Friday, July 10, 2009

Rt. 66- HELL

The day started off well. We went to Seligman Arizona and took in the harmless craziness on almost every corner. Rt. 66 fever is the reason. In Seligman, a barber named Angel Delgadillo
worked to save the Mother Road that went through his town. He lobbied his state and formed the Historic Route 66 Association. His brother has an ice cream parlor, The Snow Cap, across the street on Rt. 66. He has built a lovely garden in back of the parlor to cool off while you eat your ice cream.
The town is full of fake cars like the cab below with a dummy driver. Other cars have big eyes in their windshields that seem to follow you as you move. The Road Kill Cafe says farewell to all heading west.
From Seligman, we drive to Kingman. We are passing through more towns than we wish due to the lack of time. Kingman's portion of Rt. 66 is undergoing alot of work trying to return it to it's heyday. The Brunswick Inn is being reconditioned and is looking great, another place I'll have to stop back at. We also stopped at Mr. D's for lunch and shakes- yum! We passed the Sante Fe trains on display in the park and made our left to California. The temperature was 100 degrees as we started the 28 miles to Oatman Arizona. We drove under the interstate and out into the dry washes that all warn of flash floods. The locals have boats in their front yards. We kept driving to Cool Springs(below). I guess its the local joke to call this place cool. Just as funny is the three sided outhouse with the back looking at the road you just drove in on.
The temperature is now up to 102 and we begin a part of the road so dangerous, I still can't believe I drove it. Rt. 66 is barely more than two lanes as it hugged the mountain side we climbed up. There were 30 switchbacks and hairpin turns all with me on the outside lane. We climbed and climbed without the protection of safety barriers. There were a few wire barriers, but it was apparent they were already hit and not anchored anymore. I could hear the edges of the roadway crunching under my tires, at least I was sure that was what it was. As we finished the climb, a car had just finished the drive ahead of us. Both driver and passenger got out to thank God they had made it. We were at Sitgreaves Pass, elev. 3550. I stopped and took the picture below, but it really doesn't show the road well. You get an idea of the terrain though.
I drove down from the pass and the road was more of the same. We passed an old closed gold mine and the wreck of an orange car smashed on the rocks below us. We finally got to the ghost town of Oatman Arizona. Oatman was not the ghost town it is written about to be. I saw more deserted towns along 66 than this. The town was packed with tourists and shopkeepers and donkeys! The donkeys were left behind by the gold miners and they have flourished, taking over the town and delighting the visitors.

The donkeys will eat carrots from your hand and seem very tame. The donkeys go anywhere they want, into shops, stop traffic, and poke their heads into open car windows looking for food. Carrots only please.
We left Oatman for Needles California and noticed the terrain on all sides was nothing but rock and sand. The rock was broken up lava sheets from millions of years ago. We drove on. We passed the remains of abandoned houses and stations. 66 straightened out for long stretches and we passed towns that had signs up saying they had populations of 30 or 90, but we saw no one. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, but the temperature was up to 104. We passed by the remains of hotels. An alley of palm trees with the asphalt between obscured by blowing sand. The alley led back to nothing, just the foundation of a building. Then we came to Roy's of Amboy.
I read an article about Roy's some time back. He had a million dollar town. Station, Cafe, motel, and he ran it 24/7. The town is all but dead now, a real ghost town. The station is all that remains. The doors and windows are broken or boarded up. Most everything is barbed wired in. The temperature has gone up to 109. The attendant tells me it's cool for summer. I drive on towards Barstow and Santa Monica. I have driven over a wicked mountain range today and I see another one on the horizon. The temperature has done nothing but go up and I am assured that it's still pretty cool for here abouts. I can't help but think of the refugees from the dust bowl in the Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck wrote about them leaving their hell behind them, only to discover a new hell in California. The desolation they encountered must have seemed a far cry from what they thought they would find. I left Roy's with the Amboy Crater on left heading for my last stop.

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