Put simply, the annual Route 66 Fun Run is the Route 66 experience refined. It blends crushing traffic, crowded restaurants, busy gas stations, dust covered ice cream cones, laughter, ringing cash registers, and good times into a virtual time capsule from the pre-generic era when the double six was truly the Main Street of towns like Kingman and Seligman.
For my dearest friend and I it is traditionally a weekend filled with friends, cars, meals shared with friends, and memories. After all, to see the parking lot at Grand Canyon Caverns filled to overflowing, traffic backed up for miles at the Hackberry General Store, and Seligman so busy that a drive from one end of the town to the other could take a half hour or more was to relive the Route 66 of our youth.
Photo courtesy of Sam Murray.
As a bonus, for the first time in several years I was able to share the adventure of a Route 66 Fun Run weekend with my son, a tradition that spans decades.
We started the adventure bright and early at 7:00 on Saturday morning by meeting up with Sam Murray of New Zealand, owner of Gilligan’s Wild West Tours and the Frontier Motel and café in Truxton, and Peter, at Fort Beale RV Park. Our time machine for the adventure was Sam’s recently acquired 1969 Dodge Polara sedan.
An issue with the starter delayed our journey to Seligman but it did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm. As we motored east there was the distinct sense of cruising back into time as we passed a ’38 Chevy coupe clicking off the miles at about 45 miles per hour, found ourselves slowed to a crawl by a ’54 Mercury pulling a trailer up a grade, and shared the road with hot roads and Corvettes, battered pick up trucks and gleaming convertibles.
The sense of time travel became palpable when we arrived in Seligman where as far as the eye could see, the street was filled with traffic and winking tail lights. This was the Seligman that I remembered, this was the Seligman that Angel Delgadillo fought to preserve when the completion of I-40 severed its lifeline.
No trip to Seligman can be considered complete without a visit to the unofficial mayor of the Route 66 community, Angel Delgadillo. Five short minutes talking with Angel, watching the infectious flash of his smile when he greets people, or seeing him whip along the street on his bicycle will almost make you feel as though Route 66 is the fountain of youth. This becomes more than a fleeting thought when you learn that Angel can see 90 looming at the top of the hill with clarity, and that he has to squint to see age 80 fading from view in the mirror.
Angel Delgadillo during the 2014 Route 66 Fun Run
After Angel signaled the start for the cruise to Kingman, we joined the flow of traffic that included a Hupmobile and 1933 Plymouth, a stunning ’58 Rambler and vintage Jaguar roadster, a rare Dan Gurney edition Mercury Cyclone and a beautiful ’51 Ford Crestline, countless Corvettes, Mustangs rented by an Australian tour group, and nearly a thousand vehicles that represented almost a century of automotive history. For a brief moment in time Route 66 was more than a mere highway, it was the bridge between past and present.
We made a pit stop in Truxton, talked with a wide array of people who stopped to get a peak at the Frontier Café that is rising from the ashes of abandonment like the mythical Phoenix, visited with Stacy and Alan Greer, proprietors of the historic property, and stopped off at the service station where the ring of a bell calls out a sun weathered attendant to fill the tank. How long has it been since I heard the chime of that once familiar bell?
Left to right, David Hinckley, Sam Murray, and Sharon Ward at the Frontier Café in Truxton, Arizona.
At Hackberry we bypassed the now world famous general store and a Route 66 traffic jam reminiscent of a stop made here in about 1966, and instead drove through the dusty old town itself. This provided a few surprises for our friends from the land down under and to the left, and gave me an opportunity to hone my tour guide skills.
After a pleasant lunch peppered with fascinating conversation and a glass of beer at the Dambar, David and I bid our guests adios, picked up the truck, and set out to explore the mechanical menagerie that was engulfing the Kingman historic district. As my son and I have been doing this since he was to young to walk, there was a great deal of reflection in our stroll among the colorful display of automotive history.
Activities to round out the day came in two parts. Part one was a delightful dinner of good food, laughter, good natured teasing, shared photos and stimulating conversation at Redneck’s Southern Barbecue shared with my dearest friend, Mike and Sharon Ward, Sean Evans (archivist at Northern Arizona University) and his charming wife, George and Bonnie Game of the Canadian Route 66 Association, and John and Judy Springs.
Author Jim Hinckley speaking with Dale Butel’s spring tour. Judy Hinckley, copyright
Part two was the tour of the historic district under a star studded desert sky that I had promised my friends. I would be remiss if it were not noted that an expanded version of this tour will be offered during the Route 66 International Festival.
On Sunday morning my dearest friend and I closed out this years festivities with what has become one of our favorite Route 66 Fun Run traditions – speaking before Dale Butel’s spring Route 66 tour group and signing books. Opportunities such as these, and the friendships that result, are the perks of writing that money cannot buy.
Now, it is time to unwind and prepare for a long week punctuated with meetings, presentations before the city council, and planning sessions for the forthcoming Route 66 International Festival. Now we can begin counting the days until the next Route 66 Fun Run, and another opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Route 66 experience refined.
Author Jim Hinckley signing books for a fan of the double six from the land down under. Judy Hinckley copyright.