- Automobile History
Arizona's Route 66 30th Annual Fun Run Attracts Vintage Cars Trucks Cycles to the Mother Road
Our 1959 Thunderbird
Cruising Route 66 Arizona
In 1994, we participated in the Arizona portion of the Historic Route 66 Fun Run, and in 2015, we decided that it would be fun to participate again. For anyone interested in Route 66 history, Arizona history, or vintage autos, trucks, trailers and motorcycles, the event is two days of feasting on fun, food, history and a constant parade of some of the world's finest vehicles. I was amazed to discover that Route 66 Clubs exist in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Brazil. (Probably other countries too, but participants from all the countries I just listed were in attendance.)
Route 66 is sometimes called the "Mother Road." Completed in 1926, Route 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, a highway through eight states that utilized many of the same paths that had once been used by horses and wagons. It was apparent that the automobile was soon to be sold in large numbers across America. For many families during the Great Depression, the highway was the means to find work and a better life. During World War Two Route 66 was used to transport people and supplies, but by the 1950s and 1960s, Route 66 was well traveled by the many people who craved seeing America's sights. To support those driving on Route 66, service stations, cafes, motels and roadside attractions offering services and entertainment to travelers became part of the "story" of Route 66. "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" a song made popular by singer Bobby Troup became an anthem for the highway. A television show, Route 66 which aired from 1960 -1964 made the locations along Route 66 well known, but at the same time, new highways by-passing many of the smaller towns on Route 66 were under construction. By 1987, Route 66 was decommissioned and much was published that Route 66 was "dead" in favor of air travel and super highways to accommodate more lanes and faster autos.
Snow Cap Drive In Seligman Arizona
Rebirth of Historic Route 66
While some towns and attractions along Route 66 did cease to exist, many towns and businesses worked to restore the original motels, hotels, service stations and restaurants to their former glory when America seemed to be a more optimistic and innocent society. Many historical groups began to advertise their Route 66 status and the highway gained an iconic following.
In Seligman Arizona the Delgado family who owned a drive-in cafe, a barber shop and I believe a service station helped form the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. Each year the Fun Run on the Arizona portion of the Historic Route 66 begins in Seligman on a Friday night with a barbque and cruise, and starts officially on Saturday morning at ten. The vehicles pass through Seligman, Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs, Truxton, Valentine, Hackberry Valle Vista, Kingman, Cool Springs, Oatman and Golden Shores/Topock along the Colorado River where Arizona ends and across the River California begins.
Old General Store Hackberry Arizona
Along the Highway
We drove from our home in Sedona to Williams. Other drivers gave our car a thumbs up. It's fun to use the horn ring and wave. We are driving with our windows down and the wind blowing our hair. I had forgotten how you almost have to shout to be heard over the roar of the car and wind. We stayed the first night in Williams to eat at the famous Rod's Steak House on Route 66 which started business in 1946. The homemade rolls and excellent cuts of steak are as good as ever. The three dining rooms were jammed. Vintage vehicles cruise and line the street. We spend an hour walking off dinner and looking at the vehicles. Saturday morning we drove to Seligman for the start. We had preregistered on line, so it just took a moment to pick up the "goodie" bag with a Route 66 hat and t-shirt, map, key chain and a list of events during the run. Music from the 1950s and 60s blared from the Snow Cap Drive In. The variety of over 800 vintage vehicles was endless. Everything from a 1911 Cadillac to oodles of various Chevys, Fords, Dodges, VWs, Vans, Woodies, Hot Rods, motorcycles and trucks pulling restored Teardrop campers. The well organized start is smooth, and soon we were driving on Route 66. Not far out of Seligman were several series of Burma Shave signs that delighted any of us who took road trips in the 1950s and 1960s. People were sitting next to the road watching us pass and taking pictures. We drove past the Grand Canyon Caverns and our first stop was in Peach Springs home to the Hualapai Tribe for their tasty barbque. Peach Springs served as the Model town for the Disney Pixar movie Cars. We enjoyed visiting with a couple who had owned their car since the 1950s.
We stopped in Hackberry to see the old general store that is filled with Route 66 art and still has a fuctional cafe inside.. During our first Route 66 run, the old school in Valentine was open for tours, but now it is boarded up. We reached Kingman where the cars are parked in rows in front of the restored Power House and Railroad Park for a car show and judging.
Rod's Steak House
Saturday Night in a Poodle Skirt
The Mother Road
Ending the Run
Sunday morning, the run began at nine. A somewhat diminished group headed West up Route 66 to Cool Springs where the vehicles were officially photographed in front of the restored Cool Springs Mobil Gas Station. The road from there was tricky. Narrow and full of switchbacks as the vehicles climbed higher and higher through the gold mining district. While the gold was pronounced tapped out years ago, it is apparent that new shafts have been drilled. In Oatman, famous for the wild burros that visit each day, there is lots of evidence that they have been there the day before, but there wasn't a burro in sight during our visit. The road toward Topock is mild and we reached the finish line of the Run. Trophies and awards were given and photos from the Run could be purchased. From our home, we drove about 625 miles round trip. Would we do the Route 66 Run again, sure!
There's too many good books on Route 66 to list here, but a great book, Arizona, Kicks on Route 66 by Roger Naylor and Larry Lindahl, has good information on all of Route 66 Arizona. A wonderful book on Route 66 from its beginning to end is Americana Roadside Memories by Karl Witzen. Information on this year's run (May 5-7 2017) which will be the 30th Route 66 Run, can be obtained from Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, P O Box 66, Kingman, Arizona 86402 or registration forms are available on the Route 66 Association Arizona website. Registration is $55 per vehicle.
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