Route 66 in the News

Try Arizona's Route 66

2010-06-23 13:08:20

Sky-high airfares, oil-slick beaches and boycott fever are conspiring to make Arizonans vacation close to home this summer. Now is the time to embark on an old-fashioned road trip - one filled with awesome scenery, roadside attractions and family-friendly adventures - while never leaving the state. Get your kicks on Route 66.

Arizona boasts the longest unbroken stretch of Historic Route 66 in existence, a rolling river of pavement that begins west of Ash Fork and stretches 158 miles to the California border. It is a compelling, bewitching drive. And though it exudes a timeless quality, a fresh vibrancy has taken hold as new businesses open and restorations salvage existing ones.

Leave Interstate 40 west of Ash Fork at Exit 139 (Crookton Road) and turn onto the highway once known as the Main Street of America. Two lanes slash across high plains, paralleling a train track. Almost immediately you'll be confronted by a poetic blast from the past: rows of re-created Burma Shave signs. For those too young to remember Burma Shave signs and their snappy bursts of random information, think of it as your grandparents' Twitter.


Make your first stop Seligman, the heart and soul of Historic Route 66.

With the completion of I-40, the federal government decommissioned Route 66 in Arizona in 1984. Once-flourishing communities became virtual ghost towns overnight. Many vanished altogether, but Seligman refused to go belly up. In 1987, local business owners led by barber Angel Delgadillo formed the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. They lobbied the state to designate Route 66 a historic highway. By 1988, the state agreed and began posting signs. Soon, organizations sprang up in other states and around the world and a wave of Route 66 nostalgia was under way.

Delgadillo, sporting a wide smile, still holds court from his old barbershop, now the Route 66 Gift Shop and Visitor Center. He signs autographs, poses for photos and retells road stories dozens of times a day to a rapt audience.

Prowl the Seligman shops and listen to the flurry of accents. Tour buses unload an array of nationalities daily into the little town.

"Route 66 has come to symbolize the very best of America to people all around the world," says Frank Kocevar, owner of Historic Seligman Sundries. "It means freedom and a sense of adventure, and that resonates with everyone, no matter what language they speak."

From Seligman you'll motor west through the sprawling Aubrey Valley, ringed by shadow-painted mountains. Soon you'll spot Grand Canyon Caverns. You know it's a classic roadside attraction because the property is decorated with giant dinosaurs.

The complex includes a motel, restaurant, RV park and gift shop. Don't be misled by the kitschy trappings -- the caverns are spectacular. Descend by elevator 21 stories underground for a guided tour through an immense series of chambers and tunnels. Personable guides lead you through the dramatic depths of flowstone formations and walls glittering with selenite crystals. Stout-hearted guests can spend the night in the new Cavern Suite, a hotel room 220 feet below the surface.

Hualapai Reservation

Back on the top side of the Earth, Route 66 meanders across the Hualapai Reservation. Comfortable Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs serves as base camp for those planning to visit the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, take a river-rafting trip or hike Havasu Canyon. And the dining room serves up some tasty grub.

There's something liberating about being pointed west, under a great beast of a sky, with no schedule to keep. Such a journey allows room for surprise and wonder. One of the heartwarming surprises tucked along Route 66 is Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in Valentine, a non-profit rescue sanctuary for more than 150 abused, neglected and abandoned exotic animals. Tigers, lions, wolves, leopards, monkeys and many more lounge in roomy habitats. Take a tour and feel good knowing your admission fee is keeping some hard-luck critters in chow.

Just ahead, a joyous clutter of roadside memorabilia infuses Hackberry General Store with a ramshackle charm. Out front, a red and white 1957 Corvette sits beside antique gas pumps. Vintage signs and Route 66 artwork adorn the walls. Stock up on Mother Road merchandise or swig a cold drink and peruse the collectibles. Owners John and Kerry Pritchard have created a sweet time capsule in this desert outpost, a shrine for road junkies.


Route 66 stretches across Kingman and bristles with historical motels and eateries still flashing signs of stylish neon. One essential stop is the Kingman Powerhouse Visitor Center downtown. Built in 1907, the hulking concrete structure houses the Route 66 Museum and the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona.

Allow plenty of time to see the upstairs museum, a trove of history, stories and pop-culture analysis of Old Double Six. Grab a mile-by-mile guide of the Mother Road from the Route 66 Association.

Across the street from the Powerhouse, colorful Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner dishes up comfort food and homemade root beer.

On to Oatman

Outside town, the road flashes across the sun-spanked sand flats before curving into the convoluted slopes of the Black Mountains. Stop first at Cool Springs, a stunning re-creation of a lonely gas station now functioning as gift shop and museum. Manager George Chicago will gladly share the history of the stone-walled haven.

The next 8 miles into Oatman are a winding, tortured climb through Sitgreaves Pass, with lavish panoramas revealing themselves at every hairpin curve.

"Oatman is a free show," says Jackie Rowland, owner of Fast Fanny's Place. "People take this amazing drive to get here, and they can watch gunfights, feed the burros and enjoy the sights without spending much money. It's what makes us such a great destination."

From Oatman, Route 66 continues 25 very scenic miles to the California state line. But really, who needs to go to California?

~Roger Naylor,


See also:


Comments about this article? Tell us.

Need to Know More?

SEARCH Route 66 University.

Have some Route 66 news to share?

Contact us. We'd love to add your story.