A taste of Route 66 (or part thereof)
During a recent visit to Canada, the Trigg’s took the opportunity to have a change of scenery, and headed south to Las Vegas for a few days. Talk about an oasis in the desert! Based entirely on the gambling dollar, the Vegas Strip is something to experience. Where else in the World can you walk from Egypt, to London, to New York, to Rome, to Venice and back to Paris – within two miles? (Sorry about the measurement, but that’s their language!)
Part of you is in awe, almost disbelief, of such opulent and glitzy development in the middle of a desert, and the other part of you says, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” So we did.
Not far away is the Hoover Dam. Constructed in the 1930’s it truly is an engineering marvel. Only a couple of hours further East is the Grand Canyon. Truly “Grand”, but took a few million years to construct. But the real magnet for one of us was further to the South East ……. Route 66!
It was already 37 degrees at 7:30 in the morning when we picked up our hire car. A late model black convertible Mustang. In the middle of the desert, in the middle of summer, you’ve got to be kidding! Well, we thought, we’re not coming back for a while so let’s do it. Vroom, vroom (sorry Mazda owners), open desert, dual lane highways, 80 MPH speed limit, great stuff.
After crossing the Hoover Dam and the Colorado River, from Nevada into Arizona, we were heading for Kingman. One of the few towns and cities that are mentioned in the “Route 66″ classic hit lyrics. Kingman claims to be the “Heart of Historic Route 66” according to its tourist brochure. Rightly so, as to the East, and to the West, it is in this area of Arizona that the last of the original alignment of Route 66 remains. It also has the famous Santa Fe railway passing through, so Kingman’s historic role in the opening up of the West, both via road and rail is significant.
The Historic Route 66 Museum in Kingman focuses, as the name implies, on the “historic” aspect of the early pioneers. The classic automotive theme is elsewhere en-route, but we were soon to experience it across the road in Mr D’s Diner. What a ripper! Drawn to it by a classic step-side truck, the inside was just as impressive. Black and white tiled lino, laminex tables, lipstick pink and green chairs, juke box playing 60’s stuff, root beer and the BEST hamburgers you could hope for. This is Route 66, and we were getting our kicks!
Next door was a Classic Car-yard and Showroom. Beautiful stuff. All for sale in the US$25 – 30,000 range. Fuel pumps, memorabilia, etc, etc. Of course now we had actually been there,and photographed the tarmac from the middle of the road (without being run over), we felt eligible to purchase the traditional “Route 66” highway shield to display in the shed at home.
The original alignment, surveyed in 1926, has since been built over in many parts, and re-routed to handle the increased volume of modern day interstate traffic, which in the States, is huge, and FAST. From there we headed West toward California, dodging back and forth under the new Interstate 40 motorway on the outskirts of Kingman to follow the original route. Our next target was Oatman, 28 miles away across the Mohave Desert and through the Black Mountains. Whilst negotiating the rocky switchbacks it became apparent why the new highway alignment detoured South around the Black Mountains to accommodate the increasing interstate traffic.
Oatman is described as a “living ghost town”. Only just alive we would say. It survives on two gold mines, the original re-opened gold mine first discovered the gold rush days, and the Route 66 tourism gold mine that we became shareholders in. The burros left over from the mining days roam freely in the street, disturbed only by the tourists, classic cars and Harley’s. It sure is wild west, and hard to believe that it is actually the United States of America, today, in 2016. News at the time reported that it was only in Arizona that Donald Trump was leading Hillary Clinton in popularity. That figures.
It was beginning to feel hot, and it wasn’t because of being in a black car, with a black soft top. It was because we were still in the middle of a desert and the temperature had reached 47 degrees! Needless to say, the top didn’t come down. Waste of time getting a convertible wasn’t it?
It was time for a beer in the bar of the Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their wedding night after being married in nearby Kingman. The walls, doors, ceiling, stair rails and every available other area were plastered with dollar bills, signed by tourists probably vowing to return. Interesting place, but more importantly the beer was cold.
The exit from Oatman heading West out of the Black Mountains, towards Needles was classic cruising country. Downhill curvy road, through ruggedly beautiful desert scenery, and not much traffic.
Crossing the Colorado River again, we headed into California and the township of Needles. Here the Route 66 highway shield sign is prominent in what was the main street through town. It is now bypassed, like many other towns by the I40 motorway. With the afternoon getting on it was more comfortable in the air conditioning than rubbernecking, and besides, the Co-driver advised that enough photos had been taken!
Turning North off the I40, there was 111 miles of straight desert road ahead of us towards Las Vegas. It was obvious the Californian roads are not funded by Casinos, because as we crossed the state line back into Nevada the normal width highway immediately opened up to a four lane dual carriage motorway more like an airport runway than a road! Smooth as, straight as. Co-driver Navigator asleep, cruise control on, 80 MPH all the way, just to avoid being buffeted by overtaking trucks!
In all,we covered 330 miles on the Las Vegas-Kingman-Needles triangle, crossing in and out of three States. We filled up having used only US$23 worth of fuel. At US$2;25 a gallon, this equates to approximately 59 cents Australian per litre. Who’s getting ripped off?
Unfortunately it was just a taste of Route 66. With a total of 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, there are still leftovers to savour another day. Maybe.
Contributed by Liz & Hilton Trigg