Today’s plan was simple. Get in the car and DRIVE! Just follow Route 66 all the way to Los Angeles. What could be easier? Well if you know Route 66 you will know following it is anything but simple and there is the small matter of the fact it was a whopping 415 miles, give or take a few detours here and there. Still, the fact remained we had little to do today but drive. And drive on probably the most Famous road in the World.
Las Night we stayed over in the Deluxe Inn in Seligman. But we arrived very late, tired, and pretty much hit the sack and went straight to sleep. So this morning we had a bit of a look around. We really hadn’t missed much but the rustic run-down near ghost town feel was exactly what we wanted from a 66 Town. Our super cheap motel offered a free breakfast so we filled up on coffee, muffins, and bagels ready to hit the road.
Section 1 -Seligman – Kingman
The first section was nice and simple. Just stay in the 66. The road is decent through this area but quite dull. There are endless long straights that are really quiet and just drag on for hours. Near Valentine, you pass a small mountain range and drop down into Hackberry. Every location on this section can barely be called a town and is often no more than a few ramshackle huts. It’s great!
Finally, you end up in Kingman which is far more built-up but still has a very small-town feel, but there are at least gas stations and food outlets.
Section 2 – Kingman – Oatman via Sitgreaves Pass
We had a little trouble picking up the 66 out of Kingman and ended up missing a left and heading out into the middle of nowhere. We kept ignoring the GPS as it had a habit of taking us the “best way” rather than the way we wanted to go. But in this case, it was right. After a while when the road turned to gravel, we realized our mistake and backtracked.
The 66 shrinks right down on this leg and feels more like a small country lane rather than the cross-continental highway it is meant to be. Annoyingly this means it gets treated to a 45mph speed limit and after yesterday we decided to stick to it. Painfully.
Once the Climb up Sitgreaves began the Speed limit became the least of our worries. The Pass is very narrow and has some tight twisty switchbacks as it winds its way up the mountain. For me this is great and I can fly up these types of roads no end. But for Americans, used to huge wide straight highways, these sort of roads fill them with terror and the damn near stop. So for the majority of the drive, we were stuck behind someone unless they pulled out to check out the stunning scenery.
As you begin to descend down the other side you get to Oatman. This is not a real place anymore. It exists solely on people passing through. But on a long winding road with almost no towns anywhere along its length it’s a must stop.
Oatman sprung up as a mining town and grew prosperous during the gold rush due to a very prosperous mine, mining over $2billion of gold in today’s money! However, when the rush came to an end the town risked becoming one of the many ghost towns found around the west. Situated on Route 66 meant it was able to survive as a service town for travelers heading to the west coast. That was until the Route was bypassed by the I-40. The town fell into ghost town status until recently when tourists following the Route began to climb in numbers.
The locals found a clever niche and now operate a series of gift and trinket shops as people explore the old buildings and remains of the town. It’s basically a Ghost town with a pulse. The highlight of the town is the resident burro’s part tame part feral they pretty much own the town. going a doing what they please and seem to outnumber human residents. They are pretty sweet but smell a lot worse than you anticipate.
As we walked around the town a GUNFIGHT broke out between the sheriff and a gang of thieves! Fortunately, this was a staged exhibition, not a real standoff but it was really fun to watch. The “blanks” were real rounds and very very loud. They make you jump even when you know they are coming! With the bad guys dead and the sheriff wandering around with his hat out for tips. we made our way out of the town.
Oatman – Barstow
After a stunning drive down the other side of the mountain and through a watershed area filled with flash flood zones, we go to the “towns” of Golden Shores and Toprock, there really is nothing to see here so we push on. Unfortunately, the 66 merges here with the I-40 so essentially is gone for a little while. So we jump on the interstate and head for Cali!
After crossing the border, we continue for a few miles until our exit at 115. Unfortunately, the exit was closed as was a large section of the 66 due to bridge repairs. So we carry on the I-40 until exit-78 where we can head down Kelbaker Road and pick up the 66 once more. Just in time for Amboy.
The Scenery now has become very deserty. The roads are huge and arrow-straight with almost nothing to see other than distant mountains and endless dusty scrub. It’s pretty desolate but it has a sort of beauty to it. The Skies are blue and clear with the odd big billowing cloud. As we head towards the 66 we witness something very unexpected… Rain.
For the next couple of minutes, the heavens open. It is not entirely clear where the rain is coming from but it pours nonetheless. And as suddenly as it began, it stopped. Very odd.
The next stop on the route is Amboy. To say Amboy is quiet is like saying Snow is cold. It is a ghost town of sorts but it was never really a town to speak of in the first place. The only open place is the cafe/gift shop. Roys Motel is World famous but closed. The rooms are open to the world and completely stripped bare. There are abandoned cars on the driveways and tumbleweeds roll along with the dusty parking lots. It’s an odd and eerie location. It was also HOT.
That is the problem with aircon it can be hard to realize what the temperature is like outside, with the rain and the odd billowing cloud it seemed quite cool. But once out the car, it was a scorcher at least 100°f and really humid, hence the rain burst.
We explored a bit but didn’t stay for long and headed off to the next stop, the surprisingly named Baghdad.
We headed down the road past the impressive Amboy crater, until we hit the town of Bagdad. Or what is left of it. Which is basically nothing, A sign and the outlines of a few buildings. This is Ghost town too far and there is basically nothing left.
From here we continued to follow the Highway. Out over the dusty plains, Huge Dustdevils danced across the open plains giving a welcome sight in an otherwise desolate and barren landscape. As the road began to return towards the I-40 we were fast running out of Route 66. It is possible to continue to follow from Bairstow onwards but we were keen to get to L.A and the route becomes hard to follow.
As we got to the Junction to get on the Freeway, our path was blocked by a train. A looong train. that seemed to stretch on and on and on. No end in sight. just carriage after carriage. After 15-20 mins the final carriage came into view and the barriers opened. We had time for just one more detour before hitting Barstow.
Calico Ghost Town.
Calico is no longer a real Ghost town but is now restored nearer to its former glory and used as a historic sight to showcase life in a mining town during the Wild West period.
There is a modest fee to enter the town ($8 per person) but unfortunately, we arrived in a beer and blues festival day where the entry was $20 per person! We explained we only wanted to see the town and not the festival and as it was nearly 4 pm she agreed to drop the fee to $10 each.
The town is very much a Theme Park recreation although some buildings are original most are recreated facades but the feel of the town is very much Wild West era. There are a few extra attractions you can explore such as panning for gold or heading down a mine these cost only $3 each. There are a few gift shops a saloon and a small railway with a working steam train ($5 fee to ride)
All in all the town is not exactly spectacular but if you are passing it’s well worth a stop. We enjoyed our little stop there and arrived just in time for another Gun Fight Show! We took a few snaps and then headed back onto the open road.
Barstow was when the desolate empty desert finally gave way to a bit of civilization. Barstow doesn’t have a lot going for it in terms of a tourist destination but it’s a decent place to stop for services. By now it was getting on for 5:30 pm and we had done a lot of driving. So we decided to stop for dinner. And seeing as we were now in Cali it was time for an In’N’Out!
Barstow – Anahiem
Feasted on Animal Fries and 4×4 Animal Style Burgers we embarked on the final leg of the road trip. The last push down L.A’s Freeway system to the Hotel at Anaheim.
This leg of the journey was largely uneventful. The Haze covering L.A made for a spectacular “Golden Hour” as the sun began to dip down as we descended down from the desert plateau to San Bernardino, and then made our way across the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles.
Finally, we arrived in Anaheim. By now we were tired and exhausted so we checked in and simply spent the evening relaxing. The Kings Inn Anaheim was a basic but clean and comfortable spot. The roof terrace offering great views of the Disney Fireworks. A nice way to finish off the road trip.
Relaxing now was essential as tomorrow we would enter the Fray, and take on one of the most exhausting and arduous activities known to man. A day at Disneyland!
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