Acura ILX Route 66 Tour: Kingman to Seligman, Arizona
Odometer (Legend): 522,026
Odometer (ILX): 36,879
Trip Distance: 480 miles
For this weekend’s ILXcapades, we find ourselves venturing back to the heyday of automobile travel as we know it. Route 66 – the “Mother Road” – has long been known as the most talked-about corridor in popular culture. Its entire length ran about 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, but the road was decommissioned 28 years ago in the mid-1980s. This is a map of the original route.
Since then, it’s been bypassed, bulldozed, or otherwise forgotten except for in a few special sections where Route 66 heritage is embraced. I’ve driven a couple of those areas (Oatman in the Legend in 2007 and Flagstaff in the ILX last September). My friend Jack and I took my 2013 Acura ILX on a 9-hour adventure to explore some yet-unseen roads in northwestern Arizona. Our first stop was the Wikieup Trading Post off Highway 93.
Wikieup is known as the “rattler capital of the world” due to the number of rattlesnakes in the area.
And they aren’t kidding! This is one snake skin on display hanging on the wall above the door to the restrooms.
On the road again and playing one of my all-time favorite driving playlists: the Top Gun soundtrack. The ILX Premium Audio System definitely did the song “Danger Zone” justice when blasted at max volume of level 40.
Once we approached Kingman, it was clear we’d entered Route 66 territory.
We went to the historic part of town where a yearly classic car “fun run” was taking place. Streets were closed off and there were vendors, entertainers, and classic cars all over the place.
By now, we’d worked up an appetite and the sign for “Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner” was calling our names. Mr. D’z was once a small cafe & gas station in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s now the hub of several annual car shows.
I went with the “Route 66 Bacon Cheeseburger” and a frosty mug of homemade root beer. I do recommend it!
Out front, we saw a few eye catching rides, including this tow truck inspired by Tow Mater from the 2006 Disney / Pixar movie “Cars.” More about Cars later.
Let’s get this Route 66 party started!
Here I’m posing like Vanna White next to a destination marker showing where Jack and I would be headed in the ILX shortly.
Our friend Mike was in town as a judge for the classic car show so we met up with him briefly.
Then, Jack and I were on our way.
The 83-mile section of Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman is a well-preserved stretch of old 66 that’s stuck in a time warp, and that’s why I wanted to drive there so badly. Traveling the same point-to-point via the parallel Interstate 40 would shave off over 20 miles and probably 1/2 hour of drive time, but this drive wasn’t about speed, it was about taking time to experience the sights along the way.
The road heads northwest from the Kingman area and quickly slims down to 2 lanes from 4. Not far up Route 66, we saw the (now abandoned) Kozy Corner Trailer Park. There are a couple special things about this particular trailer park.
First of all, the trash can warns everyone nearby that it’s full of baby rattlesnakes. I didn’t peek inside to confirm that.
And secondly, you might have noticed that giant green head sitting out front. That is called “Giganticus Headicus.” It’s 14 feet tall and was created in 2003 by someone named G. Arnold.
Continuing on, our next pit stop was the general store in Hackberry, Arizona. Here we found all sorts of collector “stuff.”
Antique collectors: plan to spend awhile here.
75 degrees and sunny for our drive – couldn’t have asked for better weather! Speed limits varied from 35-65 and the ILX 6-speed made a great cruiser.
It only takes a blink to miss some of these small towns that we passed through. Truxton is one example. From the entrance of town limits to the exit took only a few seconds to drive.
But those few seconds were entertaining, nonetheless. I enjoyed seeing these old motels and there seemed to be a lot of classic cars parked alongside the road for sale in places like this.
About halfway to our destination of Seligman, we passed through a town called Peach Springs. Traffic through Peach Springs died down sharply after Interstate 40 was opened about 20 miles south in 1978. According to Wikipedia, Peach Springs “survived as the administrative base of the Hualapai Indian tribe but suffered irreparable economic damage.”
Just 55 miles northeast of Peach Springs, visitors will find the Hualapai Indian tribe town of Hualapai Hilltop. This place serves as the trailhead for an 8-mile hike that drops into the Grand Canyon and now-famous 120-foot-tall Havasu Falls, a place which has been on my to-see list for several years now.
The town itself is pretty run-down with the exception of the Indian-run visitor center.
I did find this photo-op worthwhile, though. This is an old service station dating back to the 1920’s.
A nearby informational sign reads as follows:
Historic John Osterman Gas Station: This property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 2012. The John Osterman gas station was one of several privately owned and operated businesses in the town of Peach Springs during the 1920s through the 1950s. The building, constructed by Osterman in 1923, was a vernacular design of poured concrete block and built in the tradition of the “House with Bays” form. It featured an office resembling a small house and a series of attached garage bays. The design, in addition to allowing the sale of gasoline and other automotive products, is indicative of the large amount of repair work the station undertook over the years.
It looks like the pumps out front still read $2.99 / gallon which means it wasn’t closed that long ago.
For the next 37 miles, we dodged tumbleweeds and cruised alongside the train tracks as we continued eastbound. There were several “Burma Shave” roadside sign sequences that I enjoyed. These types of signs were a huge part of roadside America from 1925 until the 1960’s. They are small signs spaced at periodic distances alongside the road to advertise a brand of shaving cream. Here are a few of them that Jack and I took note of:
- IF YOU DON’T KNOW
- WHOSE SIGNS THESE ARE
- YOU HAVEN’T DRIVEN
- VERY FAR
- Burma Shave
- ANGELS WHO GUARD YOU
- WHEN YOU DRIVE
- USUALLY RETIRE
- AT SIXTY-FIVE
- Burma Shave
And finally, toward the end of the route:
- JUST THIS ONCE
- AND JUST FOR FUN
- WE’LL LET YOU FINISH
- WHAT WE’VE BEGUN
The last stop on this historic drive was in the small town of Seligman, home to fewer than 500 people. It’s the birthplace of Route 66 (at least they’d like to think so).
When Disney/Pixar was putting together the 2006 film “Cars,” director John Lasseter met with the business owners in Seligman to talk about the town’s history as a stopping point on the Mother Road. He ended up basing the fictional town of Radiator Springs loosely on Seligman. To jog your memory, here’s the cast of the film, including star Lightning McQueen.
The grammar Nazi in me wanted to step into this gift shop and tell them they’d spelled “memorabilia” wrong, but I guess a misspelled word here and there is what keeps a place like this even more interesting.
I’d heard of Roadkill Cafe but never knew it actually existed. Here Jack is standing with the ILX in front of such a place. The slogan here is “You Kill It, We Grill It.”
Some of Roadkill’s entrees are:
- Splatter Platter
- Swirl of Squirrel
- Big Bagged Stag
- Highway Hash
Main Street looks a lot like one would expect. It’s a tourist trap in every way, but I loved it.
For me, the most awaited point of interest had arrived: Snow Cap Drive-In, seen in the background here:
Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In has greeted motorists for 60 years. Its founder, Juan Delgadillo, died 9 years ago but the enterprise continues serving up great food AND a great cultural experience for those who make a stop there. Delgadillo’s son and daughter run the business today. A 1936 Chevrolet with a Christmas tree attached to the back of it is on permanent display out front (seen at left below).
Where else can you find menu selections like “dead chicken”….
And “cheeseburgers with cheese”? Truly this place is worth checking out if you’re looking for something offbeat.
Don’t get too comfortable, though, because sleeping in the restroom out back is prohibited.
Inside the Snow Cap, the walls are lined ceiling-to-floor with pictures and business cards from guests who have visited since this place opened in 1953. I added my business card to the mix.
The line was fairly long but I was determined to sample something off the menu. Meanwhile, we became acquainted to some of the other visitors. Most were from other countries! Snow Cap had a lot of entertaining pictures and signs, including this one about the company’s credit manager, Helen Waite, that took me a few attempts to understand. Say it out loud a time or two:
These ladies were hilarious. They have a plastic mustard bottle that they “squirt” at customers and a piece of yellow string comes out the tip. I thought for sure I’d have mustard all over my shirt when I looked down. I asked if I could have a small ice cream cone and she brought me a miniature one. Then I asked for a lemonade and she said, “Would you like ice with that?” I said, “Yes please,” and this is what she came out with:
The jokes kept rolling when she asked if I wanted a “straw” and she handed me a piece of hay instead. When it was time to get my change back from a $20 bill, she started passing out my change to OTHER CUSTOMERS. Ha! We got all that cleared up and headed outside… via the door with two different handles. Did I say this place is offbeat?
Jack and I wandered around the backyard of Snow Cap while we enjoyed our vanilla ice cream cones.
That pretty much wrapped up our Route 66 adventures as we soon got on Interstate 40 and took it to Highway 89. After heading south on Highway 89, we passed through the tiny communities of Paulden and Chino Hills in the 55 miles until we reached Prescott, then we headed over to Interstate 17 via Hwy 89A and then Hwy 69. I enjoyed rowing the 6-speed ILX through its gears on these back roads.
Later in the evening, I met up with my friends Kevin and Kelvin. Kevin is the proud new owner of Modern Steel Metallic 2013 Honda Accord EX. After having driven a Toyota Corolla for 12 years, I nudged Kevin into the Honda dealership and he was really impressed with what the Accord had to offer. He’s thrilled with his new ride!
We got a few pictures with Kelvin’s 1993 NSX, my 1994 Legend, and Kevin’s 2013 Accord at a parking garage in Scottsdale.
Congrats, Kevin, on joining the Honda family!
Until next time, enjoy!