After driving over 1,000 miles in two days, it was time to drive some MORE – but my time on the road Saturday, April 30th was not spent trying to GET somewhere. It was time just GOING somewhere. After all, Route 66 is about the journey…not the destination. And the Fun Run is a multiple-day event that celebrates the journey between Seligman, Arizona and the border of California.
Mustang owners are known to herd together at events. I’m not a part of any Mustang club, I don’t modify my car and I mostly nod in false understanding when people talk about engine details. I feel like an imposter much of the time. Still, when I parked in Seligman to prepare for the cruise and another Mustang parked behind me about a minute later, it made me smile. I wandered about with my camera as more cars arrived and I met back up with my roadie friends.
The annual Fun Run in Arizona started in 1988 but it really began the year prior. Fifteen enthusiasts got together for a cruise to celebrate the road and highlight it as a significant historic thoroughfare. In fact, that early gathering helped create the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. Seligman bears the title “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” — Historic being the key word. Angel Delgadillo, a local barber, championed the road and was instrumental in getting a segment of the road designated as a historic highway. Because of Angel’s success, soon all eight Route 66 states had their own historic Association and the preservation mission was underway. Angel turned 95 this year and still came out to drop the flag to get us started.
The journey that day between Seligman and Kingman included stops off at a few attractions in the communities within that 87 mile segment of the Mother Road. Each stop had music, food, wares, and more classic cars than you could count. Every minute, more cars arrived and others continued down the two-lane. It was a magnificent, rolling showcase. All along the road, people were sitting in lawn chairs and waving as we cruised by.
Some things had changed in the seven years since my last visit, but others remained the same. The Frontier Motel in Truxton was planning on reopening in 2015; I even visited with the caretakers for a bit. That never came to fruition, though the building and sign still stands. The little gas station in Valentine looked great but nobody was around to talk to. However, stops like the Grand Canyon Caverns and the Hackberry General Store were positively overrun with Fun Runners, which was terrific. I imagine this event has quite a sustaining effect on these places that have suffered declines during the COVID years.
One place I was eager to re-experience was Antares Point, home of Giganticus Headicus. The main draw is a 14 foot tall green Tiki head, created in 2003. Headicus, along with the new Guardian of Route 66 Statue, are the brainchildren of artist Gregg Arnold. I had the pleasure of meeting him and talking for a bit. He was full of passion and energy, not unlike my friend Mary Beth Babcock back in Tulsa, creator of Buck Atom. It’s places like this that give the road its unique and wonderful flair.
The end-point of the day’s cruise was downtown Kingman, where cruisers joined a massive car show that covered the historic district. Again, my modest little V6 Mustang felt a bit out of place among the impressive inventory of vintage automobiles, but at least it gave me a place to sit and get out of the sun occasionally. I forgot to bring a lawn chair and had not anticipated the heat! Thankfully, friends came to the rescue with some sunscreen and I did not become a crispy critter.
Afternoon drinks segued into evening dinner. It was another mix of greeting old friends and meeting new ones, all of us having a love for the old road in common. Our little group contained people from all over the country – and beyond. It was great to talk to Dale Butel of Australia about the changes in how tours will operate in a post-COVID world. I was overjoyed to see my friend Dean, the first roadie friend I made, who was still recovering from a health scare. I met Jim Conkle, a veteran of Route 66 advocacy that I’d only interacted with online. Instead of me being the new kid on the block, now people were asking ME questions and seeking counsel about how to get their areas to have the same energy and civic engagement that Oklahoma Route 66 had.
Before retiring for the night, I took the Mustang over to the big drive-through shield at the Powerhouse Visitor’s Center. It wasn’t built yet at my last visit; it’s really well done and something I would love to see emulated in Oklahoma.
The next day would take me farther west still, but that story will have to wait for Part 3.