Places We Have Called Home In 2020
June 10, 2020
T minus 6
Temperature 94 Degrees
Get Your Kicks On Route 66 – This Time We Went West to Oatman
Time for another roadtrip and the last one during our time here. We had heard a lot about the town of Oatman and in particular the road leading to it. Was what we heard really true? We had to find out for ourselves. Come on, time to get on the road.
First, we had to solve a mystery of sorts. The mystery being, Was the road to Oatman really Route 66?
The answer was yes and no. When the road was originally laid out Route 66 did indeed go through Oatman. However, because of the roads treacherous nature by 1953 the road was realigned to route it through Yucca, Arizona.
OK, but what’s the matter with the road? Come on we’re about to find out.
The first part of the road is 20 miles of arrow straight pavement across open desert. But, see that mountain in the distance. Hint, Oatman is on the other side of it.
After the first 20 miles Route 66 tilts upward and begins to climb the eastern slope of the Black Mountains. But first there’s a scrap of civilization that defies the odds.
Nestled in the shadow of Thimble Butte, there is a stone structure that sits on a hard slant of cactus slopes. Perched on the cusp of a canyon, between the desert floor and the harsh fringe of the Black Mountains,
Cool Springs opened as a gas station in 1927 and later expanded to include tourist cabins. Cool Springs provided a welcome harbor back in the day. This brutal terrain once boiled the radiators and broke the hearts of migrant workers making their way to the promised land of California.
With the realignment of Route 66 in the 50’s traffic dwindled and the business closed. Then the property burned down in 1966, leaving only two stone pillars and the foundation. And that should have been the end of it.
Then in 1990 a Chicago businessman who had a business in Kingman found himself drawn to the property. He was able to buy Cool Springs in 2001. After a massive cleanup, he used old photos and blueprints to re-create the station in strikingly precise detail.
Today, Cool Springs operates as a gift shop, snack bar and museum.
The only one on the premise – other than the two of us – that was wearing a mask. Though it is a bit late for her – think about it.
Hello to you too!
An RV’er, my kind of guy.
Would have loved to purchase this for our bed, but too steep a price to pay.
References to the Pixar Movie Cars is everywhere. We would have spent more time here and perhaps purchased something but for the attitude of the current owner. He wore no mask and informed us that was because as far as he was concerned the virus was nothing but fake news. Needless to say, we made a quick exit from this store.
Now, for the next 10 miles the road gets very interesting. From here the road winds up the mountainside in a torturous ascent.
I found the following regarding Route 66 to Oatman: The narrow road heads up into the Black Mountains in a series of harrowing hairpin curves
with no guardrails or shoulders
between you and the plunging desert terrain. It’s not hard to imagine why many of Route 66’s first roadtrippers felt the need to hire local sherpa-like drivers just to get them through to the other side.
The top. Though we couldn’t find it, we discovered that up here there is the old stone foundation that is the remains of a gas station and ice-cream parlor that once stood here. Great. Now I’m craving ice cream
A wild ride but the trip is definitely worth it. The majestic beauty of the Black Moutains is absolutely breathtaking.
The Blacks are a convulsed jumble of volcanic remains, spiny with cactus, yuccas and sharp-edged boulders. Many times on the road both up and down I stopped the car just to drink in the beauty of the inhospitable terrain.
Eight miles covered, two more miles to go.
Oatman was founded in 1863 as a small mining town. Gold was discovered in 1915 resulting in a population boom.
The town was named in honor of Olive Oatman, who was kidnapped by the Apache, sold to Mojave Indians and later after many years rescued by her brother. However, she forever bore the indelible blue cactus tattoo on her chin that was in keeping with tribal custom. According to Mojave tradition, such marks were given only to their own people to ensure that they would have a good afterlife.
Oatman is full of wild burros —an old Spanish term which means donkeys— roaming the streets. The wild burros are the offspring of the burros transported here in the late 1800s. They were used by the miners to carry essential supplies, including rock and metals in those days. And now as the mining days no more exist, what has lingered here are the burros. Every morning, the burros wander in the town seeking food and greeting the tourists. The wild burros of Oatman are maintained and protected by the United States Department of the Interior. They are extremely fond of travelers and they expect every person to feed them some food.
One, though, needs to remember that they are still wild animals and so caution should be exercised around them.
A bit of humor if you will.
The rumor is that after their wedding in Kingman, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spend their wedding night here in an upstairs room. Alas, like so many attractions in Oatman this too was closed while we were here.
I wonder what room they are in!
We were supposed to get our Route 66 Passport Book stamped here but it too was closed.
The General Store is were I purchased my new T-shirt.
Well, as with so many other towns on Route 66 when the mine closed and Route 66 was realigned the town went bust. Today it hangs on as a tourist attraction on the old Route 66. We’re glad we had the opportunity to visit it but would not go back in the future. It is one of the few attractions we’ve visited that we would definitely say is over-rated. In addition while we were there not one person other than the two of us were wearing a mask. I guess a lot of people don’t know that cases of the virus are spiking again in Arizona. Actually, unfortunately, I believe most just don’t care either about their own health or that of others. So sad. Yet a definite sign of what is wrong in our land today.
That was our day on The Road of Retirement. Our road trips are finished as is our sightseeing. Time now to get our things in order in anticipation of getting back on the road. We’ve definitely found more to do in this area then we ever expected and are so glad we did.
Thanks for your company today. We always appreciate having you with us and, likewise, we always appreciate your comments. Until tomorrow.
These are the voyages of Elvira and it’s two intrepid travelers. Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have never been before.
See you on down the road!
3 thoughts on “TOUR AMERICA, 2020: KINGMAN, ARIZONA – THE GRAND CANYON STATE”
Well, I enjoyed the trip again today. Are the businesses closed do to the virus or economy? At least you have a shirt that will remind you of where you’ve been. Hey, your photographer does really well from the car also. Thanks for sharing your day.
We talked to the owners of those few shops that were open and they were at a loss to explain why everything else was closed. They stated that it was very unusual.
Based on your post, we would probably skip visiting there. However, I did enjoy the virtual visit you provided. Nice Tshirt! Safe travels, and enjoy the day!