The Unusual in Amboy, California with Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck

As humans say, “Back in the day”, Route 66 was the a highway in the United States.   What does that mean?   When automobiles were new, no super highways existed, and Americans wanted to take road trips, Route 66 was the answer.   Route 66 went from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica (Los Angeles) California.   Now, with interstate highways of 4 of more lanes, and bypassing many towns, Route 66 doesn’t have as much traffic, but it does hold fond, happy memories for so many Americans.   Leaving Arizona on Route 66, we entered the state of California.

Entering California from Arizona. Driving on Route 66

A few hours later, driving through the desert, we approached the now ghost town of Amboy, California.

Guardian lion of Route 66

This is one of two lions designated as Guardian Lions of Route 66.

Guardian lion of Route 66 with Zeb and Soapy

The side view of the guardian lion is nice, but Zeb and Soapy really add to the photo.    A few miles further and we are at Roy’s Cafe and Motel.

Roy’s Cafe and Motel

The sign is the tallest thing for miles in the desert.   Roy’s opened in the 1930’s and had its golden age in the 50’s and 60’s.   Driving near Amboy, the humans were reading Roadside America, learning about unusual roadside attractions.   There was a shoe tree near the guardian lions, but in 2010 the tree fell over.   Still a few shoes, but now a tree near Roy’s has shoes.

Shoe tree

We are ducks, but we don’t really understand why humans put their shoes in a tree.   But, our moms thought it was a great thing to see.   There are even more shoes on the ground.

More shoes

Guess it is not so easy to throw them into the tree.   Next we examined the trash pole.

Trash pole

Again, it must be a human thing.   But better to put trash on the pole than throw it on the ground.   We will never tell our moms, but it was rather fun to see this stuff.   I think Soapy’s mom put one of her business cards there with many other business cards.   Next stop was Amboy Crater.

Amboy Crater

This is a natural crater, and designated as a National Natural Landmark, by the United States government.   It is 250 feet high and 1,500 feet in diameter.  This is one of the youngest volcanic fields in the United States.   This crater is located in the Barstow-Bristol trough.   The crater straddles the boundary of the Mojave and Sonoran tectonic blocks.   The most recent eruption was 10,000 years ago.   Now, to the salt mines.

Tetra Technologies working salt mines

This area crosses Bristol Dry Lake and is the site of two large active salt mines.

Salt mines. Pyramids in front of salt from mine.

The row of pyramids in the foreground gets the attention on   These salt mines produce much of the sodium and sodium chloride used in high school chemistry classes.   Driving through the desert is fun, but I don’t think I would like to be here in summer with extremely high temperatures.   Amboy, California is south of the Mojave National Preserve and north of Joshua Tree National Park.  If you are traveling on Route 66 through the desert, we hope you will stop to see some unusual things, also.   Next time we will show you some unusual things in Baker, California, still in the desert.   It really is out of this world.


Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck Visit Oatman, Arizona

Route 66 led us from Cool Springs, Arizona into Oatman, Arizona.   Oatman was a gold mining town, but now this is a great tourist town–for humans, ducks, and wild burros.

Oatman, Arizona

Many stores sell burro food, so tourists and human residents do feed the burros.   But be careful.   We were told if there are more than 1 or 2 male wild burros, they may fight and you may get bitten or kicked.   We were careful.   Soapy’s mom is feeding one burro.

Soapy’s mom is feeding a burro

As you can see, this is a popular destination for motorcycle riders to stop also.   Is he watching the burro, or Soapy’s mom?  The names of the stores are different than the stores in Denver.

Stores here have interesting names

We feel like tourists in the Old West.   And we are.   This restaurant and saloon is named for Olive Oatman.

Olive Oatman store and restaurant

This town, Oatman, was named for her family.   In 1851 the family was attacked by Tonto-Apache Indians.   The parents and 4 children were massacred.   Two girls, Olive, 16 and Mary Ann, 10 were taken captive.   Lorenzo, a son, 14 was clubbed and left for dead.   Lorenzo recovered and received help from the friendly Pima villages and found safety in Fort Yuma.    After one year the girls were sold to the Mohave Indians.   Mary Ann died.  Olive was held captive near the town of Oatman until her release was negotiated in 1856, when she was reunited with her brother in Fort Yuma.   The Indians and the white settlers had some rough times, and the town of Oatman was named for this family.   Interesting, but we are happy those wars are now ended.   We talked to this man and do you know what those things hanging down are?

Rattlesnake skins??

Rattlesnake skins!   He was very nice and suggested that we go the Oatman Hotel for lunch.   After a little more looking, we headed there for lunch.

Oatman Hotel

This hotel was built in 1902 and is recognized by the National Historical Society.   A famous Hollywood couple, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon here on March 18, 1939.   But let’s go in the restaurant and see what is so special.

Order here, or have seat and a waiter will come.

Wow!   There are $1.00 bills everywhere.   Tourists visit the restaurant and often someone in the group puts a $1 bill on the table and everyone signs the money.   The $1 is given to the waiter and the money is hung on the wall, on the counter, on the windows.   Often a real person performs on this stage.

Money everywhere. Look but do not touch!

The stage is even covered with $1.   The estimate of $1 bills is about $250,000.   That is a lot of money.  We love this place!   When in Oatman, Arizona, stop in the Oatman Hotel for lunch, and add a $1 near your table or booth.   It is fun.   And, the food was really good.

Lunch with Burro Ears

Those large potato chips are Burro Ears.   According to the menu they are homemade seasoned potato chips, sliced thin and fried to a golden crisp and served with a salsa/sour cream dipping sauce.   The menu adds “No Burros Were Harmed for These Ears.”  They were very tasty.   After lunch we visited the jail.


Rather small, so not many criminals in Oatman.   Then we saw the Oatman Theatre Building.

Burros like the theater, or the food?

It seems that the wild burros also like the theater, or the food on the porch.  We learned a lot while in Oatman.

Bee information. Really are busy bees

Did you know this about bees?   We did not know all of it.   Interesting.   But, how hot does it get in Oatman during the summer?   Well, we are not sure of the temperature, but on July 4, our Independence Day, it must get hot.

Fry eggs on the sidewalk? How hot does it get here?

They fry eggs on the sidewalk here.   Keep your shoes on–that sidewalk must be really hot.   We hope you visit Oatman, Arizona.   We had a good time and we think you will also.

Cool Springs, Arizona on Route 66 with Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck

During the 1920s Americans were eager to drive and explore the United States.   The road to take was Route 66.   We, Zeb and Soapy, with our moms are driving Route 66 in northwest Arizona.   At the entrance to the Black Mountains we discovered Cool Springs Service Station.

Cool Springs, AZ A service station?

The original burned to the ground in the mid 1960s.   This building was rebuilt from vintage photos.   However, in 1991, the old burned ruins were featured in the film, Universal Soldiers, starring Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme.   In this film, the ruins were blown up.   This restoration, completed in December 2004 looks great.  Outside the station, we admired rocks and marveled at the honor system for paying.

Buy Arizona gems. Pay on honor system

It is nice!  This sign post has names of home towns of visitors.   Most also include the distance traveled to reach Cool Springs.

Where from and how far?

Inside we loved this car.

Great car. The Pierce

This sign explains the Pierce Arrow car and what people thought at the time.

About the Pierce Arrow Car

Inside the Cool Springs Service Station, there is a small museum and many Route 66 souvenirs. Just know that this station does not sell gas.   They sell souvenirs, a few cold drinks and a few snacks.   And, they accept cash only.   No credit cards as they do not have reliable internet.   Valerie, the lady in Cool Springs, explained much of the history to us.   She also said that Cool Springs was in the movie Cars.   Outside we found the restroom.

Interesting. Outhouse

We ducks are sitting on the sink.   The toilet is in a special room behind the wall.   So cute and rustic.   Looking behind the station, we realize we really are in the desert mountains of northwest Arizona.

Arizona desert

We, Zeb and Soapy, met Valerie’s dog, Pearl.

We are watching Pearl, the dog

Pearl, this dog, is writing a book.   Here, Pearl is telling us about her book.

Pearl is telling us about her book

Route 66 was the most famous road and connected Chicago, Illinois with Los Angeles, California.   The section including Cool Springs was narrow and featured steep inclines through the Arizona mountains.   When driving here, caution is still needed to safely arrive at your destination.   Zeb and Soapy liked these Route 66 chairs.

We are on Route 66

When driving historic Route 66 stop at Cool Springs Service Station.   You can enjoy a cool drink and pet Pearl.

Grand Canyon Caverns of Peach Springs, AZ with Zeb and Soapy

Let’s see the largest dry cavern in North America.   Here it is, Grand Canyon Caverns in Peach Springs, Arizona.

Let’s go in the caverns

What is this?

We like petrified logs

A petrified log, a place for us to rest and look at the desert scenery.   We are not very far from the Petrified Forest National Park, also in northern Arizona.   Remember, this was once a tropical rain forest, now a desert climate.   Inside, our moms purchased tickets for the one hour tour.   When is time, we get inside an elevator and descend 210 feet (64 meters) below the earth’s surface to enter the caves.   We are the only tourists on this tour.  This cavern has been dry for thousands of years, so nothing new has formed.   This is called the Cathedral Dome, which is really an ancient waterfall, 90 feet above our heads.

Cathedral Dome

On either side of the walkway we observed ancient waterways, or floor drains, descending 35 feet (10 meters).  Really ancient, as this is a dry cave–no water enters this cave now.  So, there are no stalactites and no stalagmites in this cavern.

Dry cave. No stalactites, no stalagmites

Here we viewed a rare form of Selenite, called Helecite, meaning “hollow inside”.

Helecite, a rare form of selenite

It is very fragile, and sitting on Redial Limestone with Calcite Crystals.   Traveling here, in the southwestern United States, we are learning a lot about geology and learning lots of new words.   We learned that only 3% of all caves are dry.   Some of you may remember in the early 1960’s the United States had a Cuban Missile Crises.   The United States and Cuba appeared close to going to war.  Both countries, and the entire world, were scared.  Bomb shelters were built, but this cave was declared a natural bomb shelter and in October, 1962 civil defense supplies (food, water, medical, etc) were brought here, to the largest room in the caverns.

Civil Defense Emergency Rations

There is still enough supplies to support 2,000 people for 2 weeks.  Due to the dry conditions in the cave, no rodents or other animals live here, and supplies do not deteriorate easily.   Food is nutritionally complete, but may not taste real good.   Next we entered the Snowball Palace which nature worked on for 6 million years.

Our guide explaining the Snowball Palace

Humans and ducks are not to touch the walls or any formations, as the dryness makes everything fragile.   Now, the Mystery Room.

Mystery Room

And an explanation for the name, Grand Canyon Caverns.   Previously called Dinosaur Caverns as they expected to find dinosaur fossils, but no indication of dinosaurs here.   In 1958 smoke bombs were set off in the Mystery Room, and scientists discovered the air enters and leaves the cavern from this room.   The air comes from 40 miles (64 km) away, near Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon.   This is really clean air, being filtered through limestone and various rocks for 40 miles!   These caverns are now known as Grand Canyon Caverns.   A natural opening to the caverns once existed.   This is how, in 1927 Walter Peck discovered them.   When he sadly realized there was neither gold nor silver here, he lowered tourists, attached to a rope, into the hole in the ground and into the caverns.  We now know, unfortunately, not only tourists entered the cavernous through that hole.   This is a mummified bobcat.

Mummified Bobcat

Bob, as he is called, fell into the natural entrance about 1850.  Due to the dryness of the cavern, as he died he became mummified.   Another victim fell through the natural opening.   This is a life size replica of a giant ground sloth, or glossotherium.

Giant Ground Sloth

This sloth has been extinct for at least 11,000 years.   When she fell in, she tried to climb back out.   Her claw marks are visible on the wall of the cavern.   She lost a claw, embedded in the rock, in the process.   Discovered in the late 1950’s, her bones were sent to the University of Arizona for identification.   They, in trade for the bones, built this life size replica for the caverns.  She was 15 feet 4 inches (3.1 meters) tall and weighed 1 ton (1,000 kg).   She entered the cavern between 11,000 and 20,000 years ago.   There are many formations here. These are called grape clusters formed from mixtures of Calcium Carbonate and Lime.

Grape clusters of Calcium Carbonate and Lime

We, Zeb and Soapy Smith Duck liked this in the caverns.  Now we see Winter Crystal, the rarest form of Selenite in the caverns and the only spot it is found down here.   Looking like a wall of snow is why it is called Winter Crystal.   We, ducks and humans, really enjoyed our underground tour.  And we are going underground again tonight.

Black poker chips. Our tickets for tonight’s ghost tour.

These are our poker chips, our tickets for tonight’s ghost tour.   There is a cavern suite which can be rented for about $850 US dollars per night.   The room, 220 feet below ground, is 200 feet wide, 400 feet long and has a 70 foot ceiling.   It was rented last night, again tonight and also reserved for tomorrow night.   All by different people.   Several weddings have been performed here in the caverns.   The first was April 15, 1977.  Some brides left their bouquets and the dry, cool air keeps them preserved underground.   These Grand Canyon Caverns are located in Peach Springs, Arizona, on historic Route 66.   We just had to include this photo of a chair, reminding us of the iconic Route 66 connection.

Route 66 chair

And, in case you are wondering, we did enjoy our ghost tour, but no ghosts appeared that night.   But this was another interesting hour underground.   The electric lights were not turned on and we were all given small flashlights.   For more information visit   When in northern Arizona, we believe you would enjoy visiting the world’s third largest, and North America’s largest dry cavern.

Petrified Forest National Park with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

Here we are, entering another National Park.   Remember this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, but several parks are older than 100 years.

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

But, what is petrified wood?   This is the explanation from the National Park Service.   Approximately 216 million years ago, these trees died and fell in a river.   They were buried beneath layers of silt, mud, sand and volcanic ash, which protected them from decay.   Mineral laden ground water percolated through the layers,carrying silica from the volcanic ash and other trace minerals.   The absorbent dead wood became saturated with the minerals.   The silica, or quartz, crystals slowly bonded with the cells of the tree replicating the organic material in perfect detail.   Eventually, silica replaced the old material.    Wow, that is pretty involved.   The short version is a log is petrified when all the original plant material is replaced by minerals.   First stop for us was the museum and Visitor’s Center.   This is a petrified tree stump.   We love the colors in the petrified wood.

Colors of petrified wood

Colors of petrified wood

Check out this long log.

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons.   Don’t we look little?

This log, sometimes called “Old Faithful”, is 35 feet long and weighs 44 tons.   Big and heavy.   We are still in the northern Arizona desert and we loved this blooming cactus.

Blooming cactus

Blooming cactus

This is Agate Bridge.

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

The bridge is formed by a fossilized tree, 110 feet long.   This tree flourished in a lush tropical forest 217 million years ago.   The supportive concrete span was built in 1917.

There is a river bed under the bridge

There is a river bed under the bridge

It was very windy when we were here, so we rubber ducks had to be protected.   We did not want to go in the river under the Agate Bridge.   There are really two parts to the Petrified Forest National Park.   Interstate 40 divides the park, with the petrified forest part south of the highway, and the area north of I-40 is the Painted Desert.   These great colors are in the area of transition.



Years ago, before interstate highways were built, Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles was a favorite road.   Route 66 came through this part of Arizona.

Route 66. An American favorite

Route 66. An American favorite.   Route 66 crossed the Petrified Forest National Park.

We also saw this 1932 Studebaker by the road.   This is a real piece of Americana.

1932 Studebaker

1932 Studebaker

So many people drove this road and there are so many great memories here.    Aren’t the colors of this Painted Desert beautiful?

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

There are many such lookouts into the canyon.   We stopped at several of them.   This is the famous Painted Desert Inn, now a National Historic Landmark.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn

We went inside.   The old soda fountain is still there.   We really liked this petroglyph.



Everything in this park is so wonderful and colorful.   This is a panorama from the overlook of the Painted Desert Inn.

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

What an incredible view to watch the sunset and sunrise.   We hope you stop to see the Petrified Forest National Park and also enjoy the Painted Desert.     The gift shops here are wonderful also.   We brought home some heavy bags.   Petrified wood plaques are very heavy.