Route 66. The Mother Road. There are books, magazines, even songs about it. Heck, Greg and I have already published ten blogs about it! There’s something about it that draws people from all over the world to explore its more than 2,000 miles passing through eight states.
The longest preserved original stretch of the quintessential American roadway is in Arizona. About 15 miles east of Seligman, you can leave the interstate behind and travel 159 miles of Route 66 along the same road thousands have traveled. It can leave you missing something you’ve never had and nostalgic for a time you’ve never known.
We decided that kind of experience deserved at least a partial repeat, so we threw some clothes into the trunk and dropped the top on the Fiat Spider – destination: the Arizona/New Mexico border to begin a four day, slower-than-turtles, stop-and-see-everything trip across The Grand Canyon State’s section of The Mother Road.
Thursday morning greeted us with sunshine and blue skies. In classic road trip fashion, we thought we should actually check the oil and tire pressure to remember what it was like to take a road trip in days of yore.
The Giant Teepee and its gift shop at the Arizona State Line. Like many of the places along the roadway, the gift shop was closed. We snapped a photo of its bright yellow signs and the funky plastic animals prancing about on the rocks above and moved on.
The eastern portion of Route 66 has mostly been replaced by Interstate 40, but you can still get a little sense of the way it was with the fun and funky signs just begging you to stop for “artifacts” and “Indian Jewelry” that still punctuate the side of the road.
Fort Courage – no, it’s not a real fort, is a few miles up the road. It’s questionable whether the fake front was actually used for scenes in the 1960s TV comedy, “F Troop.” Now it’s a dilapidated, overgrown, graffitied spot just off the highway. We’d picked up a really fun book to help us with trivia and ideas. We chuckled at the descriptions in “Arizona Kicks on Route 66” by Roger Naylor. His fun, slightly sarcastic, brilliantly flavorful insights pointed us to a few spots we may otherwise have skipped along the way. Fort Courage was the first.
We drove along, passing by the remnants of businesses on a couple of short side trips off the interstate. It was early on our trip, and we were thrilled with the short stretches of frontage road where weeds and wildflowers pushed through the pavement. Following the turn-by-turn directions in the “EZ 66 Guide for Travelers” (arguably the “bible” for Route 66 explorers, continuously updated on Jerry McClanahan’s website) we caught a glimpse of abandoned bridges and crazy statues along the way.
We mostly just passed by the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. We’d taken the side trip through the park on our first drive along Route 66, so popped into the National Park Service welcome center for a clean bathroom stop and continued on to Stewart’s Rock Shop.
Stewart’s Rock Shop is a collection of crazy, colorful statues. It’s one of the first gatherings of dinosaurs and this one includes t-rex chomping on a woman (she’s a mannequin, of course) riding one. Driving the highway, you quickly begin to ponder why dinosaurs seem to be a theme. We also snapped a pic of another “dinosaur” … a sadly deteriorating “original” Fiat Spider that inspired our much newer model.
We exited the interstate again and drove through the first town of any size we’d encountered, Holbrook. Thanks to our guidebooks, we knew to check out the Holbrook Visitor Center and Museum. It’s chock-a-block full of cool mementos of the past, especially a pre-fab jail cell shipped as a single unit from “back east.”
We sadly discovered that “Joe and Aggie’s Cafe” was closed for renovation. Our Arizona guidebook had us drooling over the idea of a piece of pie at the cafe. We did snap a pic of the cool map painted on the side of the building before we headed out of town and on to one of the most famous stops along this historic road, Jackrabbit.
Bright yellow signs entice you to stop at this gift shop almost from the beginnings of the road in Chicago. By the time you get here, you’re just dying to stop and see what all the hoopla is about. It’s a funky, tsotchke-filled gift shop with a giant rabbit out front to pose on … or with. We opted for a simple pic of the saddled-up critter, grabbed an ice cream cone from the freezer in the store and headed back out on the highway.
We ended the day in Winslow, a mere 153 miles from where we’d started. It’s way too famous to pass up. Who doesn’t want to stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona? It seems tragic to consider missing out on “such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me.”
We’d stopped in Winslow before and we may even do it again. Besides the famous corner in the middle of town, you shouldn’t miss La Posada, a classic, historic, impeccably restored hotel that was once a “Harvey House.” The timing wasn’t right on our first trip to spend the night. This time we planned the trip around it.
We relaxed on the patio, sipped cocktails and imagined what travelers must have felt nearly 100 years ago when they stumbled on this oasis in the desert for a night of comfort and relaxation. We enjoyed a quiet dinner in the Turquoise Room, sharing travel stories with our fabulous young server, Kayla, and fed her dreams of wanderlust.
Day one of our trip was done. We marveled at the fun we were having and looked forward to what was around the next bend as we drifted off to sleep.
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. If you can take the time to really explore it in detail, do it!
Catch up on the four day Arizona Route 66 Adventure: Day Two Winslow to Williams, Day Three Williams to Kingman and Day Four Kingman to the California state line
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