Days 12 and 13 on Route 66 — An Arizona adventure on the old road

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(July 6, 2016) We have discovered that Arizona has perhaps the richest Route 66 history of any of the eight states it crosses. Going across the northern portion of the state, Holbrook, Winslow, Williams, Flagstaff and Kingman are all loaded with gift shops, period eating places and motels, old and in many cases deteriorating car displays mostly from the '50s, and the longest stretch of uninterrupted road on original Route 66 between Chicago and Santa Monica — 158 miles.

The 120-year-old Red Garter Bed and Breakfast in Williams, Ariz., our home Monday night

As our travels along the Mother Road or what was called the Main Street of America  — one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System — go into the third week we are amazed at the construction work that went into the national highway in just a few years in the late 1920s after it was established on Nov. 11, 1926.

Clearly it is the most popular North American highway in history covering 2,448 miles giving all Americans a clear, uninterrupted paved road from the biggest city in the Midwest to the biggest city in California starting in downtown Chicago and ending in Santa Monica. That was something unheard of in 1926.

We discovered in our 14 days of travels dozens of people who remember the highway when it was in its heyday and the unprecedented commerce it brought to countless cities and towns on the route. People love to talk about the days the vibrant highway — crawling with hundreds of thousands of travelers a year — came through their town.

We are also saddened by the hundreds of empty buildings that line small towns all along the route, once thriving gas stations and motels that went out of business when the Interstate Highway System was built and displaced Route 66.

The MotorwayAmerica crew of editors Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman and their wives, Luci and Trudye, set out to travel every portion of the road still travel-able. And to stay in as many motels and hotels that still survive the glory days before the great route was decommissioned in 1985.

Our two latest overnight stops included the 120-year-old Red Garter Inn in downtown Williams on Monday and the El  Travatore Motel in Kingman on Tuesday. The Williams location is now a four-room upstairs bed and breakfast effectively decorated in the period of the '20s and '30s, but with modern conveniences of air conditioning, wifi and cable television.

The Red Garter innkeeper, Angie Johnson, regaled us with tales of when  the Red Garter — on the historic Route 66 since 1927  — served as an 1897 "slightly haunted" saloon and upscale bordello. She said the bedroom at the head of the stairs was used by the madam so she could keep track of all the comings and goings. She said the basic room at the time was only 10X10 with a bed and table. As the girls got more "prosperous" they moved to the more spacious rooms at the front of the building.

Night life on the Fourth of July In Williams, Ariz.

John Holst owns the Red Garter as well as a restaurant below and the Historic Brewing Company next door. We had a delightful evening meal at the Brewing Company and a nice breakfast below the bed and breakfast. And Jim partook of several of the Brewing Company's craft beers on Monday afternoon.

Downtown Williams is loaded with gift shops, bars and eating places, many glowing brightly with neon signs at night. Downtown at night is worth a visit.

We came into Williams late Monday afternoon after touring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, hooking back up with the Mother Road in Williams. As you would expect, Grand Canyon National Park was teeming with tourists Monday.

On Tuesday we made the short trek to Kingman, much of it on the original Route 66, part of it on the longest stretch of uninterrupted Mother Road left in the country. We stopped in the small town of Seligman, which is adorned with numerous gift shops decorated with period themes of old cars, license plates, and Route 66 memorabilia.

Seligman is the home
of Angel Deigadillo, propertier of the Deigadillo Barber Shop and Pool Hall, who was dismayed at the loss of business with the coming of I40. He organized a meeting with representatives of other Arizona towns on Route 66 and they formed the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona in February 1987. He was named president of the organization and over the next years as Route 66 nostalgia grew, Arizona was ready with dozens of stores on the route supplying Route 66 memorabilia to the growing number of tourists.

Delgadillo is now retired. We visited his barber shop, now a gift store, and took pictures of his well-used  barber chair. (Luci poses with chair at right)

Kingman is the home of Mr. D'z Diner, a 1950s-themed diner, good for eating breakfast and lunch. Someone told us the diner's hamburger was delicious — and it was.

Tuesday our trip brought us to the historic route 66 El Trovatore Motel started in 1937 as a service station, with the tourist court added later in 1939, and was first owned by John F. Miller. While the rooms are clean and comfortable, they are in need of restoration. The exterior, however, has been spruced up with a long running mural up one side and down the other. A nice touch.

A wall mural at the El Trovatore Motel in Kingman, Ariz.

The rooms are  still Hollywood themed like the early days, and Jim and Luci got the Clint Eastwood room. No, Eastwood didn't stay here, but his pictures adorn the walls. Someone who did stay here according to current owner Sam Frisher was Clark Gable when he married Carol Lombard near Kingman on March 29, 1939.

Today we cross into California with a stay in Victorville, a distance of 236 miles via Interstate 40. But, of course, we will be traveling most of that distance on old 66, so the miles may be slightly more and the elapsed time considerably more. But it will also be more exciting and rewarding as we continue to get our kicks on Route 66.