Saturday, August 18, 2018

Cross Country Adventure - Day 14 - Flagstaff, AZ to Joshua Tree, California

 Day 14 was to be our last full day on the road before we reached Los Angeles, a day of driving through the desert, across miles and miles of uninhabited countryside. We'd planned a couple of rest stops but weren't expecting too much in the way of sights along the way, until on a whim, we decided to change our route for the latter part of the journey. With additional stop-offs the six-hour drive took us eleven hours to complete but it was well worth it.

Our first stop was only an hour out of Flagstaff in Seligman, Arizona.

Seligman was originally a railroad town and then became a popular stop along Route 66. However, when I-40 bypassed the town in 1978, the economic future looked grim. However, the residents of the town were not prepared to let it die and campaigned to convince the State of Arizona to dedicate Route 66 a historic highway.  In the process, Seligman became known as the "Birthplace of Historic Route 66" and is now a popular tourist destination, helped by its location at the beginning of the longest remaining stretch of Route 66 in the U.S.

One of the residents in the forefront of the campaign was Angel Delgadillo, the local barber. His barber shop is still in business and is perhaps the most popular attraction in town!

Walking through town is like walking back into the past. Memorabilia is everywhere. 

Old gas pumps
Old cars line the streets, some in good condition:

Some showing a little more wear and tear:

The Delgadillo Snow Cap is a popular place to eat. The colorful outdoor patio provides welcome shade from the ferocious heat. 

Seligman is popular with coach tours so can seem a little over-run at times. Fortunately for us, the tour coach that was there when we arrived left a few minutes later. 

Our next destination was Kingman, Arizona, which has benefited from being both on Route 66 and the I-40. There is a Route 66 museum, but by this point we felt we'd seen enough of them that we could skip this one. Instead we opted for lunch at Rickety Cricket Brewing.

After lunch the real fun began. Instead of continuing on I-40 to Needles, our original plan, we decided to take Route 66 to Oatman, which is described as "an authentic old western town with burros roaming the streets and gunfights staged on weekends. 

Narrow road leading to 180 degree turn 
The drive from Kingman to Oatman is through Sitegreaves Pass, a twisting, narrow road, with lots of hairpin turns, no guardrails and some scary drop-offs. I was glad my daughter was driving! It's not a road to be rushed, but fortunately, we saw very little traffic. 
Great views - as long as you don't look down!

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but Oatman was a surprise. For one, despite the fact we had hardly seen anyone on the road, there were a lot of visitors!  Made me wonder whether they had all come from the opposite direction.

Oatman post office

The main street in Oatman
It was a stifling hot day. So hot, the burros were even seeking the shade.

The businesses certainly had a western feel to them:

Judy's saloon

There were burros everywhere, including some little ones. They didn't pay much heed to cars. If they wanted to stop and pass the time of day in the middle of the road - well, you just had to wait until they were ready to move on. 

If we needed proof that the heat in Oatman wasn't that unusual, this poster said it all:

I don't know what the temperatures get up to in July in Oatman, but that day it hit 116 degrees! I could easily understand how you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. As soon as we got out of the car we felt we were being roasted!

It was quite a relief to get back in the air-conditioned car. We continued out of town on Route 66 through desert-like landscape until just outside of Lake Havesu City.

The city, with its large lake, is a popular tourist destination, but possibly best known now for the site of the old London Bridge, which was bought in 1968 by Robert P. McCulloch, an entrepreneur and the founder of Lake Havasu City, and rebuilt, block by block, before being rededicated in 1971.  

London Bridge - in Arizona!
The bridge was originally opened in London in 1831. I think the views from it today are probably far prettier than they were in London!

The City of London Pub
A whole British 'experience' is being created near the bridge. There is a fish and chip shop and an English pub. Unfortunately, the pub was closed and the only seating at the fish and chip shop was outside - not an attractive option given the temperature was still well over 100 degrees. 
Back on the road, it wasn't long before we crossed into California and were back in the desert - this time the Mohave Desert. 

We hadn't been back on the road for long when we had to stop at a checkpoint. Given the backseat of the car was piled high with my daughter's belongings, I had visions of us being asked to empty the car so they could check we weren't transporting anything we shouldn't be, but luckily, they just asked us where we were coming from and waved us on when we told them New York. 

After the checkpoint, we saw very little sign of civilization until we got to Twentynine Palms, a town a few miles before Joshua Tree. It was a fun drive though. Route 62 is similar to Route 66 in that, instead of the endless flat miles of the Interstates, the road dips and rises every few hundred yards, like a mini old-fashioned roller coaster. 

Our accommodation for the night was, appropriately enough, at the High Desert Motel, conveniently located on the main road through Joshua Tree. It was a welcome sight after our long day on the road.

Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense. For more information about her books visit her website, or sign up for her newsletter at  

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