THE MAGAZINE THAT CELEBRATES ROAD TRAVEL, VINTAGE AMERICANA AND ROUTE 66
ONE ON ONE WITH THE STORYTELLER OF ROUTE 66
MICHAEL WALLIS on the
ROAD GREAT PLACES TO STAY 19
THE QUIRKY SIDE OF THE SAVIOR OF AMBOY, JIM HINCKLEYâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S THE MOTHER ROAD IN ALBERT OKURA PICTURES
ROUTE Magazine 1
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Some folks say it’s all about the journey. We think the stops along the way can be pretty great, too. The call of the open road, it’s almost magical, and very American. Yet this is no ordinary road trip. This is the Mother Road—the highway that’s the best. A page torn from American history when cars were bigger and life was simpler. We know when you get off the road, you want to feel like you’re home. We’ll have a warm chocolate chip DoubleTree Cookie waiting for you.
The Doubletree by Hilton has all the amenities you’ve come to expect from modern life, including wi-fi, fitness room, pool, and hot tub. If you want to stay in for the evening, we have an on-property bar and restaurant. (And local shuttle service if you decide you don’t.) Since your four-legged friends may be with you for your journey, we’re a pet-friendly hotel, too. Get a great night’s rest on our Sweet Dreams bedding and fuel up on our breakfast before cruising out.
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Photo credit: Julien McRoberts
12 Caretaker of Memories
Lesley Allan takes us on the incredible journey of Albert Okura, a second-generation Japanese-American whose destiny involved becoming California's Chicken King and the savior of the Route 66 desert town Amboy.
22 A Sixty Year Anniversary
Journey with Route 66 veteran Jim Hinckley as he fondly remembers his epic sixty year adventure along the Mother Road, including a childhood move directed by a thrown dart, learning to drive in a 1953 Chevy pickup, finding love on the road, and what is next for this American Ulysses.
38 The Man Behind the Voice
Iconic author of Route 66: The Mother Road and voice of Sherriff in the Disney-Pixar movie Cars, Michael Wallis gives us a look into his writing process, his favorite Route 66 experiences, and how his remarkable journey all began.
44 The Mother Road Odyssey:
Must Stay Venues Along Route 66 From the oldest continuously operating motel on the route to a Native American lodge and the finest luxury hotels around, we’ve got you covered with some of the most memorable places to stay along Route 66. 2 ROUTE Magazine
64 Women of the Route
Think Route 66 is just a man’s playground? Think again. Katharine McLaughlin details how Katrina Parks is bringing the diverse women of the Mother Road to the forefront with incredible stories of brave trailblazers and hometown heroes.
68 Parting Shot: Fran Houser
We asked Route 66 legend Fran Houser some rapid-fire questions and her answers do not disappoint. From eating pie with Lincoln to inspiring a beloved animated movie character, get a glimpse into the mind of the queen of the Midway.
ON THE COVER Photographer David Schwartz captures the wild beauty of Route 66 as it runs through California’s Mojave Desert.
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EDITORIAL Welcome to the premiere issue of ROUTE Magazine, a title dedicated to the celebration of great road travel, vintage Americana and fabled Route 66. I have always been a huge fan of road travel, not only because I believe that road trips are the most enjoyable kind of adventure, but also because I am an ardent believer that road travel allows you to experience so much more of the world in a tangible fashion. Like many of you, I suppose that the magic of hitting the open road was instilled in me from a young age. I remember excitedly packing at the beginning of every school holiday during the month of July, crowding into the weighed down vehicle with my younger brother and parents, and heading off to romantic destinations that required hours, even days of driving, and sometimes large ferry boats. One of my favorite parts of any summer holiday were the curious roadside attractions and kitschy tourist traps that pulled in people from around the world. It is an odd memory sitting on Saint Nick’s lap while visiting Santa’s Village during a sweltering July, and even odder when I look back now at vintage photographs of hokey homemade spaceships and hand-painted signs from a much simpler time. A year ago, I did some research on a number of these attractions and discovered that many have been long closed, victims of modernity and a rapidly changing world. Over the last two years, many people have asked me what it is about the old road that I find so appealing. At first it struck me as a curious question. I have driven the 2,448 miles of Route 66 four times over the past 15 months (at the time of writing) and have come to possess a better understanding of what has kept this American icon standing strong over the 92 years of its remarkable life, even after being decommissioned in 1987. With each trip down the road, I develop a stronger appreciation and love for this essential vein that carries within it the true spirit and essence of America across the country. From the colorful history, to the unique and vivid art, the diverse culture, the quirky roadside attractions, and the undeniably friendly and welcoming people, past and present, who have kept the Mother Road going strong, Route 66 has captured many a heart and imagination. As such, it is not one single thing, it is everything combined. The road is not merely historical and welcoming, a trip into the past, but it is a break from today’s mundane and generic. Road travel across picturesque, lonely roads is not only therapeutic, it is spiritual in its very nature, and Route 66 in its everchanging, terrifically diverse, anything is possible character, represents a reconnection to self and others for many of us. Each issue of ROUTE Magazine will chronicle the journey of iconic venues and attractions, and seek to tell the story of the people of Route 66 and similar highways in a deeper, more personal way. In our effort to do this we will also offer readers personalized interviews with a wide variety of fascinating thought leaders, and visually portray the road via the work of some of America’s finest travel photographers. We want the stories to inspire you to travel the open road time and again, seeking out places that may appear lonely to some, but alive with energy and emotion to others. ROUTE Magazine was no small feat, but it was one made easier by a profoundly collaborative endeavor of an extraordinary team, and many people who live their lives out on Route 66. A huge thank you to all the people who believed in ROUTE when the magazine was a mere idea. We are so incredibly humbled and grateful for your suggestions and support. Thank you for connecting with ROUTE. We look forward to walking this journey with you. We hope you enjoy this first issue and would love to have your feedback. Do let us know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in the future. You can email me directly on email@example.com. In the words of American novelist and poet, Jack Kerouac, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever on the road.” Brennen Matthews Editor 4 ROUTE Magazine
PUBLISHER Thin Tread Media EDITOR Brennen Matthews DEPUTY EDITOR Kate Wambui ASSOCIATE EDITOR Melanee Morin LAYOUT AND DESIGN Elias Mwangi SALES AND MARKETING Leah Navi EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Anna Browning Katharine McLaughlin Lesley Allan Mark Allenov DIGITAL DESIGN Matheus Alves CONTRIBUTORS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS David J. Schwartz Ian McCloy Jenny Mallon Jim Hinckley Joe Sonderman Julien McRoberts Robert Reck Ron Warnick Steve Rider Tulsa People Magazine
Editorial submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org To subscribe visit www.routemagazine.us. Advertising enquiries should be sent to email@example.com or call 905 399 9912. ROUTE is published six times per year by Thin Tread Media. No part of this publication may be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher. The views expressed by the contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher, editor or staff. ROUTE does not take any responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photography.
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ROUTE REPORT While the route is steeped in history, it is also constantly changing, and we’re here to bring you all the latest news: what’s happening, who’s driving the future of the Mother Road, and why it all matters. Man Sets Out to Visit Each of the Stops Featured in the Iconic National Lampoon’s Vacation Film Well-known YouTube road tripper Adam the Woo released a new 34-minute video in December 2017, where he set out on an adventure to document every location from the 1983 comedy classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. The story of Clark Griswold’s ill-fated attempt at a crosscountry family road trip, starring Chevy Chase, was based on a Route 66 inspired vacation story written by John Hughes for National Lampoon Magazine, and the movie used several filming locations along the Mother Road. On his journey, Adam the Woo travels
from Illinois to California, passing through some iconic Route 66 landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, as well as landmarks off the route like the aweinspiring Monument Valley in Utah. And just as the Griswold family does, Adam finally arrives at “Walley World” in California - the Six Flags in Valencia. After just 5 days on YouTube, the video amassed nearly a hundred thousand views, demonstrating the love that people still have for this classic film, and even more for the classic route. To watch the video in its entirety, check out www.route66news.com.
Man Plans to Drive 1918 Dodge the Length of Route 66 Warren Roberts of Corona, CA, plans to drive his restored 1918 Dodge car down Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles later this year, accompanied by his three sons, ages 10, 13, and 16. It takes commitment to drive more than 2,400 miles in a vintage vehicle that won’t top 30 mph. Roberts purchased the car several years ago for $700 at an auction in Fresno, CA, and began work restoring it in late 2017. Roberts plans to post videos from his Route 66 journey on his YouTube channel, and invites those with an interest to follow him online. For Roberts, it is not merely about the challenge of driving Route 66, but also a desire to offer his sons a special experience before they grow up and move out. Stick with ROUTE as we prepare to follow Warren Roberts and his sons on their exciting journey this fall.
Launching Pad Drive-In Has New Owners The Launching Pad, an iconic Route 66 Drive-In in Wilmington, IL, has been purchased by couple Tully Garrett and Holly Barker. They fell in love with the town’s relaxed atmosphere and saw great potential for a successful restaurant in the shuttered drive-in. They have already begun renovating the exterior, and expect to be able to open the dining area by late Spring 2018, with a menu built on community input and consensus. The couple also purchased the equally iconic Gemini Giant, a 30-foot-tall spaceman statue outside the restaurant, and they want to set up a visitor’s center here with information about the landmark and the city. Garrett and Barker are calling the process “Operation Launch the Pad,” and they want to bring back the family-oriented and wholesome “Happy Days” of the ‘50s and ‘60s. They have a lot of ideas for the property in the future: farmer’s markets, car shows, sock hops, movie nights, a museum, and maybe an animated rocket “blasting off” from the roof, if Garrett has his way. All news and copy for this page has been sourced, created and written by www.route66news.com. Revisions to text have been made in some instances by ROUTE Magazine. 6 ROUTE Magazine
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ROUTE Magazine 7
A MOMENT IN ROUTE 66’s HISTORY
LOS ANGELES OLYMPICS
Many significant historical events have occurred along Route 66 over its long history, and the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics is particularly noteworthy: although the Games were put on during the Great Depression of the ‘30s, they functioned as a beacon, highlighting Route 66 in America and placing Los Angeles on the global map.
hen Los Angeles won the bid to host the 1932 Summer Olympics, it was still a partially rural location trying to transform into a metropolis, and was considered distant geographically and culturally in the minds of Americans and the world - its only claim to fame was its connection to Hollywood. The U.S. Highway 66 Association, established in 1927 to promote travel on the highway, saw the LA Olympics as a way to draw attention to a specific site along the route, while emphasizing the Mother Road’s ability to bring people to such a desirable location. The Association placed its first advertisement in the July 16, 1932, issue of the Saturday Evening Post, inviting Americans to travel the “Great Diagonal Highway” to the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The ad worked: within a week, the Association’s office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was overwhelmed with hundreds of requests for information about Route 66 and the LA Olympics.
to LA veterans of WWI, and was expanded in 1932 for the Olympics. Today, you can see the Olympic cauldron torch, the Olympic rings, a pair of life-sized bronze nude statues of male and female athletes added for the 1984 Olympics, and the “Court of Honor” plaques which recognize events and people from the Coliseum’s history, including the gold medalists from the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.
Advertising was key in drawing people to an event during the Depression. The LA Olympics Committee failed to sell many spectator tickets, until several Hollywood celebrities volunteered their time to promote the Games, including Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Mary Pickford. The 1932 Olympics, referred to as the Games of the X Olympiad, pioneered the modern template for Olympic mega-productions, and over 100,000 spectators paid $3 each to attend the opening ceremonies at the Memorial Coliseum (known then as the Olympic Stadium).
Although the global repercussions of the Depression affected the Games - only 1,332 athletes from 37 nations could afford to participate - the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics were considered a success, and even managed to be profitable. No small part in thanks to Route 66 and the Association that saw the Mother Road as an opportunity to unite Americans on a large scale in order to cheer on our best: the United States won the most medals at the Games, winning 103 out of 346 medals. The tradition will continue in 2028 when Los Angeles hosts the Summer Olympics for the third time, and Route 66 will still be there to transport fans to the greatest of world games.
The Coliseum is a great detour while driving Route 66 in Los Angeles; it was commissioned in 1921 as a memorial 8 ROUTE Magazine
The 1932 LA Olympics is also significant for introducing many elements that would become standard for the Games. An Olympic Village was built for the first time to house the male athletes at $2 a day - they couldn’t afford to stay anywhere else (female athletes were housed at the Chapman Park Hotel). The 1932 Olympics also introduced the first photo-finish cameras and the first victory podiums used for awarding medals. The tradition of having an Olympic mascot was also created, albeit unconsciously, when a Scottish Terrier wandered into the Olympic Village and was adopted by the athletes as their unofficial mascot, “Smokey.”
Book direct on
Exceptionally rated on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook and Yelp since for best rates Museum advert, but NOT identical. Similar. Upmarket. Clean. re-opened as Roadrunner Lodge Motel in 2014 But revise the other one also as per directions just sent. It is a really roadrunnerlodge.com Remember for the 2nd option for Roadrunner, clean white like the
nice job Elias.
I just want to give the client 2 options. 2017 the magazine: Now, with
1) The Odyssey story – I asked you to follow the Boots/Homewood Suites page style for the Grand Canyon/Hualapai page, and you did not. Please revise that soonest, and neatly, and send it back to me. Use only 1 image for each property there. For the Grand Canyon, use the lobby image and for Hualapai, use the bedroom image only.
Step into the past and immerse yourself in the 60s when the car culture of America was coming of age and the great American roadtrip was born
2) On the cover, make the orange + sign a big bigger to stand out more. 3) Pages 14 and 15 – a little more space needed between the image and the below text. It is still a little tight. Just a tad. 4) And, why does the text on page 14 start at the top of the page and the text on page 15 start a few lines lower? These are the types of inconsistencies that are driving me crazy mate. You need to look at the whole issue and ensure that it is neat and meeting our specs and standards. And the text seems to be too high on both pages for our margins. Look at the other pages e.g. 12 and 13. They seem correct. The entire magazine should follow the same margins. 5) Page 19 (Hinckley) still has one or two indented paragraphs. Can you fix that? 6) Pages 38 and 39 again seems to have a larger margin on the top than the other stories!! 7) Page 49, 2nd column. we pull themagic word ‘museum’ into the 1st • Swanky 60s style Can rooms with finger bed massagers column? It looks odd all by itself. • Listen to Roadrunner’s very own radio station
• Enjoy a cold beverage by the fire and meet others from
8) The OBC is now the Big Texan. Please note that and put Old Grinaround the world go on the IFC.
• Fastest Wi-Fi in Tucumcari • Plush beds 9) Media kit with revised specs please.
10) FB and Twitter banners as directed please.
1023 E Route 66 Blvd Tucumcari, NM 88401
ROUTE Magazine 5 9
FROM THE ROAD
The Mother Road is blessed to have hundreds of colorful gift shops and a myriad of brilliant stores to visit, each displaying a wide array of gems to buy to take home as a reminder of your odyssey down Route 66, or as a gift for a friend or family member. While ROUTE encourages all of you to grab some fabulous t-shirts and perhaps a baseball cap or two, we have some additional suggestions that may be right up your alley when looking for a unique present to bring back home. And remember, should you visit any of the below retailers, make sure to tell them that ROUTE Magazine sent you! Happy shopping.
4 Get Your Kicks Cork Bottle Stopper Angel & Vilmaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Seligman, Arizona www.route66giftshop.com
Beautiful Turquoise Jewelry Turquoise Trail Jewelry Santa Fe, New Mexico
Delicious Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup Funks Grove Shirley, Illinois www.funkspuremaplesirup.com
2 A Unique Hualapai Coffee Mug that Highlight Symbols of the Hualapai People Hualapai Lodge Peach Springs, Arizona www.goroute66.us
7 Capture your Dream in the Southwest with a Dream Catcher First American Traders Gallup, New Mexico www.firstamericantraders.com
Delectable Fudge from Uranus Uranus Fudge Factory St. Roberts, Missouri www.uranusmissouri.com
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A Painting of Iconic Route 66 by Respected Artist Jerry McClanahan McJerry Route 66 Gallery Chandler, Oklahoma www.mcjerry66.com
EXCEPTIONAL ATTENTION TO DETAIL
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Phone: (855) 744-5500 Fax: (918) 935-3981 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 2636 East 11th Street Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104
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CARETAKER O California’s 506.9 mile section of Route 66 is home to some of the old road’s most vivid scenery and unique attractions. There is something about the moody desert atmosphere, with its numerous fading ghost towns and lost in time venues, that leaves a deep etch in the heart of intrepid travelers. Every dilapidated structure seems to have its own story, and it is not difficult if one closes their eyes and listens carefully, to hear the ghosts of yesterday. The desert has a way of opening the mind and nudging the spirit. Yet, perhaps even more memorable and captivating are the people of California’s Route 66. In many cases, true to Old West stereotypes, these are pioneers and dreamers, each with a destiny to fulfil and a heavy helping of true grit. And as on cue, Albert Okura comes on to the stage, a man with his own vision, and California’s Route 66 will never be the same.
By Lesley Allan
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Describing himself as a proud second-generation Californian, Albert Okura was born in 1951 to Tsuyoshi and Chiyoko Okura, first-generation Japanese-Americans who experienced the consequences and effects of war first hand, when Chiyoko was placed in the Manzanar internment camp during WWII, while Tsuyoshi, a US soldier, was not. Even though this must have been a trying time for the Okura family, Albert Okura remembers little, if any, negative influence that this period may have had on him or his siblings. Okura’s parents were determined to make a life for them and their four children in America, and demonstrated their loyalty and allegiance for America wholeheartedly, sharing very little, to no mention, of any ill-treatment or injustices that they may have suffered during the war. “My parents, along with all my aunts and uncles, rarely talked about the war with us,” Okura shares. “I don’t recall either parent ever complaining about the government policies that sent them to camps, even though everyone knew that it was wrong. I do remember my mother being very proud that no Japanese-American was ever convicted as a spy for Japan.” Growing up in California during the ‘50s, Okura, the second of four children, had a “typically American” childhood, full of baseball and basketball, and television shows like The Lone Ranger, Superman, and Leave It to Beaver. “It was a much simpler time,” recollects Okura. “There was no social media, no cell phones, no online gaming, no modern conveniences. I think it was a pretty good childhood. We played little league baseball and
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basketball and [watched] black and white TV with all the corny shows. And even though we did not have a lot of money, prices were very reasonable. Going to Disneyland was only $6. Visiting national parks such as Yosemite was free.” But it was his parents’ attitude to overcoming adversity during the war and their positivity in embracing the American way of life that made the biggest impression on young Albert Okura. “[It] allowed me to grow up believing in the American dream, which to me means coming to America, working hard, making money, raising a family, and assimilating into a free society where all this becomes possible. Looking back, I had something inside me that shouted ‘entrepreneur’, but my parents did not understand me. My mother wanted me to go to school and become a dentist, but the only problem was that I wasn’t smart enough, and I didn’t like the sitting still all day. Very few of the Japanese-Americans of my generation became entrepreneurs, so I had no role models for business from family members or relatives.” For Okura however, it was fast food, which started out as a treat that he would walk a mile and a half for, that was to define his interests and life trajectory. “By the time I was 10-yearsold, McDonald’s came to town and their
bargain basement prices changed my life. I made $1 a day delivering newspapers, so McDonald’s was a godsend. I spent most of my money buying and eating hamburgers and fries.” 1969 rolled in, the Vietnam War was at its peak and Okura had just graduated high school. To avoid being drafted into the war, Okura did what most young people at that time did, he joined college. “I was 18 years old and very confused about my future,” he reflects. “I had no clue what I was going to do for a living. I didn’t even know if I would be drafted.” During this period, the anti-war movement was attracting people from college campuses and middle class suburbs. By 1969, this movement had become increasingly powerful, with Americans opposing government escalation and the U.S. role in Vietnam. “If it
wasn’t for the war, I probably wouldn’t have enrolled in college.” With no idea of what he wanted to major in, Okura registered for prerequisite courses that were a necessary requirement to graduate, and settled into college life. To earn needed money for gas and spending, while in college, he took himself to the job placement office and secured himself an interview with Burger King for a position that would pay $1.35 per hour. “Prior to the interview, I had never heard of Burger King and there were only 12 Burger Kings on the west coast at the time. Today, they are the second largest hamburger chain in the world. This was my first real job working for a corporation and I enjoyed the pace of the fast food environment.” The draft law was due to expire at the end of June 1971,
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but President Nixon requested a two-year extension. However, by January 1973, the draft came to an end; Albert took his cue and dropped out of college. At the urging of his supervisor, Okura accepted a management position with Burger King and set his sights on a life in fast food. For the next eight years, Okura immersed himself, learning everything about Burger King and the fast food business, and in the process, climbed the corporate ladder. Nevertheless, the spark that was ignited inside of him years before, as a young boy with an appetite for the American dream, was still burning and even though he had committed himself to a full-time job, Okura’s ambition told him that he was destined for more. “During my time at Burger King, I had no plans to make this my profession for life. Somehow I couldn’t picture myself at age 50 and telling friends that I worked for Burger King.” And so, Okura spent his free time in bookstores, devouring self-help books and autobiographies of successful businessmen such as Ray Kroc and Sam Walton, to mentally prepare himself, in foresight, for something big in his future “I didn’t have a clue what that was going to be. I discovered the secret to success is the right mental attitude - deciding what you want to do, coming up with a plan, and then taking immediate action if the right opportunity arises. Every successful person I read about followed that philosophy.” When speaking, there’s one word Okura uses often: destiny. According to him, everything that he’s accomplished wasn’t planned, but rather fell into place through opportunity and hard work. “Destiny came calling in 1983,” he shares. “My Uncle, who owned a shopping centre in Ontario, California, asked me if I wanted to take over a vacant restaurant and open a char-broiled Hispanic style restaurant. Although I was a die-hard burger and fries man, and seldom ate chicken, I jumped at the opportunity.” The ‘60s and ‘70s were a particularly favorable time for the major fast food chains to flourish. Notwithstanding, in 1984, Okura’s first Juan Pollo restaurant opened its doors. “Best thing I ever did,” he says. “My friend, Armando Parra, helped me to get started and got me into rotisserie chicken, which is a much better finished product than char-broiled. The ‘80s was the perfect environment for smaller chains such as ours. The business economy was doing well, there was little over-regulation, taxes were low, cities wanted new businesses, employees were happy to be working. It was very easy to expand and open additional locations.” With moderate success at his first location, it wasn’t until Juan Pollo’s second restaurant opened in 1986 in San Bernardino that the growing chain’s popularity spiked. “Since opening in 1984, I have personally cooked over 1,000,000 chickens. That’s why I’m The Chicken Man,” Okura shares. Today, Juan Pollo has over 25 outlets in Southern California, including in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties. But, lady destiny was not done with Okura yet. The location of Juan Pollo’s second restaurant could not have been more auspicious. It was right on Route 66, America’s fabled main street. The iconic highway that has 16 ROUTE Magazine
been celebrated in music, movies, television and literature was going to ignite a connection within Okura that, in retrospect, was all part of his journey with Route 66. “I grew up by the LA Harbour, so I never really traveled inland. I was always aware of the Route, but by the time I started driving, the Route was decommissioned and everyone drove the ‘freeways’. By the time I opened the San Bernardino location, Americans still did not embrace the Route.” The notoriety of Route 66 may have waned during this period, but this was not to last. The late ‘90s and the 2000s saw a resurgence in the popularity of the Route, especially with the baby boomer generation who took diligently to the old road. But also, with the release in 2006 of the hit Pixar movie Cars, Route 66 became a global phenomenon, introducing a whole new international fan base. It was destiny that Juan Pollo was on Route 66. Chance took Okura further down Route 66 and back to his original love of burgers when he purchased the physical location of the original McDonald's restaurant, opened by Dick and Mac McDonald in 1948. On the market due to a foreclosure in 1998, Okura is clear that he bought the property, not due to its history or any sentimentality, but because it was a good investment opportunity. Making it the location of Juan Pollo’s head office, it wasn’t long before Okura began to move towards a second use for the
“The city of San Bernardino has been trying to embrace Route 66, but there has not been coordination between the city, businesses, and preservationists. Part of the problem may be the changing demographics, where most of the newer arrivals are not aware of Route 66 history. Personally, I am doing my part to promote the Route. My main store is on Route 66, so I have been creating a local Route 66 museum in a spare room, specializing in San Bernardino’s history and its role on the Route.” But Okura’s history of preservation didn’t stop there. Take another cue from destiny and Okura’s journey ventures further down Route 66 and into a most unlikely destination, roughly 150 miles into the Mojave Desert.
A Shadow from the Past Once a major stop on America’s most famous highway, Amboy is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County, west of Needles and east of Ludlow, on Route 66. Part of the gold rush era in the late 1800s, Amboy was settled in 1858 and established in 1883, as the first stop in a series of railroad stations that crossed the Mojave Desert. In the mid-1920s, the tiny town experienced a huge boom with the opening of the Mother Road, which led to substantial growth within the community, including the now iconic Roy's Motel and Cafe, which opened in 1938.
property, a museum to honor an institution that had had a big impact on his life. “I didn’t plan on buying this property, I didn’t plan on coming to Route 66, so I think it's my destiny to recognize opportunities and to jump.” Filled with kitschy McDonald's memorabilia, the unofficial museum came to life after a local newspaper erroneously reported that Okura had plans to open one. The article resulted in a lot of interest from the community, and so he decided that the idea made sense, and with the help of other McDonald’s enthusiasts, collected thousands of pieces of fast food history, and the stories that came along with them. “I’m different from a lot of museums, because I don’t just display things, I try to get the story behind the story,” he says. “I’m more interested in if they knew the brothers, remember the early days, or any special stories about what they’re bringing in.” With many of the items brought in on loan from their owners, Okura’s homage to the Golden Arches opened in 2016, and has since shared a piece of American history with thousands of people visiting San Bernardino, many of them as they make their way down the Mother Road toward the picturesque waters of the Pacific Ocean and the end of the trail.
“Amboy was really critical,” says Glen Duncan, President of the California Historical Route 66 Association. “It was a stopping point for most travelers. One of its unique features is that it had three very important services,” he continues, speaking about Roy’s. “It had space for a car park, so people could stop and picnic, it had cabins, which were just tents previously, and then a restaurant. So, there are just a lot of aspects of Route 66 travel that it embodies.” During World War II, tourism declined across the US, but Amboy remained busy due to its isolated, yet vital location. “Route 66 is widely known for its contribution to pop culture,” says Duncan. “But one unknown era of the road was during the war, when it was a lifeline for military vehicles. We had training across the core of the desert, and Route 66 was the only way to get there,” he explains of Amboy’s importance. “It was a major route for travel and an artery for the build-up of the aircraft industry here during the war.” The town of Amboy has changed ownership numerous times throughout the years. From Roy and Velma Crowl who opened Roy’s Café and Motel in 1938 to Herman ‘Buster’ Burris, Roy’s son-in-law – he was married to Roy’s daughter Betty – whom Roy brought on in a move to expand the business. In 1959, Roy and Velma retired leaving Roy's in Buster's name. In 1995, Buster sold the town to investors Walt Wilson and Tim White who went on to lose it in a foreclosure, leading Bessie Burris, Buster’s widow, to repossess it, before finally selling it to Albert Okura in 2005. At its peak, Amboy was home to 65 people, including the Burris family. Today, Amboy’s population is a mere four, a community all but forgotten after the opening of Interstate 40 in 1973.
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“Amboy came up for sale on the Internet on Good Friday, 2005 and I took my own advice by taking immediate action and closed the deal with Bessie Burris the next day. I knew the low sale price of $425,000 was great, but the real costs would come with maintaining and improving the town,” shares Okura, explaining how he came to own Amboy. “A school bus, a Virgin Mary statue, and all of this valuable stuff were taken. The Burris’ were just heartbroken that the town had been stripped and things removed.” Acknowledging the pain of the family that helped make Amboy what it was, Okura made a promise to never let the town disappear. This promise led the Burris family to reject larger offers for what Okura had on the table, a significant sacrifice in order to make sure that the history behind Amboy did not become another memory lost in the desert sun. Back to the Future and On with Success Now a highly successful entrepreneur with 27 Juan Pollo locations and a town to his name, Okura looks at opportunities like the McDonald’s Museum and Amboy as promotional investments and not moneymaking schemes. “When I bought Amboy, I wasn’t in the market to buy property, but when the opportunity to buy a town presented itself, I couldn’t resist.” Viewing the town through rose-tinted glasses, Okura only sees possibilities and a dream of the past that he hopes to preserve. “I’m trying to keep Amboy pure. Really, at this point, it’s a living ghost town. If you go there it’s stuck in the ‘60s.” This feeling is what he plans to maintain as he works to breathe life back into the town. “Looking at all the little buildings on the way to Amboy, you can tell that [Route 66] had life at one point,” says Charlie Aceves, who acts as the town's manager. “Then you come to Amboy and it’s a living ghost town. I enjoy its retro style. I’m into classic cars, so I can picture the whole town up and running.” This vision of a busy past keeps Amboy enthusiasts going, despite the challenges of bringing an abandoned town to life with today’s safety standards. “Albert [Okura] is very personable and intelligent,” shares Hugh Brown, Executive Director of the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association. “He [has] great plans for the restoration of Amboy, but has run into problems with San Bernardino County Building and Safety. Their biggest issue is water. The water in Amboy is high in toxins and not drinkable, so it has to be trucked in, plus the general infrastructure, electrical, and septic system, have to be brought up to current county standards.” “I think he’s got a lot of guts,” adds Duncan. “To do that, even after discovering that there was no [potable] water. That’s one of the main problems stopping Amboy from becoming a desert hot spot.” But according to Okura, plans are already in the works to address water and septic issues, and once fixed, he hopes 18 ROUTE Magazine
to re-open Roy’s Cafe within the next two years. “Eventually, the plan is to serve traditional diner food such as breakfast, burgers and fries. There are no plans to sell rotisserie chicken, my goal with Roy’s Cafe is to have the only authentic gas station/café combination in legal operation along Route 66.” Once that is done, Okura says he will turn his attention to the rest of Amboy, which includes the motel, cabins, a post office, Catholic Church, auto shop, airstrip, cemetery, and school. However, at this point, Albert Okura says that staying open is costing him more (roughly $50,000 a year) than it’s bringing in, but he considers it a worthwhile cause: preserving the past and providing basic services to those traveling the Mojave Desert. “Europeans and Asians have always viewed the Route as true ‘Americana’. With the rise of globalism, tourists from all over the world have been traveling to America. Many want to travel the Route and experience how it was in the ‘50s.” Amboy is also the jump off point to visit the nearby Amboy Crater, an extinct volcano and National Landmark. Towns like Amboy and places like Roy’s contribute significantly to the international popularity of Route 66. “I tend to view myself as a modern day Route 66 entrepreneur. The things I am doing on the Route ultimately will promote my restaurant chain. This is what all the original businesses on the Route were doing: creating wacky or memorable attractions designed to get travelers’ attention and get them to stop. My goal in Amboy is to always keep the atmosphere as a “living ghost town” and not become a tourist attraction interested in profit only. I believe that I might be the only one willing to buy the town and not worry about making a profit. I can control the destiny of a historic town. The biggest challenge now is that so many people are visiting, that it is overloading our septic systems. The local travelers are using us as a rest stop with public facilities. I guess the answer is to spend more money. Amboy is unique in that it is located remotely in the desert surrounded by a national preserve, so there will never be future development anywhere nearby. When you view things in terms of a “living ghost town” and making profit is secondary, time is on our side, and I don’t have to rush to get things open. I can control the destiny of a famous landmark and have the opportunity to keep Amboy from becoming a tourist trap. How many people can control the destiny of a famous town? I guess I am the official caretaker of Amboy.” Next time that you are motoring down the Mother Road and decide to pass through the Mojave, take a moment to ponder all of the stories that have taken place in the vast expanse, and all of the dreamers who came before you and invested their lives. Life in the desert is not always easy, but there is something intrinsically romantic about the sacrifices made and the men and women who made them.
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1 Route 66 Chuck Berry No Route 66 playlist would be complete without Chuck Berry’s 1961 version of this R&B standard. Although covered by other artists ranging from The Rolling Stones to Depeche Mode, Berry’s cool delivery and bluesy guitar and piano serve as the perfect backdrop to getting “your kicks on Route 66.”
2 Take It Easy The Eagles
themselves into your brain, and a tune that you can’t help but sing along with as you cruise across America.
5 Heartland U2 No Route 66 road trip playlist would be complete without a few slower jams. This 1988 song, while not one of the band’s most well-known, haunts with lyrics like, “Sixtysix – a highway speaks/ Of deserts dry/ Of cool green valleys/ Gold and silver veins/ All the shining cities.”
Turn this 1972 classic on for its Route 66 reference (“Well, I’m a Way Down Watson standin’ on a corner in Son Volt Winslow, Arizona”), but With lyrics like “It just keep it playing for its goes to show/Someday low-key, country-rock we gotta go/ Feel the charm. heart strings/ sinking fast/ Another treasure found/Another tumbling down,” this 1997 country-rock song breaks our hearts a Cadillac Ranch little as it tells of the demolition of the Coral Bruce Springsteen Court Motel on Watson Visit Cadillac Ranch, Road (Route 66), in St. a Texas art project Louis in 1995. featuring ten halfburied Cadillacs (and one of the route’s most photographed stops), while grooving along to the pounding beat of this 1980 rock n’ roll All Summer Long Kid Rock song.
A mash-up of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Sweet Home Alabama Home Alabama,” this tune will keep Lynyrd Sknyrd you grooving with its A must have on any catchy chorus and Route 66 playlist, sweet guitar solos. We this 1974 rock classic dare you to try and not has lyrics that burn sing along.
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Our Town James Taylor
Amarillo by Morning Life is a Highway Tom Cochrane George Strait
This Randy Newman song, performed by James Taylor, was featured on the soundtrack of Disney Pixar’s Cars. A slower tune, it’s a beautiful song that speaks to time and change, and evokes the nostalgic feeling present as you pass through some of Route 66’s abandoned towns.
This aching portrayal of the lonely life of a rodeo cowboy mentions one of Route 66’s most famous towns, Amarillo, Texas. The traditional fiddle intro and Strait’s characteristically smooth vocals make this 1983 song a Route 66 playlist standard.
This 1992 track, while a little heavy handed with the highway metaphor, is almost impossible not to sing along to. Covered by other artists, including Rascal Flatts, this song made its way onto the soundtrack of the Route 66 inspired Disney Pixar film Cars. Tom Cochrane’s version is our favorite.
12 TRACKS to
Get Your Kicks on 66
Tucumcari Tonight Brian Langlinais This upbeat bluesy song about a man getting home to his baby in Tucumcari, New Mexico, will get you revved up while you’re driving on the open road. When your energy is flagging give yourself a hit of this blues rock, steering wheel pounding ditty.
12 With its neon signs, rustic truck stops, and scenes of classic Americana, no other road captures the imagination quite like Route 66. Driving this highway through the heart of the country is the quintessential American road trip, and it deserves a rocking soundtrack to match. So, gas up the vehicle, roll down the windows, and press play on this collection of 12 perfect songs selected for your next trip on the Mother Road!
Hotel California The Eagles The Eagles make a second appearance on our list with this tune, possibly inspired by the band members’ journeys on Route 66. It’s a long and intricate rock ballad that serves as the perfect backdrop for driving westward into the sunset.
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A SIXTY YEAR A 22 ROUTE Magazine
The request was simple enough. However, after a bit of contemplation it became quite apparent that the task I had accepted would not be easy. How was I to distill nearly six decades of adventure on Route 66 into one article about my favorite road trip? Then, several days after accepting the assignment, while guiding a walking tour along the Route 66 corridor and through the historic business district in Kingman, Arizona, the answer came to me. My favorite adventure on Route 66 commenced in 1959. That was the year we traveled west from Norfolk, Virginia, on a bit of family holiday. My dad had a battered old Chevy convertible that required the occasional roadside repair, and we picked up Route 66 at St. Louis. At some point near Holbrook, we turned north toward Monument Valley and Mexican Hat in Utah before heading home via Colorado. I depend on faded photos in my dadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s possession for these and other little tidbits about the trip as I was little more than a babe in arms. The next big adventure on Route 66 took place, appropriately enough, in the summer of 1966. This one was epic: it was literally life changing. My dad mustered out of the Coast Guard in Port Huron, Michigan, and after years of being at sea, first in the Pacific during WWII, then in the Atlantic patrolling the coast, and finally on the Great Lakes serving on ice breakers and other craft, he set his sights on a drier climate. So, he folded a U.S. highway map in a manner that hid everything but the southwest states of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as southeastern California and Nevada and southern Utah and Colorado, then he threw a dart. Edâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Camp.
By Jim Hinckley ROUTE Magazine 23
Jim Hinckley’s Old Chevrolet Pick-Up Truck Currently Located at Cool Springs, Arizona.
Boldly, and somewhat foolishly, dad had purchased a house and property sight unseen, a victim of a great Arizona land boondoggle. So, until our new home could be made habitable, we lived in Kingman. In In the summer of 1966, the last incarnation of Route the summer of 1966 that dusty desert town, where 66 and the embryonic interstate highway system battered old pickup trucks outnumbered cars, the often shared the same road bed. For us, however, as soda fountain at the drug store was the local hangout, the truck was ancient and overloaded, we followed and Central Commercial sold everything from Levi’s the old road wherever possible. In retrospect, I can and auto parts to soup and barbed wire, almost see that the trip was grueling for my parents and seemed suspended in time. The never-ending flow of sisters. For me, it was an almost magical journey. Every traffic along Route 66, Andy Devine Avenue, served as second night we camped along the highway and with the link between the past and present, and a bridge a tarp stretched over a picnic table, I unleashed the from our new life to the old one. Every summer we imagination and was whisked away to share an island would follow that highway, and occasionally the with Robinson Crusoe or a campsite deep in the interstate, on an annual pilgrimage east, from the land wilderness with Davy Crockett. There were roadside of deserts to family, farms, and forests. cookouts and restaurants shared with real cowboys, Less than a year after relocating to Kingman, we stores where people talked in odd languages, and made another move that was as equally life changing. vast landscapes of multihued stone and sand with towering mountains on the horizon just like the ones This time it was to my dad’s desert homestead that was fortuitously located on Oatman Road, the prein movies with Roy Rogers and John Wayne. When 1952 alignment of Route 66 in the shadow of the I close my eyes, and think about that trip, I can still hear the ring of the gas station bell, feel the cold formidable Black Mountains. We were miles from the nearest neighbor, and most of the people in the vast bottle in my hand, taste the almost exotic peach soda Sacramento Valley were more than eccentric. They pop, hear the buzz of neon, and smell the aroma of wet pavement, rain, fresh mowed grass, rubber, gas, were, as my dad so colorfully described them, dry roasted nuts. We hauled our water. Getting to school oil, and the hot engine. This grand adventure was to was an adventure that often required sharing the back inspire a lifelong love for travel on the backroad, the forgotten highways, and the road less traveled. of a pickup truck with kids in age from six to eighteen, Yucca, Arizona, was the closest “community” to the point of impact and so he compromised; we were to relocate to Kingman, Arizona.
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miles of dusty, bumpy roads, and a long wait for the bus at the Whiting Brothers Station on Route 66. The return trip was no less grueling as we often waited at the station until a parent could pick us up after work. In all honesty, my initial impressions of our new home weren’t favorable. In fact, often it seemed to be the place warned about in Sunday school. Enter Ed Edgerton, the crusty, weathered, cantankerous proprietor of Ed’s Camp in Sitgreaves Pass. Edgerton arrived in the mining camp of Oatman from Michigan shortly after WWI, and in the early 1920’s settled at Little Meadows, a desert oasis noted by Father Garces on his exploratory expedition in 1776. When Edgerton set up camp there, opportunity was flowing along the National Old Trails Road in the form of cars from most every state in the union. With certification of U.S. 66 in 1926, business exploded. Edgerton added a small café, store, and cabins, expanded the gas station and campground, and sold mineral specimens from an open-air display. Then abruptly, in 1952, the flow of traffic simply stopped. Route 66 had been rerouted through Yucca, miles to the south. Fast forward to the mid 1960’s. The café at Ed’s Camp had closed, as had the gas station, and the cabins had become storage sheds. The campground proved popular with people who wintered in the desert, and Edgerton’s fame as a geologist ensured a steady flow of customers for his rock shop, and his tomatoes were
locally famous. That was my first paying endeavor, helping take care of Edgerton’s tomato and vegetable garden. Ed was a wealth of knowledge imparted through colorful quips. He was the proverbial desert rat, the stereotypical prospector with his whiskered, deeply tanned face, patched and repatched jeans, sweat stained and battered hat, and long-sleeve shirts rolled to the elbows, exposing formerly white long johns worn summer or winter. He was a local fixture, a celebrity of sorts. One time he ordered a new Chevy truck, and wrote out an IOU for the full price on a brown paper bag that was accepted at the bank! My association with Edgerton changed everything. Except for the rare occasion when my dad or Edgerton provided transportation, the early morning commute that summer meant hitching a ride from a neighbor, or a long, exhausting uphill bicycle ride along what had once been the Main Street of America. The return trip was, however, quite exhilarating, as the number of cars that used the highway daily were numbered in the single digits, and the long downhill grade to the valley allowed me to reach some pretty amazing speeds on my old Western Auto bicycle. Financial compensation was enough to allow purchase of a new magazine at Desert Drug in Kingman, a movie ticket to the State Theater, and a visit to Jan’s Soda Fountain in Kingman Drug every couple of weeks. The real reward, however, Kingman, Arizona Postcard, Andy Devine Avenue.
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was something I was too young to appreciate: the adventures to Oatman and into the Black Mountains shared with Edgerton, his stories about life on Route 66, and his vast knowledge of area geology. This was an amazing and memorable summer! This old alignment of sun baked Route 66 in western Arizona is linked to another unforgettable adventure, another milestone in life. This is where I learned to drive, first behind the wheel of a derelict WWII era deuce and a half tanker truck to haul water from the site of Fig Springs Station, an oasis noted in the now classic guide to U.S. 66 written by Jack Rittenhouse in 1946, and later in a 1953 Chevy pickup. My first solo expedition over the crest of Sitgreaves Pass was in the driver’s seat of a 1949 Studebaker stake bed. These adventures, as well as my time spent with Edgerton, sowed the seed of my affection for now iconic Route 66, of vintage vehicles, and for the people that have always given this highway a sense of vibrancy. In the years that followed, Route 66 continued to serve as the stage for some of life’s most important milestones. My first cross country trip as a driver, rather than as a passenger, followed much of Route 66 from Arizona to Illinois, and my first accident occurred on that icy highway near Gallup on a cold winter’s afternoon. When I embarked on what is now jokingly referred to as my John Wayne period, my first job was at the old Crozier Canyon Ranch, a former roadside oasis on the National Old Trails Road, as well
as Route 66. I picked up my mail at the post office in Hackberry, and latter Valentine, Arizona. Some years later the postmistress, Jacqueline Ann Grigg, the charming woman who held my packages, would be murdered at that post office for a few dollars and some postal money orders. If I wanted a steak dinner and a cold beer, I drove to the Frontier or Cattleman’s Cafe in Truxton. My next stint as a cowboy was for Cedar Springs Ranch. At night, from my bunkhouse window, I could watch the lights of traffic flow along Route 66, and see the glow of Antares Point, my new hangout for cold beer and chili. Today, Antares Point, as with Route 66 itself, is experiencing a revival. In addition to Giganticus Headicus and the artistic curiosities created by Gregg Arnold, the Antares Point Route 66 Visitor Center houses the model of Twin Arrows Trading Post created by the Dutch artist Willem Bor, a founding member of the Dutch Route 66 Association. This is also the first location to display my wife, traveling companion of thirty-five years, and dearest friend’s photography. The Hackberry General Store was fading fast, even before Route 66 was bypassed. Still, I always enjoyed stopping there for groceries and gas. It seemed timeless. I lamented its closing, but no more than I did the closing of my favorite stops in Truxton, Seligman, and Peach Springs. And in the dawning of the highway’s renaissance, it was here that I met
Photograph Credits: Jim Hinckley, Joe Sonderman, Steve Rider
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Bob Waldmire. We had had our share of hippies and brushes with the counterculture crowd in the area over the years, and there was even an association with the movie Easy Rider. Bob, however, was the hippie movement personified. Waldmire was a pleasant enough fellow, but initially it was his artistry, not his lifestyle, that impressed me. I was glad to see the old Hackberry Store given a new lease on life, but it was difficult to see him transform it into a biodiversity and peace museum. We were light years apart in our worldviews, but there was something special about this man. As an example, he developed a quick, attentive friendship with my son. Years later on his annual Route 66 treks, remembering my sonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interest in trains, he would bring a related gift and pick up conversations where they left off the year before. On the last trip, shortly before he died, we talked for quite awhile, and I marveled that he remembered my son by name, and some of the conversations that they had had in Hackberry. My wife has an even longer association with Route 66. Her family relocated to Kingman in 1946, and opened a store and auto court on Route 66 just east of Kingman. Her grandfather worked for the highway department, as did her father and uncle. They maintained Route 66, and helped build its replacement.
There was also an infectious vibrancy, a sense of excitement and optimism underlying the faded main streets, weathered neon signs, and overgrown parking lots at empty motels and truck stops. You found it in conversations with Bob Waldmire and Jim Ross, Michael Wallis and Jerry McClanahan, Bob and Ramona Lehman, and a barber in Seligman that had become an internationally recognized celebrity. The adventure that commenced in 1959, and that continues to this day, has been nothing short of magical. Still, it is the people that made it truly special. It is the friends made along the way, and the friends yet made, that make a Route 66 odyssey unforgettable. Those friends may have spent their life on Route 66, be young entrepreneurs with a passion for the preservation of history, be stewards of revered properties, or be someone named Wolfgang or Toshi, Bernhard or Zdnek, Hanneke or Karel that see legendary Route 66 as the quintessential American experience. When I first accepted this assignment, it was to write about my favorite or most memorable Route 66 adventure. However, as I gave thought to the Grand Canyon Caverns, Dinosaur Caverns, c.1962 Brochure.
In 1983, my Route 66 adventure became a partnership. While we settled into the life of a married couple and started a family, the road was becoming an historic footnote. For us, however, it remained an old familiar friend, a place filled with memories and memories yet made. When we drove east, our preference was Route 66, rather than the interstate. We shunned the generic and enjoyed our faded old diners and cafes where the waitress knew us by name. We savored the slower pace. In the 21st Century, Route 66 took center stage in our life. After more than a decade of writing about the evolution of the American auto industry, I turned my focus to documenting the culture and the history of the Main Street of America. The Route 66 of 1926 was far different than the Route 66 of 1956, and the Route 66 we traveled in the new century was not the Route 66 of my youth. The obvious changes were found in truncated alignments, the shuttered motels, restaurants, and service stations. ROUTE Magazine 27
Jim Hinckley, Author at the Painted Desert Trading Post in Arizona.
project it soon became apparent that it was all one long adventure, one richly woven colorful tapestry. Almost six decades of colorful people, pie and coffee shared with friends, learning to drive, learning to ride a bicycle, adventures shared with my dearest friend, blizzards in the Panhandle, boiling radiators in the Mojave Desert, and laughter filled dinners in Ofterdingen, Germany, with fans of the double six: sixty years of memories. When I look toward the future, I see the adventure continuing unabated. In May of 2018, there is the first European Route 66 Tour, and a few months later the second European Route 66 Festival in the Czech Republic. There are dinners and road trips to be shared with friends from Tennessee 28 ROUTE Magazine
and California, Japan and Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. The adventure stretches toward the distant horizon. Route 66 long ago transcended its original purpose. It is no mere highway. It is a magical carpet of asphalt. It is the road of dreams and of endless adventure as attested to by my sixty year odyssey on a highway signed with two sixes. To learn more about Jim Hinckley and his love affair with Route 66, visit https://jimhinckleysamerica.com.
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OUS WORLD OF
OUTE 66 A road trip down fabled Route 66 is anything but unimaginative. Join respected photographer David J. Schwartz as he takes us down the Mother Road via his camera lens, showcasing but a few examples of the unique and wonderful beauty that defines the Main Street of America.
ROUTE Magazine 31
ABOVE: It’s important to have the proper light to create a quality photograph. I thought I nailed down the time for the best light to be the evening before I created this photograph. So, I arrived an hour before the golden hour to find a very dull hazy evening on the Mississippi. In addition, I didn’t like the way the bridge, at the bend, moved back out of the image. Not being able to capture the image I was after, I rented a room for the night in nearby Collinsville and went to sleep. Up before the dawn, I headed back out to the Chain of Rocks Bridge to find the calculated morning light to be much more favorable to capture this Route 66 iconic bridge. Chain of Rocks Bridge from the Illinois side.
ON THE RIGHT:
I’ve stopped to photograph the Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois, a few times in the past, but I never seemed to arrive at a time when the light was interesting. On this trip back in 2016, I made it a priority to arrive at a time when I could highlight the retro signage advertising “FOOD”, which would be a dusk shot to obtain the lit sign and still retain detail in the sky. Upon arrival, I quickly parked my truck opposite the center of the signage, hopped on my tailgate to obtain a more even viewpoint, and began to create. I created several frames sequentially to make sure that I had the building perfectly square and within a minute and a half’s time, the sign went out and the doors were locked. 32 ROUTE Magazine
A feeling of desolation came over me while visiting the site of the now defunct Longhorn Ranch near Moriarty, New Mexico. The wind gusted, carrying the dust of a long ago busy parking lot though the air, the noon day sun bleached down on an old stretch of Route 66 that dead-ends in both directions, into Route 66â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s successor Highway 40. For me, this image captures the mood of the location. ROUTE Magazine 33
On a recent trip in 2017, I had to cheat a little and pick up the super slab (Interstate) and make some time to get to St. Louis. The one cool thing about hopping on the freeway that parallels Route 66 is that you sometimes catch remnants from a time when what is now the freeway was then a 4 lane alignment of 66. This picturesque barn still entices travelers to visit the Meramec Caverns, a long time Route 66 destination, that is nearly 100 miles away.
Quirky roadside attractions are designed to grab the attention of the traveler and steer them into the business. Route 66 is famous for its campy larger-than-life stops, and this huge 1960â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s era brontosaurus is no exception, attracting both kids and vintage highway thrill seekers to the Grand Canyon Caverns, in Peach Springs, Arizona.
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ABOVE: Some of the most intense driving on Route 66 is on the Oatman Highway, a surreal roadway that winds its way through the Black Mountains, up Sitgreaves Pass, and into the Wild West town of Oatman, Arizona. If the limited view around the hairpin turns and shear cliff drop-offs arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t enough excitement already, watch out for the wild burros
that are the decedents of burros that were set free, when no longer needed at the now defunct mines in the area. These burros trek daily into the town of Oatman to beg the tourists for food and then return to the mountains in the evening.
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ABOVE: The Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma, is one of the most photographed icons on Route 66. Usually depicted from the roadside view, I chose to photograph â&#x20AC;&#x153;Old Blueâ&#x20AC;? from the far side of the pond to include his refection and show old Route 66 in the background. The Blue Whale was constructed in the early 1970s by the multi-talented Hugh Davis, and remains one of the most popular roadside stops on the Mother Road today. 36 ROUTE Magazine
TO THE LEFT I found this angle well suited for the friendly, in your face personality of the Carâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s movie sidekick to Lighting McQueen, Tow Mater. Tow Tater is the influence for Mater. He proudly resides at Cars On The Route, a restored Kan-O-Tex service station, located in Galena, Kansas.
TO THE LEFT: When I think of America of the mid-20th Century, I think of friendly folks from a simpler time, cars with fins, buzzing neon signs, malts, burgers and drive-in movies. The 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri, is the perfect place to travel back in time and have some fun with your sweetie in the comforts of your own automobile, the way they used to back in the day.
If you love Route 66 imagery, make sure to visit www.picsonroute66.com and see some more of David J. Schwartzâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; amazing collection. ROUTE Magazine 37
THE MAN BEHIND THE VOICE ROUTE Magazine caught up with bestselling author and Route 66 ambassador, Michael Wallis, who shared on his enviable career as a writer, his famous book Route 66: The Mother Road, and his favorite places and people along the iconic highway. A well respected and known persona on the Route, Wallis reveals some things that even those who know him best may be surprised to learn. Perhaps best known, by many lovers of American history and Route 66, for his vigoursly well researched, carefully crafted books that dive deeply into the examination of historical figures and not-too-distant time periods along the Mother Road, Michael Wallis is best known for his hearty voice and his natural ability to turn the most mundane into an appealing, fascinating story. Wallis is also regarded by many as the godfather of Route 66, due to his authority on the route and the enormous success of his bestselling 1990 book Route 66: The Mother Road. Beginning his distinguished career in journalism in 1957, Wallis has gone on to be published in Time, Life, People, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and The New York Times to name a few. In addition to being the author of nineteen well received books, he is a renowned speaker, and the voice actor of Sheriff in the Disney-Pixar movie Cars. Yet, with all of the success and accolades awarded to Wallis, he continues to be humble and down-to-earth, passionate about his family and friends and committed to the promotion and preservation of the Mother Road. 38 ROUTE Magazine
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I think I was really conscious of the art of writing and the prospects of becoming a writer quite early on as a boy. It was really a sport in many ways. When I was just an adolescent, in sixth grade, I chose to enter an essay writing contest and won, and not only did I receive a modest honorarium, and had my picture appear in my hometown paper, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, but the big treat was having the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals send a limo to our home to take my dad and I down to a ballgame to see our beloved Cardinals play the Chicago Cubs at Sportsman’s Park. But it caused me to think, you know, this writing is not a bad thing. It’s pretty interesting what this can lead to. Some years later, I won another big national contest, sponsored by Wesleyan University and Scholastic Magazine, to write about the biggest events in 1959, things such as the Cuban revolution, the new states being admitted to the union, the last states, all kinds of events. Again, that was another sort of, ‘atta boy’. Oddly enough, I didn’t take an orthodox route. I never worked on the school paper, or did that sort of thing. It was a combination of standard education, but also life experience. I saw that as very important. I was greatly influenced, like a lot of male American authors my age, I was born in 1945 at the end of World War II, by [the work of] Ernest Hemingway. And besides liking his writing style, I tried to emulate his life, until I came of age and really formed a life of my own. I thought it was important to do as much as you can to see the world and to do everything. So, when I got out of prep school, I went to a military academy and loved it, and had a very well rounded education, athlete and scholar, and again, greatly impacted by many of those wonderful teachers I had there, including my senior English teacher who was really a mentor of mine. Then I decided to take a pass on an honor military school nomination to West Point, and instead, went to college for a year and played football and baseball, but still had a wild hair, so put in a hitch in the Marines, again trying to do it all. When I got out, I went back to school and finished up studying English and history. But then did all kinds of things: tended bar, worked on a ranch, I was a social worker, I was a printer, I wrote poetry and prose, started a literary magazine, paying my dues, and really developing into a writer. This is in the late ’60s and that’s the track I took, going from that to daily journalism to writing books, and now I’m poised to write my twentieth book. That is quite a journey. What spurred you to focus your time and talent toward writing Route 66: The Mother Road? Route 66 was always part of my life, part of my consciousness. I was born in St. Louis, a good Route 66 town, and grew up in West St. Louis County. My family home was, as I like to say, just about as far as one of my idols, Stan Musial, the great Cardinals slugger, could hit a hard ball off an abridged alignment of Route 66, today called Manchester Road. So, the road was always there for me. It was just part of our life. Route 66, we called it, like many people back then, Highway 66, but we didn’t think it was necessarily anything special. We just knew it as the highway. The 40 ROUTE Magazine
highway [that our] family would take to drive across the Mississippi and into Illinois to visit relatives in Chicago, up on Lake Michigan. It was the road we took west for me to discover the West, to see my first oil pump jack, and cowboys and Indians, eat my first enchilada, you know, all the way to the Pacific shore, all the great natural sites along the way, all the manmade sites along the way. It was the road I learned how to drive on. I was a kid, I bought my first car on Route 66, in Pacific, Missouri, in 1955, a Plymouth Savoy, a great little car. I bought it from the proverbial old lady who had very few miles on it. I hitchhiked home on Route 66 when I was in the Marines in California. I have great memories and interesting stories about those treks. [Laughs] And then as a reporter, I covered a lot of the good, the bad, and the ugly on Route 66, because I’d lived in seven of the eight states. The only one I haven’t really lived in is Kansas, where there’s less than fourteen miles, albeit a very important short passage of the highway, and one of my favorite stretches of the road. So, it was because of that experience and my knowledge and my personal connection to the road … then in the ‘80s, after the last towns were bypassed after the decertification of the highway by the Federal government was complete, with these five interstates that parallel it between Chicago and Santa Monica, I immediately began growing very weary when people started talking about the road in the past tense, because I knew that although the shields were down, and that a lot of towns along the way did not get off-ramps, did not get an exit, did not get access from that Super-Slab, I knew that the people were still there, dispensing hospitality, growing winter wheat, ranching, leading their lives, making a living on Route 66. I knew that as today, more than eighty-five percent of that road could still be traveled, and that’s what ultimately led me to write what I unabashedly call ‘a love letter to the highway’, and more importantly, to the people of the highway. And the book Route 66: The Mother Road was published in 1990 and immediately took hold and quickly sparked a revival of interest in the road that continues to this very day. The book was published by St. Martin’s Press. Did you shop it around to many publishers at that time? Were there many rejections for the book or did St. Martin’s say yes straight away? It was St. Martin’s book from the get-go! I had a very aware and savvy editor there, who remains my editor to this very day, Robert Weil. He was an editor at St. Martin’s Press and he, although he was born and raised in the eastern United States, he was a total and still is, dyed in the wool New Yorker … he has an appreciation not only for the American West, but specifically for a lot of the subjects that I’m interested in, and that includes Route 66. And he, on his own, had traveled Route 66, or parts of it, long before we ever met. But once I met Bob it became clear that I had an advocate and hence the book was published. It was my second published book. I had done a book that came out in 1988 called Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and The Birth of Phillips Petroleum, which also, of course because of that company, ties into Route 66, and that was published by Doubleday. But that really helped set the stage then to write the book for St Martin’s and it was a pleasure to write. I already had a reservoir of information
Photograph: Courtesy of Tulsa People Magazine
You’ve had a long and distinguished career as a writer and public speaker. But where did it all begin?
and research, but nonetheless, my wife and partner Suzanne, and I went out and made more excursions up and down the Mother Road to fine-tune that research and produce that book. The book remains very much in print and has sold over a million copies and earned me the first of three Pulitzer Prize nominations, but again, more importantly, it’s had a great impact on thousands and thousands of lives, of people along the road and of legions of travelers who have come back to the road and continue to take that well-worn journey. Of all of the Route 66 related literature that’s out there, what’s your favorite? Who do you enjoy reading? There’s no question at all! A definitive voice for writing about Route 66 is someone from the past, and that would be, of course, John Steinbeck. There’s no more important novel in the twentieth century than The Grapes of Wrath, which came out in 1939 and was followed by that exquisite John Ford film interpretation, The Grapes of Wrath. It’s an important book because it’s the book of that particular incarnation of Route 66, and even beyond it, speaks to the resiliency of people, people of the road, people traveling the road. It pulls no punches because the Mother Road, and that’s where the term came about, coined by John Steinbeck, the Mother Road, that is what made that book so successful … his no-holdsbarred interpretation of that travel.
mine, that have added fuel to this fire, from which has emerged this great phoenix of resurrection of the highway. Route 66: The Mother Road is around twenty-seven years old now. Is there another 66 related book that you are thinking about that we can expect to see in the upcoming years? The original book came out in 1990. Some years later, I updated it and added another chapter and some other material. But when people have asked me, ‘why don’t you write another book?’ I’ve always fallen back on the old comeback: if it ain’t broke, why fix it? I don’t want … if this book is still selling, and it truly is, it keeps selling and selling, let it take its course. However, I have written other books, specific books. I did the book Hogs On 66, a book aimed for motorcyclists on the road, that, really is a book that anyone can enjoy and find useful. And 66 certainly shows up in a lot of my other writings, including a lot of journalism. I’ve written many, many articles about Route 66, and it’s a big topic in my busy speaking agenda as a national speaker. I am constantly giving speeches about various aspects of Route 66. So, I’m quite comfortable with my body of work out there, and of course, as you know, there’s life for me beyond Route 66. I’ve written a great many other books about historical figures and about American history and culture, so I’m actually quite content.
“I would tell a young Michael Wallis to prepare for an often bumpy, often crazy, bruising, but overall joyous ride. It’s going to be a humdinger, so hang on to your hat.”
I appreciate it to this day because it certainly did not over-romanticize the road trip. There was nothing romantic about being a Dust Bowl pilgrim, about being a tenant farmer from the midlands, from the Oklahoma panhandle, from the Texas panhandle, from eastern Oklahoma, where the fictional Joad started, where the tenant farm system collapsed along with the prices of cotton and this vast migration of people fled on to the Mother Road, and followed the scent of oranges and lemons, looking for a new life in the so-called promise land of California, and the fruit groves in the growing fields of the San Joaquin Valley, in the airplane plants, in industries in Fresno, Los Angeles. And many of them didn’t make it and stopped along the way. Many of them did make it, only to find that the promise of jobs, of picking vegetables and [working] in the agricultural business were exaggerated, that there were too many people and not enough jobs, but they survived. And there’s no more noble character in American literature than Ma Joad, the rock that held the family together. Other than that, I would not even dare to name another without naming them all, because the subsequent books about Route 66 have all been about different aspects of the road. As you know, there have been guides, there have been specific books about everything from the bridges of Route 66 to crime along Route 66. It’s just great, and I’ve always encouraged writers to write their own Route 66 book. It’s the combination of all those books, not just
Do you have any favorite place or places along 66 that truly stand out to you?
People are constantly asking us ‘what’s your favorite eating place on Route 66?’ ‘What’s your favorite mom and pop motel?’ ‘What’s your favorite natural attraction?’ ‘What’s your favorite place?’ And, you know, that’s kind of like asking us who’s your favorite child. And it’s a very dangerous question to answer, even if we might have specific favorites. So what I usually do is cop out, and depending if I’m being interviewed in New Mexico or Illinois, I’ll usually pick something or someone from that state. However, with that said, if you put a loaded revolver to my temple and said, just take a chance and name one place you like along Route 66, I will usually say this: it’s a stretch of original Route 66, well west of Albuquerque, that leads off of Interstate 40, and parallels it, snaking through the country that becomes Laguna Pueblo lands, and in fact, goes right by old Laguna Pueblo, and you keep following that stretch. It’s a wonderful stretch of highway. I like it so much because parts of that road, which literally winds like a desert snake around mesas and great stones and high desert … you can see or catch glimpses of the super-slab plowing through the land. Because of the technology of that time, the builders couldn’t break through all that land, so it actually, in a way, honors the land, by slipping around so much of it, that old two lane. In particular, there’s one stretch of that specific length of road that brings you past a ROUTE Magazine 41
large stone right by the road, a stone so big that it’s earned it’s own name, because of its shape. It’s Owl Rock. In fact, it looks like a great gorgeous owl. And then you see the cliffs in the distance, the Rocky cliffs, where swallows have built their mud nests, sort of the original adobes, and you see them flying through the air, hunting, eating. It’s just a glorious stretch of road.
his brothers and sisters that they shouldn’t make fun of those Okies passing through town because they were, in fact, Okies themselves, they just don’t have enough money to leave there, it changed his whole perspective. Instead, he and his late brother, Juan Delgadillo, would ... when the Okies would go through town, they would jump on the shadows those trucks would cast on the road bed and travel with them, and as he told me, ‘then we became shadow chasers.’ Just a wonderful man, an old, as I say, wisdom keeper.
I recall on one of our many research trips taking the Pixar creative team out on the road to expose them to the road itself, our vehicles going through that stretch, past Owl Rock, and we saw an old battered pick-up. I think it was There’s Dean Walker, the Footman of Route 66, Crazy an old Chevy, it was pretty much paint-less from the desert Legs. The guy who entertains countless numbers of winds and sun and in it, the driver was stopped in his visitors from Paris and Brussels and Schenectady and lane just looking around. And when I got down to him, Miami as they pass through that little episode of road I stopped next to in Kansas and him and we spoke, encounter Dean, and it was an old who will face Laguna man, an them, face-to-face, Indian man, he was and then turn wearing a beat-up his feet around straw cowboy hat 180 degrees. It’s and had a bandana the most baffling on, and sunglasses, maneuver you’ve and he was smiling. ever seen, these I looked at him exorcist feet that and greeted him can turn around, and he looked at while the rest of me and took off his body remains his sunglasses and facing forward. looked me straight It’s what inspired in the eye and John Lasseter in smiled and said, the Cars movies “How do you like to make sure that my land?” And I Mater, the old said, “I love it. It’s tow truck, who great.” He said, “It we uncovered in Kansas, that Mater is. It’s beautiful.” had a particular And then we both talent, and that drove on. It’s one talent is driving of those simple backwards. That moments that’s Owl Rock is perhaps the most famous natural rock attraction along the was inspired by forever tattooed weaving stretch of New Mexico’s Route 66. Located in-between Mesita Dean Walker. in my heart. It’s, and Laguna, the formation resembles an owl, and is a short distance you know, a simple There are so many moment, the best before Deadman’s Curve, a 180 degree bend in the road that also offers characters. There moment, that you scenic interest. are characters that never forget. I’ve encountered Route 66 has a lot of very interesting people, for many different reasons. Who do you think is the most colorful person on Route 66?
That’s a good question and the problem with that is, again, it’s just so hard to just choose one. So I’m just going to name a few people. You have everyone from Ron Jones, who we call the tattoo man, who has his body literally covered with scores and scores of really beautifully executed tattoos of iconic places on the highway, from neon signs to built architecture. You have Angel Delgadillo, the old man, wisdom keeper in Seligman, Arizona, who still cuts hair, by appointment [now], and might give you a shave in his one chair barbershop right on Route 66. An amazing man who taught me about what it was to live on the Mother Road in the depths of the Depression and Dust Bowl and not leave. When his father told Angel and 42 ROUTE Magazine
on the road who remain nameless to me. A wonderful man I met at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma, Dawn Welch’s place … Dawn was the inspiration for Sally in Cars. One day, Suzanne and I had a busload of Smithsonian associates doing the whole road of Route 66. I was guiding them. We had just finished our meal at the Rock and I had just showed them how to throw their shoes into an elm tree to knock down bunches of mistletoe, which they did with great glee. So, they’re all sitting on the bus. Suzanne looks up and she sees a car pull up with a man that gets out and he’s fully six foot six, wearing a shiny western cut suit, gleaming cowboy boots, a gigantic ten-gallon hat, and a white beard down to his waist, and these flashing blue eyes. And when Suzanne saw me approach him, she told the bus, “I guarantee you, that man will be on this bus,” because she knows me so well. And indeed, he was. I said to him, “My goodness, you look great.” He said, “I feel great. I’m out
on Route 66.” And I said, “Well, what do you do?” He said, “I am a traveling potato salesman.” I said, “Great! You’re getting on this bus.” And I took him onto the bus and introduced him with great flare, and explained to everyone on the bus that this was an Oklahoma Santa Claus, and he then took a piece of mistletoe and walked down the aisle and kissed every female on the bus, and then took his leave. Great moment.
During my career as a writer of books, I became more and more comfortable speaking to people, not that I was ever shy, but I’ve honed my skills as a speaker and really enjoy speaking to audiences as much as I enjoy writing for people. I just find it simply another way of articulation, oral versus the written word. And I get, again, as much satisfaction out of that method as I do out of writing. Basically, what I am is a storyteller and I can do it in those two ways.
Over your career you’ve interacted with a lot of high profile people. Have you ever been star-struck by anyone that you’ve met?
Are there any skills or talents that you would perceive that you don’t have, that you would love to possess?
Not really by anyone that you would consider a celebrity. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, high profile people, political people, athletes, fellow writers, all kinds of people. From Andy Warhol and Thornton Wilder to Stan Musial and all kinds of people. But no, none of them really left me star-struck. If anything, I might have felt a bit star-struck by some of the regular folks I’ve met, including people along Route 66. Seemingly simple people, leading simple, but heroic and courageous lives. To me, it’s those people, the people along the road, who have continued to eke out a living, despite all odds. They’re the real heroes. They’re the ones of courage that I so, so admire. Do you have any fears or phobias? Oh, sure, I’ve got tons of fears and phobias. The first thing that comes to mind, and this is the biggest one, I have a thing about rats. Not mice, not other critters, snakes. I love all critters, but the rat to me is number one on my public enemy list. I’ve never been a hunter, and I pretty much have tried to avoid killing everything, including spiders. I’d much rather not kill anything. But I have absolutely no problem in dispatching a rat and I have killed many of them in the course of my life, because I’ve been in a lot of situations where I’ve encountered rats, and I’ve even written stories about it. When I lived in Miami and worked at the Time Magazine Caribbean Bureau, I lived in a lovely cottage between Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, surrounded by avocado trees and citrus, a beautiful pool, and it was lush and I had a rat problem living there. I wrote a whole story, kind of a humorous story, about me taking on these rats that invaded my home and how I enlisted the help of a man just called Uncle Al who was the number one rat killer in Dade County, and how we took these rats on and got rid of them. So, it was Uncle Al who taught me so much about rats, and I still use the name he gave them: the lap dog of the devil. So there you have it. That’s it. I’m not too much afraid of anything else, and I’m not really … it’s not really a fear of rats, it’s that I detest them for what they’ve done to mankind historically, and what they’re capable of doing
I don’t know about love to have, but there are so many skills that I don’t have. I am hopeless with anything mechanical. You know, I don’t know a spark plug from a ham sandwich. In the world of technology, which I think is incredible … not the internet, but the machines we use … I’ve written all my books, nineteen books, on a computer of one sort or another. That always improves periodically from the most rudimentary computer many years ago to today’s state of the art. Of course, I have an iPhone. I have an iPad. I’m active in social media and so forth. But I don’t understand anything technically. I know how to research and write the hell out of that computer. And I can do all of that, but beyond that, no. So I don’t, that’s just not the way my brain operates, so no technical skills at all. [Otherwise], nothing really comes to mind. I’m pretty satisfied with the way it’s gone thus far. If Michael Wallis of 2018, recently off of The Best Land Under Heaven book tour, could go back and speak with the Michael Wallis who was just beginning his book tour for Route 66: The Mother Road, what would you tell him? What would you share with a much younger Michael Wallis? I basically would tell that Michael Wallis of, say, 1990: prepare for an often bumpy, often crazy, bruising, but overall joyous ride. It’s going to be a humdinger, so hang on to your hat. I follow the wisdom of the great old baseball pitcher Satchel Paige, who said, “Never look back, they might be gaining on you.” And I don’t. I don’t have any regrets. The only possible regret I have, and I will honestly admit it, is I wish that I could have played left field for the St. Louis Cardinals for at least three seasons. If I could, that’s what I would wish I could do. But other than that, I don’t look back. I don’t have any regrets.
Check out Michael Wallis’ newest book The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny in stores everywhere.
You have nineteen books under your belt now, and you are a sought-after national speaker. Over the course of your career, have you ever been nervous, or do you get nervous during book signings or when speaking to audiences? No, I’m never really nervous before book signings. They’re generally quite good. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an audience of twenty-five people or an audience of … I’ve spoken and signed books with an audience of twenty-five hundred, because of my speaking. It’s not the numbers, it’s the quality, how I feel about a particular event. ROUTE Magazine 43
44 ROUTE Magazine
The Mother Road
Must Stay Venues Along Route 66
From historic favorites to iconic landmarks, from small picture-perfect motels to some undeniably refined hotels, the Mother Road boasts an amazing selection of venues to enjoy. In this issue, ROUTE rounds up some memorable places to stay that will add to your trip of a lifetime when sojourning down old Route 66. ROUTE Magazine 45
Route 66, first commissioned on November 11, 1926, was largely used in the ‘30s by those fleeing the devastation of the drought in the Midwest – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas – that resulted in shattered lives for an incredible number of families. Route 66 represented their best and, for some, their only chance for survival. It is estimated that during the ‘30s, some 2.5 million people migrated West in the hope of finding agricultural employment, leaving the Plains states well behind. This is even more significant to the development of Route 66 as proactive residents in the towns and cities that the migrants would pass through, quickly recognized that they would need somewhere to sleep, to eat, to get their overladen vehicles repaired and to simply take a break from the difficulties of travel. As such, the Route 66 economy was born, and towns along the Route blossomed and grew with the influx of travelers. By the ‘40s, the military had begun to invest enormously in the development of military training bases, with the majority of the construction and troop training being designated to take place in California. As a consequence, the War Department quickly needed to improve the available highways in order to allow for rapid mobilization in the event of a war. This, once again, resulted in a dramatically increased economy for many of the towns along Route 66, and some major upgrades to the Route. In 1946, the song ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66’, written by Bobby Troup and sung by Nat King Cole, was released and became a huge hit. The success of the song poignantly reflected the spirit of this post-war generation and their captivation with going West and following ‘their dreams,’ so much so that, ‘Get your kicks on Route 66’ became a popular catch phrase and the most enduring travel story of Route 66 set to music. As the ‘50s rolled in and America began to stabilize with the end of World War II, there were tremendous strides in transportation and roadway development. Now, more and more Americans owned a car and with these newer, 46 ROUTE Magazine
sleeker, faster automobiles came the need for more smooth, paved roads and places to go. Tracing its way from Chicago to California, Route 66 represented freedom and a chance to break from the norm and get out and take life head on. There was always a new adventure to be had and new places to see, and Route 66 was there to make that possible. After the economic devastation of the Dust Bowl era and two world wars, Route 66 represented, to the people of this time, a renewed spirit of optimism and a restored sense in the possible. The ‘60s television series “Route 66” further propelled the popularity of the Route by bringing it up close and personal into American living rooms and lives each week. Of course, by now, towns along the Route were seasoned in rising up to meet every new opportunity, and with the extra spending power of the times, flashier diners and coffee shops, and new motels and attractions were born. As the road passed through natural wonders like Arizona’s meteor crater and across the bone dry, but fiercely beautiful, Mojave Desert of California, other tourist beacons arose to meet it. But this prosperity was not to last. The construction of the interstate, which offered a faster, more straightforward route, brought about the demise of Route 66. The interstate cut off the busy traffic from Route 66, which was the lifeblood of many of the small towns dotting this fabled highway. Businesses shut down, tourism was lost, and people moved away, and finally, many of the small towns simply died. Route 66 was eventually decommissioned and technically ceased to exist. However, in more recent times, the Route has once again entered into a period of renaissance thanks to the dedicated efforts of many Route 66 supporters and road warriors. In 2006, the release of the animated Disney film, Cars, perhaps did more to reinvigorate the old road and attract global visitors than anything else. And come they have. Now every season, 66 and accommodations along the route happily welcome a myriad of travelers from Spain, Germany, Italy, France and England, with many traversing the skies from as far off as Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Russia and even Africa, all eager and excited to experience the spirit of the Mother Road. Having recently traveled down the Mother Road, 2488 miles of it, for the 4th time, we know that a comfortable place to rest your head at the end of each day is paramount to enjoying the full intimate experience of this iconic highway. So we have rounded up 19 venues, some with interesting back stories, some with unique heritage and charms of yesteryear and others offer comforts of modern times. All geared to make your journey down Route 66 one to always remember and to attest that the spirit of Route 66 lives on.
Words: Brennen Matthews,Lesley Allen,Mark Allenov, Melanee Morin.
A drive down fabled Route 66 is considered by many to be the ultimate road trip experience. This one single stretch of highway has seized the imagination of many an artist, musician, writer, photographer, filmmaker, actor, and everybody else who has had the privilege of journeying across America down this scenic road. Breathtaking scenery that is unique within each of the eight states – bountiful cornfields and quaint towns in Illinois, serene forests and lakes in Missouri, real-live vintage Americana in Kansas, endless open plains in Oklahoma, expansive blue skies in Texas, the aggressive rugged beauty of New Mexico, the grand landscapes of Arizona and the vivid Mojave Desert of California – and the truly fascinating people and attractions that visitors encounter continuously along the way, makes journeying down Route 66 a trip of a lifetime.
Illinois Moving silently over history laden ground, Route 66 tranquilly passes southwest through Illinois on its way to Missouri, through flat prairies and endless cornfields, small towns and authentic old-Route 66 landmarks. Unique experiences include Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station in Dwight (the longest operating gas station along Route 66, from 1933-1999), the wonderful little town of Pontiac, and the historic Chain of Rocks Bridge (the original Route 66 crossing over the Mississippi River into Missouri). The “Land of Lincoln” blends metropolitan modernity and rural American history in a soothing prairie landscape.
Missouri The “Show Me State” of America definitely lives up to its name, with some of the most visually dynamic scenery on the Mother Road, including rocky bluffs, rolling hills, prairie plateaus, and even massive limestone caves (Meramec Caverns has been attracting Route 66 tourists since 1935). At its heart is Springfield, the “Birthplace of Route 66,” where the number 66 was assigned to the Chicago-Los Angeles route on April 30, 1926. From St. Louis, the “Gateway to the West,” to Joplin “The City that Jack Built” - homage to the zinc (Jack) mines that lead to economic prosperity - Route 66 through Missouri is a rich natural and historical landscape. The state boasts of some of the best places to stay along the Route too!
The Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba, Missouri Eastland Suites Hotel & Conference Center, Bloomington, Illinois Located in historic Bloomington, Eastland Suites Hotel and Conference Centre provides an oasis of casual elegance and comfort for the road weary traveler. Eastland makes our list due to its fantastic spacious suites that each include a full kitchen, living/dining area, and a patio or balcony, giving access to the hotel’s courtyard. Each suite has a top and bottom floor bedroom, perfect for families looking for some extra privacy after many days sharing a room with children. Conveniently located between Chicago and St. Louis, Bloomington is a perfect rest-stop for those traveling across historic Route 66, which once ran straight through Bloomington’s downtown. Vestiges of original Mother Road attractions are still alive and well in Bloomington and surrounding McLean County. After a delicious complimentary breakfast, check out the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitor’s Centre located in the awardwinning McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington. For an experience of old-time Americana, visit the Sprague Super Service Station: opened in 1930, it is the only two-story Tudor Revival service station on Route 66. Or, in nearby McLean, check out Dixie Truckers Home: established in 1928, it is considered the oldest truck stop in America. Finish the day off with a complimentary cocktail at Eastland Suites’ cocktail hour, and perhaps you will resonate with Lincoln’s love for this part of America: “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.”
Famous for being the oldest continuously operated motel on Route 66, the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba is one of those Route 66 historic icons that epitomizes American nostalgia and entices travelers from across the globe. The original Wagon Wheel Cabins, Cafe & Station was built in 1935 by owners Margaret and Robert Martin. They hired stonemason Leo Friesenhan to construct the buildings using local Ozark sandstone in the Tudor Revival style: steeply pitched roofs and decorative stone trimming around the windows and doors create an English countryside atmosphere. A 1939 AAA travel directory entry for the property described it as “a home away from home” and “one of the finest courts in the state,” with a nightly rate of $2.50 to $3.00. The Wagon Wheel has continued to serve Route 66 travelers for three quarters of a century, passing through various owners, until it was bought in 2009 by Connie Echols who lovingly restored every room to its 1930s splendor. This charming motel offers visitors an authentic experience on Route 66, inviting them with its original 1947 neon sign and perfectly blending old Americana hospitality with the conveniences of modern amenities: flat screen TV, laundry service, ice machines. The outdoor patio, guarded by mature trees and adorned with a glistening chandelier reminiscent of vintage glamor, is a great place to sit and relax in the evening, glass of wine in hand, as you soak in the history that has played out from this Mother Road gem. Even better, swap your adventure stories with other Route 66 travelers over a crackling fire. Many memories have been made at The Wagon Wheel Motel. ROUTE Magazine 47
Boots Court, Carthage, Missouri Only an hour’s drive west of Springfield, MO, lies the historic old Route 66 town of Carthage. Established in 1842, Carthage evokes its rich history at every turn, from its Victorian town square, to its must-visit drive-in theatre, but nowhere is the history of Route 66 more evident than at Boots Court. Founded in 1938 by Arthur Boots, this classic venue is the perfect place to stay when driving the Mother Road. Boots called the location “The Crossroads of America” because it is located where the U.S. 71 highway and Route 66 converge. Boots Court was built in the Streamline Modern Art Deco style popular in the 1930s, with rounded corners, smooth stucco siding with black glass accents, and a flat roof. Offering “modern” conveniences like air-conditioning and a radio in every room, Boots Court’s bright red neon sign and wrap around vivid green neon drew in droves of travelers crossing Route 66, including celebrities such as Clark Gable. Today, sisters Debye Harvey and Priscilla Bledsaw continue to lovingly restore Boots Court to its former glory and welcoming hospitality. If there is a venue that demands to be included in your itinerary, Boots Court is it!
Homewood Suites by Hilton, Joplin, Missouri With famous Route 66 running through the heart of this historic city, Joplin provides the best of big city amenities and small town hospitality. The city was established in 1871 after lead and zinc deposits were found in the area, and railways built to ship the ore out quickly turned the city into a bustling regional center, becoming the lead and zinc mining capital of the world. Route 66 was aligned through Joplin in 1926, bringing travelers from all over America, including the notorious Bonnie and Clyde in the early 1930s. After robbing several banks in the Tri-State region between Joplin, Commerce, OK, and Miami, OK, the criminal couple hid in a garage apartment in Joplin, which they escaped from during a shootout; the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Joplin contains many architecturally interesting buildings from the Mother Road’s heyday, from old service stations to Americana restaurants. Rated as the #1 hotel in Joplin, Homewood Suites by Hilton is the perfect place to stay 48 ROUTE Magazine
while exploring Joplin’s rich history. The hotel features spacious suites that are pet-friendly, all with fully equipped kitchens and modern comfortable furniture. Relax in the whirlpool spa, hit a few balls on the hotel’s miniature putting green, or meet other travelers at the evening social (Monday to Thursday evenings). Before bidding farewell to the Show-Me-State, a stop-over in Joplin is a must for those looking to soak up Route 66 energy.
Oklahoma After the shortest section of Route 66 in Kansas (all 13 picturesque miles of it), you’ll find the longest drivable stretch of the Mother Road in Oklahoma, so you may just want to take it slow and spend a couple of days exploring. “The Sooner State” is very proud of its extensive Route 66 history, with countless restored filling stations, motels, and
restaurants from old Americana’s heyday on offer. Delve deeper into the Route’s history at the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum in Sapulpa, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, and the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City. Oklahoman Cyrus Avery, the “Father of Route 66,” began the campaign to create the route in 1927, and this state is still a very proud parent of its most famous child: America’s Main Street.
Ambassador Hotel, Tulsa, Oklahoma If you’re looking for a lavish boutique hotel experience within a bustling metropolis, look no further than the four-star Ambassador Hotel in Tulsa, OK. General Patrick Hurley opened The Ambassador Hotel in 1929 to cater to the capitalists flocking to Tulsa during its oil boom in the early 20th Century. Just four years earlier in 1925, Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery had begun his campaign to develop a highway linking Chicago to Los Angeles. He established the U.S. Highway 66 Association in Tulsa. Tulsa’s extensive art deco architecture reflects the city’s rapid expansion at this time, and the Ambassador Hotel is itself a stunning structure: ten stories high with a brick exterior, and limestone and terra cotta accents in
a Mediterranean style. Within, is an elegant cream and white lobby, large suites with plush furniture, and The Chalkboard Restaurant where you can enjoy a succulent beef wellington. Visitors and Route 66 explorers have been staying here for almost a hundred years. While in Tulsa, experience some of the country’s top museums, such as the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum, or check out nearby Route 66 attractions, including the famous landmark Blue Whale of Catoosa and the historic neon Meadow Gold sign. And of course, don’t leave town without paying a visit to the 75-foottall, 43,500-pound Golden Driller: Titanic Oil Man, statue. The fifthtallest statue in the America. ROUTE Magazine 49
Doubletree by Hilton, Tulsa, Oklahoma The Doubletree by Hilton hotel in Tulsa provides a modern foil to the historic art deco city. The city’s bountiful natural resources and placement along Route 66 in the early 20th Century resulted in a population and cultural boom. The Doubletree is located in downtown Tulsa and is perfectly situated to experience Tulsa’s extensive history. Nearby cultural venues include the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and the Greenwood Cultural Center. Author Booker T. Washington dubbed the 35-block Greenwood District as America’s “Black Wall Street” in the early 1900s, as it became a prosperous center for black commerce and culture. Another cultural landmark is the Admiral Twin Drive-in Theatre, just off Route 66. Locals and travelers along the Mother Road have been stopping here since the 1950s, and it was a key setting in S. E. Hinton’s bestselling coming-of-age novel The Outsiders.
Return to the contemporary and stylish Doubletree after a day of sightseeing and lounge by the indoor pool or take in Tulsa’s beautiful skyline from your room. Tulsa is the perfect place to experience the nostalgia of Route 66 while appreciating the modern metropolis the Mother Road helped build.
Colcord Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma One of the primary stops along the Mother Road, Oklahoma City is also one of the most diverse Route 66 locations with “Little Saigon” in the Asia District, Lake Overholser, the architecturally interesting Oklahoma State Capitol Complex, and the city’s Adventure District, which includes the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. With a complex and chequered past, a good first stop when visiting the city is the Oklahoma History Center, just off of old Route 66, where you can learn about the many facets of the city, including the Colcord Hotel, where local history and contemporary luxury meet. Located in the downtown core, the Colcord was the city’s first skyscraper when it was built in 1910. Originally constructed as an office tower, the building was renovated in 2006 and transformed into a boutique hotel, featuring a restaurant that uses only locally sourced ingredients, an amazing bar and lounge, specialty packages, and shuttle services perfect for exploring downtown OKC. In 1976, this landmark was placed on the National Register of 50 ROUTE Magazine
Historic Places, and despite updates and renovations, is still adorned with original features, including marble detailing in the main lobby. Another must-visit place that is within walking distance from the Colcord is the Oklahoma City National Memorial: a beautiful, sacred and serene tribute to the memory of the victims of the 1995 OKC bombing.
FUEL YOUR CURIOSITY Your perfect stop on the Mother Road. Occupying the historic Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Oklahoma City, 21c Museum Hotel is a multi-venue contemporary art museum coupled with boutique hotel and chef-driven restaurant. Best New Hotels in the World - Travel + Leisure, It List 2017
900 West Main Street Oklahoma City 405.982.6900 | 21cOklahomaCity.com ROUTE Magazine 51
Ambassador Hotel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma After staying at the Ambassador Hotel in Tulsa, you will likely be inspired to check out its sister hotel in Oklahoma City. The Ambassador Hotel in OKC is located in the historic Osler building. Featuring a “U” shape design and art deco architecture, the Osler was built in 1928 as a medical center and named after physician Sir William Osler (18491919), a Canadian doctor famous for creating the medical residency program, bringing medical students out of the lecture hall. The Osler maintained its medical functions until 1965, and after decades of lying vacant was bought by Coury Hospitality and included in their Ambassador Hotel Collection in 2012. The building was transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel, but it still retains its historic facade and medical insignia above the entry doors. 52 ROUTE Magazine
After checking out nearby sights such as the historic Automobile Alley, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, or the entertainment district of Bricktown, it is a pleasure to retire to the Ambassador’s plush executive rooms (they are also pet-friendly) and upscale amenities. Finish the day off with a cocktail at the hotel’s Rooftop O bar, and take in the glittering lights of OKC’s downtown skyline
New Mexico New Mexico is nicknamed the “Land of Enchantment” for good reason. For travelers crossing Route 66 in its heyday, New Mexico represented the entrance to America’s southwest and its vibrant Native American and Spanish cultures. The landscape is undeniably captivating,
transitioning from fields of sunflowers to sandstone mesas and towering pine-forested peaks. New Mexico is also home to some of America’s most vibrant cultural and historical centers, such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Route 66 created an economic boom in New Mexico that still reverberates today, and here is where you’ll find some of the best-preserved old Route 66 attractions anywhere.
Route 66 Casino and Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico The huge neon arrows outside of Route 66 Casino and Hotel point to a lost nostalgia. This hotel, located only twenty minutes west of Albuquerque, comes alive at night in a blaze of dazzling neon lights and antiquestyle signs. The vintage vibe, represented by classic Route 66 art displayed in the hallways, is balanced with modern amenities and wellappointed rooms that have great evening views. There is also a supervised children’s play area for the little ones while the adults “get their kicks on Route 66”. This is one venue where the energy is undeniable and it truly comes alive at night.
Museum, even for those who may not be a fan of reptiles.
To further your Route 66 experience, drive down Central Avenue (old Route 66) through Albuquerque to see historic neon signs and notable architecture such as the old KiMo theatre. Just a few minutes away from Central Ave. is Old Town Albuquerque, where the city was founded in 1706. We would recommend a visit to the Rattlesnake
And if you happen to drive along Route 66 at nearby Tijeras, (20 minutes east of Albuquerque), be sure to experience the “Musical Highway.” Installed in 2014, if you drive at exactly 45 miles/hr over the rumble strips along the side of the highway, it will play “America the Beautiful.” Now, where else can you find such an amazing attraction! ROUTE Magazine 53
La Fonda, Santa Fe, New Mexico Originally part of the Mother Road when it was first constructed in the early 20th Century, Santa Fe remained a part of the historic road until 1938, when Route 66 was rerouted to a more direct route to Albuquerque. The reason for this change, which came in 1937, is said to have been an act of vengeance on the part of Governor Hannet, who had lost his bid for re-election and blamed politicians in Santa Fe. Using what time he had left in office, he rerouted the highway, causing it to bypass the city of Santa Fe entirely. When Route 66 was still a part of Santa Fe, it passed through the center of town and by one of the city’s oldest hotels, La Fonda on the Plaza, whose history can be traced back 400 years. According to historical records, La Fonda is built on the site of the town’s first inn (fonda), dating back to 1607, and the Spanish influence. The La Fonda of today, which was built in 1922, has gone from being a Harvey House, to being owned by Sam Ballen and his wife Ethel, and then on to its current owners, siblings, Jennifer Kimball and Phillip Wise, who acquired it in 2014. La Fonda’s historical popularity as a preferred lodging among trappers, soldiers, gold seekers and gamblers, as well as politicians, remains steady today, as the hotel continues to be a local gathering spot and a hub of activity. Recent renovations have added modern amenities, but many of the original features celebrating Santa Fe style 54 ROUTE Magazine
still remain: pueblo-style architecture, original local art adorns the walls and Southwestern accents can be seen throughout the hotel. Perfectly located to experience the charm and lore of the City Different, as Santa Fe is warmly referred to, La Fonda also has a wealth of amenities for you to enjoy, including a fine dining restaurant, a full service spa, year-round outdoor pool, two bars, a fitness center, and plenty of boutique shops to keep you entertained. Today, Santa Fe remains a popular tourist stop, combining Spanish Colonial and Native American Pueblo culture, architecture, and history. Voted the number 2 best small city in the United States, Santa Fe is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful stops on the Main Street of America. And as an integral part of Santa Fe’s history, a stay at La Fonda on the Plaza is simply a must.
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Arizona Arizona is a state of natural wonders and Route 66 passes right through the highlights, including the arid Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert with its beautifully colored hills, and of course, the Grand Canyon. Arizona has an extensive history that is reflected in its cultural milieu today. Inhabited for over ten thousand years, you’ll
find everything in Arizona: Indian trading posts, old West saloons, 1930s hotels, authentic Mexican cuisine, and bright-neon American nostalgia. There are many unique Route 66 cities worth visiting along the way such as Holbrook, Williams, Kingman and Oatman (where wild burros roam free). You won’t regret taking your time and exploring Arizona.
La Posada, Winslow, Arizona While most visitors who pass through Winslow, AZ, on Route 66 only stop briefly to take their picture at the Standin’ On the Corner park and mural (created in 1999 to capitalize on the mention of Winslow in the 1970s Eagle’s hit “Take it Easy”), revitalized attractions such as the La Posada Hotel are helping to rejuvenate Winslow’s historic district and bring new life to a forgotten town. In the early 20th Century, railway industrialist Fred Harvey “civilized the west” by introducing upscale railway travel by building hotels and restaurants along the Santa Fe railroad. Harvey decided to build his finest hotel, La Posada (the Resting Place) in Winslow, and spent upwards of $2 million ($40 million today). Harvey hired renowned architect Mary Colter, who designed the hotel as a grand hacienda, considered to be her masterpiece. During its heyday in the 1930s, La Posada was a favourite destination for Hollywood stars and 56 ROUTE Magazine
celebrated individuals, including John Wayne, Betty Grable, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Albert Einstein. The hotel closed in 1957, but has been painstakingly restored to its former glory by its current owners, artist Tina Mion, her husband Allen Affeldt and Daniel Lutzick. Each of the rooms are spacious, unique and beautifully done in southwest style. Experience the Spanish Revival architecture as you explore La Posada’s nooks and crannies, enjoy the array of eclectic artwork that decorate the walls, and hang out in the gift shop or in the library, dine at the exceptional Turquoise Room restaurant, or wander through the immaculately landscaped gardens while the kids play hide and seek in the hay bale maze. And as the sun sets over the horizon, grab yourself a drink from the Martini Lounge and sit out on the back patio and watch the Amtrak Southwest train amble to a stop at the hotel’s back gate, a throwback to yesteryears.
Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, Williams, Arizona Williams, AZ, is another haven for old school enthusiasts and Route 66 devotees. Founded in 1881, Williams has everything from Old West landmarks, authentic Native American shops, restaurants converted from old Route 66 gas stations, and heaps of midcentury modern architecture. Bursting with classic Route 66 signage, restaurants and hotels, Williams has some of the best-preserved Route 66 structural designs anywhere on the old road, possibly because it was the last town along the Route to be bypassed by Interstate I-40 in 1984. Originally built as one of the “Harvey Houses” in order to cater to railway passengers, the Fray Marcos Hotel opened in 1908, adjoining to the Williams train depot. Adding an element of finesse among the ranchers and lumbermen, the Fry Marcos Hotel hired “Harvey Girls” to serve meals, adding civility and charm to the frontier in their signature black and white dresses. Located across the lawn from the original hotel, the current Grand Canyon Railway Hotel was built in 1995 and designed to both revive the tradition
of Harvey Houses, while offering top-notch modern amenities to be undeniably the best hotel in Williams. Additionally, Williams is the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon” and visitors can take a historic steam train to the Grand Canyon to experience one of the wonders of the world. If you don’t make it on to the train to visit the Grand Canyon, be sure not to miss the return of the historic locomotive at 5:45pm. The customary hoots of the horn to signal its arrival and the jubilant waves from the loco pilot, passengers and spectators on the platform, make for a merriment filled and eventful moment.
Hualapai Lodge, Peach Springs, Arizona The small town of Peach Springs along Route 66 is the perfect place to appreciate history while getting back in touch with nature. Peach Springs is located on the Hualapai Reservation, and serves as the capital of the Hualapai Nation. The Northwestern part of Arizona has been inhabited for over ten thousand years, and the Hualapai people have a rich history that they still proudly maintain today. The American government established the tribal reservation in 1883, and the building of a railway station and a “Harvey House” for tourists visiting the Grand Canyon provided prosperity. Traffic boomed when Peach Springs was included along Route 66 in 1926, and this influx has been recreated in recent years when Route 66 was reborn as a “Historic and Scenic Byway” in Arizona. Hualapai Lodge blends this Route 66 heritage with Hualapai culture: the decor features authentic Hualapai artwork, a river-rock fireplace in the lobby, and southwestern prints. Hualapai Lodge is the perfect base for outdoor adventurers; visitors can explore the Grand Canyon landscape via white-water rafting, fishing, offroad touring, hiking, and hunting. Hualapai Lodge is
also the gateway to the only road leading to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, offering exhilarating views and an unforgettable experience. If you fancy a slightly different cultural experience as you travel down Route 66, this is your place.
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California As you drive through the California portion of Route 66, you’ll be following in the footsteps of 20th Century pioneers heading West in search of the California dream, as depicted in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The Route 66 stretch in California serves up every imaginable type of southern California landscape, to make this final push to the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean unforgettable: the harsh, but intensely beautiful Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree National Park with its rugged mountains, lush San Bernardino National Forest, all the way to the welcoming sea breeze on the beautiful beaches in Santa Monica. Past Mother Road icons, ghost towns, and transitory landscapes, the glow of Los Angeles on the horizon will guide you to the Route 66 finish line!
Fairmont Miramar Hotels and Bungalows, Santa Monica, California After countless miles and unforgettable experiences, Route 66 finally meets the ocean in Santa Monica - be sure to take your well-deserved photo at the “End of the Trail” sign on the Santa Monica Pier. A few blocks north along Ocean Avenue you’ll find the Will Rogers Memorial Plaque, placed at the original endpoint of Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway. A humorist, actor, and world traveler, the plaque notes that Route 66 was the first road Rogers traveled (to get from Oklahoma to LA) in “a career that led him straight to the hearts of his countrymen.” Just above Santa Monica’s ocean-side cliffs is the nearby Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. Originally the private mansion of John P. Jones, U.S. senator and founder of Santa Monica, the five-star Fairmont Miramar has been providing an exclusive and luxurious retreat for celebrities and travelers since 1921. Notable guests include Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Eleanor Roosevelt, and President John F. Kennedy. Stay in one of the lavish ocean view suites or opt for a more private 1930s restored bungalow 58 ROUTE Magazine
located in the beautiful Miramar Gardens, offering a plush residential feel and updated mid-century glamor. Relish in your well-earned stay at Fairmont Miramar, and if the road still calls your name, there is always the drive back.
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THE BEST WESTERN
otoring along the Mother Road, one (major) hotel brand stood out to us beyond any other. Started back in 1946 by M.K. Geurtin, the Best Western Hotels & Resorts only existed as an unofficial association between properties, where independent hotel operators developed a system of recommending each other’s hotels to travelers. From these humble beginnings, the hotel chain - whose name “Best Western” came about because most of their properties in the United States were originally west of the Mississippi
River - has become known as “the world’s largest hotel family” with about 4,200 hotels and motels worldwide! As you meander down the Mother Road, there are likely Best Western hotels in every small town and larger city, but some venues under the Best Western umbrella, located on or just off of Route 66, truly stand out. Passionate about keeping the spirit of the Route and committed to doing their part to keep its history and culture alive and well, a number of these privately-owned venues are must stops on your journey. Here, we round them up for you.
Best Western Colorado River Inn, Needles, California This is one of our favorite stops along Route 66. Marking the beginning of the end of the Mother Road, Needles (the “Gateway to California”) is located in western San Bernardino County on the state line between Arizona and California and boasts 10.8 continuous miles of vivid historic Route 66. When entering the town, which was a major stop on the historic route from the 1920s through to the 1960s, their famous ‘Welcome to Needles’ covered wagon still greets motorists with a nostalgic warmth. The first thing that hails you when you pull into Best Western Colorado River Inn is the enormous Route 66 shield painted on the driveway, paying homage to the 60 ROUTE Magazine
Mother Road. Offering 63 guest rooms, eight executive rooms, and one suite, all of which have a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee machine, the delightful Colorado River Inn is conveniently situated right on Route 66. Needles - named after a rock formation on the Arizona border - is one of the hottest places in the country, with summertime highs hovering between 100°F and 120°F for months on end, which makes Colorado River Inn a gem in the desert, with its newly remodeled outdoor pool, the perfect escape from the heat. Spend some time in Needles and soak in the gregarious nature and unique history of this little desert town.
Best Western Rail Haven, Springfield, Missouri When making your way along the highway, one stop is vital when getting to know the history of America’s Main Street: the birthplace of Route 66 itself, Springfield. A thriving city of 160,000, Springfield is full of must-see stops that reflect the heyday of Route 66, including the historic Takhomasak Steak ‘N Shake and, perhaps our favorite place to stay in town, the fantastic Rail Haven Motor Court. Built in 1938, comprised of only eight sandstone cottages, and known as the Rail Haven Motor Court, this iconic piece of American history has transformed into a 92room motel under the Best Western Hotels and Resorts umbrella. With restored Fords parked outside, vintage
gas pumps, fantastic neon lights and black and white pictures in the rooms depicting the original Rail Haven as it once was, and its evolvement throughout the years, the Best Western Rail Haven gives a nod to its glorious past, without sacrificing modern-day comforts. Part of the accommodations offered is the very room Elvis Presley stayed in while visiting Springfield in 1956. Today, fans of the King can arrange to stay in the Elvis Presley Suite, which features a king-size pink Cadillac bed, an original mural, and one of his authentic gold records. A bit gaudy perhaps, but pretty darn cool.
Best Western Pontiac Inn, Pontiac, Illinois If you’re taking a nostalgic trip along the Mother Road then you’ll want to plan to stop and spend some time in picturesque Pontiac, Illinois. A former coal-mining town, Pontiac is well known for the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum, which boasts thousands of pieces of memorabilia, such as gas pumps, enamel and neon advertising signs, as well as vintage photographs documenting Route 66’s fascinating and colorful heritage. After a long day of exploring local culture, or after a lengthy drive down Route 66, many travelers head to the only hotel in town with a pool and hot tub, the Best Western Pontiac Inn. With clean modern rooms, the newly renovated facility offers a ton of features
that only add to your Pontiac experience, including a new exercise facility, guest laundry, and complimentary hot breakfast. Spend some time in this quaint little town and kick back at the Pontiac Inn. ROUTE Magazine 61
Best Western Plus, Elk City, Oklahoma There’s no denying that Route 66 is America’s most beloved highway, and with its rich and diverse history, the road has played a huge role in the development of many communities across the United States. For Elk City this is very much the case, as transportation played a vital role in the town’s growth since the laying down of the Choctaw Railroad in 1901. What both the railway and Route 66 achieved was to open the town up to the rest of the world. By 1902, Elk City boasted 60 businesses, several boarding houses and two hotels. Not too shabby for a town that was just a year old. Elk City went on to become one of the largest cities in western Oklahoma and a beacon of “western hospitality.” There is a lot to see and experience in Elk City, particularly at the National Route 66 Museum, Old Town Complex, and the one-of-a-kind Transportation Museum which explains the history of how automobiles, trains and planes impacted travel in the United States. Plan to slow down and take your time as you explore the replica old town and step back in time to experience historic Route 66. To sample some of the western hospitality that Elk City is known for, a stay at the Best Western Plus, the newest hotel in Elk City, is a must. From the on-site laundry, fully equipped kitchenettes, complimentary hot breakfast, spacious rooms with modern conveniences, and outdoor heated pool, you may just end up extending your stay a little bit longer.
Best Western King’s Inn & Suites, Kingman, Arizona Located on the longest remaining intact section of America’s Main Street, Kingman is known as the heart of historic Route 66. One of Nat King Cole’s recommendations in his hit song ‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66’, the town has a rich history and is home to the award-winning Historic Route 66 Museum and the Route 66 EV Museum, the world’s only electric vehicle museum. Centrally located to all of the area’s top tourist destinations, such as the Hoover Dam, Hualapai Mountain Park, the Grand Canyon, and much more, Kingman is a muststop destination for anyone hitting the old road. And the neon at night is to die-for. For those looking to rest after a long day of driving, convenience is everything, and that’s just one of the reasons the Best Western King’s Inn & Suites is the ideal stop. Located along the fabled 66 highway, the King’s Inn & Suites has spacious rooms and all the amenities needed for any road warrior, including an on-site laundry facility, free full breakfast and a complimentary dinner every Wednesday as part of the hotel’s Manager’s Appreciation Event. Rooms have all the modern conveniences, and vintage photographs of Kingman as it was in the bygone past add perfectly to the Route 66 experience. 62 ROUTE Magazine
This article is a two-part series. Make sure to check out the second part in the April/May issue when we dive into some of the best dining options on the Mother Road. And remember, if any of the venues that we suggest sparks an interest, make sure to let them know that you discovered them in ROUTE Magazine.
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The Phillips 66 Highway Hostesses, Courtesy of the Phillips 66 Company.
ROUTE The history of the Mother Road can, ironically, often seem to be dominated by male protagonists and male storytellers. However, while less prominent in literature, women have certainly played an integral and fascinating role in the life and development of Route 66. By Katharine McLaughlin An intelligent educator, historian, and activist; a brave entrepreneur who aided African-Americans traveling along the route; a community oriented advocate faced with an environmental disaster. These are just some of the lesser-known stories of incredible women who lived and worked along Route 66. But this is about to change as Katrina Parks, writer, director and producer, embarks on a new project that aims to shed light on the impact and influence of women on the route. When Parks began researching women’s stories along Route 66, there were few stories, and none of them very diverse in terms of ethnicity and female representation along the route. “I thought there was definitely a need for more exploration,” said Parks, and so she created The Women On The Mother Road, a website and documentary that collects the oral histories of women along Route 66. The project aims to create a public history record of diverse women’s experiences, spanning decades of life on Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. Since she was a child, Parks loved stories about the American West, but noted that as she grew older and began to look for available stories that spoke of female experiences, she often discovered that, “women are relegated … their experiences don’t get the attention they deserve, and when they do get the attention, they are often stereotyped.” Often, women are cast as secondary characters, assisting their husbands with the storefront or motel. When women are afforded the primary role, they largely accomplish things in the domestic sphere. They are migrant mothers or women tending to their children and house. They aren’t educators, business owners, or mayors. While historically, the narratives surrounding women on Route 66 has been limited to certain roles, Parks
discovered, that women have been quite busy up and down the old road and The Women On The Mother Road project is giving a voice to what historians have left out and is showcasing the limitlessness of what women can do. Meet Fabiola, Alberta, and Marilyn, a few of these incredible women whose stories and influence on Route 66 is being captured. *** In 1894, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca was born to a ranching family in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Although women in her family’s class bracket weren’t allowed to perform manual labor, Fabiola broke these gender roles and rode with her father and grandfather to oversee the ranch whenever she could. Fabiola took her first job as a schoolteacher in rural Guadalupe County even though her father was strongly opposed to her working. Teaching in a rural, one room, school house came with many challenges; the school had outdated books, no bathroom, and no running water. Her students often attended school for only part of the year as they had to work in order to help their families survive. When they did attend, they came from all kinds of backgrounds, which made teaching very difficult. Despite the challenges, Cabeza de Baca persisted. She used her own money to purchase school materials and she fashioned her own bilingual reader. For the next ten years, Cabeza de Baca taught at various schools, before going on to earn two degrees, one from New Mexico Normal in Pedagogy and one from New Mexico State University in Home Economics. Cabeza de Baca became intrigued by the field of home economics, a new field which applied progressive goals of efficiency and science to the kitchen and family. She went on to become an extension agent for thirty years, where she taught men more efficient crop and livestock practices, ROUTE Magazine 65
African American travelers information about safe lodgings, restaurants, and more. The Green Book was crucial for African Americans navigating the West where lack of segregation laws made it extremely difficult to know where they would be served. But one woman in Springfield, Missouri, saw a need and decided to do something about it. Born in Springfield in 1909, Alberta Ellis opened up shop in the ‘40s to provide safe spaces for African American travelers that they so desperately needed.
Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
and women lessons in nutrition, food preservation, food preparation, and home technology. By doing this, it would allow those residents to stay in rural areas rather than to be forced to move into cities. Because of her job, she was constantly traveling on Route 66. She was also the only agent that spoke Spanish, which was essential since sixty percent of New Mexico’s population was Spanish and over half of the entire population spoke no English. Without Cabeza de Baca, the other agents couldn’t help the people they intended to due to the language barrier. In 1929 she eloped with Carlos Gilbert, an insurance agent and member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Although they divorced after ten years, it was most likely his involvement in the LULAC that got Cabeza de Baca first involved with the early Hispanic civil rights movement. When a train hit her car in 1932, resulting in the need to amputate her leg, Cabeza de Baca didn’t let that stop her work. After recovering, she went back on the road and began compiling notes about village traditions, such as recipes, folklore, and religious rituals. Cabeza de Baca began writing and publishing many articles and books as a means to preserve cultural practices. She saw writing as a potent form of social action. Later in life, Cabeza de Baca developed home economic programs in Mexico, just as she did in New Mexico. She was also one of the women who founded the Sociedad Folklorico de Santa Fe, an organization dedicated to preserving Spanish culture, folklore, and traditions. Fabiola Cabeza de Baca died in Albuquerque in 1991. She dedicated her life to education and the preservation of Spanish culture. She persevered in even the most difficult situations and bettered the lives of many. *** During the Jim Crow era, traveling as an African American wasn’t exactly the idyllic road trip we often associate with Route 66. Families had to pack food, arrive before nightfall, and meticulously plan their stopping points for their own safety. In order to do this, travelers relied on Victor H. Green’s publication, The Green Book, published from 1936-1966. This book acted as a travel guide providing 66 ROUTE Magazine
Alberta Ellis might have worked eight-hour days at the Bell Telephone Company, but that didn’t stop her from being an entrepreneur. She started with Alberta’s Snack Shack, which served as a place to buy soda and candy for travelers. Then, she opened Alberta’s Motel, where rules of segregation did not exist. When a military troop stopped in Springfield, they didn’t want to be separated based on race, so they stayed at Alberta’s Motel. Her hotel even came to house many famous people over the years, like Roy Hamilton, Ray Charles, Meadowlark Lemon, and Goose Tatum. From the motel, she created the Rumpus Room, which acted as a place for young people to socialize and dance. But in order to get into the Rumpus Room, everyone had to have a good conduct card from Alberta herself, or you wouldn’t be admitted. The Rumpus Room was another place where school children of all races could hang out, instead of being separated by color. Then, Ellis bought a ten-acre farm about ten miles west of Springfield where she had orchards and animals. At the time, roadside parks were a safe place for African Americans to sit and have a meal outside of the car. Alberta’s farm acted as a space to accommodate those who may have missed turning into the city. Ellis had a strong work ethic, to say the least, and she instilled this work ethic into her grandchildren. One of her favorite things to tell them was that she wasn’t the First National Bank and they needed to learn to work for things. So, Ellis would give her grandchildren small tasks around the hotel to learn that work ethic. Alberta Ellis knew that times were changing, and she knew that once segregation ended, so would her businesses. She managed to sell the motel before businesses dried up, like it did for many other African American owned businesses after segregation became relegated to history. She died in Springfield in 1966. Ellis offered a much-needed safe space for African Americans through her businesses, and did her part to bring all kinds of people together by ignoring the rules of segregation. *** Times Beach was an idyllic summer-resort community situated along the Meramec River that drew people from St. Louis in search of a respite from the summer heat. Previously, the area had been a flood plain used for farming, but over time it was transformed into a suburban community with over 1200 year-round residents. Once the ‘50s came around with an upward trend of development, homes previously built on stilts were replaced with ground-level housing, as it seemed the flooding had subsided.
Alberta Ellis in Springfield, MO. Courtesy of Missouri State University Library and Archives.
Bertha Parker Pallan Cody. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 90-105, Science Service Records, 1920s-1970s.
During the ‘70s, the town developed a problem with dusty roads, so in the summers of ’72 and ’73, the city hired Russell Bliss, a waste oil hauler, to spray the roads to reduce the dust. The city couldn’t afford to pave the roads, so it was thought that spraying them with oil would be the best solution. On November 10, 1982, a reporter informed the city clerk that Times Beach was possibly among the sites sprayed with waste oil containing dioxin. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed the reporter’s information, but indicated that it could take as long as nine months before any soil testing could be done. It was then that residents recalled the effects from Russell Bliss’s spraying. The roads turned purple. There was an awful odor. Birds and newborn animals died. Residents couldn’t wait months for the EPA’s testing, so they pooled in their own money to do it themselves. Only then, did the EPA accelerate its testing program. However, things only got worse. In December of 1982, the town flooded, the worst in its recorded history, and on December 23, residents learned that there were dangerous levels of dioxin in the water. They were told to leave their homes. Many residents wrote letters and signed petitions requesting a buy-out or relocation of the entire town. During this time, residents fell into depression and alcoholism, domestic violence increased, marriages ended, people fell ill. The town was falling apart, but Marilyn Leistner could not. Elected in 1981 as alderwoman, Leistner was actively working to solve this crisis. But when the town learned that some present government officials were aware of the possible contamination of the community as early as 1972, the community no longer trusted their government leaders. They made threats. The pressures on city officials became so great that two mayors resigned, making Leistner Chairman of the Board of Aldermen. The Mayor then began repeatedly talking about leaving. He was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for several weeks. He resigned and Leistner became Acting Mayor.
Marilyn Leistner in Times Beach, MO. Courtesy of Marilyn Leistner and Sue Olsen.
painting the offers on their houses and gaining media attention did the offers improve. When they did, residents took the buy-out and Times Beach was buried. Leistner’s whole family has had health problems because of exposure to dioxin. But despite so many hardships and tragedies, she continues moving forward. For the past fifteen years, Leistner has been an alderwoman in Eureka, Missouri. She is also president at the Eureka Historical Society, which allows her to keep an account of the history surrounding Times Beach. The land that used to be Times Beach is now Route 66 State Park, representing the renewal that is possible after hardship - something Leistner is living proof of. *** Three women accomplished remarkably different things, spanning different time periods and different challenges. Their stories show the resilience of women through the ages, despite the odds. Adding to the canon of women’s stories along Route 66 is essential to create a complete picture of women’s experiences along the highway. “If you want to create a whole picture,” noted Parks, “you have to be inclusive of different perspectives. Audiences today, I think, want to see work that is reflective of who they are, and so we need to open the doors to all people and experiences.” Katrina Parks has been working on The Women On The Mother Road for the past two years and plans to finish compiling the information into a documentary by late 2018. Until then, Parks continues to work on the project, writing grant applications, collecting oral histories, and putting all the pieces together. These women’s stories that have been shared with her over the years have fed her desire to keep going in order to ensure that they are heard. “Once I carry these stories with me,” Parks said, “I have an obligation to see them through.” For more information, you can visit the route66women.com website to see many of the excerpts from interviews with the women on Route 66. Or, you can visit The Women On The Mother Road Facebook page to see recent updates on the project as well as any information about upcoming events.
Leistner worked to accelerate the buy-out for the town, but when offers began, they were low. Only after spray ROUTE Magazine 67
HOUSER How does it feel to be in “the middle of things” on Route 66? What an honor to be at the geometrical center of the old road. When you are in Adrian, it’s a magical place. Most memorable guest you have ever had at Sunflower Station and/or Midpoint Cafe and why? Bryan Cranston who was my waiter one day when my waitress didn’t show up. Nicest person on Route 66? Gary Turner who passed away a few years ago...what a great guy! What traits do you share with Flo, the character based on you from Disney-Pixar’s Cars movie? She’s a happy soul. Other than Flo, who is your favorite character and why? John asked me who my favorite character was and I said Mater...and he proceeded to imitate Mater for me.... now why didn’t I say Flo? What makes you laugh? I love that folks see me and consider me famous! It’s a hoot! If your pets could talk, how would they describe you? As their entire world. My dog Brodie comes to work with me every day. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Tall and slim rather than short and fluffy. What quality do you deplore in yourself? Deplore in myself? Nothing...I’m perfect! No seriously, I’m an instant gratification person...I want to see results immediately! And I deplore the fact that I’m lazy and sometimes can’t get to work on time! I live three blocks from the MidPoint and these folks travel from so far away...I am pure lazy! What do you consider your greatest achievement? Greatest achievement? Actually, two: the MidPoint designation, and the fact that I’m still on the road greeting travelers from around the globe. Biggest regret in life? I felt I needed to sell the Cafe. Should have kept it till they pried me away from the grill! No really, I have no 68 ROUTE Magazine
regrets. Been married to a doctor and a cowboy...when I sit on the nursing home porch, rocking away, what stories I could tell! From living in the country to life on the range, to owning a significant location on Route 66! What a grand ride I’ve had! What is something most people don’t know about you? I’m a Yankee, married my childhood sweetheart, divorced after 20 years (and he became a doctor), then married a cowboy and lived on my uncle’s ranch 20 miles from Adrian. Bought the cafe after the second divorce and wanted an antique shop. After 24 years I became the antique! Food that you cannot live without? Loved the cheeseburgers that I fixed for myself at the cafe... medium rare and loaded. Favorite type of pie? Joann’s [baker of the famous “ugly crust pies” at Midpoint Cafe] lemon meringue pie! Fresh lemons from our friend Dan Rice at 66-to-Cali on Santa Monica pier. The original ugly crust pie! If you could sit down for a meal with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be? Would love to sit with Abraham Lincoln and eat pie with him...what would he think of us now? What is your one great extravagance? Buying books, from murder mysteries to historical novels. I devour all of them. I have a Kindle but I love turning the written page! Best book? Grapes of Wrath. What would your autobiography be called? “Sunshine on the Prairie” after Cynthia Ann Parker, the kidnapped mother of Quanah Parker. Or, “She Tried Her Best to put Adrian on the Route 66 Map.” Definition of pure happiness? My idea of pure happiness is seeing the parking lot full of folks from around the world traveling Route 66...safest road in the world because no one can find it.
Illustration: Jenny Mallon
Fran Houser is a living legend on Route 66. The former owner and operator of the Route 66 landmark Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas - so named because it’s literally the geographical midpoint of Route 66 - for 23 years, continues to welcome visitors from around the globe from her western-themed antiques and crafts store, the Sunflower Station, located right next door to the Midpoint. As the inspiration for the personality of Flo and Flo’s V8 Cafe in the Disney/Pixar Cars movie, Fran gives us the last word.
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the legend continues
from scratch s i n c e 1 9 6 0
World Famous 72oz Steak Challenge. 100% of our steaks are aged and cut onsite. The Big Texan has a proud tradition of excellent food – made fresh daily from the same recipes that we started with in 1960. We brew all our beers on site. “Real Texas” beers – handcrafted in the legendary tradition of the World Famous Big Texan Ranch. Starlight Ranch Event Center offers guests the best live music in the Panhandle while dancing under the stars. This outdoor amphitheater plays host to some of the most talented musicians around. 70 ROUTE Magazine
(800) 657-7177 • (806) 372-6000 I-40 EAST • EXIT 74