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Our Kicks on Route 66 - II

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Burma Shave sign along Route 66 western Arizona

Read part one of this cross Arizona Route 66 road trip (the eastern border to Flagstaff) here.

Flagstaff

Babbitt Brothers sign on Route 66-era building Flagstaff Arizona

Flagstaff is the biggest city along Arizona’s stretch of Historic Route 66. If you’re ready to call it a day, the city offers a lot of lodging and dining options. Flagstaff ‘s central location makes it a great base if you want to spend a few days exploring Northern Arizona. It’s about 90 minutes to Grand Canyon, about 90 minutes to both Sedona and Meteor Crater and under two hours to the Hopi Cultural Center. You can also do a long day trip along the Mother Road to the California state line. We did this and loved it. There are also a lot of cool things to explore in town. We loved Flagstaff and can’t wait to get back.

Route 66-era Motel Dubeau sign Flagstaff Arizona

If you’re passing through as part of your Route 66 journey, make sure to check out the historic downtown Southside Historic District just south of the railroad tracks. There are great old motel signs there, as well as a colorful street art mural. It’s also the original route (alignment) of the Mother Road through Flagstaff.

Typical motel in Route 66's heyday. Sierra Motel, Flagstaff, Arizona

Two images above: These Flagstaff motels appear now as they did during the heyday of Route 66. Unlike the chain ones now, no two seemed to be alike.

Williams

Sign: Williams Arizona last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40.

We loved Williams, the town that calls itself “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” If you’re traveling west to east it is. We were there last winter to ride the historic Grand Canyon Railway. The main street is a hymn to Route 66. The town was the last holdout in the country to allow I-40, the road that replaced the Mother Road, to pass through. It lost a long battle and the Interstate was finally completed in 1984. The following year, Route 66 lost its status as a Federal highway. Williams’ historic business district and Route 66 through the town are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Crookton Road to Seligman

The views west of Williams are spectacular. At milepost 155 we encountered our first reproduction Burma Shave sign.. The original signs dotted America’s highways and sold a lot of shaving cream. We read each one aloud as we passed, one line per sign ending with a rousing “BURMA SHAVE!”

Here’s one group of signs we passed:

  • He tried to cross

  • As fast train neared

  • Death didn’t draft him

  • He volunteered
  • 
Burma Shave

These delightful signs, set at five-mile intervals, kept us engaged when the road got a bit boring.

Seligman

Snowcap Restaurant along old Route 66 in Seligman Arizona

The first time we were in Seligman (pronounced Sell-ig-man) about six years ago, we just stopped to get gas. We didn’t know about Historic Route 66. This time we were prepared. The big attraction here is the Snow Cap Drive-in, run by the Delgadillo family since 1953. This small town gets a lot of tourist traffic. There were three tour buses parked on the street when we went through. We shot a few photos and moved on.

Seligman to Kingman

The stretch from Seligman to Kingman is long- about 90 miles and takes about two hours without stopping. Once committed, you’re on the route as it is north of I-40 with no roads to connect the two. Parts of it were a bit boring, but we loved it and would do it again.

Grand Canyon Caverns

Old Route 66-era gas station near Grand Canyon Caverns

We did a brief stop here, but didn’t have time to visit the caverns. What attracted us the vintage was Route 66 gas station with old cars, trucks and other motor vehicles parked outside. We love old cars and old gas stations so we took a bunch of photos. Tours into the cavern, the largest dry cavern in the United States, are 45-minutes long and available from 10am to 4pm.

Peach Springs

We didn’t stop in Peach Springs as our time was too short. The town, the capital of the Hualapai Nation, is the gateway to Grand Canyon West. They are famous for their skywalk over the Grand Canyon and you can access an auto road into this great natural wonder.

Hackberry

Historic Hackberry General Store along Route 66 in Arizona,

Our favorite stop on this stretch was the Hackberry General Store. The former mercantile is now a museum that the owners call the “mother lode of Mother Road memorabilia.” From the exterior with its vintage gas signs and pumps, old Route 66 signs and old vehicles (including a 1957 red Corvette) to the inside packed with Route 66 era memorabilia, it’s well worth a stop. Enjoy a bottle of Route 66 Beer (its root beer so you can drink and drive) in their vintage diner. They also sell souvenirs

Kingman

Outside of Powerhouse Museum & Visitor Center Kingman Arizona

Route 66 in Kingman is called "Andy Devine Boulevard" named for a native son who made good. Baby Boomers will remember this man who played the bumbling sidekick, Jingles, on the 50s TV show The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. The street is lined with vintage motel signs. Definitely stop at the Arizona Powerhouse Route 66 Museum. It’s where we discovered how the Mother Road got its name. An excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Grapes of Wrath. The text is hanging on the museum wall: “66 is the mother road, the road of flight.” The restored 1917 building also houses the Hualapai Tourist Information Center, an Arizona Visitor Center and the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona.

Kingman to Topock

We had a few reservations about this stretch. It’s another one that goes way north of I-40 and once you’re on the road you’ve got two choices, go back to Kingman or forge on. The road goes through stark mountains and does a bit of climbing, so there are a lot of switchbacks. We went for two reasons: we wanted to be able to say we’d driven the entire Historic Route 66 in Arizona and we wanted to see Oatman.

Oatman

Inside of Jackass Junction along Route 66 in Oakman, Arizona

Oatman, AZ is a former gold mining town that in boom times was home to over 10,000 people. Today the mines are mostly gone but tourism is golden. The main street is right out of the old west. The town is famous for its wild burros, descendants of those that miners brought in and abandoned. They walk the streets freely. Stay clear as they have been known to bite and kick. Take a few photos, shop for souvenirs, get a bite to eat if you’re hungry and then move on.

Old Trail Bridge over Colorado River along Route 66 at Needles, California

Topock is on the Colorado River, the last town before you cross the river into California. The Old Trails Bridge is a popular stop. It’s where Route 66 crossed from one state to the other. We were there so we did it, but it wasn’t a highlight. If you don’t care about getting all of Arizona (or the entire) Route 66 under your belt or visiting Oatman, you can call it a day at Kingman.

If you love Americana and road trips like we do, you can’t miss with a ride across Historic Route 66. Besides the kitsch and history, there are natural wonders to check out as well as indigenous cultural sites to explore. It was our kind of trip and we can definitely say we got our “kicks on Route 66.”

Our Kicks on Route 66, Part I.

Enjoy additional posts by Billie Frank.

All images are copyrighted by and used with permission of Steve Collins of Santa Fe Travelers.

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