Friday, 11 August 2017
Day Fifteen - Flagstaff to Kingman - 164 Miles
I left Flagstaff nice and early, skipping breakfast as I knew I'd find somewhere soon enough en-route. The first stretch out of town reminded me of the mountain drives from last week - pine covered hills and windy roads. Route 66 runs alongside the I-40 as a frontage road for a while.
After a few miles, the tarmac disappeared altogether, leaving a red dirt road. An ominous sign warned me that I was about to enter private land, that I was welcome to keep driving, but any problems were my own responsibility.
My Jeep Renegade is a fake SUV - it looks rugged, but it's actually a two wheel drive, four cylinder Fiat 500 in a wolf's clothing - so I wasn't going to risk it. I couldn't get phone coverage to see on Google Maps how long long this dirt stretch was.
Looking now, I was right to avoid it - it was dirt road almost the entire way, until it rejoined the more modern Route 66 outside of Williams. I was little sad I'd missed out on an adventure - but equally, it was possible I might have had too much adventure if I'd gone that way.
For this reason, Williams has more life than most old Route 66 towns. In fact it's 80% gift shop. Behind the store fronts it's all one huge Western and Route 66 gift shop. Yup, there's even salt taffy. But, the Pine County Restaurant looked perfect for breakfast, and indeed it was.
From Williams it was back on the I-40 until the next detour back to the old road, and this time Ash Fork. A much more typical Route 66 remnant this one. There's a few deserted motels, a general store that's been trading since 1930, but now 'for sale by owner', like many other struggling businesses.
They were the first to realise there might be a nostalgic demand for old Route 66. They got the state of Arizona to preserve the road between Seligman and Kingman, leading to Seligman being named "Birthplace of Historic Route 66". That, and many quirky characterful stores, meant that Seligman has long been a 'must-stop' for people interested in Route 66. Apparently, Seligman is the inspiration for Radiator Spings in the Pixar movie 'Cars'.
The Route 66 Association was formed here, and there's a good museum too. It was also ridiculously, blisteringly hot when I arrived.
After all those warm summer evenings up in the mountains, I forgot how searingly hot the deserts of Arizona (and later California) can be.
I will hide in my motel until it's dark, then venture out to Mr D'z Route 66 Diner for dinner!