Kanab, the first town in Utah you encounter on your way north from Phoenix on Highway 89, is the gateway to Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, the Grand Canyon, and many other natural wonders.
But Kanab (pronounced Kuh-NAB) has another distinction. It was here that the Lone Ranger called “Hiyo, Silver” and rode off into the sunset. The area around Kanab and Fredonia (the town to its south on the Arizona side of the line) has been the location for dozens of movies, mainly westerns (56 to be precise), and many television programs. It is said that more westerns and television programs have been filmed in this area than in any other single location outside of Hollywood.
It had been a beautiful but long drive from Phoenix, and my husband pulled in to the first motel we saw, the Sun’N’Sand. It looked as though it was built in the 1950s and hadn’t been remodeled since. But it had everything we needed, including a round-the-clock supply of coffee and donuts, and the proprietor was very welcoming.
When we asked for a restaurant recommendation, he sent us across the street to a place called Nedra’s Too. He promised we would get a discount if we mentioned his hotel (in fact, they give a 10 percent discount to anyone who is staying in the town).
We expected a diner on about the same level as the motel, but we were in for a surprise. The place had rustic charm and the walls were covered with autographed photos of movie stars (most of whom I had never heard of but had probably seen on screen). From the menu we learned that the original Nedra, the granddaughter of a Mormon pioneer, was born in Kanab in 1917. She opened a café in Fredonia in 1957, serving American food every day but one, when she served her own style of Mexican cuisine. Her clients persuaded her to cook Mexican all week.
The café became a favorite stop for movie crews and stars, including James Garner, Vera Miles, Sidney Poitier, and Clint Eastwood. The late Sen. Barry Goldwater used to have gallons of Nedra’s special hot sauce flown to his Arizona ranch, the menu said.
In 1990, Nedra’s Too opened in Kanab and is today operated by the original Nedra’s daughter, Nedra Pauline. The food is a cut above Mexican-style diners; the veggie quesadilla with spinach was excellent. And visitors can wax nostalgic about such classic westerns as Buffalo Bill (1944), sci-fi films like The Planet of the Apes (1968) and the 1999 Planet of the Apes, and TV series such as Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and Daniel Boone.
A WORD ABOUT YUMA
Yuma is the town near the California-Arizona border where aliens abducted my husband’s hat, almost exactly a year ago. The hat has not been the same since.
This year something even stranger happened. We pulled into Yuma for a lunch stop on our way from San Diego to Phoenix, and shortly after we left, Yumans lost their electrical power. I would have accused the aliens for this event too, except that the outage spread back to San Diego, where we had just been, and ahead to Arizona, where we were headed.
Must have been something we ate.
Speaking of what we ate: We had lunch at Denny’s, which serves impossibly large portions. This time I decided to beat the system (both calorie-wise and money-wise) by splitting one order with my husband. What I chose, however, was something they call a make-your-own slam. For $6 you may choose four items from a list.
So I chose two short stacks of whole-wheat pancakes (each pancake turned out to be the size of a large plate), a bowl of cereal (it was delicious but huge) with milk and brown sugar, and two fried eggs. That could easily have fed a family of four. Next time I’ll bring along some more people (or aliens) to share it with.
Text and photograph copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No portion of this text or photograph may be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Esther Hecht.