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Dave Kicks It On Route 66 to TCMFFIV


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The first time I went to the Petrified Forest, I was a bit disappointed. Expecting a forest of stone trees, I found a bunch of rocks strewn across a desert floor.






The next time I went to the Petrified Forest, 35 years of living had changed my perspective. This time, it is a forest for the imagination.






And, the wind blows. It blows at a steady 40 mph, with gusts up to 60. Semis get whipped on the road like mechanical centipedes. Clouds of red dust wall off the western horizon. It’s impenetrable, and the road is closed. I have a room at the restored Harvey Resort, La Posada, in Winslow, complete with five-star meals prepared by a frequent nominee for the James Beard Award. I recommend the Sweet Corn Tamale to those of you who pass this way.







The storm reminds me of other great storms that have swept into the lives of folks, real and imaginary, along Route 66. Of course, the Joad family is always there. Mostly, I’m thinking of British traveler, Alan Squiers (Leslie Howard), who finds shelter and meaning in a filling station/cafe, right here. In *The Petrified Forest*, Bette Davis’ character, Gabrielle Maple, yearns to escape the desolation of this place. Squiers willingly sacrifices himself for Gabrielle’s future.






No one was willing to do the same for a young Arizonan named Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins. She did it on her own. She did it in a flamboyant way. She did it when she was young, and when she was older.







“My childhood wasn’t all that enjoyable. I had a lot of things pushed down my throat, like religion, but I rebelled against it … at 13 I really ran away from home…I was, at that time, planning to … go to Las Vegas and be a showgirl. And, I figured, oh well, since I’ve got big boobs and things, I could probably get away with lying about my age. But, my girlfriend and I, both who ran away, we had the misfortune of being picked up by a preacher and his wife. They, of course, called the cops and turned us in.”






“The first movie I ever did, I was just an extra, and it was shot in my hometown of Mesa, AZ. Frank Lovejoy and Adele Jergens were the stars. I was just a teenager, 18 or 19, but I jumped at the chance to get into the movie any kind of way as an extra, and I was trying to get noticed, or discovered as they say. Life Magazine, who had come out to do a story on Frank Lovejoy, found me more fascinating and did the whole story on me, and at that time … my name was Pearl, and I didn’t like Pearl, so I took my middle name, Elizabeth, and went with that, but they called the story “Pearl’s Big Moment” and Frank Lovejoy only got one picture in the whole story and that was shaking hands with me, and the caption “Pearl meets the stars”.






Liz got involved with gangsters, eventually becoming Mickey Cohen’s girlfriend. She refused to cooperate with authorities in their prosecution of him for tax fraud, and ended up spending 27 months in jail. End of career?






I did say Liz Renay’s story was fascinating. She penned an autobiography *My Face For the World to See*, painted over 150 original works of art, originated ‘The Terminal Island Follies’–an all-inmate chorus line, ran the prison newspaper and taught oil painting.






She later went on to work in B-movies, most notably with John Waters, and do a mother-daughter striptease act that ended with her daughter’s suicide in 1982. Liz finally passed away on January 22, 2007.






I spend the biggest part of my time doing things I enjoy…Since we only have one life to lead, why not get as much pleasure as possible out of it? “












Around 1pm, I’ve decided to do my best to get to my next planned overnight, so I drop down about 100 miles south of Route 66 into the pine-forested mountains of the region and head back up towards Flagstaff. This unfortunately meant I’ll be missing some of the sights recommended by lzcutter, which is disappointing. Further disappointment falls in the mountains. An injury accident a few miles ahead delays traffic for another two hours. The day has become a headlong rush along super slab with only a few touches of 66 along the way.






As night falls, I arrive in Williams, Arizona. The narrow main strip is a neon-lit gauntlet of restored 66 establishments. Nowhere else on the Route have the signs closed in on me like they do here. Lodging and restaurants abound. I eat and move on. Tomorrow brings the final push across the deserts to the suburbs of Los Angeles.



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