Our client Sue Wright has written a Route 66 blog detailing her day to day movements on her Route 66 holiday booked through Complete North America. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here
The final leg of our journey…no not journey, experience.
Day 15: Gallup NM – Flagstaff AZ.
We’re going to have a quick look around Gallup on R66 looking for The Giant Cowboy, murals and cinema before going through the Four Corners Region. Did you know that in WW11, in Gallup the Navajos helped the US army by using their language to send messages that the Japanese could not decipher as it has no alphabet and is not written. This was only made public knowledge in 1992.
The Four Corners is where the Navajo, Kuni, Hopi and Apache Nations meet and has dramatic scenery. Flat desert with red-rock Mesas shooting up. Mesas are the flat topped mountains you see in western movies with steep sides that seem like they have just been dropped there. This area has some of the oldest and longest still drivable stretches of The Mother Road and goes past lots of old highway towns now mostly semi ghost.
The drive today was going to be less than 200 miles but with all the sights along it, it was to take us 10hrs. Only a few miles out of Gallup and we make our 1st stop at a Native American out post with trading post, info centre and gift shop. Really interesting and I bought a bead necklace. On to the Petrified Forest that was formed when a volcano erupted many Moons ago. The petrified wood is beautiful and looks and feels similar to marble but the patterning is eye popping. They make all sorts of furniture and sculptures with it as well as sovereign items. Past the Painted Desert bursting with amazing colour and looking like someone has air brushed it. Time for a late lunch and we stop in the town of Holbrock, famous for its Wigwam Motel and Joe and Aggies Café, so J&A’s it is for lunch, an authentic R66 diner. We decide to have a wonder round to work off some lunch, didn’t work though, and called at the Old Navajo County Courthouse which is now a museum, past the Rainbow Rock shop to see all the dinosaurs. Not rock as in Blackpool rock but rock as in Freddy Flintstone rock. This is were R66 alternates its name from Hopi Drive to Navajo Boulevard. Then look at the Wigwam Motel with all its old classic cars and trucks parked outside the rooms. All the rooms are concrete wigwams and although they look tiny outside they are amazingly spacious inside with en suite and air con but very basic and is about $55 per night to stay. We travelled on passing by the sights of Two Guns, Twin Arrows and Jack Rabbit, not forgetting Winona…..you’re singing again…here the old road starts to break up and you hop on and off through beautiful plains and mountains till you reach Flagstaff an old railroad and lumber mill town that was less affected by the demise of R66.
Tired we arrive at the Pony Soldier Inn collecting more car parts that had been delivered there. Tonight we are out to the Museum Club, built in 1931 as taxidermy and museum then in 1937 it became a Country & Western bar with live music, hence the name. Jackson Taylor and The Sinners are playing and one NOT to miss. Look him up on YouTube. We get ourselves a good spot and order beer. The music and atmosphere are brilliant, and Jackson Taylors awesome. Just one more beer then we’ll go…well about ten later and having bought the CD we finally stagger back to the Pony Soldier which I had purposely chosen as it was only staggering distance away. Oh the beds spinning but it was worth it. Night night.
Day 16: Flagstaff and Williams.
Finally drag ourselves out of bed and sit under the shower for a while slowly emerging as humans again, that was some night at the Museum Club…highly recommended if you’re ever in Flagstaff. We wonder downtown to see the sites of Flagstaff a bustling ski resort in the winter and full of quaint coffee houses and restaurants. The Lowell Observatory is here and this is where they discovered the planet Pluto. Drive to Williams a great little town and the last place to be bypassed, on October 13th 1984, by the I-40. To mark the occasion they held a celebration-cum-wake for the Old Road, highlighted by a performance on top of the new Freeway overpass by Bobby Troup, Mr Route 66, of Get Your Kicks fame….singing again??
Lunch time and we head to the Pine Country Restaurant famous for its huge pies. Scrambled eggs and bacon with pancakes is called for and then of cause a slice of pie!!! Steve chooses Strawberry cream and I get Coconut….Oh lord…I’ve died and gone to heaven.
We walk down to the railroad were the Grand Canyon Express leaves from and take a look round then wander round the town that consists of 2 parallel roads with side roads adjoining them full of shops and diners, one has a car on the roof, and even the old Red Garter brothel with mannequins in the upstairs windows, now a bar. Tired we drive back with beautiful views of what you think are mountains but in fact are dormant volcanos, approximately 600 of them in the area. We’re off to bed early in preparation for an early rise tomorrow.
Day 17: Grand Canyon.
Drive down to Williams rail road station to get the Grand Canyon Express to see “the big hole” as Steve calls it. While we wait for the train we look round the gift shop and there is the Sherriff wandering around looking for some no good cowboys. There are the cowboys and he shouts to them to get round the back. This is the start of the Wild West shoot out they do before the journey. We wander to the back and there’s an area set up with saloon and shop fronts. The cowboys are chatting to people and having a laugh, photo opportunity, me loving cowboys get my photo with a few, even bagged a young gun. They put on a comedy shoot out and everybody is in a great mood for the journey. All aboard, all aboard and we’re off on the picturesque two & half hour journey up there. We are entertained by a cowboy minstrel and a Native American singer. Really good. We arrive at the Canyon.
WOW…so big!! Surprise. The views are awesome and the death defying drops amazing. I take my eyes off Steve for one second and he’s stood right at the edge looking down…get over here you mad man. We walk along the rim and get the little bus that takes you a little further along. After filling ourselves with views we head back towards the train for a bite to eat. There’s a hotel, some restaurants and a shop. By the Navajo shop where I buy a Navajo doll, there’s a raised dust stage and Navajos are doing a display of their dances and music. It’s amazing and I manage to get a photo of me and the chief. We’ve spent 3 hours there and it’s time to board the train for the journey back to Williams. All board, all aboard and we’re off again. More entertainment then, what’s this? Looking out the window I see masked cowboys riding beside us. They board the train and hold us up. Give us ya money they say pointing guns. We hand some money over and they run. Then along comes the Sherriff asking questions. Never did catch those dawg gawn baddies. The rest of the journey is event free and we arrive safely back in Williams. We head back to Flagstaff for food and a relaxing night before our next leg of the journey.
Day 18: Flagstaff AZ- Laughlin NV.
On our journey again today and our first stop is Seligman. This town has a real feel for R66 and if you stand in the middle of the road you see it’s as straight as an arrow in both directions for as far as the eye can see. It’s a tourist pit stop and all the tour buses stop here because there’s so many quirky places to see, Road Kill Cafe, Snow Cap Drive-In were they sell Hamburgers without Ham, Rusty Bolt Junk Shop and Black Cat Bar to name a few.
Weathers getting really warm now as we pass through the Hualapai Reservation reaching Hackberry and it’s interesting old gas station that’s now, like many, a sovereign and cool drink store. Here we buy R66 Christmas cards… in MAY… Next comes Kingman and we stop to look round The Powerhouse a hulking old power plant that is now a R66 museum. Kingman has an infamous motel called Hill Top which is were evil Timothy Mc Veigh stayed for a week before blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Starting to climb The Black mountains and we reach Cool Springs, a rough stone service station built in the 1920’s and abandoned in the 60’s made famous in Cars the movie were they name it Radiator Springs. The owner tells us that Disney wanted him to rename the place but he wouldn’t. Lost business opportunity I think.
On to Oatman up the steep section of The Black Mountains that rises 2,100 ft in a very short 8 miles going round switchbacks and hairpin bends with breathtaking views. It’s a demanding drive, but awesomely satisfying as Bert Kendall will confirm. Through the harsh desert you suddenly come across burros wandering in the road of what looks like a stage set for a western but this is the real thing. An old gold mining town that produced 2,000,000 oz of gold between 1904 and the mid 30’s and were Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are said to have spent their wedding night in 1939. We stop and walk round buying the obligatory tee shirt and a bag of food to feed the burros. Conscious of time passing we have to press on to get to the casino town of Laughlin, like a mini Vegas. Finally crossing the Colorado River we arrive. Shower, food and a flutter on the Bandits….sleep calls.
Day 19: Laughlin NV – Santa Monica CA.
On our way to the end of The Mother Road and I’m not looking forward to the LA traffic on the Highway. We start off on R66 although there are large parts missing and you have to hop on and off the interstate. Back over the Colorado River and through Needles, one of the hottest places in the USA and today it hit 112. Crossing the Mojave desert we see dozens of signs along the road telling you to stop at Peggy Sue’s so the decision was made, that’s were we were having lunch. R 66 is like a roller coaster at times along this stretch passing Roy’s cafe, Joshua Tree national park, Bagdad cafe and numerous other landmarks. We branch off to Daggett nestled in the Calico mountains to get to Peggy Sue’s. Built in 1954, it’s right near the Marine Corps logistics base, and you can’t miss it. It looks like a giant Juke Box and when you go inside its buzzing. We’ve stepped back in time yet again. The waitresses still wear the same uniforms as they did in the 50’s/60’s. On the menu is Mockingbird Hill breakfast, Frankie Avalon Philly steak sandwich, Buddy Holly bacon cheeseburger and Hot Rod hot cakes to name a few. Just a sandwich and fries we think, OMG how much do they think we can eat??? The dining area has life size statues of Elvis, Blues Brothers, Betty Boop and any others. There’s also the 5 and dime store and the Italian ice cream parlour. Steve had to have an ice cream, it was huge and I don’t know how he managed it. Not far from here, every May, they hold the World Tobacco Spitting Championships…get ya name down.
We head off to Santa Monica, our final destination and the end of R66. On through the desert and over mountains to hit the dreaded LA traffic…. and I hit it!!! Fingers clenched on the steering wheel we finally reach the hotel safely; don’t know why I doubted myself. Here we pick up the last of the car parts. Weary we relax, book a tour for tomorrow and eat next door.
Day 20: Tour of Hollywood and surrounding area.
I was glad we’d decided to book a tour as it meant I could relax and see the sites. We saw The Hollywood sign from the top of a hill that looked down over the Super Bowl. Past lots of studios on the way to Rodeo Drive and a stop to shop…..I should be so lucky….have you seen the prices. Into Hollywood and the Chinese Theatre were all the foot and hand prints are and the stars set in the pavement. Spotted lots of stars prints like, Paul Newman, Johnny Depp, Michael Jackson, Clint Eastwood and on and on they go. Back on the tour and down Sunset Blvd were all the bands and film stars used to party. River Phoenix died coming out of one of the clubs and Witney Houston died in a hotel just by here. An interesting fact about Sunset Blvd is that Elvis Presley bought it all, shops, hotels and bars even the pavement and sidewalk. His family still own it and are making a pretty penny or two. Beverley Hills and back to the hotel.
Went downtown that night and ate at Barney’s Beanery on 3rd St a great place full of atmosphere and highly recommended.
Day 21: Santa Monica.
On to the end of Route 66 that finishes on Santa Monica Pier. We leave the car and take the Blue Bus down town. We arrive at the pier and walk down. There’s the sign that reads END. We’ve done it, start to finish. The official end is marked with a brass plaque were Santa Monica Blvd butts Ocean Ave. People are fishing and there’s live entertainment and artists painting pictures of the pier and the beach. We buy one and it’s a lovely memory on our lounge wall. At the very end of the pier is a tribute to Bob Waldmire, remember him? The mural artist. We sit and watch and soak in the sun before strolling up to 3rd St to get brunch at Johnny Rockets Diner, original R66. We stroll back along the beach front to watch the surfers and life go by before getting the Blue Bus back, relax then out for the last night of this once in a life time trip. We have a great meal and chat about what we’ve seen the atmosphere and the great people we’ve met along The Route. Oh well back to pack. Steve is always amazed at what I can get into a suitcase and tonight is no exception. With all the car parts and souvenirs it is a struggle but I am not defeated and our cases are bang on weight allowance. Sleep.
Day 22: Journey Home.
Car packed and checked out there’s just time for breakfast then on to LAX. We go to the I-HOP next door. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, lashings of coffee and to finish it off toasted eggy bread with peaches, pecans, maple syrup and whipped cream!!! Well you didn’t think we wouldn’t did you?
Off we go down Santa Monica Blvd, left onto Highway 1, Lincoln Blvd, and straight into LAX. Who said I couldn’t tackle the LA traffic???
Dropping the car off I look at the trip meter and I’ve driven exactly 2,700 miles. Just the flight home.
This was a brilliant experience and one we would recommend to anybody that is interest in anything Americana. I hope I haven’t bored you too much.
It truly is the land of the brave when you think of the first travellers along this Route. Not knowing what was in front of them or what dangers there were or even if they would make it…and a lot didn’t.
Bless and thank them all
You can catch up with Part 1 here and Part 2 here
If you’ve been inspired by Sue’s wonderful blog, have a look at our selection of Route 66 holidays here. From a 14-21 night fly drive to experiencing the Mother Road by Motorhome, we’ve got you covered!