Day Nine on Route 66 — A Wigwam stay and a visit to a famous hotel

(July 2, 2016) The Route 66 crew on Friday covered about 225 miles from Albuquerque, N.M. to Holbrook, Ariz., traveling the Mother Road as much as possible, but missing great swaths of old pavement that were lost when Interstate 40 was paved over top of the old road in 1972 and 1973. But we had enough rolling two-lane left to get the real flavor of what it was like to travel through New Mexico from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Old Route 66 (well maintained) can be seen in the foreground, Interstate 40 in the background in western N.M.

In the picture above it is possible to see Interstate 40 in the background and a rolling section of Route 66 — this one in good shape — in the foreground. In several places near the New Mexico-Arizona border, old 66 was still visible, but not in any kind of condition to drive on unless you were in an all-terrain vehicle.

The crew made up of MotorwayAmerica editors Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman and their wives, Luci and Trudye,  completed the ninth day of their trip on the Mother Road staying at the famous Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, the rooms all designed as Indian tipis (teepees).

Our motel is only one of two survivors of a chain built during the 1930s and 1940s. The chain originally had seven locations: two in Kentucky and one each in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, and California. Only two now exist — in Holbrook and in San Bernardino, Calif., both along the route of the old highway.

The diameter at the base of each tipi is 14 feet, and they are 32 feet tall, although the actual ceiling in each room is only about 12 feet tall. Behind the main room of each unit is a small bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower. Unfortunately there is little room to place items. In 2008, the rooms were furnished with the original restored hickory furniture and a window-mounted air conditioner. There are no telephones to maintain the original atmosphere of the motel, but the rooms do have cable TV and internet access (although very spotty). The neatest thing — there are about 10 vintage cars parked in front of the rooms. A very cool touch.

Don't miss Day Eight — Checking in at vintage motels, travel parks

If you are driving Route 66 and want the real flavor of the 1950s, we encourage you to stay is as many vintage motels as possible — and there are numerous places. It marked our fourth stay in a period motel.

Along the way we stopped at the famous El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, N.M., an historic hotel built in 1937 by the brother of film director D.W. Griffith. During its heyday many Hollywood movie stars who were making films in the area — mainly westerns — stayed at the hotel including Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Katherine Hepburn, Jackie Cooper and John Wayne. Pictures of famous guests line the walls.

We also made a stop at Geronimo Trading Post near Holbrook on I40 to see what is billed as the site of the largest petrified tree. The tree is in several sections located next to the parking lot. Total weight — 80 tons. The store is loaded with Navajo Indian crafts. And there's a lot of polished petrified wood that can be hauled off if the cash is right.

We start the day today with a visit to the Petrified Forest and and the Painted Desert and then head to Winslow, Ariz., to begin an extended three-day stay in Arizona to take it such sites as the Grand Canyon. Something we fell many travelers in the mid-20th Century did as well on their trek to the Pacific.

Source for some material: Wikipedia