Road Adventure on Route 66
Article and photos by Lara Hartley
It is that time of year again, when the leaves age.
And so do I.
During this season, though, a wandering spirit always seems to move me. I feel that I have to hit the road. Last year I spent my birthday in a little cemetery in Morro Bay, sleeping in my car with angels and other stone creatures for companions, just on the other side of a little rock wall. That was peaceful.
This year I decided it was time for a Route 66 trip, primarily in Arizona.
I left in the afternoon, taking Interstate 40 to Kingman, Arizona, a relatively short journey across the Mojave Desert from my home in Barstow, California. As I drove into Arizona and the Sonoran Desert, I thought about how different it is from our Mojave. The community of plants is different. The shapes and colors of the mountains are different. The Mojave's mountains seem more jagged, more desolate, more sullen. And there are definitely fewer people in the eastern Mojave Desert than in the western Sonoran Desert.
I made the trip not just for the scenery, however. I especially wanted to see for myself just how the old, signature mom-and-pop "tourist courts" are doing along Route 66, that historic highway that author John Steinbeck called the "Mother Road." I had read, that, collectively, they have been added to the endangered places list by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and sadly, in much of the High Desert, I can only agree with that assessment.
There are exceptions, however. In Arizona, some of the old places appear to be doing quite well.
The main drag out of Kingman, for example, had many vintage motels. By the time I got into the town, though, I was too tired to go looking for the Route 66 motel experience, so I stayed in a funky little place – the Frontier Motel – on Highway 93. (I got turned around somewhere.) It was nice and clean inside, with a new air conditioner/heating unit. No WiFi, but for $25, what could I expect?
Next stop, Hackberry. What a place! These folks have an amazing collection of “Road” memorabilia, for example, vintage trucks and even a set of Burma Shave signs.
Visitors are welcome to wander around, but there is just too much to see in one quick trip. Best sight is the iconic red Corvette parked in front of the old general store.
Eastward on to Truxton, home to another Frontier Motel and Café, this one serving the best lemon meringue pie I have ever tasted. There isn’t much left to Truxton. Junked cars around a defunct gas station. A mechanic’s shop. A few ranchers and cowboys from the surrounding area driving through. But the Frontier Motel and Café is still in operation, owing its long life to travelers looking to recreate the American experience of wide open roads meandering through a wide open land.
My final destination east, Seligman, Arizona. I love the place. Thanks to the efforts of Angel Delgadillo, the town barber, Seligman has not only survived the coming of Interstate 40, but it is prospering thanks to busloads of tourists and other travelers exploring Route 66. Delgadillo helped start the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. He is a one-man brass band touting the wonders and history of Route 66.
In Seligman, I stayed at the Deluxe Inn Motel, quite a lovely place. Newly remodeled, with new carpets and even WiFi, I felt right at home in my spacious room. The owner, Vasant Shetty, said it took more than four years to upgrade the motel to AAA standards, but all the return guests have made the hard work worthwhile. Vintage light fixtures and curved corners give this little inn a special charm.
Too soon, it seemed, it was time for me to turn around and head home, via Oatman, Needles and Goffs. There never seems to be enough hours and days to go all the places you really want to see on a road trip.
More articles by Lara Hartley:
St. Andrews Abbey: A World of Wonder
Cassini Call Home: Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex
Ludlow for Lunch
Angels Guard the Living and the Dead: Spirits in Stone
Lara's Lane Blog
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