TRANSFORMING A ROUTE 66 ADVENTURE INTO AN EPIC ODYSSEY

TRANSFORMING A ROUTE 66 ADVENTURE INTO AN EPIC ODYSSEY

To drive all or part of legendary Route 66 is an adventure without equal. However, with just a little bit of planning that adventure can be transformed into an odyssey worthy of Jason and the Argonauts. And what better way is there to while away the long winter nights than with a little planning and a whole lot of road trip dreaming?
In my humble opinion there are two key cornerstones for planning a trip along Route 66. One is Route 66 News, a site that keeps me abreast of the latest developments along the highway. However, it is also an excellent reference source for a wide array of Route 66 related information and websites.
The second is the website for the National Historic Route 66 Federation. In addition to current events and a wide array of links, there is a gift shop where you can order several of their publications. Two that are “must haves” to ensure you get the most out of any Route 66 based road trip are the EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan, and the dining and lodging guide. We rely on both of these guides during our travels. 

The essence of any road trip, especially one along this storied highway, is avoidance of a schedule that transforms the journey into a series of deadlines. Still, if you plan on staying at any of the popular motels along the way such as the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba,  Blue Swallow Motel or Motel Safari in Tucumcari, or Munger Moss in Lebanon, reservations are a must, especially during the months of spring, summer, and fall when Route 66 is almost as busy as it was fifty years ago.
In addition to the lodging guide, I also depend on this website that lists motels along Route 66 and honestly rates them from personal experience. The site is the brain child of Emily Priddy, the wife of Ron Warnick who is the man behind the curtain at Route 66 News.
Two more quick notes on lodging. As noted in a recent post, the historic El Trovatore Motel in Kingman is again open as a motel with several rooms “restored” and the rest of the complex awaiting its turn.

Historic El Trovatore Motel in Kingman


As an introductory special the refurbished rooms, with many original or period features, are renting for $39.99, a rate that includes breakfast for two at a local restaurant. Even though the property is being refurbished, as with any motel it is always a good idea to see the rooms before renting. This limits disapointment and bad press at a time when the motel is fighting to overcome a repuation. For more information, or to reserve a room, call 928-753-6520.
If your schedule allows for a bit of a detour, I strongly suggest an evening or weekend in the historic district of Prescott, Arizona, about fifty miles sout of Ashfork. If you are in a Route 66 frame of mind this delightful time capsule will do nothing but enhance that sensation.
There are several historic hotels in the downtown area and each has its own unique charm. However, we seem to gravitate to the Hassayampa Inn as it fits our style and it is within walking distance of many attractions, as well as the wide array of restaurants in the historic district.
Now, it may be a bit late to get a few of these items on the Christmas wish list, unless you happen to celebrate that holiday in a Russian custom. But this link to the Amazon.com website and Route 66 books page. However, before ordering I suggest you check the websites for some of the Route 66 museums, and the on line gift shops such as the one for the Blue Swallow Motel, as then your purchase will help preserve the road and its unique culture.
The authors I can recommend are –
Me, of course, – Jim Hinckley
Joe Sonderman
Jim Ross
Jerry McClanahan
David Clark
Scott Piotrowski
Drew Knowles
Russell Olsen
I am unsure if there will be time to squeeze in a post on Saturday or Sunday. So, if I don’t see you before Monday, it is my sincere hope that you and your family are richly blessed this Christmas, this holiday season, and in the year to come.

LAUGH OR CRY?

LAUGH OR CRY?

The mailbox has been full of surprises and Christmas cards this week but only a few, such as my annual box of gaily wrapped chocolates from MPA, a California based repossession firm I freelance for during the year, actually pertained to the holiday at hand. As an example, my summons for jury duty with the federal court just didn’t do much to raise the festive holiday spirit. As the federal court is in Prescott, a drive of 140 miles, it looks as though at least the first week of February has been planned for me.
I fully understand the importance of performing this service, and the privilege of having a jury system such as ours. I also understand that all who are called are inconvenienced.
Still, the timing could not have been worse. I am short staffed at the job that supports the writing habit and never know if the scheduled day off is a day off until twenty minutes before the store opens.
More than likely this will also be the period when I will need to finish the final edit, and write captions, for the Route 66 encyclopedia. Then, this morning, the publicist, Steve Roth, informed me that a major book signing in Albuquerque has been approved – for late January or early February.
As getting time off from the office is a bit difficult right now, the plan is to take the train to Albuquerque and then return the same day. Now that should be fun!
But all of these issues pale in comparison to the most important one. Grandchild number three is due in February.
Meanwhile, I will continue developing the Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit for the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman,  continue planning our trips to Amboy Crater and the ghost town of Swansea and, after the holidays, will be again present my case to the publisher in the hope of gaining approval for the next project. And I will also continue filling the 2012 schedule with signings, speaking engagements, and now, photo exhibitions.

But for now, all of these things can be postponed until Monday. This is the holiday season and for us that means the blessings of Christmas tradition that includes family, and laughing, screaming, grandchildren.
It is our sincere hope that you and your family are richly blessed this holiday season as well as in the year to come. See you on Friday.

DESTINATION KINGMAN

At some point in the past 80 years or so most everyone who has traveled from east to west, or west to east, by car, truck, or bus has passed through, broken down, or stopped for dinner in Kingman at least once. It is one of a handful of towns forever immortalized in the classic Route 66 anthem penned by Bobby Troup, and first carried to the top of the music charts by Nat King Cole.
It sits dead center in what I humbly think is the most scenic segment of Route 66 found anywhere between Chicago and Santa Monica. A hundred and fifty mile drive in any direction is all that is needed to experience the wonders of the Grand Canyon, at three different locations, the casino lights of Las Vegas or Laughlin, the truly awe inspiring wonders of Supai, world class skiing, caverns, pine forested trails, white water rafting, miles upon miles of bicycle and hiking trails, ghost towns, and fine dining.
So, why is Kingman a stop on the way to somewhere instead of a destination? That, my friends, is a question I have tried to answer for years.
While I wait for the world to discover Kingman, I will continue to extol its charms, unravel its history, and share with the world stories from one of the most overlooked destinations on Route 66. With that lengthy preamble as an introduction, I would like to introduce you to a few more of my favorite overlooked sites on Route 66, and those found with the slightest of detours.
Okay, if you can’ afford lodging in Santa Monica, and don’t mind a bit of a commute through stunning landscapes, my suggestion is the Good Night Inn in Calabassas, a surprisingly rural community in the Santa Monica Mountains along U.S. 101. When on business in the area of Burbank or the western metropolis area, this is always our haven.
Clean, reasonable, lodging (last stay $65.00 including tax), walking distance to stores, and a short drive to excellent restaurants, would be reason enough to make the detour. As added incentive there is the morning drive to Santa Monica via Topanga or Malibu Canyon, two of the top drives in the LA area.
As a bonus, during the months of summer there is an excellent farmers market on weekends in the city complex parking lot in Malibu. This is just a few blocks off of the Pacific Coast Highway. 
Attractions of note abound in the LA area. However, I have three that rate at the very top of our list; the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, south of Santa Monica, a museum where you can actually go for a ride in the wide array of vintage vehicles on display, the Peterson Museum, and Auto Books Aero Books on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank. 
I would be remiss if I did not mention Porto’s Bakery and Cafe on Magnolia Boulevard west of the book store. Crowded, always, superb and unique foods at reasonable prices, always.
Another great Route 66 detour, less than 25 miles, is found by taking state highway 138 west from Cajon Junction in Cajon Pass. Wrightwood is a community nestled among the pines and towering mountains that would not seem out of place in Bavaria.
As we continue east on Route 66, my next “must see” suggestion would be Goffs. Stranded on a pre 1931 alignment of Route 66, this little town that is now less than a wide spot in the road has an amazing and interesting history that is preserved in one of the top museums on Route 66.
Okay, you have braved the desert heat and are looking for just a bit of respite as you pull into Kingman. Did you know that fine dining, majestic landscapes, pine scented breezes, and deep forest are less than twenty miles south of town on a paved road?
Hualapai Mountain Park and Hualapai Mountain Lodge have to top the list of most overlooked, and most surprising attractions in Kingman. Did I mention that lodging is also available or that it ranges from simple motel room at the lodge to rustic stone cabins amongst the pines?
I suppose at this juncture, before signing off for the day, I should mention that winter is an ideal time for desert exploration.

A YEAR IN REVIEW – WINDOWS ON ADVENTURES IN 2011

A YEAR IN REVIEW – WINDOWS ON ADVENTURES IN 2011

The schedule between now and the end of the year looks pretty clear, at least as far as road trips are concerned. However, plans are underway for our annual New Years Day voyage of discovery and, dependant on weather, it looks as though we are going to finally make that climb to the top of Amboy Crater near Amboy in California.
So, I think it is safe to post a few highlights from our road trips in 2011. These are not posted in any particular order and are not ranked as all of these places, and people, are quite special to us. In the next week I will post a few more windows into our adventures in 2011.
Can you guess where these were taken?

ANOTHER PHOENIX RISES FROM THE ASHES

ANOTHER PHOENIX RISES FROM THE ASHES

It appears as though the resurgent interest in Route 66 is about to fuel the resurrection of another landmark, this time in my adopted home town of Kingman, Arizona. Since its gala opening in 1939, the El Trovatore Motel, originally the El Trovatore Autel, has followed the evolutionary course of most motels of this vintage along Route 66. 

The Hualapai Mountains as seen from the
the rear of the complex


Initially it was a plush, modern complex offering travelers a wide array of amenities including air conditioning, an on site cafe, and tiled showers. Located one mile east of Kingman in what was then the unincorporated community of El Trovatore, the complex had one feature few motels could equal – a location on a stony bluff that awarded stunning vistas of the Hualapai Mountains and the awe inspiring landscapes that embraced it. 
Indicative of its luxury status is the listing in the Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages published by AAA in 1940. The listed rates are $3.50 per night in comparison to motels such as the Gypsy Garden, $2.00 to $2.50 per night, the Akron Hotel Cottages, $2.00 per night, and Wal-A-Pai, $2.25 to $2.50 per night.

The motel weathered the first blow, transition of the highway from two lanes to four lanes in the mid 1950s that resulted in demolition of the units in the curve of the “U” shaped complex. Added to the complex during this transitional phase was the the current sign at the front of the property, a swimming pool, and a modern office at the north end of the east wing of the motel. 
By the late 1960s it had slid into the budget motel classification and by the late 1980s, weekly rentals were fast becoming the bread and butter for the owners. Then came weekly or monthly rentals, code violations, late night police calls, and a darkened neon sign.
Even after Sam Frisher, the current owner, acquired the property the slide that culminated with closure last year continued. Frisher, in an interview with Ron Warnick of Route 66 News provided a few details about this era in the properties history. 

Preserved tile floors in the bathrooms
enahnce the time capusle feel of
the property.


After extensive evaluation of what to do with the sprawling complex, including ideas on creating an apartment complex or a gated senior living complex, Frisher decided that the best possible return for his money was to resurrect it as a Route 66 landmark and transform it back into a motel. To that end he has restored several rooms, preserving as much of the orignal tile and other components as possible, outfitted them with new beds and appliances, and added a movie star theme to each.
On Saturday afternoon, my dearest friend and I toured the property while enjoying the friendly hospitality of Sam, his wife, Karen, and little dog, Taco. Even though I had a general familiarity with the property, including its origins as the creation of John F. Miller, the founder of the Nevada Hotel in Las Vegas, a property that evolved into the Golden Gate Casino.


An art deco gem at the heart of the complex.

 Still, I was quite surprised by the overall historical integrity of the property that ranged from the beautiful art deco building at the center of the complex to the towering with its neon framed block letters on a bluff at the rear of the property. I have reason to believe the former was the original office as well as the managers residence.
Frisher’s plan to restore the neon tower is quite exciting. I have had discussions with numerous long time residents of Kingman and few can remember the last time its neon lit the night.

A key component to the Frisher’s plans for renovation centers on the art deco building with its rounded glass brick corner, and the tower on the bluff. Proposed for the building is transition to meeting rooms and or a gym. On the bluff surrounding the tower, he plans to construct an observation deck and gazebo that will provide absolutely stunning views of the canyon below, the trains that flow past in a seemingly endless stream, and the Hualapai Mountains.
One of the more exciting aspects about the renovation of the property is its size. Most tour groups on Route 66 have to forgo the renovated historic motels as a result of unit availability. The El Trovatore, when fully refurbished, will easily be able to accommodate groups of fifty or more. Overflow for large groups could be provided by the historic Hill Top Motel across the highway.
As an introductory price, the Frisher’s are offering rooms at $39.99 per night. This will include a breakfast for two at a local restaurant.

If you are looking for five star accommodations I would suggest you consider the Hilton and Holiday Inn Express. I would also suggest that at this stage of the game it might be best to examine the rooms before renting. That will prevent disappointment, or bad press when this is truly a work in progress.