We were stuck in Kingman for a few days while we waited for a new starter to be shipped and installed by the Freightliner Dealer. Kingman might not be on anyone’s list for a tourist stop, but there’s an interesting history of “The Mother Road”, Route 66.
By the 1920s, automobile registration in the country jumped from around half a million to almost 10 million, and to correct a haphazard system of roads traversing the country, Route 66 was created to provide a route between Chicago and Los Angeles. For nearly six decades Route 66 was the “Mother Road”, connecting small and large towns for commerce, providing a route used by families traveling west to relocate from the dust bowl, tourists, and opening up portions of the west for tourists. But by the 1950s, the President Eisenhower initiative to build interstate highways across America left most of the route seldom used. Even so, it’s always been a part of our history, especially for those of us who listened to Bobby Troup’s “Get your kicks on Route 66” or watched the TV series with Martin Millner and George Maharis as they traveled the route in their Corvette.
Today only a few portions of the original road exist, and in towns like Kingman and Albuquerque you can still tell which of the old motels were in business along the original route. To see a portion of the “old road”, we drove south from Kingman to intersect the old road and then headed west for a visit to Oatman.
The first thing that strikes you is how narrow the old road is and how it twists and turns as it climbs the foothills into the mountains. It seems impossible that today’s tractor trailer rigs would ever be able to navigate this portion – I certainly wouldn’t want to try it in our motor home. But the gold in the hills here dictated the location of the route, and even today we saw active gold mines in the area, most of them on old mines that are now worth mining again due to the high price of gold. The scenery along the way was memorable, and we enjoyed seeing many of the desert plants in bloom, especially this Ocotillo.
As we approached Oatman, one of the famous mules descended from those used during the mining days stood guard in the middle of the road. Brenda was ready with a bag of carrots (which we later learned were bad for them) and after noisily chomping down a few, he moved aside to let us pass.
There isn’t much left of the original Oatman except for the main street, but fear not, enterprising merchants have recreated an old mining town full of galleries, gift shops, and places to eat. If you’ve ever been to the commercial wonderland of Tombstone, Arizona, then just imagine it on a smaller scale and harder to get to. With mules. Everywhere.
The mules of course have figured out that all they have to do is stand in the middle of the street, look cute, and people will flock to feed them. Since carrots are no longer allowed, there’s a booming business selling some sort of compressed hay pellet that the mules seem OK with. As soon as Brenda stepped into the street with her bag, she was mobbed by the local mule gang which pushed, prodded, and nuzzled their way into her heart – and food bag
That’s it for this visit, we’ve got some things in Las Vegas to show you, so C’mon back!