Monday, 16 April 2007

The road ... and finding Pluto

Thinking of the various people who've travelled on Route 66, or dirt track versions of it,it's just possible to imagine back to the 30s when characters such as those from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath were crossing the land, when I'm travelling across the desert and open plains areas. Vast areas of nothing. If they were looking for more fertile land you can see why they kept going to California - to the untrained eye the desert doesn't look easy to cultivate. I can see why Americans use words like, "awesome" to describe this wide landscape.

It's easier to imagine the era of the late 4os and 50s travelling much more for pleasure, to try out their new cars etc on Route 66 (Bobby Troup's Get your Kicks on Route 66 song. Some of the landmarks from that era still remain. The snake pits and roadside zoos have (mainly) disappeared but the trading posts (souvenir shops?), cafes, motels etc are still largely here. Some now faded but often still vintage outrageous.

I was searching for the screen and sign, and other remains of a drive-in cinema, back in Winslow and just managed to see the sign. There were bulldozers in the field and another sign was attached to the old drive-in sign advertising land for sale. The sign will soon be gone too.

Flagstaff was a different place altogether - had a tour round the Lowell Observatory where Pluto was first discovered. Apparently Percival Lowell got some bike repair shop workers to construct an observatory (strange in itself). Then he used a "telescope" that was really a camera with huge zoom as you couldn't look through it to see planets etc but just take photos. He paid someone to sit in the observatory for 2 years taking photos of a bit of the sky he selected. Then he compared the photos until he found the planet that moved - which was Pluto! Would like to see the sky at night through a telescope there. It's so clear and you can see so much.

I'll return to Flagstaff later.

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