and added, “Hey, Pop, do we eat here? Huh?”
“We just gas up,” answered Daddy. “Find a pebble to chew on. Your mother has declared a hunger strike.”
Mother did not answer and headed toward the cottage. We went inside, a bell bonged, and a sweet contralto voice boomed, “Come in! Dinner is ready!”
The inside was twice as big as the outside and was the prettiest dining room imaginable, fresh, new, and clean. Heavenly odors drifted out of the kitchen. The owner of the voice came out and smiled at us.
We knew who she was because her kitchen apron had “Mrs. Santa Claus” embroidered across it. She made me feel slender, but for her it was perfectly right.
Can you imagine Mrs. Santa Claus being skinny?
“How many are there?” she asked.
“Four,” said Mother, “but – ” Mrs. Santa Claus disappeared into the kitchen.
Mother sat down at a table and picked up a menu. I did likewise and started to drool – here is why:
Minted Fruit Cup Rouge
Pot – au – feu a la Creole
Chicken Velvet Soup
Roast Veal with Fine Herbs
Yankee Pot Roast
Sweet Potatoes Maryland
Asparagus Tips with Green Peas
Chicory Salad with
Artichoke Hearts with Avocado
Beets in Aspic
Miniature Cinnamon Rolls
Sherry Almond Ice Cream
Pкches Flambйes Royales
Peppermint Cloud Cake
Devil’s Food Cake
Angel Berry Pie
Coffee Tea Milk
(Our water is trucked fifteen miles;
please help us save it.)
Thank you. Mrs. Santa Claus
It made me dizzy, so I looked out the window. We were still in the middle of the grimmest desert in the world.
Now that almost everything has been stolen, it’s all grim apart from the desert. This trip had several of these moments where it felt like we were just in time.
From there we drove down Route 66. I wish we’d had time to stop in Oatman, in Hackberry, in Valentine — nothing more frustrating than a road trip on a time table, I can’t wait until we are retired. Anyway, we followed the train tracks across the landscape.
Passed Peach Tree Springs
Back down to the main highway to speed towards the Grand Canyon. There were great dark clouds with beams of light pouring down across the valley.
The Grand Canyon — words can’t describe it. It was Mark’s first time, Last I was here, we drove up to the rim, parked, hiked down the Bright Angel Trail. Despite the government shut down everything was open, but the parking lot was massive and full to overflowing and you have to take a shuttle and…
I felt old, wished for the good old days, wished for half the people and none of the cars. But still. It was wondrous in the snow and with the sun setting through the clouds.
Life breaking through the rocks.