Route 66 Honeymoon Days 9 and 10 – Acoma, NM to Needles, CA
We still had about 30 miles left of New Mexico…first stop was Budville, where they have completely restored the Budville Trading Company, which is a former gas station, garage, and general store from around 1935. Also around Budville was an abandoned tourist court and motel sign.
The landscape in New Mexico is so incredibly striking, especially the lava fields. There were a bunch of dormant volcanoes out in the desert.
Grants, NM has a bunch of old motel signs, cafes, an old theatre, and a cool park on Route 66. They completely own 66, down to the neon surrounding the post office. They have also done a good job repurposing old buildings, like the early 20th century hotel across the street from the post office that has been turned into a photography studio.
Between the long stretch of road between Grants and Thoreau, there were some abandoned motels and an old trading post with some great murals. Also along the way was a train with an entire stock of military tanks, whose conductor honked and waved at us as it went by. Adam is temporarily out of commission as his head exploded at that very moment.
Continental Divide, NM is where the dividing line is that supposedly means water to the east will flow towards the Atlantic and water to the west will flow to the Pacific. The Roaming Animal was pretty excited. Off to the side was what looked like an abandoned sweat lodge.
Gallup, NM was a kind of depressing place. It was the only town we weren’t crazy about in the state, mainly because we got accosted by a seriously crazy homeless man. They do have some cool old motels, all of which are still fully functional and none of which unfortunately are being used for the purposes they were originally intended. The one crown jewel is El Rancho Hotel, where tons of celebrities from back in the day used to stay. It is the oasis in the midst of the chaos.
Arizona! You have to take I-40 through a lot of it, so we took care to follow our guidebook and note the exits we wanted to see. Just inside the state line was a cool trading post built into a red rock with painting and animals up on the ledges. We also found a still-open trading post where we picked up some handmade items. Further on was an abandoned Route 66 era pancake restaurant, Fort Courage Trading Post, and the ruins of another restaurant.
We had to make a stop at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park. First off is the Painted Desert. It is absolutely stunning, although we were told that it is actually most beautiful at dusk or dawn. Bummer.
Route 66 used to run right through what is now the National Park. They have a memorial to it displayed on the drive through the park. If you look behind the vehicle, you can see a line of old utility poles. That is where Route 66 once was.
Petrified Forest. It was INCREDIBLY windy. Oh, and never set two immature adults loose in a park that specializes in anything involving logs. That is all.
After you leave the Forest, there is a direct route to Holbrook, AZ, which then puts you back on Route 66. Adam dug the dinosaur they had on display in their park.
At long last, the heavens opened up, angels sang, and we came upon the fabled Wigwam Motel. Once upon a time, there were seven of these gems, the first of which is near Bowling Green in Horse Cave, KY. This one has been fully restored and isn’t far off the interstate, should you ever pass through this part of Arizona. I have a feeling it is well worth the trip.
Near Holbrook is Geronimo, where the trading post has what they claim is the World’s Largest Petrified Log on display. Again, the immaturity ensued.
The Jackrabbit Trading Post!! It is one of the most famous locations on all of Route 66, mainly because of its marketing. Back during Route 66’s heyday, billboards lined the road for eons, counting down the miles til the Jackrabbit, showing only the rabbit silhouette and the number of miles left. There aren’t many signs left, but you can still climb on the giant rabbit, see the main sign, and shop in the original store.
A cool old motor court near the Jackrabbit.
Winslow, AZ got mention in the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy” (Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona /And such a fine sight to see/It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford/Slowin’ down to take a look at me) and do they ever milk that for all it’s worth. The song plays on constant repeat at the corner store, they have a mural commemorating the song, there is a bronze statue…That said, they are working hard to bring people to Winslow and it seems to be working. There were new shops and restaurants opening up, artist studios (one of which had a cool old ad on the side of the building), and it was nearly impossible to get a good shot without tourists in the way.
The Twin Arrows Trading Post is blocked off by a chain-link fence, which I hope means someone has bought it and is renovating. Those arrows sticking in the ground are awesome. A new Native American casino has opened up on the other side of I-40. That could either bring more business to the trading post or completely kill it off. Here’s hoping for the former.
We fell in love with Flagstaff – the Asheville of the Southwest. Seriously, we were one drum circle short of full-on Portland. The two old hotels downtown, Hotel Weatherford and Monte Vista, are both reputedly haunted. We wanted to stay at Monte Vista but about 900 Australian dirt bikers showed up just before us and after about 30 minutes of waiting, we gave up and found a place just outside of downtown. The locals, however, are incredibly friendly, the food and beer are to die for, and if you ever visit, remember to take it easy on the imbibements as you are 6000 feet above sea level. Altitude sickness is no joke. We met a couple of the locals at the Monte Vista Lounge and then at the Hotel Weatherford, including Blue, a kitty at the Weatherford who likes to chill in the chair next to you at the bar. Adam decided to taunt the ghosts – he popped into an empty side dining room and said something about the ghosts proving they were there. Five seconds later, a waiter passing by on the stairs promptly fell and dropped his tray and food everywhere. Adam pulled us out of there pretty quickly after that.
The Parks in the Pines General Store in Parks, AZ. It’s pre-Route 66, from 1921, and completely restored. The surrounding areas are stunning. I always forget, sadly, that Arizona has green spaces and mountains. Northern AZ is incredible.
Near Parks is the Deer Farm, where they have rescued injured animals and you can actually feed the deer. The deer like the food. A lot. They will follow you. A lot. A local couple videotaped Adam at one point, telling the camera that he was the “Deer Whisperer.” You can also feed llamas, alpacas, and a camel. They have peacocks, monkeys…the place is pretty cool if you ever get the chance to go. Just remember the deer like the food. A lot.
Adam was disappointed when we first got there, confused by the concept of “petting zoo” and “immobile statue.”
Williams, AZ was the last town to be bypassed when Route 66 gave way to the interstate in 1984. It loves Route 66, it loves the nearby Grand Canyon, it loves the Old West, and it loves tourists. It is pretty much the Gatlinburg of Arizona. It also claims to have the largest Route 66 road sign in existence. We ate at Rod’s Steakhouse, which has been serving Route 66-ers since 1946. It looks fairly modern on the inside until you need to use the restroom…in the basement. It’s like going through a time warp. They also have the biggest homemade steak fries I have ever seen in my life.
Ash Fork, AZ doesn’t have much, but there are these cool old buildings showing they recognize Route 66 as part of their history.
At Crookton Road, we began driving the longest unbroken section of old 66 – all the way to the AZ-CA state line.
All through this section of 66, you see lines of brown signs, each with a verse that ends in a Burmashave ad. Some were safe driving poetry, others were humorous. A couple of examples (each section was a separate sign, about 200 feet apart): “Train approaching / Whistle squealing / Stop / Avoid that run-down feeling / Burma-Shave” and “You can drive/A mile a minute/But there is no/Future in it/Burmashave”. It definitely keeps you occupied on the super-long stretch of road.
Seligman, AZ loves you. Really. They love you and want you to come visit them soon. The pictures below should be proof enough. This and nearly 1000 tourists were crammed into about a mile of road, out in the middle of nowhere. Traffic nearly disappeared the moment I-40 opened, so they truly love and appreciate every tourist they have and will do whatever it takes to make sure you are entertained.
Some political candidates apparently take a very different route after losing an election.
The Grand Canyon Caverns, not far past Seligman, are by far one of my favorite roadside attractions on Route 66. They used to be the Dinosaur Caverns until it was discovered that the skeleton found in the caverns, originally thought to be a lizard of the dino variety, was in fact a giant sloth. Denied! Therefore, the name was changed to the Grand Canyon Caverns (but the truly awesome dinosaur paraphernalia lives on, thankfully.) The caverns are nothing like Meremac and Ruby Falls in that they are completely dry. They stopped forming 10 million years ago. The air is crystal clear down there and absolutely no creepy-crawlies live in the caverns. Weddings have happened in the caverns and the tradition is to leaves your flowers – because they stay intact from the zero-humidity air. There are perfectly preserved flowers from 1977 and on (as well as a garter from last Halloween.) There is also a mummified bobcat. They were originally discovered when a local thought he had discovered gold and silver. When he found out he wasn’t even in the neighborhood of finding riches, he opened the caverns as a tourist trap by lowering people in, one at a time, on a rope alone with a lantern. Sounds safe enough. Luckily, now we have an elevator. The Caverns are a recognized fallout shelter – there are Cold-War era crackers and gallons of water. There are also huge containers intended for toilets. One thing that wasn’t sent? Lights. The gallons of water and toilet containers are the exact same shape. Do the math. Why am I able to tell you all of this? The staff was incredibly knowledgeable AND generous: they gave me free booklets and pamphlets (that weren’t originally free) to use for my blog.
Oh, and if you have a spare $700 lying around, you are cordially invited to spend the night in a fully functional hotel room the Caverns created in a very large cavern. They take you down, give you flashlights, turn off all the lights in the Caverns except the room you are in, and come get you in the morning. You are welcome to explore but just know – there are no living creatures in the Caverns. So if you so much as hear a peep in the distance, you know it wasn’t you AND it couldn’t be anything alive. *twitch* Adam really wants to…he may have to take the Roaming Animal in my place.
The Frontier Motel and Restaurant in Truxton, AZ.
There’s a lot of really cool terrain out in this part of Arizona. I got pretty pumped about dust devils. We even got to drive right through one. (A dust devil is a small, dusty, less-terrifying tornado that comes about from all the winds blowing across the flat lands.)
The current owners of the Hackberry General Store, John and Kerry Pritchard, have lovingly restored it to its original state and filled it with what they call “The Mother Lode of Mother Road Memorabilia.” They even built a small town in the back. It’s definitely worth the stop.
Somewhere between Hackberry and Kingman was this gem. It wasn’t in our guidebook, but it was called the Gigantus Headicus and upon doing some research, we found out it is in Anteres, AZ and it sits in front of the old Ranchero Motel. Adam nearly pealed off the Route when he spotted it. It is a new creation, but the motel actually wasn’t.
Kingman, AZ still retains a lot of its tourist trap history and plenty still stop over here. The town was hopping. One of my favorites was the El Trovotore Motel, where we are hoping to stay on our next trip. The owner was so proud of his motel…even though it was too early for us to stay, he came outside when he spotted me taking photos and gave me a bit of the backstory. El Trovotore started out as a 1937 gas station and then evolved into a tourist court. They are in the process of painting the World’s Longest Mural of Route 66 along the walkway of the motel. Each room has its own theme. If we weren’t on such a time crunch, I really would have liked to have stayed here…also because we would have hit Oatman while it was open. (More of those photos in a moment.)
The scenery between Kingman and Oatman is nothing less than breathtaking. You travel high up in the mountains and the views span for miles.
A renovated gas station-turned-tourist information plaza along the route to Oatman.
We saw a family of mountain goats!
Oatman, AZ is legendary. It is a true old mining town that takes somewhere along nine years to get to, but it is worth the trip. We unfortunately arrived after everything had closed down for the evening…except the burros. The burros are descendants of the original donkeys and burros brought as beasts of burden by the original miners. They have specific dietary restrictions but, if you are there while the town is open, you can purchase special carrots. We even spotted a mother and baby burro. The Oatman Hotel is reputedly haunted (they placed a “ghost” in one of the windows as a joke) but as of right now, you can no longer stay there and meet “Oatie.” Their restaurant is said to be phenomenal.
I LOVED this sign posted on one of the buildings in Oatman. Arizona doesn’t play.
Old abandoned pueblo en route from Oatman to Topock.
We saw tons and tons of these stacked rocks along the route. We kept trying to think what the deeper meaning was…wracked our brains…come to find out, it’s just “art.” *Sigh*
Topock, as it turns out, is just a manufactured lake community at the California line. And thus ended the longest intact stretch of Route 66. We had to hop back on the Interstate and head to Needles for the night. The next day – the end of the route!