“This is where I took the time to pull over and have a ‘world famous’ date shake.”
On the back of a disabled parking sign in the parking lot of Dateland Shakes in Dateland, Arizona
I’d driven this route more times than I can remember. I-8 east out of San Diego, past El Centro, past Yuma, North on Highway 85 at Gila Bend, East on I-10 at Buckeye, through Phoenix, to Scottsdale.
And there’s not a lot to do or look at, along the way. After you get out of the East County mountains, it’s just desert. In the summer, you can count on it breaking 110 degrees without fail. There’s not a lot to look forward to, except maybe driving so close to the US-Mexico border that you can see the fence, or a few sand dunes in Southeastern California.
Somewhere between Yuma and Gila Bend, you start seeing signs for “world-famous date shakes”. Every time I’d drive through, I’d scoff.
“Psssh, world-famous? How did it even get that title? Did one person from Mexico come to their shake stand and tell his friends back home? And now it’s world-famous because somebody outside of the US has heard of it?”
As far as I was concerned, Dateland was nothing but a mile marker letting me know I was 2 1/2 hours outside of Scottsdale.
On one trip through the Arizona desert, I was feeling bored and tired. I felt like I needed to get out of the car to walk around and stretch a bit, to keep from endangering myself and other drivers. I saw the signs for the world-famous date shakes and decided to stop there for a bit.
As far as I could tell, Dateland was nothing more than a date farm, with a single building in front, housing a gas station, a gift shop, a Quizno’s, and the aforementioned date shake shop. I went in and perused the kitschy wares they were selling in the gift shop before ordering their “world-famous” beverage. I wasn’t sure I’d ever eaten a date before, let alone had it in a milk shake, so I figured there was some adventure in that.
I left the shop and continued Eastward, smiling about my visit. Not because my shake was amazing (it wasn’t) and not because I left with any spectacular finds from the gift shop (I didn’t), but because I had finally taken the time to see some kitschy roadside Americana. I learned that travel is as much, if not more, about the journey, as it is the destination.
I’ve been back to Dateland once since that trip. Since I’d already tried their world-famous date shake, I decided to try their next most popular flavour – cactus.