Wild burros walking in streets in Oatman, AZ

Road Trippin’ on Route 66 in Arizona

Ever since I was a little kid listening to Nat King Cole croon about how to “Get your kicks on Route 66” I longed to travel down that amazing highway, clicking off miles from California to Chicago, stopping in fascinating little towns, enjoying delectable meals in trendy little diners, and seeing the sights across America. But where to begin, which stops to make, and how far down the road should we travel?

I finally decided on a colorful segment from Oatman, Arizona to Winslow, Arizona. We would get there by heading east on Interstate 80 from our home in Auburn, CA, then south along Nevada Highway 95 to Las Vegas, then south on Highway 93.  From there we would hook onto Highway 40 east towards Kingman, AZ to pick up our chosen segment of the famous Route 66.

“We have to do this!” I told my husband.

“That sounds pretty interesting, but how far is it?” he asked. “Doesn’t Route 66 go all the way across the country?”

“Today’s highways shadow much of the former Route 66 route from California to Chicago, so it’s still good road all the way. But let’s set our sights on the segment that runs through Arizona.

“Okay, he said with some trepidation.

Our route would involve a lot of highway switching and he wasn’t too sure of the terrain. (Later on, we found out that winter storms had created some impressive potholes on Arizona highways, whew!)

“Let’s give it a try”, I said. We can stop and turn around wherever we decide. If we make it to Winslow, AZ and to the Meteor Crater just east of there, I’ll be happy!”

Spring 2023 saw us heading out on the road. We wanted to travel after the winter storms but before things got too hot. The best time to go is in April, when the desert grass is green, the skies are blue, and the sun is warm but not too hot. It was the perfect time to be out as we rambled along in our RV, towing our little canvas-top Jeep behind us. We made it a point not to rush, driving as far as we felt like each day, and stopping wherever we wanted to for the night. We didn’t care if we ended up in a campground with full hook-ups, or at a quiet little wayside at night. We were equipped with a generator if needed, solar lamps, a propane stove and water heater, so electricity wasn’t essential.

We loved every moment, but the real highlights were Oatman, AZ: a little gold mining town high on a mountainside in western AZ where feisty wild burros freely roam the streets; Walnut Canyon National Monument where you can walk past pueblo ruins on a trail high above a canyon, and Petrified Forest National Park where you can stroll through a 200 million year old forest of fallen trees, covering the same ground where dinosaurs once roamed! Brightly colored stone logs are strewn across a 900 square kilometer landscape.

Another highlight was the stunning Meteor Crater in AZ where a giant meteor struck the ground about 50,000 years ago, leaving a huge impact crater over 70 meters deep and 1 kilometer wide. An impressive visitor center showcases this geological wonder.

Standin’ on a Corner Park in Winslow, AZ was also a fun stop and a lovely tribute to the 1972 Eagle’s hit song. There’s even an old flatbed Ford there! It’s a great photo stop for folks of all ages.  And the Wigwam Hotel in Holbrooke, AZ is a fun throwback to the days of iconic motor inns, complete with vintage cars parked out in front of each teepee.

On the way back to California we headed north and then west to the Extraterrestrial Highway in northern Nevada, a lonely stretch of road where the legendary alien Area 51 is located. Did we see strange sights?  Well, our cell phones went whacky (no lie!), but the real attraction was the absolutely stunning vistas we encountered in this spectacular high desert region.

There are many ways to jump onto Route 66, with countless guidebooks and maps with tons of information to choose from.  Select a route that’s best for you and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the sights along the way. Don’t try to see it all, just pick a segment that appeals to you the most. You can always go back again later.

Travel tips: don’t over-plan. Just let the journey unfold. Spend as little or as long as you like at each stop. The Cruiser Cafe in Williams, AZ was a fabulous find with unbelievably fantastic food. We also loved lunch at Posadas in Winslow. But our favorite meals were the impromptu ones whenever we spotted a great place to stop.  Sitting in our folded chairs with sandwiches and cold drinks from our onboard galley, gazing out across open vistas, was pure bliss.

Any way you choose to do it, Route 66 is definitely a kick!

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