Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kicks: Day Fifteen (Dead ends and an ice cream cone)

IMG_4268smA little west of Flagstaff is Bellemont, and although the town doesn’t have much to offer to the Route 66 traveler (I don’t mean that in a mean way...there just isn’t much Road or road artifacts left to explore), it did have a short spur of old 66 that was pretty cool in a couple of ways.

The spur heading west from the exit for Bellemont was said to have the Pine Breeze Inn, which was one of the locations for the movie “Easy Rider.” We cruised down the dead end road, which got a little bumpy after a while, and despite the one abandoned gas station, we didn’t see anything that was looking like Pine Breeze Inn. We came to the dead end, and I even got out and walked a little ways past the barrier to see if I could see anything further down the road. I wondered if it hadn’t been torn down, but Ken said, “Unless it was that old gas station we passed.” Sure enough, when we came back to it, I spotted the faded letters on the side of the building saying that this was Pine Breeze Inn. I was even able to get a couple of decent pictures of the interior, and the little cabins behind the station. The property is for sale, with the sign proclaiming that the realtor is Sotheby’s International Realty. I don’t know if that is part of the actual Sotheby’s, but it sure sounded important. I’m definitely going to have to watch the movie again (it’s been years since I saw it) so that I can spot the Pine Breeze!

On the spur that headed east, there were no ruins...other than the Road. It got pretty rough in spots, and Ken took it easy. It was sad to me to see the pavement starting to completely break away. It was a deep red pavement that I’ve seen in a couple of other spots, and I think that was paved over the original concrete. There were large holes in several spots, and it’s amazing to me how a road can deteriorate so quickly if it’s not maintained. Of course, Ken pointed out that this old spur was closing in on 100 years old, and that’s true. I tend to think of it as “a few decades,” but we’re already at about eight of those, which is definitely more than a few! That was a neat drive.

Another neat drive was the pre-1941 route out of Bellemont (on the other side of I-40) to Parks. This took us through part of Kaibab National Forest, and it was a truly beautiful drive through stands of large pines and green grass. We passed over Fortynine Hill (the highest point of Route 66) and encountered a short hiking trail that was a 1931 alignment of Route 66. It is a dirt trail now (we found horseshoe prints, so at least someone uses it as a horse trail), except for a small concrete bridge that survives. Although we could hear the traffic on I-40 in the distance, this was a lovely place with lots of pines and shade, and the pine smell was wonderful.

We soon encountered another dirt portion of old 66, called Deer Park Road. This dirt road was in good shape and easily drivable, and as we came up over a rise, with the mountains in the distance, we saw a small herd of cattle coming our way down the road. A few cowboys were moving them along, and it was such an unexpected and fun moment that we’re both still grinning about it. The cowboys got them around our car and off the road onto the sides, and I waved at the cowboys (they waved back). It’s one of those things that you rarely never see in Indiana, and it was a neat moment!

Then it was onwards to Williams, and we both really liked this little town. They have really embraced their Route 66 bona fides, and they had a really cute downtown area. There was some sort of biker rally going on, so there were lots of people and motorcycles, the restaurants and pubs were doing great business, and music was playing downtown. It was probably the happenin’-est little town we’ve encountered on Route 66, and we both loved it. Great job, Williams! After we cruised around checking it out and I got pictures of motel signs, we stopped for a light lunch at Rod’s Steakhouse. It wasn’t quite as busy as some of the other places, and it was a neat little place right on Route 66.

Ash Fork was a pretty sad little town after the vibrancy of Williams. I told Ken it was a good lesson as to town management, because it’s obvious that Williams did something right and Ash Fork took a wrong turn. Williams had a downtown filled with cars and bikers and people visiting their restaurants and staying at motels; Ash Fork was dreary and deserted. I honestly don’t understand any town on Route 66 that doesn’t invest in developing that aspect of tourism. People come from all over the world to do this trip, and if you build it, they will come!

After Ash Fork, we were able to get off of the Interstate for most of the rest of the day’s journey. There is a large stretch of 66 in Arizona that although not original concrete, is very nice road following the path of Route 66. The next stop was Seligman, which is another little town that has embraced Route 66. The Delgadillo brothers were and are great ambassadors for Route 66. Juan passed away in 2004, but his Snow Cap Drive-In lives on. It’s a fun and funky little place, and one of the stops that you can’t miss. It was doing great business, and we enjoyed our ice cream cones as we sat out in the chairs facing Route 66 to catch the breeze and the shade. We also got a kick out of this motel, especially the “pets welcome” part. I told Ken, “Yes, pets welcome...as long as you keep them on the roof of your motel room!”
Peach Springs was a quick trip through town, as was Truxton, Crozier, and Valentine. Hackberry was a different story, because that is where Hackberry General Store sits. Famed artist and Route 66 icon Bob Waldmire created the station, and it is a wonderful collection of old gas pumps, various car paraphernalia, Route 66 signs and memorabilia, and even a gorgeous ‘56 Corvette. Mr. Waldmire passed away not too long ago, but there are plenty of people who still enjoy his art and his efforts, so he has left a wonderful legacy. Along the way out of Hackberry, along the Antares Curve, we encountered this fellow, and I had to get a couple of pictures for Shane! As the guidebook said, it’s “delightfully” out of place in the desert, and wonders why such a thing would be out there. The answer...Why not? We soon arrived at our destination for the evening, Kingman. I got my requisite googie sign fix, and then we got a nice room at SpringHill Suites. Our room is modern but with a retro twist, and this is the second couch I’ve loved in one of our hotel rooms! (I know it’s lame that I take pictures of motel room furniture, but this really is a cool couch!

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Tomorrow we have a short day distance-wise, but it’s a very twisty drive up into Oatman. I’m hearing from lots of people that this is one of the best parts of doing Route 66. Details tomorrow, but for now, one word: DONKEYS!

5 comments:

  1. Please excuse the stupid spacing on this entry. For whatever reason, Blogger has been determined to kick my ass on this one. I finally gave up on perfection and settled for legible and not TOO screwed up!

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  2. "I honestly don’t understand any town on Route 66 that doesn’t invest in developing that aspect of tourism. People come from all over the world to do this trip, and if you build it, they will come!" AMEN, a thousand times AMEN to that!!!!!

    So glad the trip is going well!

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  3. I am back after a few weeks absence, and it wonderful to be greeted with such an intriguing travelog. You and Ken are on a sojourn that makes me jealous. Really enjoyable.

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  4. It just seems sad to me that this part of our country has been left to decline. Generations of people enjoyed this scenic by-way and now it's almost lost forever. :(

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  5. Though I agree with the "if you build it, they will come", the interstate choked off quite a few of the small towns that depended on the Route for survival, and I think that nostalgia did not build up over the old route over night. America consumes its past, and additionally, if you cannot cope with the evolution around you, you are going to suffer the consequences.

    What I am cheered by is how parts of Route 66 is being reclaimed by nature and the Cowboys who live with the environment and not in spite of it. That would have been cool seeing them herd the cattle around your travels!

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