The first stretch of Route 66 that I had the pleasure of touring cemented the love affair I already had with the historic road. I always knew that the road was instrumental in the westward migration of the folks escaping the Dust Bowl of the Midwest, and that it became a primary artery of travelers in the post World War II economic boom. What I didn't know before hand was how much of the road still remained and was drivable. What is really heartbreaking is the lack of concern for the icons of the highway after it was supplanted by the Eisenhower Interstate System that was approved by Congress in the early 1950's. Thus began it's slow decline into the history books.
Fast forward to October 13, 1984. The last piece of the puzzle was completed in Williams, Arizona and Highway 66 was officially bypassed for the last time. Shortly thereafter, on June 26, 1985, the road was decommissioned and Route 66 became a memory. BUT, the story does not end there! On February 18, 1987, two brothers in Seligman, Arizona started a movement that has swept the nation - and the world - by storm. Juan and Angel Delgadillo and a small group of supporters founded the Arizona Route 66 Preservation Foundation and began preserving what was left of the old road. Seligman is a small town founded by the Santa Fe Railway that sits on the longest remaining contiguous stretch of the road in the country. This effort in turn started awareness across all 8 states to capture the potential tourist market for the road and each state now has at least one organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of this national treasure. Many of the old alignments are signed and some have been restored where practical. It is estimated that over 85% of the original route as it existed at its peak is passable by vehicle in some capacity. This is where I come in.
On August 21, 2013, my father took me and my family to the old mining town of Oatman, situated along the first alignment of Route 66 in western Arizona. Though not nearly as large, the town is much like Virginia City in that it is a time capsule frozen in the 1950s. It looks much like it did when this dangerous stretch of road was bypassed, having been nearly completely abandoned and then reborn as the tourist stop it has become today. The town is overrun by (mostly) friendly, but wild burros that you can feed as they roam the streets. These burros are directly descended from the pack mules that the miners brought into the area to work the mines.
|Pavement marking found at the north end of Oatman. Arizona DOT puts these|
all along the route throughout the state in addition to a modified shield sign.
|The historic Oatman Hotel with one of the famous burros out front. This hotel|
is where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon. The hotel
is not open, but the bar on the first floor is.
|One of Oatman's famous residents poses for a photo on the main street.|
|Here is my wife feeding one of the burros some carrots we brought along with|
us. You can clearly see she isn't quite sure about this whole thing!
|Moments later, I am seen getting surrounded by the group when they realize|
I have the bag containing the yummy carrots.
|Here from the bottom of a small wash, we see the road we just traveled down|
cut in the hillside. The narrow road has a lot of ups and downs as well as tight
turns on the way to Sitgreaves Pass from Oatman. This is part of the original
|This is the route marker that Arizona uses along its potions of Route 66. These|
often accompany the pavement marking seen earlier.
|From the top of Sitgreaves Pass, we can see the road as it heads down the from|
the pass. There is a little bit more of this before the road finally straightens out
at Cool Springs and makes its way to Kingman.
|Caught this eastbound train as it crosses one of many Santa Fe bridges in|
Kingman Canyon along the western approach into Kingman proper. The track
in the foreground was built much later than the elevated track in the back.