The drive from the Colorado River to Kingman on the pre 1953 alignment of Route 66 is one of our favorites, unless it is during the months of summer when the devil himself considers the section of road that twists and turns from the Colorado River to Oatman through the sun baked rocks to hot for a casual drive. It never ceases to amaze me that more than a century ago the military used the threat of duty at Fort Mohave as a deterent and now folks live here on purpose.
The oasis that is the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge near Topock is an often overlooked stop for Route 66 roadies. With the rocky spires of the Needles as a backdrop the area becomes a stunning study in contrasts.
Still, during the months of spring when the hills are tinged green there is a harsh beauty to this land that entrances. In another couple of weeks these barren hills will be dusted with a colorful display of wildflowers.
I know Oatman is a favorite among fans of the old double six. I also know that without tourism and all that entails towns like this would be less than empty ruins today.
Still, I miss Oatman the way it was on our first visits during the 1960s. There were few days when the streets were crowded, a wide array of vestiges from the towns glory days remained, and the old hotel bar was truly a time capsule where crusty old desert rats told tall tales.
Even forty years ago there was little remaining from the “good old days” in Goldroad. With the reopening of the mine there, even less remains. Moreover, most of the remnants that do remain are now off limits.
The drive east from Goldroad to the summit of Sitgreaves Pass is always a pleasure. The stunning landscapes, the old curves of Route 66 that spur the imagination, and the look on the faces of those driving the road for the first time almost always lead us to stop for awhile and enjoy the show.
Yesterday we were doubly blessed. As we neared the summit the sun was just starting to dip below the western horizon.
It was such a delightful drive we found ourselves stopping often to savor the stillness of the desert, to feel the cool wind in our faces, and to stare in awe as the deepening shadows transformed the rocky crags and the desert valley.
As a result, by the time we reached the bottom of the Sacramento Valley, darkness was upon us and the Black Mountains behind us stood as dark outlines against a flaming sky. It was the perfect end to another adventure of chasing the ghosts of what once was on old Route 66.