Travels in the American Southwest

Route 66 to Oatman

Saturday, 9/6

Gassed up before leaving Kingman. We didn't want to run out of gas on Route 66 and surely didn't want to have to purchase gas in California. I had learned from research prior to our trip that once you cross the Colorado River into California, the price of gas skyrockets.

Continued heading south this morning following Route 66. The road is wide open as you start ascending the Black Mountains. As you climb toward Sitgreaves Pass, the road twists and turns hugging the mountainside. Extreme caution is advised. As the road bends around a hairpin turn, you have no view of oncoming traffic. It's hard to believe that this was once the major highway and gateway to the Golden State. Today, autos have fuel pumps but not so long ago, cars were gravity-fed. If the incline was too great, the gas would never make it from the tank to the engine. With this restriction, locals (and daring travelers) would simply drive up the mountain in reverse. Not so daring souls could hire a team of horses to pull their Model As and Ts to the summit. MSO and I stopped at the Cool Springs gas station. A  group, led by current owner and Illinois resident Ned Leuchtner, is rehabilitating the site. A drawing of the finished product is displayed inside the secured building. Plans are for the renovated peoperty to be reborn as a museum and gift shop. Mr. Leuchtner has informed me that as of December 2003, two gas pumps have been installed and an antique 1930's era gas pump should be installed by early 2004. In keeping with the theme, a 1953 Chevy pickup truck (named Old Sally) was recently transported to Cool Springs and will become part of the museum. Mr. Leutchner also has let me know of a short walking path leading to a stone ledge look-out on the south side of Route 66. The ledge is said to offer spectacular views of Cool Springs and the Kingman Valley. Hats off to Mr. Leutchner for  helping preserve a page of history. When Route 66 was virtually the only road to California, Cool Springs was a popular stop to add some gas to the car and make sure the radiator was full. The desert heat combined with the still-ahead 3,523 foot Sitgreaves Pass would tax many autos daring to make the trip. Cool Springs gas station makes a cameo appearance in the John Ford directed "Grapes of Wrath" starring Henry Fonda as Okie Tom Joad.

Passed by the inactive Goldroad mines. Many ruins are visible but the mine is inactive, not closed. Fences secure the area with No Trespassing signs in abundance. As you drive through Goldroad, there is a stark reminder of the danger the road posed. On a switchback, located 100 feet between the two roads is a crumpled and rusted car. I suspect that it was simply left there rather than attempt to recover the vehicle. I slowed down even more after seeing that sight! Of course we stopped many times to shoot some pics.

Oatman is a tourist town. Burros stroll through the streets mooching food from visitors. Gunshots are frequently heard but they are blanks from the six-guns of re-enactors who provide the tourists a little excitement. Today, Oatman is a magnet for artists. Desert themed art abounds, some of it quite pricey. Other western memorabilia as well as the expected Route 66 paraphernalia is for sale up and down Main Street. We stopped in at the Oatman Hotel. It is a tradition to sign and then staple a dollar bill to the wall. The bar and restaurant walls are covered with them! My quick calculation came up with between 10,000 and 12,000 dollar bills. Just don't look for John Wayne's dollar bill; Or any old movie stars dollar bills for that matter. This 101 year old hotel has changed hands a number of times and when the seller departs, all the dollar bills go with him! Oatman snapshots.

We followed Route 66 to the intersection of I-40 in Topock, Arizona before detouring to Lake Havasu City. We were so close, we wouldn't have forgiven ourselves had we not visited the town that is now famed for having London Bridge. Well, we saw it and in MSO's words, we were underwhelmed. Hey, it's just a bridge; Indistinguishable from most other bridges were it not for the small plaque identifying it as the London Bridge. The Colorado River, which the bridge crosses was alive with boats and jetskis; Folks were just trying to beat the heat.

We headed back to US40, driving through Needles, California. We looked real hard for Spike's home but were unsuccessful. Spike who? Why Snoopy's cousin Spike, of course! I've been told that there is a doghouse outside the local Dennys restaurant which is purported to be Spike's home but Charles Schultz fans know that Spike lives in a coyote den with a cactus at the entrance, not in a doghouse like his more famous cousin!

We continued our journey north passing through the little community of Cal Nev Ari. We were looking for a place to spend our last night on the road. At Searchlight, we saw signs for Cottonwood Cove. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice campground at the end of the road. Like Lake Havasu City, this area is a magnet for boaters but the proximity to the water does little to cool the roasting temperatures. It was by far the hottest night we'd experienced during the entire trip, but that didn't stop me from building a fire with the last of our wood. I'd transported those wooden pallets through four states, burnt most of them but wasn't about to waste the last of them! Come dawn, only a large pile of ash remained.

Main | Trip Reports | E-mail | Next Report