Wednesday morning, my alarm went off at 5:30 AM. Now, some of you may think I’m completely bonkers for setting an alarm when I’m on vacation. Heck, with my new work schedule, I don’t set an alarm on a regular basis at all anymore. However, I had two good reasons. One: since I ran out of time on old Route 66 the previous day, I was determined not to let that happen again. Two: my friend David Heward saw that I was staying at the River Road Resort in Needles and told me if I had a chance to see a sunrise, do it. Even though my previous day had been mostly cloudy, I figured I’d give it a try.
I was greeted with a spectacular array of light and color as morning arrived. I sat next to the Colorado River and once again enjoyed the sound of the water rushing by. As soon as I finished my coffee, though, I was ready to vamoose. As the rest of the world was waking up, I was already in the car and down the road. I was sad that I didn’t get to see Rosie again, but that just means I’ll have to come back soon, and this time bring Samantha and a few more days to relax! On my way out of town, I came across a FANTASTIC 66 Motel neon sign. I’d seen it photographed before, but I didn’t know where it was. I took gleeful pleasure in capturing it along with the lightening sky. A few quick minutes later, I crossed the border from California to Arizona, starting the Oatman Highway section of the Route.
I was completely unprepared for the beauty of Route 66 as it approached, and then snaked through, the Black Mountains. The road is twisty-turny as it maks the climb to Sitgreaves Pass @ 3550 feet above sea level. The view is constantly magnificent. Since it was still early, I had the road mostly to myself. In fact, I only recall having a single car come the other direction the entire time I weaved through the mountains. At one point, I passed a group of 7 or 8 motorcycles that had pulled off to take in the view. My wave was returned, and as I drove slowly by I heard them speaking German. As the road began descending the other side of the pass, I approached a solitary stone building: Cool Springs, a rebuilt 1920s era gas station. As has been the pattern, I walked in, introduced myself, and I talked with the owner for a few minutes about my trip and the Route in general.
The road past Cool Springs flattened out and I was given a long stretch of beautiful highway to crank the tunes and keep the windows down. I knew it’d be cooler in the mountains, but it was still 65-70 degrees. Turns out I must’ve had a cool front as my co-pilot all day, because it NEVER got past 80 and it was always either about to rain or just finished raining. It was glorious! I stopped in Kingman to get some pictures of Mr. D’z Diner. My buddy Ron Jones out of Bartlesville has their retro sign airbrushed on the trunk of his ’56 Chevy. Sadly, I wasn’t hungry, so I just took pictures this time. Pressing on, the scenery continued to amaze me. Distant mesas lined the horizon. My next stop was the Hackberry General Store, which was full of fellow travelers. Most of them were on motorcycles, and as I walked around with my camera I heard several languages and accents. I struck up a converation with a pair of couples that were over from Scotland. They had rented Harley-Davidsons and were touring several parts of the west, including a bit of Route 66. Super nice folks!
Speaking of nice folks, I met a man I’d previously only known on Facebook. When I pulled off to get some pictures of the old neon sign at the Frontier Motel in Truxton, he seemed to appear out of nowhere to greet me. When I handed him my business card, it all clicked. When his wife approached, he introduced me like I was an old friend. Even though they were about to head somewhere, he took a few minutes to show me around, including the cafe he’s restoring on-site. It was a really cool experience, very much part of the ‘instant family’ feeling that many Route 66 roadies have for one another. I let them get on with their day and got on with mine, too. I chuckled as I passed the first of several sets of restored Burma-Shave signs as I approached Seligman, AZ. The weather, which had been treating me like a king, decided it was time to make sure I knew who was boss. I was in a downpour until I entered the city limits.
Seligman has SEVERAL touristy spots. They have a couple of gift shops clustered together and a gimmicky little burger stop called Delgadillo’s Snow Cap. Now, I’m not saying gimmicky like it’s a BAD thing. The place is known for playing jokes on customers, such has doorknobs that don’t really work, the classic mustard bottle gag (where it’s string and they pretend to squirt you with it) and when you ask for a straw they bring you some grass. It’s all in good fun, and my EZ Guide prepared me for it. The staff really has a great time, and the food was decent, too. I passed through a few other communites (including Williams, one of my first big Route 66 experiences back in 2013 when I was on the way to the Grand Canyon). My guide encouraged me to take an old alignment of the Route, now gravel, just past the community of Parks…and I’m very glad I did. I found myself driving on a smooth grade through the middle of the Kaibab National Forest, like I was the only person in the world. The rain had cleared the air and you could smell the pine as you drove by. It was exquisite.
I didn’t dally long in Flagstaff, but I did make one stop at Mother Road Brewing Company. A fellow roadie had recommended it, and I was once again impressed. I talked to the owner for nearly half an hour as I sampled several of their beers and talked about the Route. They had several award-winning beers on tap and everybody was really friendly. I bought a ballcap and plan to stop by any time I’m even remotely close to Flagstaff in the future. A ways past Flagstaff, I pulled off at a historic steel truss bridge in Winona, once again blessed with some beautiful skies. The rain threatened to return, though, and I had to move quickly to make sure I could hit my last three sites. They were all abandoned, and I didn’t need to mess around with mud in addition to any other issues I might encounter.
This post is getting pretty lengthly already, so I’ll briefly talk about them. They are all abandoned roadside Trading Posts: Twin Arrows (rotting while a namesake casino prospers on the other side of the highway), Two Guns (supposedly cursed rock ruins that once housed a rudimentary zoo), and Meteor City (in honor of the nearby crater). They were all sad places that were a reminder of The Old Days. Meteor City is the most recently closed, and it’s amazing how quickly it all falls apart when it’s no longer being actively used. Vandalism doesn’t help, either.
I rolled into Winslow much earlier than I arrived in Needles the previous day. I had enough time to walk around downtown (not much here if you aren’t an Eagles fan) and wander the grounds of my hotel, La Posada. It’s a restored Harvey House station that has a tremendous amount of history to it. It’s a lot more posh than I’m used to, and I felt a little uncomfortable in my t-shirt and jeans even though I wasn’t the only one. It’s also still a working railway station, so I could hear an occasional train as I drifted off to sleep. A wonderful way to end a wonderful day.