Gettin’ My Kicks on Route 66 in Arizona
by Axel Heller
I pre-ran the proposed trip of Route 66 through Arizona in October, anticipating that it will be near the end of April as a DE trip, three to four days.
I have highlighted exits along I-40, for sights to see. Of course there are many more attractions of Route 66, where I followed as many alignments that I could locate. I-40 did not “pave” over Route 66, but followed it for a lot of the distance. Since everybody is in a hurry these days, they made a straighter road with less elevation gain/loss and FASTER (75 MPH). Business loops, that were 66 roadbeds, became the norm for many cities and they tried to capitalize on that. Alas, many towns became ghost towns, like Two Guns and Twin Arrows, even though there were off-ramps to them. Other towns were completely bypassed, like the fictitious town of Radiator Springs (Cars movie by Pixar), but I did find that particular town (or claimant to the title) in my journey. You’ll have to sign up for the trip to find it, with all of the old cars.
Oatman The Ghost Town that refused to die. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their first night of married bliss at the Durlin Hotel after being married in Kingman in March 1939. Today stores and burros are the main attractions.
Kingman exit 44-53 One of the best and longest segments of Route 66 (Arizona 66 now). Over 83 miles to Seligman (exit 123). On this stretch of highway, they have erected some “old” Burma Shave signs. There are many small towns along this road. You used to be able to get a special stamp “cancellation” on
Valentine’s day from the town of Valentine. A stop at the Grand Canyon Caverns is well worth it. An hour long tour is available into the caverns, and you can actually spend the night inside.
Seligman exit 123 This town is designed for the traveler. Birthplace of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. Looking for a place to eat? Try the Roadkill Café.
Williams exit 161-165 Williams was the last town that was bypassed, on October 13, 1984. Very interesting town, with many museums and eatery places. Gateway to the Grand canyon, especially by railroad. I found an old bridge on post 1930 Route 66 with a tree growing on top of it! It was a nice gravel road to the town of Belmont (exit 185)
Flagstaff exit 191-204 Inside of Flagstaff , you travel on the Business Loop of I-40, the original Route 66 going through the town. The pre-1947 alignment will get you to Winona (exit 211)
Twin Arrows exit 219 Marking this exit are two large Arrows, inspired by Two Guns on Route 66. Remains are the arrows and a diner and trading post. It became a ghost town in 1995, due to I-40. Across the highway is the Twin Arrows Casino, operated by the Navajo Tribe.
Two Guns exit 230 This little town was developed near Diablo Canyon, as a construction/crew site for the Santa Fe/Atlantic to Pacific RR as they built the bridge across Diablo Canyon about three miles north of the “town” in 1880 or so. When the bridge site was surveyed, it was thought that the canyon was only 100 deep, but in reality it was nearly 250 feet, almost bankrupting the A&P building this bridge. Remains of some foundations can still be seen next to the current bridge.
Other history: A group of Apaches raided the local Navajos on a regular basis until 1878, when their hiding place was discovered. The Navajos built a fire at the entrance of the cave
and shot anyone coming out, and hence became known as the “death cave”.
In 1907 the National Old Trails Highway was built and became a waypoint for travelers. By the twenties there was a zoo and a bridge across the canyon. Today a KOA campground sign and lots of stone buildings remains.
Meteor Crater exit 233 About 50,000 years ago, a meteor struck. Traveling at over 65 miles per SECOND, it entered the atmosphere, slowing down and burning up. Impact was estimated at 12 miles per second, creating a hole about 3/4 of a mile in diameter, and about 550 feet deep. Size of the rock? Estimated at 150 feet across with an explosion of about 10 Megatons. It was a very bad day for the wooly mammoths living in the area at the time.
The crater was utilized by NASA to train the Apollo astronauts of what to expect on the moon, for a debris field. One of the astronauts actually tore his suit in the crater, and a redesign was done, good thing it happened here instead of the moon.
Winslow exit 252-257 Business loop takes you down across on Route 66. The route is divided up into two one-way streets. East bound you will have to stop (2nd and Kinsley) and “Stand on the Corner” made famous by the Eagles (Take it Easy). Many gift shops and the Old Trails Museum in the area. The restored La Posada Hotel was a former Harvey House built in 1928.
Outside of town, they have built a monument dedicated to 9/11 with some steel from the twin towers.
Jack Rabbit exit 269 Excellent little store, with a giant rabbit in front (see last months edition of the newsletter). Good place to get some great stuff.
Holbrook exit 285-286: Business loop road. Many old places to explore. The Wigwam Motel is located here with displays of old cars. The
Holbrook Visitor and Museum, located in the former courthouse.
Painted Desert/Petrified Forest exit 311 This is a National Monument and requires a National Parks & Federal Land Pass. There are two ways into the Monument – take 180 out of Holbrook or exit 311 from I-40. Landscape is AWESOME in colors. (There are actually two Visitor Centers, one at each end of the Monument.)
Over 65 Million years ago, trees fell into the riverbed and absorbed minerals, and now we find them after the hills have eroded & deposited them in the valley floors. The trees are harder than stone to cut and polish and very heavy.
Route 66 cuts through the Painted Desert area, the road was “destroyed” to prevent someone trying to travel on it. The only place to actually see the road is when you come across the old Studebaker frame that was abandoned.
Inside, about 2 miles north of I-40, is the restored 1924 Painted Desert Inn.
Houck exit 348 Can’t miss this, Fort Courage “Home of F-Troop”. It was basically a roadside attraction and trading post, and closed down about ten years ago. It is still “For Sale”.
Lupton exit 359 This is the last exit before entering New Mexico. Looking above the walls by the trading posts, you can see “animals” and a village on the hillside. On the south side of I-40, are the remains of several buildings along a five mile section of Route 66.
I found that every time I stopped into a store, I came across a lot of history of Route 66 and a lot of local information. ~ Axel