Riding the Historic Route 66 (for a bit)
It’s THE American dream, it’s the backbone of the world’s popular biker culture. Its embedded in the minds of every Harley rider across the globe. The mighty Route 66, running from Chicago to Los Angeles. The highway, which is of the most famous roads in the United States and maybe the world, originally ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km). It is the dream of most Harley Davidson riders to ride the mother road at least once in their lifetime, a few gets to ride it, most just dream it. Getting your kicks on Route 66 does not necessarily mean riding all the way from Chicago to LA, it’s a long ride, and there is not so many parts of the original road left that are ridable. Mainly its Interstate that’s been either paved over the original, or the original has been bypassed by the Interstate, and fallen into disrepair. BUT there is a glorious bit that is easily accessible from Las Vegas, and one more bit we have done between Albuquerque and Gallup in New Mexico.
We have never been the whole Route 66, I am not sure if its an ambition to do the whole thing from Chicago to Los Angeles, maybe we will someday. Here is the tale of maybe the finest, and longest preserved bit of the original Mother Road. And, a shorter story about another, nice, but not so spectacular bit.
Historic Route 66 from Seligman to Oatman
We have done this bit by both car and Harley, of course the latter is the way to do it for sure, but not all have their license for riding motorbikes, so a car with no top on will do the trick as well. Its not too far from Las Vegas and can be done on a return trip to Grand Canyon for instance. There is no problem driving from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon via Kingman and Seligman on the way there in a day, and then spend the night in Grand Canyon, and drive back again on the Interstate on the way back. Stop at the Hoover Dam on the way. And drive from Kingman to Oatman on the way back if you want that bit too, it’s worth the detour.
In 1978 Seligman was cut off from the world, the new I40 was opened, and all traffic that had given the town its life, was gone. Once a thriving small town on Route 66 was almost forgotten. The Historic Route 66 Association Of Arizona later persuaded the state of Arizona to list Route 66 as an historic highway, and now many seeking nostalgia stop in Seligman. Its also said that the animated film Cars from Disney, takes its town Radiator Springs from Seligman. You will see cars with eyes parked many places in town. Stop for a burger and a wander in the historic district of Seligman.
From Seligman you drive towards Peach Springs, after Crozier and Valentine, be on the lookout for Hackberry General Store, and be prepared to stop. It’s a must see with its old charm, old cars and signs, petrol pumps and be sure to check out the bathroom décor.
Keep riding until you get to Kingman, and ride on until you get to the historic district. We spent the night in Kingman on one of our trips, we came from Grand Canyon, and after a long day it was a good place to stop. But we have also gone past it and kept on riding to Lake Havasu via Oatman. Anyhow, when in Kingman, stop by the big old train by the road and take some pictures. Keep on trucking. Follow the signs for Route 66, it will be a left straight after the train, and then follow the road and river out of town. You will get parallel to I40 once again, and then duck under it, do a left, and head towards the mountains. After a long while you will hit one of the more infamous hills on Route 66, its steep, bendy and epic all the way up to the top of the hill. Fun to be had for all bikers! After the crest, the road will dip down toward Oatman.
When you enter Oatman, watch out for tourists and donkeys. Do not crash with an ass in Oatman, you will be shot by the sheriff if you do. Parking is notorious difficult, due to the many daytrippers from Las Vegas, the town is kinda wild west, but still gets over half a million visitors a year. There are funny shops, lots of donkeys (only feed them carrots!) and local residents dressed as cowboys. Part fascinating old world cowboy and gold mining city, part Westworld gone budget. Still, tie up the hog and enjoy a coke on the porch of The Oatman Hotel. And be sure to check out the interior.
After Oatman the road drops even more, do a lefty and head towards Topoc, where the road once again joins the I40.from here you can either head for Los Angeles, or you can do as we did, and head for a relaxing bath, drink and hotel at Lake Havasu. And that will be continued on another page and roadtrip her on this site.
I recommend this site for further reading.
Albuquerque to Gallup
We also did this bit of Route 66 on our way to Canyon De Chelly and Monument Valley (another page and roadtrip here on this website), done on Harleys rented from Eaglerider in Albuquerque.
Out of Albuquerque you ride the I40 for a while, until you get to Exit 114 to Laguna. Just by the off ramp they have great burgers, if you feel like some food. Stop in Laguna by the mission on the top of the hill on your left when you drive through the small town. It’s a great photo op.
The old Routhe 66 basically follows the I40 more or less the whole way, but without all the roadtrains and traffic. Just before McCartys you need to cross over the I40, the road has a dead end further up, so make sure to do this crossing. Afer McCartys you ride through an old lava field with black lava rocks all around the road. After a short while you will drive through Grants, it has a cool main street with many old motels and neon signs.
After Grants you can more or less just join the I40 until you reach Gallup. Also an old Route 66 town, it has some interesting bits, but many shops are closed, and it has a bit of a run down feel about it. We decided to stay at the historic Hotel el Rancho with its many stories about Hollywood actors staying there in the golden era of movies. The hotel itself has lost all of its golden era, and is now not much more than a second rate dodgy motel. Stay for the cool lobby, and to see the old motel signs on the road around El Rancho.
So, that was the other part of our Route 66 description.
Historic Route 66 Facts
U.S. Route 66 or U.S. Highway 66 (US 66 or Route 66), also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. US 66 was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the United States, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km). It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the Route 66 television series, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964. In John Steinbeck‘s classic American novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), the road “Highway 66” symbolized escape and loss.
US 66 served as a primary route for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and the road supported the economies of the communities through which it passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.
US 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, but was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been communally designated a National Scenic Byway by the name “Historic Route 66”, returning the name to some maps. Several states have adopted significant bypassed sections of the former US 66 into their state road networks as State Route 66. The corridor is also being redeveloped into U.S. Bicycle Route 66, a part of the United States Bicycle Route System that was developed in the 2010s. Source: Wikipedia