Written by Allen Skyler
In Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma, the population density meant there were a relatively greater number of Route 66 attractions.
Beginning with the Texas panhandle, the population thinned out dramatically, and there were more miles between our stops.
This art deco design Conoco station in Shamrock was, according to the lady running the gift shop, the inspiration for Ramon’s auto repair building in the film Cars.
McLean’s Devil’s Rope Museum houses the world’s largest barbwire museum.
One of the exhibits is a photocopy of a letter from Clyde Barrow to Henry Ford. Clyde proudly declared that he “drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one.” I’m sure he was dead serious, but I found his letter to be hilarious, despite the fact it had nothing whatsoever to do with barbwire.
McLean is also the home of the first Phillips 66 station (circa 1920’s) in Texas.
Just outside of Amarillo is the famous Cadillac Ranch. This is a safe haven for the graffiti artist in all of us. Too bad we didn’t have a can of spray paint with us. There were quite a few folks out there, leaving their mark. My guess is that the above-ground portions of the cars now have more weight from paint than from steel.
Between Wilderado and Vega (while driving on a segment of vintage 66 pavement off the interstate) I spotted this tree that clearly indicated that the prevailing wind in the area was from the south.
Although it seemed like we should have been farther along than that, signs in Adrian declared that Liz and I had now only reached the midpoint of The Mother Road.
Glenrio, TX was a little hard to figure. To be sure, all the buildings were run-down. But there were just enough indications that some folks might still live there that we did not linger after we took a few pictures. The place mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide was this one, with a two-sided sign indicating Last Motel or First Motel in Texas.
Tucumcari is well known for the plethora of lodging establishments located there. Probably the most famous is the Blue Swallow Motel. As with every other night, we had no motel reservations made, and might have inquired here had we been ready to stop for the night.
There are still some Route 66 road warriors out there. This one waits for a ride just west of Moriarty.
Based on the description in the guides, I knew we had to stop at the Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Crest not too far off the main highway. It is operated by the congenial widow of the man who built most of the exhibit pieces.
This is representative of the models we saw there. Also note the wine-bottle-and-mortar walls construction that was used for part of the museum. That’s a lot of wine to inspire the artist! One of the signs inside said, “I did all this while you were watching TV”. I have to admit--the man makes a point…
This is a genuinely one-of-a-kind place and must-see for Route 66 travelers.
In Budville, we sought out this defunct 1930’s era trading post and filling station.
The windmill above and beyond the Route 66 sign was built by The Aeromotor Co. of Chicago.
In motor courts like this one (all located in Villa de Cubero), Ernest Hemingway worked on The Old Man and the Sea. I would think that an author would find inspiration for a novel like that at the shore, but you can’t argue with results, can you?
Speaking of inspiration, I got an absolutely natural high gazing through the windshield at the clouds and terrain in western New Mexico. Wow! Not as curious as a wacky fiberglass statue, but this also was a memorable part of my Route 66 experience.
Holbrook was home to a number of the type of trading posts you almost expect to see every 500 feet along 66.
This town also had a thing about dinosaurs. There were a couple at the east edge of town, and several others downtown, including this one in the city hall parking lot.
To my knowledge there are two operating Wigwam Motels left—Rialto, CA and Holbrook. This one included the ambiance of many classic cars, some of which you see here. We didn’t have reservations, but thought we should check. Sure enough—booked solid (served us right!).
But the kind counter lady walked us over to a vacant unit to look inside. Liz, who initially said she wasn’t sure such accommodations would meet even our modest standards, said she certainly could have lived with this.
About 10 years ago, some enterprising person or group developed Standin’ On The Corner Park in Winslow. I could not help but ham it up, just hangin’ with Don Henley. It was easy to muster up such bravery since, as Liz likes to say, “we’ll never see these people again”. Really, though, that was a moot point--there was no one around.
And, right on cue, there was that girl in the flatbed Ford.
Kingman, which is known as a gateway city for the Grand Canyon, has a vintage 1940’s-era motel row.
Not too far west of Williams is the town of Ash Fork. At about this point you can take a truly scenic drive on old 66 (with a nice road bed that won’t hold you back) that loops well away from I-40 and be treated to some classic Route 66 sights.
In Seligman there are many unique store fronts and motel signs to enjoy, but I’m going to focus on the Delgadillo brothers. Angel was a barber for years, but has retired from cutting hair to run this great little gift shop.
The barbershop area of the store remains intact, with the exceptions of the cards on the wall and decals on the window.
Angel’s brother Juan built the Sno-Cap Drive-In next door in 1953 out of scrap lumber. These picnic tables in back give drivers a shady place to relax with a snack.
Off to one side are classic vehicles with windshields modified to fit the “Cars” movie theme.
The Hackberry General Store is a wacky stop along a stretch of highway that gives the term “out of the way” a whole new meaning. The proprietor is very cordial, and he stocks a substantial inventory of Route 66 memorabilia.
After having lunch in Kingman, we continued on old 66 with Liz at the wheel (which she still regrets, I believe).
The scenery was gorgeous, but the winding roadway frequently was treacherous.
Oatman was the main landmark between Kingman, AZ and Needles, CA.
As the Lonely Planet guide notes: “Wild donkeys descended from early mine prospectors’ pack animals crowd the town’s main street of false-front buildings”. The road up to Oatman was so deserted (I think we only saw 3 or 4 cars) that I was surprised to see the two huge busloads of tourists there.
We took the National Old Trails Highway, which looped well south of Interstate 40. One of the few landmarks was Amboy, where I stopped to admire the handiwork of the California route 66 association.
Reportedly a couple of guys bought all of Amboy, which they rent out for film-making. Roy’s serves as one of the locations.
This is the very last picture we took: the Newberry Springs location used for principal photography of the film “Bagdad Café”. Apparently the site of the original café in Bagdad has absolutely nothing left. I looked to my right as we drove through that area, and saw an overgrown concrete slab. That might have been it. But believe the guides when they say there’s no more to be seen there.
From this spot we began driving with a purpose: to sleep in our own bed that night. The shadows were lengthening, and we decided to make no more stops.
Liz and I still need to visit the museums in Barstow and Victorville.
Then there’s that other Wigwam Motel (the one in Rialto).
And the very end of 66 in Santa Monica.
Someday! Probably not too far in the future, though.
Remember? Someday happened sooner than we expected.
We found May to be a great time of year weather-wise to drive The Mother Road. The temperatures were very comfortable, and the rainstorms were infrequent.
The ideal ride for a trip on Route 66 is something like a Thunderbird convertible or a Hot Rod Lincoln, right? If you own a car like that, it would be hard to argue with a decision to use it.
Gas prices ranged from $3.39 in Salt Lake City (on our way to Yellowstone) to around $4 near Chicago and back in Los Angeles County. Prices were climbing to what would become record highs not too many weeks after our trip ended, so we were glad we had the Prius at our disposal. It got just a hair under 50 MPG (49.74).
We spent $400.59 total on gas. Not too shabby!
If you decide to hit The Mother Road someday, I hope your experience is as enjoyable and memorable as ours was.
Michelle Holland 2009