Lincolns on Route 66
Williams, Arizona to the Colorado River, where the Mother Road is still very much alive.
by Tim Howley
Originally published in the July-August 2001 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 241).
This is our second installment of Lincoln journeys on the mother of all roads. Last year, just after the Western National Meet in Scottsdale, Arizona new member Jerry James, Mesa, Arizona purchased a 1966 Lincoln Continental coupe from ?Richard Cronkhite. He has since put about 10,000 miles on the car and reports “I have enjoyed every inch.” Jerry and friend Gini Tomas have traveled through New Mexico, Mexico, Utah and a lot of Arizona. Now Jerry shares his photos taken on old sections of Route 66 in Arizona. Our Route 66 journey with Jerry and Gini starts at Williams, Arizona, 45 miles west of Flagstaff. This was once the Gateway to the Grand Canyon” which is only 60 miles to the north. A l l / 2 mile stretch of the Mother Road runs right through the center of town which still abounds in Route 66 era motels, cafes and even a few old time gas stations. Williams was the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by the Interstate (October 13, 1984) which explains why so many of the old roadsides still survive here. At the time the bureaucrats did everything to erase Route 66 from here to the California border but the old road refused to die. Now, 17 years later, Williams remains one of the best preserved sections of Route 66 anywhere from Chicago to Santa Monica. While mostly paved over by Interstate 40 for the first 25 miles west of Williams, Route 66 still reaches, nearly untouched by time, from 14 miles east of Seligman through Peach Springs, Truxton, Crozier Canyon, Valentine, Hackberry, Walapai, Kingman, Oatman, and Topack. This is a distance of 170 miles. Through the efforts of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, Historic Route 66 markers now leave no doubt in the motorist’s mind that this is a major part of the real Route 66.
Seligman is one of the most famous and best preserved of all Route 66 towns. While I have not passed through here in several years, I am told that many deserted gas stations can be found, and very much alive motels and cafes still thrive here. This is the hometown of Angel Delgadillo, town barber who did so much a few years ago to keep Route 66 alive in this vicinity. He has operated a barbershop here since 1950 and before that his dad operated a barbershop at the same location. He has converted the town pool hall into a Route 66 museum and gift shop. His brother Juan operates the Snowcap Drive-In, another Route 66 treat. When Seligman was bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1978 business dried up in all the old towns. It was the Delgadillos who organized efforts to promote the town and the entire area as old Route 66 tourist attractions. The old Harvey House which once was the largest and busiest restaurant in Seligman still stands, although I assume it is now deserted. Seligman is the gateway to once upon a time Route 66 which ambles on west towards California. The road here should be traveled as slowly as the Joad’s jalopy in The Grapes of Wrath because there is much to see. You way want to pull off the road at the Grand Canyon Caverns, an attraction second only to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Around Peach Springs the road passes through the Haulapai Indian Reservation. Moving westward you will soon come upon Truxton which was established in 1951 to take advantage of a proposed railhead leading to the Grand Canyon. Like a lot of stops on Route 66 things planned never came to be but the town hangs on. 50 years ago Route 66 traffic was so busy through Truxton that traffic jams were commonplace and roadside business sprang up like tumbleweeds. The Frontier Cafe here is still humming with some of the best Route 66 meals in the area.
Keep on moving to Crozier Canyon and then Valentine where the last stretch of Route 66 in Arizona was paved in 1937. The next stop is Hackenberry, once a booming silver mining town, and now just a little better than a ghost town, but rich with Route 66 nostalgia. From here the road runs through Kingman which was lucky enough to remain near the Interstate so it has not exactly been frozen in time, but there are some old roadsides hereabouts. One is the Beale Hotel which was once host to movie stars and other illuminaries. Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh checked in here in July, 1928 when they stopped in Kingman to inaugurate a new 48-hour air mail service between Los Angeles and New York. Kingman is also the headquarters of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona located in an old Packard dealership on Andy Devine Boulevard, yes he once lived here. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married here in 1939. Don’t miss the Route 66 Distillery and its famous variety of Route 66 burgers and old highway artifacts.
Kingman to Topack on the Colorado River was once the roughest stretch on all of Route 66. In 1953 the old road was replaced by a new alignment that went south of the Black Mountains and was essentially the path of 1-40 today. For those adventurous enough the old road remains. It climbs precariously to Oatman, then descends in wiggles and winds to Topack. The entire area within miles of Oatman, an old mining town, is all ups and downs through the hills, easterners would call them mountains. You may want to bypass Oatman and take Interstate 40 directly from Kingman to Topack. But for the true Route 66 lover, Oatman is filled with old Route 66 treasures. (Gable and Lombard honeymooned here.) Topack is the last Arizona town before California where 60 odd years ago the Joads came to their first sight of the Land of Milk and Honey. That’s another Route 66 story for another day.
Jerry did not write this Route 66 saga. This story comes from my own Route 66 files. John and Joanne Lower are sending me much Route 66 material. Jerry has sent us a report that will soon appear in our Lincoln Driver’s column.