Route 66 from Holbrook to the New Mexico state line now appears on maps as a broken line, an appropriate descriptor as the path of I-40 has transformed the old road into something that looks a bit like a rattlesnake after it encounters a speed freak with a snake phobia armed with an ax. Still, for the tenacious explorer with an insatiable curiosity there are a wide array of vestiges remaining for the glory days of the double six.
To decipher the broken segments in eastern Arizona, or to find your way along Route 66 between Chicago and the shade Palisades Park in Santa Monica, your best bet is to obtain a copy of EZ Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. In my travels, I have to find a http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0970995164&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrbetter guide.
Even though the best off road vehicle ever built is a rental car, I would suggest something a bit more sturdy for exploring the old road accessed at exit 341, exit 292, exit 320, or exit 325. Instead, quench the adventuresome spirit by exploring Sanders, home of a neat little 1923 bridge and the 66 Diner, a relocated Valentine Diner mated to a house trailer of indeterminable age or origin, or Chambers.
To resume the route 66 cruise turn north at exit 359 and roll into New Mexico on the double six in the shadows of a towering rock wall known invitingly as Devil’s Cliff. In this section of New Mexico, U.S. 66 and a few alterations to accommodate the path of I-40, are signed as highway 118.
Following Route 66 through Gallup on highway 118, or with a detour to Coal Street that was an early alignment, there is a sense of heaviness that comes with seeing the tarnished gems and relics of better times.
But in Gallup, as with the entire length of Route 66, there are diamonds in the rough at most every turn and, on occasion, a polished gem. There is a beautiful mural by Jerry McClanahan, author of the EZ 66 Guide for Travelers, on the Chamber of Commerce building, the El Capitan Motel, 1955, the Lariat Lodge, 1952, with its beautiful neon sign, the Blue Spruce Lodge, 1949, and the Arrowhead Lodge, 1949, to name but a few.
|El Rancho Hotel, Gallup, New Mexico|
The crown jewel in Gallup has to be the El Rancho Hotel that opened in 1937 with R.W. Griffith, brother to movie mogul D.W. Griffith, as proprietor. For almost twenty years the sprawling complex with its delightfully rustic lobby served as the headquarters for movie companies filming features and as a result it served as a home away from away home for a list of celebrities that reads like a Who’s Who from the1940s and 1950s – John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Ronald Reagan to name but a few.
With the passing of the years, the El Rancho became just another old hotel that had outlived its usefulness. The Ortega family, trading post tycoons in the area for more than a century, felt differently. As a result it was refurbished and once again takes its place as the crown jewel of Gallup.
Before I run out of time today (lunch hour) there are a few items of interest to share. Norman Fisk, the producer of the new Route 66 Arizona dvd, stopped in this morning to fill me in on how the video is being received. He is also seeking new outlets along the road, so if you have a business on the double six, here is a great opportunity for a little extra profit and to share an interview with Angel Delgadillo and other celebrities along the old road in the Grand Canyon State.
The next items are a bit of shameless self promotion. Kerrick James, the photographer who has lent his talents toward transforming several of my books (Ghost Towns of the Southwest, Backraods of Arizona, and Ghost Towns of Route 66 as well as others) into masterpieces has landed an interview request about the books, specifically Ghost Towns of Route 66http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760338434&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, with Arizona Highways magazine.
There is a whisper of discussion that this book might lend itself well to the creation of a companion video. Needless to say, that has really kicked the imagination into high gear.
True West magazine will be running a special feature about the book, and the ghost towns of Route 66 in their August issue. It would seem Bob Bell and his staff never cease to come up with ways to improve a very good magazine.
I was quite honored by John Springs request to contribute a feature for the next installment of 66 The Mother Road, an on line publication that links the mystique of Route 66 with the modern electronic era. As I will be in Amarillo next week, I wrote the feature, a two part profile of Kingman, Arizona this past week.
Our agreement about these features is that I will provide a profile of every community on Route 66, one at a time. If you haven’t had the opportunity to examine the premier issue follow the link above and give yourself a treat. If you have a business or museum on the road, you might want to talk with John about advertisement, an investment rather than expense.
Posting may be a bit sporadic over the course of the coming week but I will continue the road to Amarillo series. I may even be able to provide fresh reviews of lodging and dining options, as wll as updates on road conditions.
Tomorrow and Monday are work days at the office. Then it is Sunday morning business, a family gathering to celebrate a milestone birthday, and stocking the house for the guests (my son and his family) who will hold down the fort in our absence.
Monday night will be spent checking and double checking camera gear, and then loading hte Jeep. If all goes according to paln, a rarity, we should be rolling east toward Amarillo about before the sun clears the mountains on Tuesday.
If I don’t see you in Amarillo, perhaps we will meet on the road.