gazette9.com

6/1/03

The Arizona Route 66 Fun Run

A 150-mile Rolling Party on Wheels, from Seligman to Topock
May 2nd, 3rd & 4th, 2003

 

Got a vehicle you love to show off? If so, you can join several hundred other like-minded people in Seligman, Arizona, the first weekend in May, for three days of rocking good times on the road - the Mother Road, Route 66.

Seligman (suh-LIG-man) is a railroad-and-ranching town at the intersection of old 66 and I-40 in northern Arizona. The town has some excellent restaurants, and so much genuine personality it's worth checking out at any time of the year - but it really jumps for the Fun Run.

The party starts on Friday evening as people gather in town from near and far. The motels fill up, the town's main drag is lined block after block with aficionados showing off and enjoying outstanding examples of automotive history and art. Those not parked or strolling are cruising, and there's music and dancing in the street.

The pre-registration fee is only $44, and any operating vehicle is welcome to join in, so there's a wide range of delights - from snarling, rumbling Shelby Cobras to wheezing, clackety old Model As, and no telling what else - a Whizzer motor-bicycle, A VW hippy van, hotrods, classics - anything with wheels that can make the scene for kicks on 66.


Many of the classics and rods on the street have their hoods opened so passing connoisseurs of fine engines can enjoy the beauty within.

Among the opening evening's festivities is the Miss Route 66 pageant. Some of the loveliest and most talented young ladies from towns along the road compete for the crown, and the honor of serving as Miss Route 66 for the coming year. Winner of 2003's title is Miss Kristine Best, of Truxton.

Friday night is literally a ball, and people hit the sack looking forward to a whole weekend of road-tripping fun.

Saturday

The run officially gets underway at 10 a.m., so everyone is up early to cruise, get their vehicles lined up, and stroll around meeting old friends and making new ones. With many new arrivals Saturday morning, Seligman's 66 is cruising and partying from the old buffalo's pen on the east edge of town to the start line on the west.


Cruising past the Snow Cap drive-in Saturday morning before the start.


Angel Delgadillo's barber shop, local center of Route 66 lore.

The FunRunners line up heading west along both curbs and in the center turn lane, leaving two lanes for regular traffic. The lead car is a 1950s Kingman police car, black and white with a cherry on top. A few Harley-mounted motorcycle cops, and a modern highway patrol pursuit car with a hot flame paint job, also served as escorts for the starting parade out of Seligman.

Once on the open road, though, only the usual traffic laws apply, and the several hundred vehicles soon stretch out along the highway, at their own chosen speed and stopping where they please. Last year there were about 800 vehicles; 2003 saw about 600. Most agreed high fuel prices forced some to pass on the event this year. Even so, several hundred classics motoring one of the world's coolest highways is a sight to see.

Heading west over gently rising terrain, the road crests and coasts into the huge open stretch of the Aubrey Valley grassland. Here and there, many miles from the road and shimmering in the mirage, a cluster of trees and a few buildings mark a cattle ranch's headquarters. It's a great feeling to be on a two-lane highway in the beautiful wide-open West.

 

Grand Canyon Caverns


In the Caverns' parking lot - plate on the red 'Vette says, "NVR2OLE"

First stop for most people is Grand Canyon Caverns, a tourist attraction developed over an extensive cave 200 feet underground. Though the cave tour is exciting, I guess few might take time out from the Fun Run for it - but the Caverns' parking lot is another opportunity to stretch and schmooze and check out everybody's rides. Up to the occasion, the Caverns put on a barbeque in the lot, and featured some first-class entertainment, including a terrific Andrews Sisters act.

Peach Springs

The road winds another 20 miles west, across wooded hills, to Peach Springs, headquarters of the Hualapai Tribe. Storm cells were boiling up in the south, blowing a gusty wind with a few spits of rain and hail, so I pulled in at Peach for a while.

A park across the road from the Hualapai Motel and Restaurant was set up for open-air dining and entertainment. For $6, I got coffee and an "Indian Taco" - tasty fry bread topped with meat, cheese, and trimmings. I took a seat close to the performance area, curious to see what might be coming up.

The beat of a pounding bass drum began to boom from the speakers, keeping time for a man's chant that was as wild as the wind. Two young girls in striking Hualapai dresses danced into the open:

While they danced, I was taken back to times long before motors and highways. A raven circled low overhead on the gusts of wind, and a stray dog added to the sense of being in a tribal camp as native to the land as the rocks and trees.

A three-man country band followed the dancing. They played country with a taste of blues and Hawaiian twang that I liked and haven't heard before. The girls who'd danced walked by me, and one gave me a smile of pure happiness. She got one back, too.

I sized up the weather and decided to make all speed westwards to outflank the storm clouds. Hundreds of people lined the road through Truxton, smiling and waving, but I kept going through to Hackberry, where I was back in the clear again.

Hackberry

When people mention "Hackberry" on 66, they usually mean the Hackberry General Store out on the highway. The town itself is south of the road, across the wash and the railroad tracks. I haven't seen much there but a few houses, and some long-horned cattle foraging around the dusty streets

The food must've been good at the General Store - it was all gone by the time I got there, except for the hot dog wagon. But there were plenty of vintage cars to check out, and out back the "Hackberry Music Hall" featured "Hack & the 57s" - Rockabilly Hall of Famer Garlin Hackney and his band. So we all caught some cool tunes as well as friendly conversation. But after an hour or so it was time to get on the road to Kingman.


Past adobe ruins

Kingman

Southwest Kingman is the "old" town - down by the railroad depot, where the 1909 powerhouse and some of the original hotels still stand. Here Route 66 is known as Andy Devine Boulevard, after a native son who was a famous Hollywood cowpoke. It's still genuine 66, though, especially in front of Mr. D'z diner -

Several blocks were closed to traffic, except registered FunRunners, and made a fine pedestrian mall for people to wander and check out the last "show and shine" of the day.


Parked by the Powerhouse, this war-wagon carried a plate and looked legal - but I never did see it on the road. Some day!

The festivities continue into Saturday evening, with many of the rods seeking their natural habitat - one of Kingman's "Sonic" drive-ins. Early to bed, though, boys and girls - tomorrow's another day.

Sunday

The Black Mountains and Oatman

On the road again! The official start is 10 a.m., but many take off from Kingman exactly when they please, and old 66 is graced with classic cars all day long. When the main pack comes through, though, the long line winding the mountain curves is spectacular.

Eight miles of steep grades, twists, and hairpin curves brings the Fun Run into Oatman, a town where antiques and classics look right at home.


Take a sudden step 80 years back in time, as living antiques from the days of old rattle up and down Oatman's Main Street. The cars, I mean!

People who get in early can park along Main Street, and be a part of the show while watching it.

But Golden Shores is only 20 miles down the road, now, and it seems like many of these smart heaps can smell the barn. And so they're soon off...

On The Home Stretch


Whizzing down the highway above the valley of the Colorado River, towards Golden Shores.

It's a fast but tricky run, from 2700 feet at Oatman to 600 feet at Golden Shores, over a twisty roller-coaster road along the foot of the mountains. The green waters of the Colorado are miles away across the hot, barren desert, and the horizons are walled by spiky volcanic mountains, purple in the distance.


Kristine, Miss Route 66, 2003, crosses the finish line

The Fun Run winds up at the Golden Shores Community Center. There's plenty of parking, music, food, and drink. About 2:30 or so, everyone who can fit inside gathers in the main hall for the awards and raffle drawings.

Raffle tickets are drawn for cash prizes of $75 to $150. Then the award plaques are handed out, by Miss Route 66, and her able and lovely assistants. I caught the awards for best manufactured rod (a Cobra), and best kit car (a '34 Ford the guy swore was original). But when they got to the award for "best straight axle" (?) they lost me. Time to go back outside and get a lecture on early Ford paint codes.

I took a last walk around to admire the Runners' vehicles. Some of the people I spoke with planned to spend the night in Laughlin before heading home ("$19 a night! How can you beat it?")

A few folks were down because their pride and joys had tapped out along the road, but mostly everyone had a great weekend and a lot of terrific memories to look back on - and more new friends to see again next year. And all for $44! How can you beat it?

 

Some Links:

The Arizona Route 66 Association: http://www.route66web.com/~azrt66

Grand Canyon Caverns: http://www.gccaverns.com

Hualapai Tribe: http://www.hualapaitours.com

 

 

 

joe@gazette9.com

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