Route 66
Travelling the Main Street of America

 

Holbrook was once the headquarters of Whiting Brothers, several of whose derelict gas stations and motels you will see along the Route. This town seems to contain at least one example of every kind of manmade attraction that made 66 great. There are concrete dinosaurs, a Western museum, a wild-west jailhouse, and one of only two remaining patented wigwam motels. There were once several of these wonderful creations along the route. What sort of flinty-hearted parent of the '50s could resist the pleas from the back seat to sleep in a wigwam? With a car parking space outside each unit and the accepted minimal amenities inside, these fun motels survived until rising expectations of comfort and convenience left them so far behind that not even their unique kid-appeal could save them.

Geronimo, with its enormous piece of petrified log, will entertain you for at least five minutes before the urge to move on takes hold. Note the responsible (!) use of precious petrified wood in the memorial at the entrance to Joseph City, and cruise right through. Just a few turns of an Edsel's wheels down the road you'll find the great IT of Route 66. Yes, here IT is! At last, the Jackrabbit Trading Post. The signs drawing you to this prime Mother Road institution are now sadly depleted. They once spread right along the Route, sometimes whole billboards, sometimes no more than a hint in the form of a jackrabbit peeping over the top of someone else's advertising. It was closed when I was there in October, but the Giant Jackrabbit is still there for the kids to climb on, and the most famous sign of all (the "Here it is" sign) leaps out of the desert background in vibrant yellow just as it always did. I was assured that the business is still going strong and should be open when you call in August. As the official motto says, "If you haven't stopped at the Jackrabbit, you haven't been in the Southwest".

There's a wonderfully atmospheric stretch of original concrete roadbed along what's now called Hibbard Road. All the guidebooks recommend this as a tremendous way of winding back the calendar between Joseph City and Winslow, but the news from my visit isn't good. The problem stems from the fact that when I-40 was completed and US66 decommissioned, the Arizona authorities sold the land over which the old road ran. Half way along the Hibbard Road section the landowner has comprehensively sabotaged a perfectly good bridge. There's one ditch, two Armco barriers and a multi-ton pile of dirt at each end. The Fifth Armored Division couldn't get across this baby! As frustrating as it is, I strongly recommend doing a there-and-back run as far as the bridge. It's only 4 miles in each direction and it takes you off in total solitude through some spectacular rock formations. The road markings just survive, contributing to the deliciously melancholy feel of the place.