It is going to be a most exciting year all along Route 66. Lets start with the big event, the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman scheduled for the weekend of August 16.
I am painfully aware of the delays and frustrations that have resulted from spotty information. That is about to change in a very big way.
First, for vendors, the website Mohave Promotionshas the forms as well as information you need. This is shaping up to be a major event so I suggest registering soon.
Next, for participation in the authors, artist, and collectors exhibition, or to have a display in the exhibition hall as a representative from a chamber of commerce or Route 66 association, you will need to contact the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce. This will also be your primary contact for general information.
Yesterday, I had a rather lengthy conversation with Kathleen Smith of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce. The city is working on a major event to be held the weekend before the festival in Kingman to ensure visitors have reason to spend a full, fun filled week on the double six in Arizona. Details will be available soon.
Meanwhile, before any of this takes place there are some pretty big events taking place on Route 66. Adding any of these to your travel plans would greatly enhance the adventure.
Several years ago my dearest friend and I were given a new reason to enjoy the Fun Run in the form of a tour group from the land down under hosted by Dale and Kristi-Anne Butel. I am quite honored to have another opportunity to speak before this years tour and am quite excited about seeing our old friends again.
Then, in June the spotlight will shift to Tucumcari. Rockabilly on the Route is a relatively new event that has morphed into a major international festival that promises a very full weekend of memorable entertainment. Unfortunately schedule conflictions will prohibit our attendance this year.
For my dearest friend and I, an event that we are really looking forward to is Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. Scheduled for the third weekend in October, this rates quite high on our list of favorite events.
It remains a simple, small town event worthy of Norman Rockwell in spite of its popularity. Needless to say, such an event fits us rather well.
A great source for general Route 66 information, as well as an expansive calendar of events all along the double six is Route 66 News. Kudos to Ron Warnick for this endeavor.
The next and last item has to do with new books. Of course this also involves a bit of old fashioned shameless self promotion.
First, acclaimed author and collector Joe Sonderman (he will be attending the festival in Kingman) has teamed up with Chery Eichar Jett, who will also be attending the festival, to produce Route 66 in Illinois. Signed copies of this and other Route 66 titles by Joe Sonderman are available on his fascinating website.
In recent weeks I have spent a great deal of time attempting to explain what makes Route 66 and a Route 66 experience unique. There have been presentations made to the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce as they prepare the city for the Route 66 International Festival, talks with a Telsa representative as the company may be participating in the festival, consultation work with a company developing an innovative magazine that will serve as venue for small business development on Route 66, an interview with Rudy Maxa, discussions with an industrial developer from Phoenix, and consultation work for a New Zealand firm organizing a series of Route 66 tours.
It has been relatively easy to present the basic picture that the iconic double six has morphed into a living, breathing time capsule with an overlay of Disneyland. It has also been relatively easy to present the highway corridor as a linear community with each town along the highway being a unique neighborhood in that community.
What can not be adequately expressed in words is that the essence of Route 66, what really separates it from any other travel experience, is the people who travel it, the people who preserve its history, the people who build a Route 66 centered life, and the people who ensure it remains vibrant and colorful. The often life changing aspect of meeting these people on Route 66, the Main Street of America, has to be experienced but even then it is difficult to comprehend.
Consider KC Keefer and Nancy Barlow. For them a Route 66 adventure has led to the development of an incredible endeavor that captures the essence, the spirit of the road with a series of interviews entitled Genuine Route 66 Life. Not only do these interviews inspire, but in time they will be a valuable historic record.
Tucumcari in New Mexico is fast becoming a haven for inspiring and inspired people. Spend an evening with Nancy and Kevin at the Blue Swallow Motel, the Talley’s at Motel Safari, visit with Heidi and Gar at Tee Pee Curios and see if your view of the world isn’t forever altered.
Just ask David and Amanda Brenner about such an encounter. They are now joining the growing ranks of people who have decided that there is more to life than living for the acquisition of a paycheck. As a result, soon another Route 66 time capsule will be meeting the needs of travelers on Route 66 in Tucumcari.
Allen Greer and his family are starting life anew in Truxton, Arizona as they put a little shine on the tarnished gem that is the Frontier Motel and restaurant. A new Zealand businessman purchased the property after being inspired by Route 66.
Similar stories are to be found at every turn on Route 66 from the Campbell Hotel in Tulsa to Cool Springs in Arizona, from 66 to Cali on Santa Monica Pier to the Wigwam Motel in Rialto.
Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.
Stop and visit with Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Laurel and the gang at Afton Station, Angel Degadillo in Seligman, Bob Lile in Amarillo, Connie Echols in Cuba, or Gary at Paris Springs Junction, Take time to listen to the guests who stop by and let yourself be drawn into animated conversations with people from Holland and Germany, Japan and Australia, France and China, and see if you don’t find yourself thinking about abandonment of the traditional nine to five job, a career change, and the trappings of suburbia. After each visit look at your speedometer and see if you haven’t adapted a slower pace of travel, and found a bit more enjoyment in the journey.
Harley and Annabelle with author Jim Hinckley in Erick, Oklahoma.
However, the people that have adopted a Route 66 way of life are doing more than just touching and changing the lives of the people they meet. They are also changing the very face of America, at least along the Main Streets in towns all along that highway.
Visit Pontiac, Illinois or Cuba, Missouri, Tucumcari, New Mexico or Galena, Kansas, and see if your not inspired to do something in your hometown even if it isn’t on Route 66. Spend a weekend at the Route 66 International Festival or Cuba Fest, and see if you don’t find yourself dreaming in a Norman Rockwell style.
Route 66 is more than a mere highway. It is the stuff of dreams, the Main Street of America, a state of mind, and a magical place of unbridled inspiration.
Route 66 is now America’s longest attraction and its biggest museum. It is the template for the future and the best of America. It is iconic and revered, it is a national treasure.
Its not exactly a well kept secret that my dearest friend and I enjoy adventures on the road less traveled, especially for followers of this blog. Nor is it a secret that followers of the blog share a similar fascination. After all, last week the posting of the three part series about our adventure to Crown King, Arizona, and along the historic Senator Highway garnered more page views, and more requests for additional information, than anything yet posted this year.
Additionally, the books written reflect our passions. Their sales reflect the fact that adventurers and armchair adventurers also long for the road less traveled, and the wonders awaiting discovery there.
All of this and the interest sparked by interviews such as last weeks on Rudy Maxa’sprogram, have inspired the publicist and I to discuss serious expansion of development of the lecture series, and making myself more available to speak at conventions, events, and as a keynote speaker for organization. With that said, if my services can enhance an event, convention, or function, please drop me a note.
Okay, as we wrap up the week the next order of business is a quick look down the road, and the answering of some questions received this week, specifically about the Route 66 International festival. Lets start with the festival.
For business owners and corporations, the festival represents some incredible opportunities for international promotion through advertising or sponsorship of key events. An additional opportunity is found in the sponsorship of the Road Crew (see upper right column).
We now have a central point of contact for all advertisement or sponsorship. This will also be the point of contact for vendors, authors, artists, collectors, route 66 associations, or chambers of commerce wishing to have a display area at the festival. That contact is the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce, (928)753-6253.
Even though there are still months to go, I suggest making arrangements as soon as possible. When talking with the chamber director last week, I learned that they are looking into the rental of additional buildings in the historic district to meet demand.
The film festival aspect is also growing rapidly. Even though numerous independent film makers have committed to participating there is room for more.
I am hoping vintage and classic car enthusiasts will not let the heat deter them from participating. Yes, it will be warm, okay hot. Still, Kingman is at least 15 degrees cooler than Las Vegas or Phoenix, and is often at least 20 degrees cooler than communities along the Colorado River.
It does not appear to be much of a deterrent for VW fans, electric vehicle enthusiasts, or motorcycle riders. TNT Engineering, site of a Bob Waldmire exhibit during the festival, is hosting their annual customer appreciation celebration in conjunction with the festival and early indications are that several hundred VW enthusiasts will be in attendance.
The electric vehicle involvement with the festival is taking on a life of its own. There will be a display of historically significant electric vehicles at the Powerhouse Visitor Center, possible Tesla participation, and enthusiasts from throughout the United States will be bringing vehicles to the festival.
This might be a tremendous opportunity for communities along Route 66. If you have facilities for vehicle charging in your town, perhaps the chamber of commerce should promote this and coordinate that promotion with the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce.
Linda Fitzpatrick is working to ensure Needles, Oatman, and Topock have something to offer. Now, the city of Holbrook under guidance from Kathleen Smith at the chamber of commerce is working on a major event for the weekend before the festival to ensure folks traveling the road have an opportunity for a full week of fun under the Arizona sun.
Even though there will be an array of authors in attendance, I would be quite remiss if I did not note participation by two of the most famous. First, Bob “Boze” Bell of True West will be attending to introduce his new book about growing up on Route 66 in Kingman.
Next, Anne Slanina will be attendance. Work is under way for a fun filled Annie Mouse Party to be included in festival activities.
IN short, the festival is shaping up to be something rather spectacular this year. I hope you can attend.
In the recent interview with Rudy Maxa, I found myself answering a question that is probably the one most often asked, especially when I speak to individuals or groups unfamiliar with the storied double six. Is it still possible to drive this highway?
My answer is usually given in two parts. First, yes you can but a guide book is essential even though some states like Illinois and Missouri have gone to great lengths and considerable expense to ensure the road is well signed.
The second part is a question, which Route 66? It is not my intent to be flippant, I am just introducing the concept that this iconic highway is multifaceted.
As an example, in the interview I noted the two very distinct personalities of Route 66 in western Arizona. The pre 1952 alignment follows the course of the National Old Trails Highway, predecessor to Route 66, through the Black Mountains in a series of switchbacks and steep grades to the Colorado River.
The post 1952 alignment for all intents and purposes is now signed as I-40. There are exceptions but for most of the roads course between Kingman and the Colorado River, the modern four-lane highway incorporates segments of Route 66, or buries it.
This may be an extreme example but consider the various alignments in St. Louis and the immediate area. Just the various bridges used to carry Route 66 traffic across the Mississippi River are a diverse lot representing more than a century of highway engineering evolution.
In Illinois, especially south of Springfield, there are two distinctly different versions of Route 66. The latter alignment is now relegated to serving as a frontage road for the interstate highway in most locations.
The earlier alignment, however, is a portal into the past. All along the course of what is now state highway 4, are tangible links and vestiges from more than two hundred years of history.
For my money, however, it is Route 66 in New Mexico where you really discover that the legendary double six truly does have split personalities. The post 1937 alignment cuts a fairly straight line across the state and along the way brushes by, or cuts through, villages that are centuries old.
However, for most of its course it flows through towns that are relatively recent additions to the desert landscape as they date to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Of course it also course through the modern/ancient metropolis of Albuquerque.
However, the pre 1937 alignment makes a big arc sweeping north into Santa Fe before dropping into Albuquerque. Nestled all along the old highway that in some places is laid over the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail and El Camino Real, are remnants from more than a thousand years of history.
At Pecos National Historic Park the ruins of an extensive pre Columbian city (Spanish explorers noted it was the largest city encountered north of Mexico) and a Spanish Colonial era mission are preserved. Little more than a spit and hop down the road are the unassuming remnants of the Pigeon Ranch that almost appear as if they are propped up by the highways guardrail.
This historic structure began as a hostelry on the Santa Fe Trail. During the Battle of Glorieta Pass in the American Civil War this building served as a field hospital.
With few exceptions the latter alignment mimics the interstate highway by cutting through the land rather than following its contours. The earlier alignment mimics its predecessors in that it flows with the land following the path of least resistance which was often the path chosen by earlier road builders.
Now, as to guide books, in my humble opinion there are two to recommend. One penned by Jerry McClanahan (EZ 66 Guide) published by the National Historic Route 66 Federation is without the most popular and easiest to use. We never travel the double six without a copy.
If your unfamiliar with America’s longest attraction, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you take a timely tip and motor west, or east, and discover a truly magical place. If you are familiar with the double six and its unique charms, perhaps its time to seek out some of the other manifestations of Route 66.
Our adventures are always subject to last minute adjustment and change resultant of my schedule that seems to be in a near constant state of flux. As a result, over the years we have learned to be rather flexible and view last minute changes merely as opportunities for unexpected discoveries.
The “good road” as seen by Garmin.
Originally, as I had planned it, my dearest friends birthday expedition/photography safari was to commence with a leisurely early morning drive down Route 66 to Seligman. It would then continue with a 100 mile Arizona back country odyssey, first down the scenic Williamson Valley Road, a portion of which may have carried National Old Trails Highway traffic if Professor Nick Gerlich’s investigations are correct. This would take us into historic Prescott. Before entering the wilderness again we would then drive through a neighborhood of stately Victorian era homes, then along the territorial era Senator Highway to Crown King. However, the important Saturday morning interviews necessitated an adjustment since the trip to Crown King on the “good road” would consume at least three to four hours if we didn’t stop to take in the sites or engage in a bit of photography.
The Mill restaurant in Crown King.
So, the sunrise departure gave way to mid morning but by 10:00 we were rolling east on I-40 in a Jeep loaded with gear for almost any possible contingency since our plans still called for back country exploration. As it turns out, our timing was most ideal.
We arrived in Crown King around four o’clock, checked into the Cedar Roost Inn, and set out to photograph the town in the glow of a late afternoon, as well as to sign books at the general store. Then, with an adequately stimulated appetite we set our sights on the Mill Restaurant.
Okay, this place needs some serious attention. As an example, the porch floor is sagging and has a few poorly patched holes.
The delightful ambiance of the Mill restaurant in Crown King.
However, as the place was built twenty years ago to look vintage, or condemned, using parts from a wide array of condemned historic structures, the need for repair seems to fit the theme in an odd sort of way.
The food was excellent with a near perfect blend of seasoning and spices. The service was very good; friendly, fast, and attentive without being intrusive. I would also rate the restaurant as very good in regard to the cleanliness of the kitchen and dining areas. However, the ambiance was in a class of its own.
The center piece of the dining area is a huge iron boiler, used for heat, and a towering late 19th century stamp mill with wooden flywheel that supports the massive ceiling beams that clearly show the marks of the adze and ax. Scattered all about the restaurant, bar, and patio are fascinating antiques such as an ancient jukebox, a vintage wood burning kitchen stove, and a wooden rocking horse.
The porch festooned with an array of bird feeders attracts an amazing number of hummingbirds. As the mill dominates a hill above the road and town, only the forest prevents breathtaking vistas.
The dinner menu was handwritten on a board and posted near the stamp mill. During our visit seafood and steak were the offerings. Present company, the ambiance, and the over stimulated appetite all contributed to how good the meal tasted. Rounding out the excellent flavors of the grilled talapi on a bed of seasoned rice, the stir fried vegetables, the fresh herb bread toasted to perfection with a hint of olive oil, and the fresh garden salad was a delicious moscato wine that washed the dust from our throats.
Doozy’s in Crown King.
There was a definite chill in the clean mountain air as we drove through town and back to our room so we added the comforter from the closet to our bed rather than run the electric space heater all evening. The gentle sounds of the wind in the pines lulled us into a most restful nights sleep.
As we had examined the menus for the three cafes in town the night before, we awoke eager to try a sampling of the morning fare at Doozy’s, a rustic and quaint combination bakery and souvenir shop that also serves as a prospector and hunting supply store where morning coffee is offered free at the door.
A new and expanded kitchen is under construction, but with the exception of outdoor dining facilities, seating is limited to a handful of tables. So our breakfast table near the fireplace was shared with locals, itinerant prospectors, and weekend explorers.
The food was basic but good, and the prices reasonable. It was an excellent way to begin a day of high adventure.
The Crown King store, in business since 1904.
We returned to our room, loaded gear, cinched down the tail gate with a ratchet strap, and left our hosts with a copy of my book Ghost Towns of the Southwest. The proprietor of the Cedar Roost Inn called on Monday evening, thanked us for the book, and said that the bartender in the photograph illustrating the Crown King segment of the book was her husband. Now, I am quite sure they weren’t any more surprised than I was!
Historic Crown King, Arizona.
As I had topped off the gas tank near Dewey, we set out on the historic Senator Highway with plenty of fuel for the 38 mile, four hour adventure on this historic roadway. It should be noted that I used four wheel drive only twice and only as I was hedging my bet on a couple of stream crossings.
Still, after driving the road I can see where a 4×4 might provide a much needed edge, especially after inclement weather. However, ground clearance, good tires, and a vehicle in good mechanical condition is a must.
The historic Senator Highway.
Along the historic Senator Highway.
As the old road is a secondary escape route for Crown King, the forest service provides minimal upkeep that is really little more than occasionally removing dead falls, repairing extreme wash outs, and clearing rock slides. In essence the Senator Highway (forest road 52 for most of its length) is little changed from the time when it was built in the late 1860s as a toll road linking the territorial capital of Prescott with Phoenix as well as the mining boom towns in the Bradshaw mining district such as Bradshaw City, Hooper, and Crown King.
In many places it is a rutted, rocky, one lane wide road that mimics a goat trail as it snakes through the pine forest, through brush choked canyons, and along ridge lines with stunning vistas in every direction. There are stream crossings, abandoned mines, stone chimneys, historic sites, and surprising vestiges from the frontier era.
Initially, from Crown King to the first junction the old road sees a great deal of traffic. Still, it was steep and rutted in places, doable by car with caution but not recommended.
The view from on high along the Senator Highway.
At the first junction (Note: the road to Lake Pleasant is not recommend unless you have a vehicle that is modified for extreme off road use) the Senator Highway takes on a more adventuresome feel as there are larger rocks in the road, deeper ruts, and mud holes but still the shade dappled road has a soothing feel. With the exception of an occasional ATV, we had the road and the sounds of the forest to ourselves.
Only a forest service sign stands in mute testimony to the existence of Bradshaw City, a town that once purportedly had a population numbered in the thousands. It was near this point that we encountered the first grade that required us to carefully pick our way over and through rocks of varying sizes.
Signs of drought in the Bradshaw Mountains.
The only thing to cast a pall on our adventure was the evidence of just how severe the drought was becoming. The brush and grass was dry. The trees were often tinged brown or dormant. Streams trickled as though it were late July instead of early spring.
The Palace Station on the Senator Highway.
After running the ridge line for several miles, at the junction with the Wagoner Road (Wagoner was another important town in the area more than a century ago) we stopped in a shady grove to take in the sites and evaluate our options. The Wagoner road connected with the modern world and the highway at Kirkland. This would allow us to still make Prescott but as the road required a crossing of the Hassayampa River, and we didn’t have a current report on depth or width, we decided to stick with the Senator Highway. Besides I had something very special to share with my dearest friend.
When it comes to tangible links and historic artifacts from the frontier era in Arizona, few are on par with the unassuming Palace Station. Built in 1874 as a stage station and inn on the primary road linking Prescott with Phoenix, a road that remained in service until 1910, the old station today serves as a temporary residence for forest service employees.
There is no electricity. A stream flows at the bottom of the hill. The dust from travelers passing by still settles over the porch. For all intents and purposes, the Palace Station is truly a portal into a world that vanished more than a century ago.
By the time we made Palace Station, we had driven along several ridge lines, slipped from the road at a stream crossing when trying to make room for a passing Jeep, climbed a couple of rock grades and slid down the other side. Surprisingly the last few miles to the pavement that marked the beginning of suburbia proved to be the roughest.
Almost immediately after leaving the station we crossed a stream that was almost knee deep in places. This was followed by a steep, rocky climb through a canyon where the road clung precariously to the wall.
Still, the vestiges of the roads importance were seen at most every turn. Perhaps the most impressive was a massive masonry drainage tunnel that supported the road way near the historic Senator Mine.
Still, the rest of the journey was rather anti-climatic. After driving about five miles, the Senator Highway morphed into a modern roadway with historic nature and connection erased.
We enjoyed a traditional Irish dinner (shepherds pie) and a brief visit with Tony Mock at Murphy’s in Prescott, filled the tank in Chino Valley, made a pit stop in Ash Fork, and then, in almost the blink of an eye, we were home again. It seemed as though we were gone for a week instead of a day and a half.
Modern day prospectors encountered on the historic Senator Highway.
In that brief period of time we flitted between the past and present, sampled some of Arizona’s best back country, and in general had a most memorable adventure. Now, the challenge is to top this for a weekend getaway.
Author Jim Hinckley in his native habitat, the road less traveled.