Route 66 Tour, Day 13 – In California

Yesterday was a pretty tough day driving. We had to travel from Williams, Arizona (about 1/3 of Arizona left to traverse) to Victorville, California (most of which is across desert). As we traveled through the day, the temperature kept climbing – I believe it topped out at 127 degrees at one point.

We stopped off in Seligman, Arizona and met Angel Delgadillo, one of the icons of Route 66. Angel has owned a Barbershop on Route 66 for decades, nearby is the Snowcap restaurant that his brother Juan owned. The town of Seligman is one of the first to start to preserve the history of Route 66, which is why in western Arizona, the Mother Road is meticulously taken care of and well marked.

We made a couple more stops at some old gas stations – one in Hackberry, which is basically a ghost town now except for a General Store, and one in “Cool Springs” that was anything but “cool” – this is where we really started noticing how seriously hot the weather was and the VWs were noting the exterior temperature of over 110 degrees. Cool Springs was an important stop for early Route 66 travelers before the next leg of their trip. For many years, it was a ruin, but has now been restored.

The Oatman Highway and Sitgreaves Pass through the Black Mountains from Kingman into California – what can I possibily say about it? Oh, a lot.

First read a bit about it:

There are two Route 66 alignments from Kingman southwest to the California border. The pre-1952 alignment along the Oatman Highway is by far the most beautiful, providing numerous photographic opportunities, legendary Route 66 icons, and a peek at the wild old west in historic Oatman, Arizona.

However, this old route travels through notorious Sitgreaves Pass, the most intimidating portion of Route 66, with its steep grades, narrow road, and sharp hairpin curves. In addition, the highway does not allow vehicles over 40 feet, so, if this is you, think about coming into Oatman from the south through Topock, an easier route.

This is the section of road featured in the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz movie called “The Long, Long Trailer” – where they drive over it in an RV, ironically, that’s illegal to do.

Update: after googling, this isn’t road from the movie – someone told us that along the way, but it was actually another road in California.

I had no idea what we were going to drive through. Nine miles of winding road up the Black Mountains and back down, with sheer cliff drops on the right side of the road. Gorgeous, and very very difficult to get through, even at 15 miles an hour. The rest of the caravan was ecstatic to be on it; we were terrified. I’ll try to do a google map image of it from above if I can do it through my cell phone internet connection (still no wireless at the Motel 6, even near L.A.) ; it is pretty amazing. Here’s a pretty good image of part of it, from this link.

Sitgreaves Pass Google Images
Sitgreaves Pass Google Images
Sitgreaves Pass Google Images
Sitgreaves Pass Google Images
Sitgreaves Pass
Sitgreaves Pass

And something I will never, ever be doing again. Between the Grand Canyon and this, I believe I’m also finished with rollercoasters, too. What was I saying the other day – I grew up in Iowa, where it’s nice and flat, and you can’t fall off things?

At the bottom is the little town of Oatman, Arizona – a tourist spot that still resembles the Old West mining town that it once was. Back in 1939, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent one of their honeymoon nights in the 1902 historic Oatman Hotel. They are also famous for the burros that hang out in the streets (And follow you around, hoping you have carrots.)

After a few minutes shopping and recovering from the Sitgreaves Pass experience, we headed out towards Needles, California.

Just as we were getting into Needles, California, Earl’s car started to have serious problems. We pulled into a 76/Conoco station so the guys could try to figure out what was wrong, and the manager ran us off because he thought we were interferring with his business. So we moved to the snow cone shop across the street, and they were kinda crabby with us, too. Eventually some of us had to park our cars at the Jack-In-The-Box across the street and get in out of the heat.

After an hour and a half, the guys got the car fixed, and we got back on the road – we still had about 2 and a half hours of driving to get to Victorville, and we were a bit behind. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, but tiring. Once the sun went down it was a bit easier to travel, but the beginnings of L.A. traffic driving into Victorville – we’re really nervous about getting around today.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. lisa

    i was feeling kinda jealous of you guys up until now… between the incredible heat and the terrifying drive (i think i would have been freaking out about that, too), i am less jealous!
    i hope the LA traffic isn’t as bad as you fear and that you have a great time there. there’s lots of great restaurants and stuff to do there.
    the one time i visited, my friends took me to a place called johnnie’s pastrami which is in culver city at 4017 Sepulveda Blvd. i remember it being very authentic 50’s diner with outdoor seating and sandwiches the size of your head. although at this point, you guys probably just want a really big salad!!

  2. Steph Mineart

    L.A. was definitely worth the trouble; beautiful and lots of fun.

    And Sitgreaves Pass – all the other caravaners absolutely LOVED it, driving fiends that they are, so you might have gotten a kick out of, it, Lisa. It’s just us timid folks that were put off.

    There were some points where I was afraid to even look out the passenger window because the drop was so long; I just pointed the camera and snapped pictures.

  3. Scott Piotrowski

    Well, you’re almost here. Best of luck traveling 66 the last leg to its original terminus in Downtown Los Angeles, or its extended terminus in Santa Monica at Lincoln and Olympic. If you can, head back to the Route 66 Museum in Victorville and pick up a copy of my book, “Finding the End of the Mother Road.” You’ll need it getting through Los Angeles on 66 the right way! Or you can pick it up at the Wigwam Motel in Rialto. Other way, tell whoever is working at either place that I said hello. Enjoy the last leg. It’s definitely my favorite!

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