Flashback: 1991 Arizona Route 66
Labor Day in 1991 was an opportunity for my new bride and I to take a little road trip on the mother road once again, so friday night after we both got off work we headed down to Needles. I remember listening to Cassette tapes of Roxette most of the way down in our 1986 Mercury Lynx and having a helluva time.
Back then I considered “sleeping in” was waking up at 6 AM, and was able to talk my wife into heading out early and fitting in a trip to Lake Havasu which was not far away. We woke up, went to the El Garces Harvey House in Kingman, took a few pictures and headed down the Freeway to Lake Havasu.
After a short visit to Lake Havasu, we headed back north and up to Topock. The road between Golden Shores and Oatman was gravel back then, but it was just good to be on the mother road again and before long we we’re in Oatman Arizona yet again. To this day, I’ve never been on Interstate 40 to Kingman. We always go through oatman because the pull is too strong.
We spent our Saturday afternoon in Oatman and then into Kingman to crash for the night and head out again to see more Route 66. Robyn and I had done this route a year earlier on the Magna, but It never got old. Besides, we still needed to find our bridge we’d been looking for from the picture. Maybe this time was our lucky day.
On the way down from Oatman we passed by cool springs, which we’d seen before. I was surprised to see it had been rebuilt, but not very well:
I wasn’t sure why. Old windows we’re put in to look old, and the back of the building wasn’t finished. I was in construction at the time, and hadn’t seen this kind of a building method before. Last time we’d seen Cool Springs, it was just a foundation and a couple of stone pillars. Even so, it was cool to see something happening with this part of the mother road.
We rolled into kingman and got our room at the Quality Inn, which seemed like a really route 66 friendly spot in the road. In 1991, so many Arizona route 66 towns still seemed to be figuring out how to rebound from being bypassed. Kingman didn’t quite have the route 66 pride it has today, so when we saw the Quality Inn Showing Route 66 Signs outside, we figured we’d give it a try. We also knew by our route 66 newsletters that the owner was part of the state route 66 association. The quality Inn puts a plaque on the door of the famous people that had stayed there, and our room was Will Rogers Jr. Good enough for Us.
The Next morning we woke up early again and headed out to hit the mother road again. It was a beautiful September Morning as we stopped by a place we didn’t think too much of at the time, and I remember my new wife wondering why we stopped at the Hackberry General Store:
This is what it looked like in 1991:
This is what it looks like today:
It’s neat to see how someone fixed it up and it’s been a viable business for quite a few years now. Route 66 is doing good again!
I’ve probably said on this site a million times what got me into Route 66, so forgive me if I say it again. I was reading a Motorcycle magazine in the late 80’s that had an article on Route 66. It had a picture of a place the author visited on his bike that had a mature tree growing out of an old bridge that struck me. I wanted to find that Bridge. I showed my future wife who is always up for a road trip adventure, so we set out to find that bridge. We looked for it before we we married and still hadn’t found it. We only knew it was in Arizona.
I’d gotten pretty good at following old abandoned sections of roads while Driving. I started looking down washes and riverbeds this run to see if I could spot our bridge. After we got back on 1-40 on Crookton Road I spotted it out of the corner of my eye before we hit Ash Fork. I told Mrs Zip and we knew we were close. We got off at the next exit and tried to double back and after a mile of dirt roads and crossing railroad tracks in our little car, we doubled back to the crookton exit and found the cinder alignment of Route 66 that was active from 1920 to 1965. We pulled up and saw our bridge!
Once we basked in the glory of our road finding skills, we got back on the freeway and headed into Ash Fork to find the answer to another more recent mystery:
In Ash Fork, they were clearly filming a movie. We’d been this way before and aside from being the Flagstone Capital of the world, its a pretty sleepy town. When you see massive semi trucks from hollywood and movie sets, you recognize it immediately. We talked to one of the security guards watching the weekend sets to find out that they were filming for a Jean Claude Van Damme Movie Called Universal Soldier. That explained Rebuilding of cool springs! We took spome pictures and headed on up the road toward Williams.
After Williams, I could see what I know know is an old abandoned 1931 section of the National Old Trails Highway, which eventually became route 66. Because of the rain, we couldn’t get back to it, so we got off at Devil Dog and searched for it on that side of the freeway. We found it.
We drove around as much as we could see here and saw where future alignments and improvements in excavating bypassed Devil Dog in 1952 till I turned into Interstate 40 in 1984.
From there, we drove up to Parks to drive yet again another old alignment of the mother road. Parks Arizona to this day is still one of my favorite Sections of Route 66.
Parks alignments are interesting. From the turn of the century to 1984 this section of mountainous route 66 changed many times, sometimes for only several feet. The general store and post office in Parks between 1931 to 1932 changed the front door of their establishment from the south side to the north side becuase the new road moved to the other side of them. The pavement there is still in good shape but the forest is slowly taking it over. Its one of the best sections of the entire road called route 66 I think.
Once we we’re done screwing around in Parks, for some reason we decided to double back. I don’t remember if we got the motel room for 2 nights, or we wanted so see something we missed, but in any case we headed west again. We had the added bonus of going through seligman again to have our 2nd hamburger ever at the snow cap if we hurried.
I’m pretty happy that in my 20 years travelling route 66 I’ve been able to meet some of its most colorful and enterprising people. Angel Delgadillo is regarded as Route 66’s “angel” for his efforts to bring the mother road back into the world’s consciousness. If Angel is the Angel, then his brother Juan is the clown. He was truly one of a kind, and regardless of your day he had the ability to put a smile on your face with his antics. If your heart was somehow made of stone enough to resist that, his hamburgers would certainly do the trick.
Juan Passed away in 2004 after working all day at the restaurant he built from scrap wood 50 years earlier. It was a sad day. Juan made everyone smile, and was a pure nutjob that built his local business in the middle of nowhere into a place that people would travel the globe to come visit, and thats no exaggeration. I am proud my wife and I got to see the master at work several times, and am proud to say that the beat goes on with his kids. I’ve taken my daughter there, and she laughed too.
For a good article on Juan Delgadillo, click here.
From the Snow Cap it started raining again, and we drove the whole way to Kingman in the Rain and it was just a nice trip. I’ll always have the picture in my head of racing the Freight trains down to kingman in the pouring rain. We stayed the night in Kingman again. Tomorrow was labor day monday, and we’d need to head home again.
The next morning, we doubled back to Oatman. On the way there, we passed cool springs again and the Universal Soldier guys must have worked that weekend, because the cool springs movie set had been blown up. I wished I’d taken a picture of it. Everything was swept off the road and in piles.
We stopped in Oatman again, petted the burro’s and had some food at a cool old restauraunt built out of plywood that I’ve never seen since (it was built around Joshua Trees), then made time to get to Topock, Needles and then Home.
It was a great route 66 Trip that I’ll always remember.