Route 66, the iconic “Mother Road,” winds its way from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. If you don’t have the time to drive the entire route, why not take on this icon of American transportation history in bite-sized pieces? We’re going to help you do just that with a series called Get Your Pics on Route 66 in hopes that you’ll capture some great memories and images as you explore this little slice of Americana. Here’s the Western Arizona installment:
Route 66 in Western Arizona is laid out in an arid desert locale. So be sure to stock up on fuel, drinking water, and snacks, then let’s start today’s excursion in Williams, Arizona.
Known today for its access to Grand Canyon National Park via railroad, Williams was actually the last holdout when Route 66 was decommissioned. It seems the town knew what it would be losing when The Mother Road was no more, and they tried to delay the end as long as possible with court battles. But by October of 1984, the popular road was replaced by Interstate 40.
There are, however, several signs that many people got their kicks in this eclectic town. Fred Harvey built a Harvey House Hotel when the Santa Fe Railroad expanded into the region in 1908, which provided many travelers plush accommodations and sustenance. Today the original hotel is coupled with the depot and is used for railway offices, but the newer Grand Canyon Railway Hotel across the street still offers comfortable lodging.
A walk around town will evoke nostalgic memories from the transportation era, with old-fashioned street lamps and a few renovated motor courts. Route 66 enthusiasts will also enjoy Pete’s Gas Station Museum, with authentic Route 66 and service station memorabilia. Grab a bite to eat at Rod’s Steak House, serving travelers since 1946. And by all means, jump on the train for a scenic trip to the biggest hole in the earth…the Grand Canyon!
Once you’ve arrived back in Williams, hit the interstate heading west, because you won’t want to miss the real Radiator Springs!
For fans of the movie series Cars and Route 66, Seligman, Arizona is a dream come true. Although most of the landscapes, buildings and even characters in the animated movies are composites from several places (and people) along Route 66, rumor has it that after a road trip down the famed highway, director John Lasseter decided to use Seligman as the basis for his fictional Radiator Springs.
One look around town will confirm his choice was on the mark. Just cruise into Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In for a burger and shake and you’ll feel like you’ve wandered back in time. Elvis is hiding out in an old truck on Main Street, and if you look closely you’ll even find “Tow Mater!”
Town residents who had seen the major influx of travelers during The Mother Road’s heyday petitioned the State of Arizona to become known as the official “Birthplace of Route 66.” These days almost as many visitors make the trek to Seligman as did when the town was a designated stop on the original “Main Street of America.”
It’s easy to see why they come with offerings like the Roadkill Café and Route 66 Roadrunner. There are several retro motels that have been spruced up for today’s crowd. Pick up that special souvenir at the Copper Cart or Route 66 Gift Shop, and don’t forget to snap a picture of the mannequins posed in all their finery on the roof of the Rusty Bolt. There are several old vehicles strategically placed throughout town to provide some great vintage photos, as well.
When you’re ready to leave Seligman stick with Arizona Highway 66 to the west of town and follow it across the desert 37 miles to Peach Springs.
There’s not much left of this little town, but it has served as a trading center for the Hualapai Tribe for centuries. Its reliable water source made it a perfect place for a settlement, and eventually, a trading post was constructed where the Hualapai could trade traditional craft items for processed goods. When Route 66 ran through town, the trade business boomed and a larger stone trading post was constructed, which still remains. There is also an abandoned gas station that is still standing down the street.
Today the area is more of a jumping off point for hikers exploring Havasupai Falls and the Grand Canyon backcountry.
Just a little further down the old Mother Road lies the Hackberry General Store. It’s nothing more than a spot on an otherwise lonely road, but it’s a perfect photo opportunity for all things automotive. Old gas pumps, ceramic signs, and vintage automobiles are just begging to be captured on film (or digital card), and you may have to wait your turn, as it is a popular stop.
Following Arizona Highway 66 west from Hackberry toward Kingman, you will come across what looks to be an Easter Island statue coated in grass. Meet Giganticus Headicus, a 14-foot statue created long after Route 66 was decommissioned, but obviously attempting to cash in on recent traffic. If you’re lucky the artist will sell you a small version from his gift shop next door.
Kingman is one of the larger towns along Route 66 in the Southwest, but today the route’s history is immortalized in just a few remaining motels with neon signs. Mining and military helped embellish its economy, and it is now known more as the gateway to the Hoover Dam.
From Kingman take Highway 10 (Oatman Road) southwest. You’ll find the road narrow and curving as it cuts through the desert, but don’t miss one stop as you climb into the Black Mountains—Cool Springs.
This service station was in ruins, stones scattered across the landscape until an enterprising traveler wandered past and fell in love with the area. For three years he tried to purchase the parcel and was finally successful in landing the deal, then rebuilding this attraction to its former glory. Enjoy the quiet landscape and the Route 66 memorabilia that has been repurposed for a new generation to see.
All the winding steep roads will lead you to our final Arizona destination…the old mining town of Oatman…where the burros sometimes outnumber the humans!
Originally known for its gold mines, Oatman was named for a girl (Olive Oatman) who was captured by Indians and forced into slavery in the 1850’s. The Oatman Hotel survived a fire in 1924 that took out most of the downtown structures, and its major claim to fame is its Honeymoon Suite, once housing Clark Gable and Carole Lombard on their first night of marriage.
Today the town enjoys tourism from the casinos of nearby Laughlin, Nevada, and everyone enjoys feeding the descendants of prospectors’ burros as they vie for space with cars.
Well, you’ve conquered The Mother Road in the Grand Canyon State. I hope you’ll join us next time when we’ll amble into Oklahoma in search of giant whales and soda pop bottles, among other things! In the meantime, why not find your own adventure along the Mother Road in a motorhome or travel trailer from Camping World?
You can drive the rest of Route 66 with our other “Get Your Pics on Route 66” articles. Read the entire series.