Okay, we are in Kingman, Arizona and will be driving to Amarillo, Texas. In between is some of the best Route 66 has to offer, if you know where to look.
Initially, Route 66 at the east end of Kingman is a four lane corridor through the generic world of the modern era – fast food joints, soulless but extremely reasonable modern motels, and truck stops. For the astute observer vestiges of old Route 66 begin to appear within a few short miles.
There are historic motels, vintage service stations, and even an old cafe or two even though most of these are now masked as something else. There is even an old Stuckey’s, now a private residence.
The modern four lane incarnation of Route 66 gives way to the older two lane immediately to the east of the entrance to the Kingman airport and industrial park, site of the former Kingman Army Airfield. Just as the two lane begins pull safely off of the highway and look to the north across the stark desert plains. It make take a bit to find them but a row of pillboxes from the old gunnery range stand as silent sentinels from when this was airfield was a key component in the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny.
The Hackberry General Store is an internationally recognized icon that has come to symbolize the Route 66 of the modern era. However, the old store is a relatively recent addition to the roadside as it only dates to 1936.
The town of Hackberry is across the tracks and provides an excellent opportunity for stretching the legs. Once large enough to be considered as the county seat, this old mining town has a few points of interest including the boarding house next to the tiny post office, the old two room school house, and an interesting cemetery.
Peach Springs is a great stop for a meal or even a restful nights sleep. Photo opportunities include the now closed Osterman station dating to 1927, and the Haulapai Foresty Office, an interesting stone building that served as a trading post when built around 1921.
Watch for the Hyde Park sign to the east of Grand Canyon caverns. The site for this former resort is on the north side of the road and even though little remains with the exception of foundations and an empty swimming pool the view across the Aubrey Valley is spectacular. Originally signs encouraged visitors to “Park Your Hide at Hyde Park Tonight.”
Seligman is fast becoming a time capsule with the dust and dirt removed to reveal stunning treasures. The Supai Motel offers clean, basic lodging in an atmosphere that seems to have been lifted from a 1950s travel brochure and there are several great dining options.
You can continue east on Route 66 as far as the Crookton Road exit, a few miles west of Ashfork. Most visitors jump on I-40 at Seligman but I prefer this vestige of Route 66 as there is something tranquil as it flows over the hills and gently twists its way down a narrow canyon.
Ashfork is well worth a cruise even thought he old town has been slow to capitalize on the resurgent interest in Route 66 and a series of devastating fires destroyed large swaths of the historic district. Beautiful vestiges from more than a century of history, including an auto court or two that date to the 1930s, make for excellent photo opportunities.
Route 66 from Ashfork to Williams, all alignments, is severely broken and truncated. Still, for those who enjoy long walks among the ghosts of the past there are a wide array of opportunities. One of the best places for this is accessed via exit 157, Devil Dog Road, where sections of the 1922 and 1932 portions of old roadway serves as a bicycle and hiking trail through the towering pines.
Williams is a book in itself. Well preserved and renovated lodging opportunities run the gamut from hotels dating to the 1890s to classic Route 66 establishments from every decade between 1930 and 1980. Dining options are almost as diverse.
As Williams is less than 150 miles from home we seldom have need to sample the lodging choices. However, on more than one occasion we have driven to Williams merely to beat the summer heat or for a break that includes good food.
Our favorite is the Pine Country Restaurant. Good food at reasonable prices, great views, and an electric atmosphere where visitors from throughout the world chatter with excitement about their adventures on Route 66 or to the Grand Canyon make it a delightful place to begin or end a day of travel.
From Williams to Flagstaff the old highway is a bit challenging to find but large sections are still intact and serve locals as an access road. The best is found at exit 167 and continuing east to exit 185 even though some segments are now gravel.
Towering pines, wonderful views, excellent opportunities, especially in the early morning hours, for viewing wildlife in the meadows, and the store at Parks dating to 1921, provide ample reward for the adventuresome traveler. During the months of summer the shade dappled drive is a true oasis from the desert heat.
In the next post we will continue this week long series. We will begin with a lengthy list of sites to see, places to stay, and great places to eat in Flagstaff.