It seems as though the spring edition of my seasonal newsletter was written last week and now I am composing the summer volume. Time does fly!
I haven’t had a great deal of time to organize a framework for this edition as the schedule has been quite full this past couple of weeks – a trip to Tucumcari for the first annual Wheels on 66 event, finalizing details for a new book contract, evaluation and corrections to the galley proof for the Route 66 Encyclopedia, establishment of an on line photo gallery to allow for international order of prints in a wide array of sizes, and, of course, the daily tasks that consume so much of our days. So, perhaps we should approach this in an “A” to “Z” manner similar to the format for the forthcoming encyclopedia.
A is for Albuquerque and that city is the topic for my latest About Town feature that appears as a regular feature in 66 The Mother Road (http://66themotherroad.com/). This will appear in the next issue scheduled for release on the first of July.
It is a bit lengthy but profiling a city with such a lengthy and colorful history is not something that can be squeezed into a paragraph or two. Complicating this is the fact the city is fast embracing its association with Route 66 as made manifest with businesses such as Enchanted Trails Trading Post and RV Park (www.enchantedtrails.com).
B is for Blue Swallow. Our home away from home during our stay in Tucumcari was the now iconic Blue Swallow Motel. What a delightful little gem!
The Mueller’s who acquired the property last year are generous hosts that truly treasure what they have been entrusted with. This is not the Hilton or Holiday Inn but how can you stay at either of these after having experienced the simple pleasures of the Blue Swallow Motel?
C is for Cubero. On our return trip from Tucumcari I took the opportunity to fill a gap in my Route 66 knowledge with exploration of the ancient village of Cuberoon an early alignment of that highway. As my dearest friend was a bit under the weather we limited that exploration to a cruise but we will return.
D is for driving, something we did a great deal of in a very short time. From Kingman to Santa Rosa the first day, then two days in Tucumcari, and a drive to Las Vegas on highway 104. Holbrook was our last stop before home but that is something to share in a moment.
E is for Edsel. Some one in Amarilloowns a black and salmon pink Edsel convertible. We photographed it last year at the International Route 66 Festival, saw it in Tucumcari, and passed it at San Fidel but have yet to speak to the adventuresome owner with a good sense of taste.
F is Food. When travel it is our policy to avoid chain restaurants if possible. So we had a charming breakfast in Winslow at the La Posada, dinner at Joseph’s in Santa Rosa, and tried a few new places in Tucumcari such as Kix on 66. In Las Vegas we returned to the Plaza Hotel.
G is for Gallup or Grants. Both are interesting towns with a great deal to offer. For a great and unique lunch at a reasonable price, try Angela’s café in the old railroad building that was once part of the Harvey House complex.
H is for Holbrook. Well, it would seem the Route 66 enthusiast is now faced with the enviable dilemma of having two historic motels to choose from. There is the Wigwam and directly to the west, the Globetrotter Lodge, a motel that has operated under the Whiting Brothers and Sun ‘Sand name since opening in 1956.
Until quite recently it was scheduled for demolition. But the new owners, Peter and Mona Hoeller, have transformed it into a real gem. We were quite impressed by the cleanliness, the value, the custom touches, and, best of all, the amiable hosts who truly enjoy visiting with guests and ensuring their stay is a pleasant one.
I is for Iyanbito. That is a teaser. To learn more about Iyanbito you will have to wait until October when the Route 66 Encyclopedia makes it’s unveiled at Cuba Fest in Cubain October.
J is for the Jack Rabbit Trading Post. After all of these years it is still there and still going strong. I checked on the way home from Tucumcari.
K is for Kingman. With the zeal of Don Quixote, I have again taken to jousting at windmills in an effort to bring some of the Cuba, or Pontiac, or Tucumcari magic to my adopted hometown. The next installment takes place Monday evening when I will be the featured speaker for a discussion about the resurgent interest in Route 66 and how communities are using this as a catalyst for development. An RSVP is required; please contact Steve Wagner at 928-377-2239.
L is for Las Vegas, the other Las Vegas. This is one of our favorite stops on our travels through New Mexico. With that said I suggest the Plaza Hotel to ensure your visit is truly memorable and state highway 104 between Las Vegas and Tucumcari to keep that spirit of excitement and adventure alive.
M is for Munger Moss Motel, a true time capsule and Route 66 icon. After more than forty years of making friends and serving as loving stewards of this rare gem, Bob and Ramona Lehman have decided it is time to ass the torch. Let’s hope the new owners will carry on the tradition but they have some very large shoes to fill.
N is for New Mexico. If I were cruelly sentenced to explore one segment of Route 66 for the remainder of my days, my hope is that it would the various alignments in New Mexico. Drive the old alignment from Glenrio to Tucumcari; spend a night at the Blue Swallow Motel, and the wander the old road between Romeroville and Santa Fe, then you will understand why.
O is for opportunity. All along Route 66 communities are awakening to the fact that the swelling resurgent interest in this highway is an ideal catalyst for development. Make your community a place want to visit and you make it a place people would want to live. That is the subject of my next presentation in Kingman on Monday evening.
P is pie. As the rebirth of mom and pop enterprise flourishes along Route 66, I have rediscovered just how good pie or cobbler made from locally grown ingredients, using local recipes, and served in a café where locals gather to chat, can be. Listed among my favorites to date would be the Palms Grill in Atlanta, Midpoint Café in Adrian, and Pine Country Restaurant in Williams.
Q is for Queniro. For fans of the double six the name has association with a vintage bridge and the site of a trading post. Can anyone tell me what the name means?
R is for rainbow. From Chicago to Santa Monica along Route 66 the darkness is being rolled back by the rainbow colors of refurbished neon. This weekend the lights will go on for the first time in at least a half century at the 66 Motel in Needles, California.
S is for Santa Fe. Try as I might, and even when armed with my EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan, I have yet to be able to rive this city without getting turned around on the old, narrow streets at least once with every visit.
T is for Tucumcari. Drive through in the daytime and there is a distinct impression that taps will begin playing at any time. Spend an evening here, cruise the main drag under the glow of neon, and you will realize the town is only napping, not dying.
U is for U-Drop Inn. A trip along Route 66 will not be considered complete until you have basked in the gentle neon glow of this roadside treasure in Shamrock, Texas.
V is Vega, home of Roark’s Hardware, the longest continuously operated hardware store on Route 66. How is that for some Route 66 trivia?
W is for Williams. The last town on Route 66 to be bypassed is alive and well. When you visit don’t to try the pie at the Pine Country Restaurant.
X is for… Anyone have an idea?
Y is for yeti, one of the few things that haven’t shown up along Route 66 in form or another, or that hasn’t been used for promotion.
Z is for Zeno’s, gone but not forgotten. A stop here for breakfast with esteemed colleagues Dean Kennedy, Joe Sonderman, and Rich Dinkella was one of the highlights during our tour last fall.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the magic that is woven into the fabric of the colorful, rich tapestry that is Route 66 is its ability to bridge chasms of cultural and language barriers. It is also one of the many reasons I am so enamored with the amazing magic carpet of asphalt and gravel that is iconic old US 66.
Let to right, Norm Fisk, author Jim Hinckley, Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association and Chris Durkin.
In the past sixty days I have been privileged to share dinner with a group of Australians, have a leisurely discussion (with the exception of drunk cowboy who was spoiling for a fight) over a couple of cold beers with friends from Australia and England at the same time, and even talk with some folks from China. Last evening it was dinner and coffee with a group from Holland, Germany, and Austria. Today it was the opportunity to play tour guide and introduce a friend, Dries Bessels, from Amsterdam (as in Holland) to the overlooked wonders of Kingman. The common thread that allows for my international adventures without leaving Kingman is Route 66. All I need to converse with a German or Austrian who speaks little English are photos of that amazing highway. In an instant we are sharing stories of pie at the Midpoint Cafe, neon lit nights with camp fire smores at the Blue Swallow Motel, or of an adventure to see the haunting ruins of the Painted Desert Trading Post. Summer has just begun and the possibility for similar adventures is boundless. Still, it would be quite difficult to top the past twenty-four hours as the enjoyment surpassed all that was imagined in the months since this grand adventure was first discussed. Only one issue cast a shadow over the day and that was the fact Marion, Dries’s wife, was not able to make the trip and join us. Our international celebration of Route 66 commenced with our annual tradition of dinner at Redneck’s Southern Pit BBQ. Every year when Dries brings his group to Kingman we begin here. What better way to bridge a few language barriers than BBQ, corn on the cob, baked beans, fresh pork rinds, cole slaw, and oven fresh dinner rolls. After dinner we retired to Angela’s Beale Street Brews & Gallery next door for coffee and beer. A grand time was had by one and all. What started as a joke about a birthday, through the magic of language induced misunderstanding, became a rousing rendition of the traditional birthday song sung in Dutch. Photos and stories were shared and all to soon it was time to bid farewell. This year a twist was added to our little gathering. Dries stayed over a day allowing us to serve as tour guides.
Dries Bessels and author Jim Hinckley on the old wagon road at White Cliffs near Kingman, Arizona.
It began by giving the group an early send off and then a hike along the old wagon road at White Cliffs before the temperatures hit the triple digit. Even though this little gem is not very appreciated on the local level it is always a source of fascination for our foreign visitors. We followed this with a little excursion to the site of Fort Beale, the trail system in the Cerbat foothills, and a small hike to the old Silver Bell Mine through the towering pines of the Hualapai Mountains. Of course this served to sharpen the appetite which we quenched at the Hualapai Mountain Lodge. We rounded out the day with a visit to the gunnery range for the old Kingman Army Airfield and a stop at the airfield. Then it was a few leisurely hours of conversation under the cooling breeze of the fan in my office. In an instant the day was over. All that was left were making plans for next years visit, unless of course we can find our way to Amsterdam. In our world Route 66 is more than America’s longest attraction. It is a bridge between Arizona and Holland.