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Historic US Route 66: 
on the road again, 
somewhere in Arizona

by Diannek

Hi dear
Here's Dale telling me to hurry up and take the photo before any other cars show up. He was afraid they'd brush us off this very narrow stretch of Route 66.

Last March (2003) we were spending a few days in Laughlin and decided it might be fun to take a day trip into Arizona to see the sights. This corner of Arizona  across from Nevada is referred to as "the coast" because the Colorado River divides it from Nevada, creating the illusion of coastland -- probably because of all the nearby sand and fast water. No surfers or Mai Tais though. Actually, the river separates Arizona from California too, so that makes it a very long coastline. But I'm digressing...

Kingman, Arizona, isn't much of a drive from Laughlin and one of the first things you see when entering the city is the museum. It's an odd little piece of architecture dating most likely from the early 1960s -- you can't miss it. Stop by if you've got a few minutes, especially if you're old enough to remember Andy Devine. The museum boasts an endearing tribute to him, celebrating his life in early western films. And notice that caboose beside the building in the photo below? You can hop inside and poke around. Great for kids!

from the Phantom's postcard collection
This is the Mojave Museum of Arts and History
in Kingman, Arizona
Here's Andy. Baby Boomers probably remember him from those Saturday afternoons we spent at the movies way back when we were kids. He's the Kingman kid who made good, and they remember him fondly. from the Phantom's postcard collection

The caboose -- it has many claims to fame: it first made a name for itself in the movies, especially the old westerns. And then there are those old newsreels of past presidential contenders waving from the caboose as they make their whistle-stop campaigns. Finally, the caboose is the car we're all hoping to see as we wait for the train to hurry past us at the railroad crossing.
The Phantom loves trains

When you tire of Kingman (it won't take long), there's a piece of Route 66 nearby that's been restored to its former glory for road trippers who are just aching for a blast from the past. You can pick it up outside of town on I-40. Look for the signs to Oatman. The day we found it was hot, even though it was March. It was hard to tell if the cacti were blooming still or yet, the desert always seems to look the same to me -- dry, rocky and hot. We'd been through one sandstorm heading through the Mojave a few days earlier. It had rocked the car and threatened to peal away the paint, but it had been an idle threat. On this particular day, the sky was blue with just a few wispy clouds overhead, and a steady spring blast of sunshine beating down on us. 

One thing about driving Route 66, it makes you appreciate freeways. According to my guidebook, from 1926 to 1984 (1984! Gulp!), it was one of America's primary east-west highways. The road is a narrow two-laner, and lord help you if your car breaks down. It seems like miles from anywhere once you're on it, and the pace is very slow with lots of bends, cliffs and washouts. Off the road you'll spot remnants of old gold mining operations that litter the landscape like old dinosaur bones. 

Here's an Oatman resident, a feral burro, looking for a handout

If you're heading back to Laughlin on Route 66, you'll eventually come onto the thriving reincarnated ghost town called Oatman. The highway goes right through the main street (well, there are no other streets, but you get the idea). When we got there, it is was bursting with tourists, no kidding. They were everywhere, poking into stores, eating everything in sight, and crowding  around the burros like papparazzi at a film festival. Here's my photo of one that doesn't appear too camera shy. Actually, none of them are. They like to lick the camera lenses, so be warned. My trusty guidebook says the burros are ancestors of ones that the gold prospectors used during the gold rush days. The gold is gone (except in Nevada's casinos), but the burros are still hanging around.

Oatman, Arizona, at high noon

Who knew that we'd see a tribute to Andy Devine,  Route 66, a ghost town and wild burros all in one day on the Arizona backroads. Will wonders never cease. That's the way it is on the road with the Phantom on her friends.

Stay tuned, the Phantom and friends will be touring Arizona again soon. This time we'll check out the canyons, including the Grand! Happy trails to you...

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