Turns out the Devil Road – Old Route 666 – is indeed evil. If by evil you mean brake murder and hairpin terror.
It started out sweet enough. I dropped down off the 40 in Arizona and headed south on what’s now 191 toward the White Mountains. It’s a ribbon of two-lane through rolling hills and vistas, a fun and easy drive for Sadie and me.
I sensed something a bit less benign coming when I saw a split in the highway: to the left, Bluebird Road, and to the right, Hardscrabble Road. It seemed a bit extreme and, it turns out, was a good analogy for the beauty and challenge of what lay ahead. But we forged on.
There aren’t a lot of turnouts through the White Mountains, so I took some shots from the car:
Each time I did I’d swerve a little, then put the camera down and say out loud, Don’t do that. It’s dangerous. But a few minutes later I’d see another gorgeous view and take another picture, and swerve. Proving yet again that intelligence is not a permanent condition.
What I didn’t see on this drive were any signs of Beelzebub, and believe me, I was looking. (When I wasn’t risking my life taking photos while driving.) I would have even settled for a fellow traveler spewing pea soup, but like I said, no dice.
Because of the narrow, winding, steep roads, and what seemed like one pass after another, a drive I thought would take a couple hours took five. But there was plenty of visual payoff:
After awhile the brakes were squealing so loudly I was sure I’d hit some small woodland creature and it was trapped in the undercarriage. Plus, Old Route 666 isn’t the most well marked road I’ve ever driven, though it is the Devil’s Road and, duh, safety isn’t a concern for El Diablo.
The driving got so challenging at the end (and in the dark) that only two phrases were coming out of my mouth. “Whoa whoa whoa” was a favorite, as I slowed down to barely make another hairpin turn that wasn’t marked.
There was a second phrase that might not be nice, but works much of the time. Like when I thought I was finally out of the mountains and on the straightaway to Safford for the night, but then it got all hairpinny again and a sign said, “10 mph – Next 11 Miles.”
The only appropriate response to that is “(The four-letter-word my mother hates that I say all the time) ME.”
I used that one a lot toward the end of the drive, with feeling. And I’m not making this up: I heard a deep chortle from somewhere in the woods every time.