Spring Road Trip: Route 66 Roadside Attractions

When we last left our intrepid travelers on their spring road trip they had spent a couple of nights in Las Vegas and were headed to Arizona for baseball, relatives, and warm temperatures. To paraphrase Jeff Willis, a friend at work, Carla and I love us some Route 66 and not just a little bit. We headed south from Las Vegas until we hit Kingman Arizona; from there we headed east and spent the day driving the 150 miles to Flagstaff.

Kingman, to Hackberry General Store, Grand Canyon Caverns, Seligman and Flagstaff

Kingman means the BNSF. After grabbing lunch at In & Out we headed for Andy Devine Blvd which is main street. Andy Devine was a bit actor in westerns of the 50’s and 60’s. He was born in Flagstaff in 1905 and grew up in Kingman. In the  movies I’ve seen he was often a kind of comic relief. I recently saw “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Lee Coburn as the bad guy. Andy Devine played the town marshall who wanted nothing to do with the tough Liberty Valance; but he was always ready to have a steak at the local cafe.

Usually when we are in Kingman we don’t have too much time  to explore; but we were determined to dawdle today. In one of our Route 66 tour books we saw there was an old stretch southwest of town that went between the two tracks of the BNSF Transcon. It wasn’t long before we saw our first freight.

BNSF on the Transcon southwest of Kingman
We found ourselves in a little canyon with the tracks about 30 or 40 feet above us. As we headed back into town we caught another freight.

Another freight headed east into Kingman

We left town and headed east on old Route 66. This is one of the best preserved parts of the old Mother Road in the country. It was only 30 miles to the Hackberry General Store. Although it’s just a small store with nary a town around it, it is a big stop for tours. It was still early spring so there was only a couple from Germany going through the treasures. Later in the summer large tour busses will be parked on the dirt parking lot. I picked up a coffee cup and a 2014 calendar.

Perfect parking spot for our Route 66 cruiser.

We made a lot of short hops this day; it’s only another 25 miles to a classic roadside attraction: Grand Canyon Caverns.  We’ve driven by before but never took the tour. This is one of the several “giants”on Route 66.

T-Rex guards the caverns (where there are no dinosaurs).

Apparently many years ago, a local was late for a card game and when he cut through the desert he stumbled in a hole in the ground that opened up to a large cavern and saw lots of sparkling rocks. He thought he found a gold or silver mine. The next day he put in a claim on a large surrounding area and set about exploring. Turns out there was nothing valuable so he named it Dinosaur Caverns and opened an attraction where for a nickel he would lower tourists down in the hole on a long rope. There are no dinosaur bones so it was renamed Grand Canyon caverns, even though the Grand Canyon is a long way away.

It’s a little nicer  now with an elevator to the main cavern and long stairways and well lit paths. It is a dry cavern, meaning no stalactites or stalagmites. The humidity is incredibly low. In the 50’s it was a Civil Defense shelter and there are still pallets of K-rations and 55 gallon barrels of water. They say the food and water is still fit for consumption because of the absence of bacteria and what-not. Our tour guide was a bit of a survivalist nut and told us he was glad he worked for the Caverns so he’d have a place to escape to when the end times come.

You can get married there for $10,000 and even spend your honeymood in a kingsized bed set in the middle of a large, dark canyon.

We’ve been wanting to take the tour for years and now we can say we have.

One of our favorite little towns is Seligman and the Snow Cap cafe run by the brothers Juan and Angel Degadillo. Before I-40 bypassed Seligman, it was a bustling little burg. I remember driving through it on our family trips from southern California to my grandparents’ house in Winslow.

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap

The town almost dried up when the interstate came to be. Angel Delgadillo was a driving force in turning Seligman and Arizona Route 66 into a tourist destination. The Snow Cap is still run by the Delgadillo family and is a fun place to stop; the doorknobs are on the wrong side of the doors; when you ask for a small ice cream cone you get something the size of your pinky.  It was early evening and we had a while before we’d hit Flagstaff so we had banana splits. This is definitely a roadside attraction you don’t want to miss.

As we sat on the back deck eating our ice cream,  noticed a classic Route 66 neon hotel sign.

An old Route 66 hotel sign.

We hopped back in the car and drove the last 80 miles into Flagstaff enjoying the view of Bill Williams Mountain and perhaps a glimpse of the Grand Canyon to the north.

About howardwthompson

I'm a person who likes to travel, read, cook, and eat
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