You know you’re in a special place when your bicycles stand unchained and remain unstolen next to your Airstream Trailer for a whole month. Thank you, Flagstaff, for a truly remarkable stay! Now on to Texas. . .
While at the reservation, we fell in love with Dr. Adrienne Ruby, the only veterinarian for miles and miles around. She travels from village to village in her mobile veterinary clinic, which consists of a beat-up white truck with an old car phone that is rigged to the horn and honks loudly anytime someone calls. Dr. Ruby often sets up shop at the local farmers market where people line up with their animals to see her.
An old white stray named “Cavedog” is Dr. Ruby’s constant companion. She sits with Dr. Ruby as she drives, and guards the truck/office when she makes house calls. We accompanied the two of them on a visit to see a sick cow. After traveling through bumpy dirt roads in vast fields, it turned out that the cow wasn’t home.
In the photo above, Dr. Ruby and Cavedog are driving away to their next house call– to castrate a horse in a neighboring village.
After a day full of interviews, KUYI let us help DJ an evening of music. Above, StoryCorps facilitator Emily Janssen and KUYI’s Lisa Youvella take song requests from listeners. Our first request, “Happy Birthday Pow Wow,” happens to be the station’s most requested song.
Hosted by Hopi community radio station KUYI, StoryCorps visited the Hopi reservation in Northern Arizona to record off-site interviews. Surrounded by the larger Navajo reservation, the Hopi reservation is home to two of the oldest Native American villages in the country. With the help of Station Manager Lisa Youvella (above right) and staff member Kathy Sahmie (above left) we were able to hear some of its stories.
During our two days with KUYI, we heard Hopi and Navajo neighbors, friends, and clan relatives interview their loved ones. In the photo above, Dr. Adrienne Ruby (on the right) interviews her neighbor of fifteen years, Navajo elder Frances Bahe (on the left) about her memories of childhood and about her grief over the Hopi-Navajo Land Dispute.
Sweet Nothings Lingerie-”I do! I do!” Wedding Boutique and Tuxedo Rental has been around since 1960, making it the oldest wedding/lingerie shop in town. We drive past it daily as we go to and from the StoryCorps booth, so we finally decided to step inside and find out the story behind this intriguing place.
Inside, there isn’t an inch of empty space. It’s chock-a-block full with everything from bras of every shape and size to flouncy bridesmaid dresses to skimpy nurse’s uniforms and “Santa’s helpers” suits.
A Vietnamese lady named Kelly McReynolds (pictured above with her granddaughter) owns the place. She bought the shop from a Ms. Choi twenty years ago, and all of her employees are family members. The day we stopped by, McReynolds had put a “For Sale” sign in the window. She explained that none of her sisters or nieces want to take over the business, and she’s done running it. “I helped entertain everybody in this town for years and years…now it’s time to entertain myself,” she said. McReynolds plans to dedicate her retirement years to the art of meditation.
Captain Robert Nichols, 89, holds the record for the longest lifeboat journey during WWII. He came to the booth to tell the tale of how a German torpedo sunk his ship, leaving him stranded at sea for 18 days with little more than the light of the stars to guide him and water to survive on. One of his most vivid memories from that journey was his first meal once finally on land. “Soft boiled eggs…” he said with a squint, “…no bacon.”
On Saturday, StoryCorps participants joined hundreds of other marchers as they came through Flagstaff’s Wheeler Park, where StoryCorps is parked, on their way to City Hall. The March for Sacred Sites and Human Rights appealed against the City Council’s vote to sell reclaimed water to the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski area located on the SanFrancisco Peaks, a sacred site in both the Navajo and Hopi cultures.
StoryCorps participant and long-time Park Service Ranger Keith Green (pictured above) is legally blind, but that doesn’t prevent him from appreciating the Grand Canyon. He and his wife, Nancy Green, came to the StoryCorps booth to talk about their life there. Keith and Nancy’s descriptions of the sights and sounds of the canyon inspired us to visit.
We were welcomed into the national park by another StoryCorps participant, Helen Thompson, and a snow storm. Here, StoryCorps facilitators Emily Janssen and Piya Kochhar stand in front of the Grand Canyon Vista on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Not to be discouraged (Keith had told us that the snow-covered canyon is a sight to see) we nestled into the lounge at the historic El Tovar Hotel for some warm drinks and to commiserate with other snow-covered travelers.
We emerged several hours later, not to be disappointed. To these city girls, it was a grand canyon indeed.
Meet Nellie. She’s a Black Labrador/ Australian Shepard mix. She loves people and she loves the snow. She also recently had a StoryCorps session dedicated entirely to her.
Nellie was given up for adoption by her former owner Kim (the lady in yellow) and for the past six years she’s made a home with Kim’s friend, Mike (the man holding the leash). Kim and Mike came to the StoryCorps booth to tell the story of Nellie’s life. In the photo above, the three are standing in front of Flagstaff’s City Hall which is a stone’s throw away from the booth.
Flagstaff also marks the first stop of the tour for new facilitator Emily Janssen, who’s taking over for outgoing facilitator and MobileBoother extraordinaire, Jackie Goodrich. One of Emily’s first duties on the tour involved shoveling the mounds of snow surrounding the booth.
As soon as we arrived in Flagstaff, it started snowing and didn’t stop for three days. This was the first snow of the winter, ending a 142 day drought that had many here worried. Above is a photo of route 66 and the rickety railroad track beside it, both covered entirely in snow.
Here’s a snapshot of the StoryCorps booth taken later in the day. We’re parked in downtown Flagstaff and received a warm welcome from local NPR affiliate KNAU. Special thanks to John Stark, general manager of the station, for filling us in on all the interesting facts and features of the surrounding area and showing us the best coffee spots in town.
Flagstaff is a railroad town with a population of about 60,000. It’s ensconced by mountains and the legendary route 66 runs through it. Also, the planet Pluto was discovered here. No doubt this town has some interesting stories to tell.
After a memorable month in San Diego, we set off for Flagstaff, AZ. About four hours into our journey, just North of the Mexico border in the Arizona desert, we came across an intriguing place surrounded by a cluster of palm trees: "Dateland." We decided to pull over and investigate.
Dateland has been a reststop for weary travelers since the 1920s. It’s also home to "The World’s Most Delicious Date Shake" featured at the Dateland Cafe. Not only does the cafe offer Date Shakes, but also Date Oatmeal Squares, Date Nut Bread, Date Muffins, Date Cake, and Date Cream Pie.
Located above the cash register is a mileage chart that tells you exactly how far you have to travel to get to your destination. Flagstaff is 259 miles away. New York is 2647.