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THE ROAD WEST

THE ROAD WEST

Yesterday we ended our west bound Route 66 adventure with a stop in Amarillo for the International Route 66 festival. Now, as we continue our westward journey the first stop has to be the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas for some coffee and wonderful peanut butter and chocolate pie. Glenrio located right on the state line is a haunting and fascinating stop. At last check the population was less than five but the photo ops are unlimited in a town with origins stretching back in time more than a century. Dependant on weather conditions and the vehicle you are driving, my suggestion is to drive http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0970995164&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrto the end of town and continue west on the graded, gravel road. This is an early alignment of Route 66 that is often overlooked. The treasures found on the road between Glenrio and San Jon are many. However, there is one true gem along the way and that is the now abandoned town of Endee, another community with roots reaching back in time more than a century. As an added bonus the scenery along the way is quite picturesque. To decipher the various incarnations of Route 66, including the pre 1937 alignment that looped from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque via Santa Fe, and to get the most from your adventure a copy of Jerry McClanahans book, EZ 66, is an absolute must. Another great source for information is the New Mexico Route 66 Association website. Vintage lodging in New Mexico really isn’t an issue as there are so many choices with several excellent motels on each end of the state and many clean, historic properties that line line Central Avenue in Albuquerque. In Tucumcari there is the iconic Blue Swallow Motel and the beautifully refurbished Motel Safari. In Gallup there are a number of historic motels but for atmosphere and a rich history it is tough to beat the El Rancho Hotel. New Mexico bills itself as the land of enchantment. Cruise old Route 66 through the vast landscapes, dusty little towns with origins that predate that legendary highway by centuries, and savor the unique foods and you will discover why. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0738580295&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrTo assist in your endeavor to spot historic locations I suggest obtaining a copy of Joe Sonderman’s book, Route 66 in New Mexico. I find a little context really enhances my adventure.From the New Mexico state line to just west of Ashfork, Route 66 is badly broken in Arizona. This is not to say there are not intersecting sections or interesting sites. You just have to know where to look. Holbrook is a bit down on the hills but there is still allot to see and when you factor in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest it is easy to loose a day. Then, when the sun sets in the west, snuggle up in your own teepee at the wonderful time capsule that is the Wigwam Motel. Winslow, like Holbrook, is a bit worn but here there is an absolute gem awaiting discovery. The historic La Posada is an old Harvey House that has been fully refurbished and as a result here you will find fine dining and excellent rooms in an atmosphere better suited to the 1920s than the hustle of the modern era. To cruise Flagstaff on Route 66 is to experience that highway as it once was. Traffic, and lots of it, glittering neon at motels unchanged in a half century, great mom and pop restaurants, and ample opportunity to explore bookstores, museums, and galleries. Williams rates very high on my list of favorite communities on Route 66. Great efforts have been taken here to ensure that the town presents the illusion Route 66 is still the Main Street of America.Enhancing that illusion are a myriad of tangible links to that time. There is Rod’s Steakhouse dating to 1946, and Old Smoky’s, also dating to 1946, numerous motels spanning the period from 1930 to 1970, and wonderful shops housed in buildings that predate the highway by at least a decade or two. As you drop precipitously down the mountain west of Williams, look to your right and left. That old road bisected by I-40 that twists and turns down the grade is Route 66. Ashfork is less than a shadow of its former self. A series of devastating fires in the 1970s erased large segments of the historic district, much of which predated state hood in 1912, and the bypass of Route 66 sent many businesses into a downward spiral. Still, cruising through town on the east and west bound alignments will be well worth your while. Just to the west of Ashfork turn off I-40 onto Crookton Rod. Here begins the longest uninterrupted portion of Route 66 still existent, almost 200 miles. Seligman will be the first top. This sleepy little village is the cornerstone for the resurgent interest in Route 66 as it was here the first organization meeting of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, the first organization of its kind, was held.The things to see and do here are quite astounding when you consider the size of the town. There is the legendary Snow Cap Drive In, Angel Delgadillo’s shop, Seligman Sundries, the refurbished Supai Motel, and the Road Kill Cafe. If you really want to see this town as it was when Route 66 served as Main Street plan your trip to coincide with the Route 66 Fun Run. This three day block party along 180 miles of Route 66 with hundreds of vintage cars makes one think they have stepped through a portal into another time. In our next post I will serve as your tour guide to the rest of Arizona, and California, arguably the most scenic section of Route 66. This weekend we will also have the next installment of the Kingman Army Airfield story and a few book reviews.  

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ROAD TRIP

ROAD TRIP

One of the most noticeable changes witnessed from my perch on Route 66 in recent years is that road trip season now seems to run from around New Years Day to New Years Eve. However, it is still the months of April through October when it seems the curtain that separates the past from the present really is rolled back to present the illusion that Route 66 is more bridge spanning the past and present than highway. It is not weather that provides the first hint that road trip season is about to begin but the number of visits from my international friends as well as the number of requests for assistance or interviews. With that as my indicator it is quite apparent that road trip season has begun even though the weather this morning hits more of winter than spring. Dale Butel, owner of an Australian company that specializes in Route 66 tours will be stopping in Kingman for a quick visit in the next day or so. Peter, a television producer from Berlin will be in Kingman in the next few weeks to discuss a documentary he will be filming http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0970995164&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrthis fall. Dries from Holland is finalizing plans for his groups Route 66 tour that always includes an interesting dinner in Kingman. If you happen to be one of the uninitiated, or are just curious about why Route 66 is so popular, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you take to the road this year and discover its many charms. With that said here is my quick summary of what you will need for the trip, as well as my suggestions of sites that should not be missed. Step one would be acquisition of the EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan. There are a multitude of travel guides available but there is only one that you need and this is it. As most folks travel Route 66 from east to west we will start with Chicago, a city that can easily be a vacation destination unto itself. To get the best out of your visit a knowledgeable tour guide is always best and in Chicago there is none better than Dave Clark. If you are citiphobic (a feeling of claustrophobia induced by traffic congestion, crowds, and towering skyscrapers) then you will most like want to get out of Chicago as soon as possible. I fully understand but one stop is an absolute must, Lou Mitchell’s, a Route 66 icon that has been serving travelers and locals alike for more than seventy years. In either case, Dave Clark’s book about Route 66 in Chicago http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0738551384&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifris a good one to peruse before the trip begins. It will provide more than a few ideas for sites to see, give a bit of historical context for places passed as you motor west, and in general add depth to the experience. Route 66 in Illinois consistently rates as one of the states most popular attractions. The road, or roads as there are several alignments of Route 66, between Chicago and the Mississippi River is an almost endless string of attractions. I strongly suggest that before beginning your odyssey along the Main Street of America in this state you first explore the Illinois Route 66 Association website and acquire their travel guide. To say the very least, the various alignments of Route 66 in the St.  Louis area are a tangled and confusing mess but McClanahans guide will go a very long way to making sense of it. Not many think of St. Louis as a vacation destination but there are more enough sites and point of interest here to fill several vacations. The resident expert on St. Louis, and Route 66 in that city, is Joe Sonderman. He has written extensively on that subject, as well as on Route 66 in Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona. You can order books and explore his extensive and fascinating post card collection at his website by following this link. If you miss everything in St. Louis as you flee to less congested surroundings, at least make it a point to stop at Ted Drewes, a roadside favorite since 1929. To get the most out of your tour along Route 66 in Missouri start with that states association. If your running on a restricted schedule there are several places that must not be missed. Rating high on the list of must see stops are Cuba, Gay Parita, and Devil’s Elbow. One of the things that will really enhance your Route 66 adventure in the Show Me State is to take advantage of one of the many vintage motels along the way, a very rare treat indeed. I have three that can be highly recommended; the Wagon Wheel Motel, the Munger Moss Motel, and the Route 66 Rail Haven. Kansas is unique in regards to its association with Route 66. It has the shortest segment of that highway, less than twenty miles, and is the only state wholly bypassed with the creation of the interstate highway system. In that short distance are an amazing array of attractions from the beautiful Marsh Arch Bridge to the historic communities of Baxter Springs and Galena. Again, if you are doing the Reader’s Digest condensed tour of the highway be sure to at least stop and say hello to Melba at Four Women on the Route in Galena. Be prepared for a very long and very friendly visit as everyone who stops is made to feel like long lost family. Route 66 is treasured by the folks of Oklahoma. As a result, driving Route 66 through this state allows for an almost time travel sensation. The first stop has to be the Route 66 Association of Oklahoma website. Be sure to order their informative and detailed guide before beginning your trip. There are a staggering array of attractions to see, experience, savor, and taste. But there are several that have to be included as “must see” stops regardless of how tight the schedule is. Topping my list is Afton Station in the near ghost town of Afton. A wonderful example of what makes Route 66 a truly unique experience is found in Chandler, Oklahoma. The acclaimed artist and author of the EZ 66 Guide lives here. To quote from his book, “The gallery is just past the second house on the east. Get your EZ Guide autographed and the latest updates! No set hours: Call ahead or try your luck. Cell 903-467-6384, Home 405-258-0130, mcjerry66.com”Texas rates second to Kansas for having the shortest section of Route 66. But jammed in that short distance are landmarks such as the U Drop In in Shamrock, ghost towns, the Devils Rope Museum, and a wide array of attractions. Again, start with a visit to the state association website. My second suggestion for traveling through Texas on Route 66 is to plan your trip for the week of June 9, the scheduled kick off for the International Route 66 Festival in Amarillo. I guarantee this event will get you in the mood to explore and discover Route 66. Tomorrow I will highlight the sites and adventures awaiting discovery on Route in Arizona, New Mexico, and California.

ROUTE 66 CHRONICLES

ROUTE 66 CHRONICLES

The search for hidden gems in my efforts to chronicle the history of Route 66 for the Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas often makes me feel as though I am a kid with a pocket full of nickles in a candy store. Of course there are also a number of days when I feel like a kid with no nickles in my pocket at a candy store. My latest endeavors have involved sifting through decades of newspapers from communities large and small, as well as a few that no longer warrant a dot on the map. The discoveries made present the illusion that the pieces from several puzzle boxes have been mixed together but the reality is the puzzle picture is a vast tapestry. The Amarillo Globe, Thursday, August 22, 1928, “The new Pennant Motor Oils sold by the following courteous Pierce dealers.” This followed by a short list of a dozen or so but buried in this, about half way down is “Wildorado Garage, Wildorado, Texas.”Now, this gives me a bit more insight into the town of Wildorado. It also dovetails with the material Joe Sonderman provided regarding Pierce Pennant stations. Another glimpse of the Wildorado portion of the tapestry was found in a single paragraph from the San Antonio Light, Sunday, May 21, 1933. “Burglars hauled off a one ton safe containing more than $500.00 after breaking into the State Bank (Wildorado, Texas) sometime Friday night. Most of the bank fixtures were torn down by the burglars in getting the heavy safe out the front door.”Adding to this was a headline and story found int he Syracuse Herald, Sunday, January 29, 1928.”Wildorado, Texas a town plundered so many times that six shooters no longer terrorize.” The article then details several years worth of robberies. What kind of place was Wildorado in the 1920s and early 1930s?Wildorado may have been plagued with thieves before it vanished from the map but other communities along Route 66 were not immune from such activity. The Hutchinson News for Tuesday, March 13, 1923, featured a story about a Halltown, Missouri robbery on the front page. The Ada Evening News for Monday, February 8, 1960, has a nice headline about a bank robbery in Depew, Oklahoma. Then, as well as now, it was bad news that sold papers. So, unfortunately many of my discoveries are a bit on the tragic or dark side. There is an article from the Roswell Daily Record dated July 24, 1929 that details a deadly auto accident at the bottom of La Bajada Hill. Another details a bloody weekend on Route 66 in Oklahoma with numerous accidents resulting in 13 deaths. An interesting curiosity in the Joplin Globe from November of 1968 leaves one asking what are the odds. A car plunged into the Spring River at Riverton in the afternoon of the same day that another car left the roadway and crashed through a guard rail. Then, as well as now, most of the stories are softened with human interest tales of miraculous survival. An articles date May 30, 1909, details the destruction of Depew, Oklahoma by a “cyclone” and the stories of survivors. Wild weather stories are another staple of news. A 1964 newspaper from Placerville, California details the harrowing experience of a couple of residents on their vacation in the southwest when, “a desert cyclone between Hackberry and Seligman nearly forced our car and trailer from the road. Many vehicles were damaged and there was extensive damage in Kingman and Las Vegas.”If I were limited to one statement about what has been learned from this research it would be this, I will never drive Route 66 and see it the same way again. How can I now that I know about Widlorado and the Christmas parade in Shamrock, or GIs at Kingman Army Airfield teaching the local kids to roller skate, or the …

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