A Cars Inspired Road Trip, Part 3: Blue Swallow Hotel

There is an item on my bucket list that my family and I have partially completed, a drive from Chicago to Santa Monica along the famous Mother Road, Route 66.  Last Spring we drove half of the route on our Cars inspired trip to Disneyland…

Part 3: Overnight in Tucumcari, New Mexico

I know that it sounds really crazy that when you have a 16 hour drive in front of you to stop for the night only 2 hours down the road, but that is exactly what we did!  

Our first night was spent at the Blue Swallow Hotel in Tucumari, New Mexico…  

“The Blue Swallow has been serving travelers along the Mother Road since 1939, and today, our guests enjoy a pleasant reminder of what it was like to travel across the USA in the “good old days. From the beautifully restored rooms, to the distinctive attached garages, to the fabulous neon display each night, a stay at the Blue Swallow is a unique experience that will leave you rested, refreshed, and with wonderful new memories. Come take a step back to a simpler time, meet your neighbors from around the world, and relax under the glow of the neon lights in the historic courtyard of the Blue Swallow Motel.”

https://www.blueswallowmotel.com/history-2/

And like all stops on this road trip the Blue Swallow has a Cars connection…

The office for Sally’s Cozy Cone Hotel is modeled after the Blue Swallow Office.  And all of the neon used in both the movie and in Carland..look no further than inspiration from the Blue Swallow and Tucumcari.

So how was our stay?

Each of the 12 rooms at the Blue Swallow has been restored to represent a room at a motor court as it would have been in the 1940s and 50s.   We stayed in Room 14 and could not have been more pleased.

The room was comfortable and clean,but best of all was the room decor.  Every room at the Blue Swallow is different and features vintage lightning, period furniture and artwork. Don’t let the decor fool you…the bedding is 600 count thread, the mattresses are premium and the towels fluffy, and yes there is a modern flat screen television and free internet.

The bathroom featured original bath fixtures and tile work, which was beautiful. I am amazed how it has withstood the last almost 80 years.  

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There was even a working 1940s rotary dial telephone, that the #manchild was amazed with.

It was a beautiful night when we arrived, so we spent some time exploring the Blue Swallow courtyard and grounds, before finding a place to eat.  And of course being on the Mother Road we wanted to find someplace that fit the theme of our trip.

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Since 1956, Del’s Restaurant has been a destination break on Historic Route 66. The menu has a little bit of something for everyone including New Mexican favorites and Cowboy Grub. With it being Lent and a Friday, we had some great catfish!

Afterwards, we spent a little time driving down Route 66 through Tucumcari and trying to imagine what Route 66 was like in the 40s and 50s.  

Then it was sweet dreams and an early morning…

Next Stop:  Tucumcari, New Mexico to Williams, Arizona (504 miles)

Tammie’s Take Thursday:  Rivers of Light

Rivers of Light is a nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is located in the park’s Discovery River lagoon surrounded by Asia, Dinoland, and Discovery Island.  The nighttime spectacular uses music, boats, floats, water screens fountains, and fire to showcase the wide and vast world of animals and nature. The show (including pre-show) lasts about 30 minutes and the stadium seats about 5,000 people per show.

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The show begins with actors? dancers? performers? moving throughout the stadium seating filled with guests toward boats that are similar to a Chinese Junk (this takes about 15 minutes).  I have to admit that I was a little confused as to what the story was and their purpose. Later I learned that these performers were shamans. (Apparently, I did not do my background research BEFORE I saw the show).   The show begins when the Shamans board the boat and begin conjuring up the forces of fire and water to reveal the incredible natural world we live in, which is projected on a huge water screen at the back of the lagoon set to a soundtrack. Lotus flower lantern floats join the boats, along with color changing floats in the shape of an owl, elephant, turtle and tiger.  Throughout the show water fountains and fire also help to move the show along.

Last fall, I was was fortunate to be able to see Rivers of Light and here is my take on Rivers of Light…

DISCLAIMER:  These are MY opinions!  I tell clients that you need to experience things yourself if you are interested, different strokes for different folks. So please see the show if you are interested and form your own opinions.

So what did I think?

Eh…it was enjoyable.

The show is visually mesmerizing and beautiful. Disney has done an excellent job with sound, light, fire, visual effects to offer a much needed evening experience in Animal Kingdom.  And I like that this make Animal Kingdom a full day park, wait no I don’t because that means more people. But…

I found the show to be slow and lacking any kind of storyline to move it along.  The show seemed all over the place and scenes that did not connect to each other. There is no grand finale, it just seems to end. I have to admit after about 10 minutes I found myself wishing I was riding Expedition Everest behind me. I can’t imagine how antsy a child could get, oh wait I can.  I was seated by several children under the age of 5 and they were done about 5 minutes into the preshow and the actual show really did not seem to interest them but for a couple of times (usually when the fire effects were in use).

There is no “Disney” in Rivers of Light.  Call me strange, but Disney has so many incredible animal stories that I would think somehow that they could incorporate the music and images from these movies.  I know Disney wants Animal Kingdom to be all about conservation and protecting the natural world, but come on you could use familiar animal characters to help tell the story.

There is  not much you might call “spectacular” in this nighttime spectacular beyond being visually beautiful.  Spectacular to me is something that keeps me on my seat and wanting more…cue Wishes in the Magic Kingdom.

So how do you plan to fit it in your day?

First, DON’T WASTE AN ADVANCED FASTPASS+ (made at 60 days) on the show.  Also, don’t use a FastPass+ while you are in Animal Kingdom unless it is the end of the day and nothing else is available.  There generally are 2 performances each evening and the Pandora being opened the days of the difficulty in getting to see the show are gone, most guests prefer to experience Pandora at night (you can do both with planning).  If you decide to go stand-by, the last performance of the day will be the least crowded. I recommend lining up standby 45-60 minutes prior to showtime during peak crowd times.

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The best way (and probably my favorite) is to get a Rivers of Light Dining Package,  I loved my meal at Tiffins!. It does not cost you any extra to get a FastPass+ along with your meal, but you must book the package as just eating at the restaurant does not get you a FastPass+. This is the safe choice to make sure that you have a seat for Rivers of Light.  And if you go this route, I would opt for the earlier showtime so that you can explore the bioluminescence of Pandora or jump in the standby line for Flight of Passage (if it was not an unreasonable wait time). If you do have a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light, I recommend being seated about 30 minutes prior to showtime.  There is a 15 minute pre-show and the area will go dim about this time.

Despite all of this I do think that Rivers of Light is worth seeing, at least once. And you can bring food and drinks in with you…so BEFORE YOU ARE SEATED pick up some cute Lotus Flower light-up food and beverage items sold at nearby stands and BECOME PART of the show.

Have you seen Rivers of Light? What are your thoughts? Please leave your thoughts, reactions and comments.

Need more tips and help planning your Disney or Universal Vacation?  Contact me today for a free, No-Obligation quote and let’s start planning.  Remember all of my services are complementary when you book your vacation with me!

A Cars Inspired Road Trip: Part 2

In Case you Missed Part 1:  LINK

There is an item on my bucket list that my family and I have partially completed, a drive from Chicago to Santa Monica along the famous Mother Road, Route 66.  Last Spring we drove half of the route on our Cars inspired trip to Disneyland…

Adrian, Texas to Tucumcari, New Mexico

Leaving the Cadillac Ranch we got back onto I-40 (or the highway that killed Route 66) and travel about 40 miles west to a little town called Adrian, the next stop on our Cars inspired road trip.  

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Adrian, Texas is the official midpoint of Route 66, if you travel 1,139 miles in either direction you will find either the start or the end of Route 66 (Chicago or Santa Monica).  

Midpoint Diner Link:  https://www.facebook.com/MidpointCafe/

Adrian is home to the Midpoint Café which at one time was run by Fran Houser, the woman who inspired the character Flo in Cars, and sisters Mary Lou and Christina Mendez who served the famous “ugly crust pies” and inspired the twin-sister Cars, Tia and Mia. Fran has since sold the Midpoint Café, but you can still get a taste of those ugly pies which are also sold at Flo’s Diner in Carsland.  

When we arrived the café was not open, but we did get a few pictures as the sun was setting.  A man in pick up truck noticed us taking pictures and came to greet us. He was delighted to tell use the story of the diner and of Fran, he even gave us a couple of postcards. Now that the cafe has changed owners, it is open more often and we are hoping to take a trip soon for the famous Ugly Crust pies and burgers!

Another 25 miles west takes us to the deserted town of Glenrio, Texas which straddles the Texas-New Mexico Border. Glenrio is home to the abandoned Little Juarez Diner which in Cars is transformed into the Racing Museum and Doc Hudson Internal Combustion (a wing of Flo’s Diner used for inside seating) in Carsland.  

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Continuing our road trip across the New Mexico stateline we find the town of Tucumari and Tucumcari Mountain.  The mountain, is actually a plateau that can be seen for miles around and local high-school students repaint the town’s initial on the side of the mountain each year.

The mountain shaped like a radiator cap that overlooks Radiator Springs and is prominently seen in the background of Radiator Racers was inspired by Tucumcari Mountain.  Our final stop of the day is only 2 hours from home, but was well worth the overnight stay…

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Tammie’s Take Thursday:  When is the Best Time to Ride Kilimanjaro Safari?

kiloLions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!  Okay maybe not bears and you can see the tigers in Asia, but if you get lucky you will see some lions.

Disney Kilimanjaro Safari is an exceptionally realistic imitation of an actual African photo safari where you and 35 of your closest new friends will aboard an open safari vehicle and be sent off into a simulated African Savannah habitat  Where you might get lucky and see…

Antelopes, Baboons, Black rhinos, Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Elephants, Flamingos, Gazelles, Giraffes, Hippopotamus, Hyenas, Lions, Okapis, Ostrichs, Warthogs, White rhinos, Wildebeests, Wild dogs and Zebras

Recently I was helping out a client in planning her itinerary and a question came up when was the best time to take a safari.  She had read that it was best to ride first thing in the morning. While I tend to agree that morning is the best, the way that Disney Imagineers have created the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, anytime is a good time (except for in the middle of the day in the summer and I am just like the animals, avoiding the heat).

Through the careful placement of salt licks, fodder like hay and grass, and fresh water supplies, the animals are encouraged to stay close to the roads so that you can see them when you ride by in the safari vehicle. Additionally, Disney uses air conditioned rocks and other temperature “tricks” to coax the animals to stay within view of the guests on the safari ride.

Disney uses water features, moats, electric fences, and natural barriers to keep the animals within their proper areas. Additionally, cattle guards, wires, and chains are placed on the ground to prevent the animals from crossing into other areas. And of course all of this is hidden from guests.

I have ridden the Kilimanjaro different times of the day on every trip and each time the safari is different.  Recently, I rode late on a afternoon in November near Sunset and had probably the best safari ride I have ever had. I saw several animals that I had never seen before including the hyenas and the black rhino.  The animals were all quite active, in complete view and close to the safari vehicle.

On my next trip this fall, I am planning to experience the safari at night. Disney Imagineers have installed a baseball stadium–size wall of graphics displays at the far end of the tour’s savanna grasslands. When turned on late in the day, the displays are programmed to simulate the dusk of a setting sun for hours on end. It provides theme park guests enough light to see those animals still roaming around. Disney also spent a year acclimating the existing animals and new nocturnal species to life at Disney.  I understand the actual safari pace is slower at nighttime and many animals are more active, while it is almost impossible to see other animals.

There are a few things that you need to know before you take off on your safari…

  • If you are taking photos, keep in mind that the vehicle does not always stop.  Be prepared to snap at anytime. Most stops are rolling stops. Drivers do their best to stop in places where big animals can be spotted.
  • You can expect long lines beginning 30 minutes after park opening until mid afternoon.
  • Sitting near the front of the safari truck will lessen the bumping that you feel as you travel. Sitting near the back of the truck will make the ride feel more bumpy and jumpy.
  • The ride can be rough and some people get scared crossing an “old bridge” that seems to collapse under your truck.
  • The ride lasts for about 20 minutes.
  • Each safari jeep hold 36 passengers with up to 5 people across and there are not seat belts.
  • Try to sit on the left side of the vehicle (side farthest when you board your jeep) since most of the animal sanctuaries are located on that side.

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I guarantee that no safari ride will be the same.  No matter matter what time of day, rest assured that it will be an “Hakuna Mata” adventure, sit back and enjoy the safari.  And when you get off you will find yourself at the start of the Pangani Forest Trail,make sure that you explore this trail for closer looks at some the animals you saw on the safari as well as few new ones.

Bonus Fun Facts

  • Kilimanjaro Safari is 110 acres and It is the largest attraction in all of the Disney parks with regard to area covered. The entire Magic Kingdom theme park is 107 acres and could fit into just this one attraction in Animal Kingdom.
  • Disney acquired all animals from other zoos and reputable breeders instead of taking them from the wild.
  • Look closely at the flamingo island during the safari, take note of the island’s shape for a Hidden Mickey.
  • The elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom produce a ton of poop every single day which Disney even recycles and uses as fertilizer on the grounds across the Disney property.
  • Each evening the animals are called into their enclosures for the night by audio cues which include drums, whistles, horns, bells, and duck calls!

Tuesday’s on the Run: April Running Reflections

It’s Tuesday, so that means I am linking up with Patty, Erika & Marsha for Tuesday’s on the Run and with it being the end of the month it is time to look back on how the month went in terms of running…

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I certainly hope that the old saying that April Showers (which there still continues to be no actual rain where I live) bring May flowers, because April I have had my share of ups and downs, much like the weather and hoping that in May my will bloom into something a little more consistent and focused on the #roadtofirstmarathon.  Who am I kidding?  It would not be my running if it was consistent.  

Highs

  • 8 MilesWith this weekend’s run I will have built my distance to 8 miles of run walk intervals.  My pace is steady over the distance and it a pace that will keep me ahead of the balloon ladies, which is certainly a high, but I still have 18 more miles to go!
  • 1 Round of Core Training Completed-I finished my first ever 6-week cycle of Core Training through the Tribe program at my gym.  It is amazing how far I have come since my first class…from no push-ups to now a steady 10 in a row.  I have already signed up for another 6 weeks.
  • 13 pounds lost-Slow and steady will win the battle of the bulge, or at least I hope it will.  I have now lost 13 pounds since January 8. Yes, it should be more as I constantly find myself fighting the battle of emotional eating. I am trying hard to stay focused and satisfied at a pound a week, plus not give into temptation.  I did have a non-scale victory this month as I fit back into a pair of jeans that were in my closest, so I sized down!
  • 500 Miles-I hit the 500 mile mark earlier this month in my goal to reach 2018 by December 31 at 11:59 pm.  While I am behind I am hoping that summer will bring more time to get out there and just walk.
  • 3 Race Events on the Horizon-I finally pushed the pay and commit button on a couple of races that I have been eyeing. I am officially running the Slacker Half in June, the Missoula Half Marathon in July and my first runDisney Running Short (Mrs. Incredible) which I plan to run to celebrate the official 5-0 mark in my life.

Lows

  • Short RunsI am struggling to get my short runs in each week, which is frustrating since it is only 2 miles or about 30 minutes.  I am so full of excuses…
  • Battle of Which Part of My Lower Body Wants to Have Issues-I my body is certainly feeling the 5-0 approaching and each day another part of the bottom half of my body wants to see if it can bring me down. Shins, Achilles, Knee, Hip…thankfully they each take turns, but still bring doubt and fear into whether or not 26.2 miles will be possible.
  • runDisney postponing Marathon Registration-I was ready to pull the trigger and commit to the marathon last week when registration was supposed to happen, but in true runDisney form they had to make some kind of drama happen…postponing the registration of all the spring 2019 events, which makes the rumor mill go wild as to what is going on.  It also makes me hesitant about committing to a DVC rental for the weekend and I am afraid of no room in the inn, or in my case no cabana on the Poly Beach.

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Looking ahead to May, My goals for May are pretty straight forward…

  • Build my Distance to 11 miles.
  • Get my short runs in.
  • Lose 8 pounds, which will bring me to pre-boot weight.
  • Get to 700 miles by the end of May.

How did your April go?  What are you looking forward to accomplishing in May?  Drop me a comment, I would love to share in your journey with you!

Tuesdays on the Run: Not Feeling Lucky, but Afraid

It’s Tuesday, so that means I am linking up with Patty, Erika & Marsha for Tuesday’s on the Run.

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This week’s topic is “Luck of a Runner” but honestly, I do not feel very lucky when it comes to running lately (cue the whining) …

Running is just supposed to be about putting one foot in front of the other, but unfortunately for me those feet are attached to legs, legs that are attached to a body, a body that is attached to a head, a head that contains a brain. A brain that is telling me that I am afraid of running.

There I said it, I am afraid of running…

Every little ache or discomfort I worry about injury. Every step has me worried that the next step could potentially sideline me again, permanently.  This in turn has affected my motivation to get out there and train. When I do get out there, the bad runs seem to outnumber the good runs and with that comes a major dose of self-doubt. The more I allow self-doubt to creep in the more I feel like a failure. Why is it that I can be so kind and supportive to others, but so negative with myself?   I have been close to the point lately of just giving into my fear and quitting, which is hard for this stubborn girl.

My fear is holding me back from commitment.  I have spent countless hours developing a training plan that gives me plenty of time to reach my goal next January, but I have not consistently put that plan into action.  Now time is slipping away from me, time that I HAVE TO HAVE.  Along with that training plan are a list of races that fit perfectly into the schedule to make the training a little more bearable, but I can’t seem to make myself submit that application.

How do I get past this fear?

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I also must have a plan that focuses on that strengthens my entire body and makes me healthy so that my ankle does not give me worry.

  • A friend has finally gotten me into the gym and I paid my money for a personal trainer to help me strengthen my core.  Talk about commitment…

I also must commit. No more sitting on the sidelines.

  • The Slacker Half registration is submitted.  I have just enough time to prepare for the half in June.  From all accounts it seems like the perfect half to get me back into running, one that is not constrained by a “sweeper” time.  I need this because I know it is more for me right now just to finish and get the distance in.

Finally, I must believe

“If you dream it, you can do it.”

The belief is the key. What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.  I know this is true, I have done it before, after all if I did not believe in myself I would have never started and never had finished 18 half marathons.  I need to start talking to myself as I do others.  Reassure myself that I am fine and that it is about keeping moving forward with my eye on the finish line.

This run my suck, but tomorrow is a new run…

A Cars Inspired Road Trip: Part 1

KaChow!

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It is no secret that in my house the #1 Disney Movie (still edging out the Avengers, only slightly) is Cars…no, not Cars2 or Cars but the original Cars  The #monsterchild (now 12) literally wore out 3 DVDs when he was little from watching the movie repeatedly.  In fact, I still remember a road trip to Carlsbad Caverns that Cars was played continuously for the 8-hour drive, both ways.  I remember smiling to myself as he would laugh always in the same parts, no matter how many times he had seen that scene and how at 2 years old he could practically recite the entire movie.  #Mosterchild was then and still is Lightnings #1 Fan.

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It was a magical moment at Walt Disney World when he met Lightning in person, or should I say in “car”.

The #monsterchild is not the only one in the house that loves CARS, my husband has been a fan of any kind of car since he got behind the wheel, I won’t tell how long ago that was.  As a teenager he restored several cars along with his brother and father.

Today, that passion of restoring cars continues with #monsterchild and Boo.  Did I mention that we even have a Doc Hudson waiting his turn to be restored to his glory days?

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Cars was set in the fictional town of Radiator Springs, but did you know that many of the places you see in the movie are based on actual places along Route 66 and even some of the characters are based on real life “characters” along the way.

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Last Spring, we took a road trip on the Mother Road to Disneyland and along the way we stopped at those places. Follow along the next few weeks as I look back at that trip and share the real places along Route 66 that inspired the fictional town of Radiator Springs depicted in Carsland and at Disney California Adventure.

Our trip began only a few blocks from our home on Historical Route 66…

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In it’s hay day, Route 66 beckoned millions of travelers to California, but like the road in Cars it was by-passed when the interstate opened (I-40) and literally left the road any many towns along it abandoned.

As we turned onto Route 66 it was just a few more blocks before we came to what I consider to be the first two inspiration points, Flo’s Diner & Sarge’s Garage…

While I know that there are many Quonset huts that can be found along Route 66, but I like to think of the one near my home as the inspiration for Sarge’s, after all it was at one time an army surplus store.

Next door is the remains of an old drive in diner, which you can find in the design of Flo’s V-8 Diner…

Leaving the Mother Road for the Interstate we travel just outside of Amarillo and stop at the Cadillac Ranch…

 

 

Looking at map of the “Carburetor County” region, where Radiator Springs is located, you find the Cadillac Range a few miles away. In the film, it appears as mountain range whose jagged peaks are reminiscent of the famous sculpture, the “Cadillac Ranch”.

Ten Cadillacs were driven into a field, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle, just like the Cadillac Mountains of Cars.  While the Cadillac Ranch is in our own backyard, this is actually the first time the boys have ever seen it up close and personal.

Stay tuned next week as we continue down the Mother Road in our Road Trip to bring Cars to life…