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Arizona's Route 66 Passport

By:
Joshua   Noble
Posted On:
Oct 8, 2012  at  at 12:44 PM
Category:
History and Culture
Things to Do

 

Kingman is at the Heart of Route 66 and the longest continuous ribbon (158 miles, 254km) of Historic Route 66 in the U.S. Stretching from the Colorado River to just west of Ashfork, this All American Road makes for a fantastic road trip, especially at this time of year.

The 52 miles (84km) between Kingman and the Colorado River near Topock is the original Mother Road. Predating the declaration of Route 66 in 1926, it was cut to pour in a stream of prospectors looking to stake a claim in the Oamtan Gold Rush of 1902. It is representative of the Mother Road mentioned in John Steinbeck's "Grape's of Wrath" and best symbolizes the Route 66 during the American Great Depression of the 1930's.

Between Cool Springs and Oatman, motorists will encounter switchbacks and some of the most interesting and scenic landscapes anywhere on Route 66. Traveling this country back road is not recommended for RV’s. These hairpin turns and skinny lanes are some of the best relics from America’s story of traveling west, giving a true glimpse of what roadies endured going through the untamed American West. Many remnants of iron wagons can be seen down the hillsides and in the gullies.

Just over Sitrgeave’s Pass, a small graveyard has evolved organically with memorials to those who passed on the Route or whose life dream it was to go there. Route 66 rolls through Gold Road, which has many foundations and short rock wall remains of the small structures that once made up a town. Nowadays the townsite has been overtaken by a mining operation and one cannot stop and stroll through the remains, but it is possible to stop just outside of town and take a short trek on former alignements of Route 66 and see the country as prospectors and Oakies would have seen it 80-100 years ago.

The living ghost town of Oatman, a former mining town that hasn’t changed much since it was birthed with a gold rush in 1902. Of course, the burros no longer work the mines, but walk the streets working for carrots from passersby. Stop in midday any day of the week that the sun shines and you’re likely to see a shoot out (reenactment of course). The little curio shops are a fun browse, and there’s even an opportunity to do a little gold panning.

Just past Oatman, one will find Boundary Cone, a unique mountain formation jutting up into the sky, and rolling road heading down toward the Colorado River.

By 1952, America’s love affair with big cars won over, and Route 66 was rerouted to the current alignment of I-40.

Plan for 1.5 hrs of drive time between Kingman and Topock, plus additional time to stop, take pictures and see the sights. Speed limits range from 25-45 mph (40-72 km/h).

The 87 miles (140km) from Kingman to Seligman is iconic 1950's-60's Route 66. This stretch is similar to what most American's remember on 1950's and 1960's family road trips out west to the Grand Canyon or California.

Before leaving town. Be sure to stop by the Kingman Airfield for a unique display at the Army Airfield Museum and a tour of Desert Diamond Distillery.  D3 has a tasking room and offers tours of the facility, where you can smell the aroma of fermenting molasses and see the oak barrels of their award winning rum before imbibing.

There are several small attractions that visitors enjoy on this stretch. Some favorites include the Hackberry General Store, Keepers of the Wild Animal Sanctuary and one of the original Route 66 roadside attractions - the Grand Canyon Caverns.

The speed limit is 65 miles/hour (105km/h) on the open road. In town, it slows down to 25 or 35 mph (40-56 km/h).  I would plan for 1.5-2 hrs of drive time, plus time to see the sights. This road is RV friendly.

You would get the best experience driving both sections of the Mother Road. Either way, you'll want to stop by and see the Route 66 Museum in the Kingman Powerhouse Visitor Center (120 W. Andy Devine Ave, Kingman, AZ). This museum wonderfully represents the creation and evolution of Route 66. While there ask for an Arizona Route 66 Passport, or drop in any of the visitor centers in Arizona and pick one up!