Get Your Kicks on Route 66

This is a flashback post to talk about a past trip. I plan on doing more of these in the future.

After leaving Japan this past spring, we spent the summer driving across the US twice, from California to North Carolina and then back to California. We decided to make it interesting with a lot of stops along the way. I choose to explore some points of interest along Historic Route 66.

Running between Los Angeles, CA and Chicago, IL, the road highlighted America’s small towns, it’s growing love of the automobile and the westward expansion of the country. It was officially decommissioned in 1984 when the last section of the higher speed interstate system was completed.

There are a lot of web sites for helping you plan your stops along Historic Route 66. I like this one because it very clearly goes state by state along the Route. However, I used this one the most for our planning because it had a smaller list which was a bit less overwhelming.

Setting out from California on our way to our first overnight stop in Arizona, we left I-40 and hit the back roads on the way to Oatman, AZ. A former mining town, almost ghost town and now tourist destination along Historic Route 66, Oatman’s boom to bust history looms large as you drive into town.

Outside Oatman, Teddy Bear Cholla

Teddy bear cholla are interesting to look at, but don’t get too close. They are said to “jump” and attach themselves to you.

Entering Oatman

The mining museum in Oatman was interesting and main street was quirky. While Jeff and Sam wanted to poke around the rock and fossil shops, I was there to see the star attraction in Oatman, the burros! descendants of animals brought to work the mines and then turned loose when the mines declined.

The burros are tame and sometimes a bit too friendly. I am sure that this is at least in part due to the fact that despite signs all over town to only feed the burros in the street and only burro food, people feed them human food all over the place. This gentleman had a problem with his car, a burro was trying to get in and drive. I felt bad taking photos of him when he was in just a predicament with his wife was yelling and waving her arms in the passenger seat, but really there was no way to help him.

Try explaining that to your insurance company
They are stronger than you would expect

Aside from feeding burros inappropriate food, humans and burros seem to mix pretty well in Oatman.

Oatman, AZ
Oatman, AZ
Oatman, AZ
Oatman, AZ
But watch where you step

Here is why they are so friendly and even a bit too curious.

Getting fed out of the ice cream shop
Only burro food please

One more as we drove out of Oatman.

On the road

We spent the our first night in Williams, AZ, gateway to the Grand Canyon. According to Wikipedia, Williams was along the last section of Route 66 to be bypassed in 1984. Williams is picturesque, vintage neon signs, diners, vintage vehicles line a main street. We stayed in Motel 6 that had a Dairy Queen across the street. Growing up overseas, Sam had spent very little time in the US and did not even know what Dairy Queen was. It was fun to take him there and help him discover the deliciousness of a chocolate dipped soft serve (my favorite). We only spent one night in Williams since we were headed to the Grand Canyon the next morning, but there was definitely enough to do to keep you busy for several days. I would have loved to have gone on the Grand Canyon Railway, vintage train cars that travel from Williams to the South Rim of the Canyon. Each day passengers are entertained with a staged train robbery and shoot out between cattle rustlers and lawmen. We found out about the mock train robbery from the owner of a local antiques store on our last and only morning in Williams. After breakfast, I of course had to pop into an antique store near the restaurant. The owners were a retired gun wearing couple. He was retired from law enforcement and used to be an actor on the train robberies. He then offered to do a whip exhibition, yes, a whip, an actual bull whip. Sam got a lesson right there on the streets of Williams.

Bullwhip lesson, Williams, AZ
One happy boy, Williams, AZ
Bullwhip lesson, Williams, AZ

The Grand Canyon is one hour from Williams and you come in the South Rim entrance. We only spent a few hours along the South Rim, taking photos and visiting the Yavapai Geology Museum learning about the formation of the Canyon and its exploration throughout the years. They also have huge viewing windows.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
Taking it all in

We made a couple of other quick stops along Historic Route 66. The first being the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

Despite a sign that says it is illegal to graffiti, pieces of the cars have been taken and many, many layers of paint make sections of the vehicles almost unrecognizable as cars since their installation in 1974 by a group of hippie artists from San Francisco. The smell of paint wafting through the air is very strong as you approach and cans of empty spray paint litter the ground.

Cadillac Ranch
Cadillac Ranch

Our final Historic Route 66 stop was Texola, Oklahoma. While Texola is referred to as a ghost town, you do see evidence of people still living there. The 2010 census reports that 36 people lived there, from a high of 581 in 1930. Established for work on an expanding railroad system and then for Route 66 travelers, the dust bowl and depression of the 1930s and then the later bypassing of Route 66 in the 1970s, lead to the town’s near abandonment.

Texola, OK
Texola, OK
Texola, OK

I have to say that I really like seeing ghost towns. I have been to a few mining ghost towns in New Mexico that have been revitalized into artsy destinations. Oatman, AZ was pretty close to a ghost town and has recreated itself to a certain extent, not quite the higher end art gallery variety, but a different kind of appeal. You do not see any real evidence of revitalization in Texola.

Texola, OK
Texola, OK
Texola, OK, pretty sure that is a flat tire
Texola, OK

Signs of life in Texola were still evident though.

Texola, OK for Bernie

Stay tuned for more Americana from our trip across the US.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s