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Ernie Travels to Oatman on Old Route 66

Route 66 is marked along this famous highway that runs across Northern Arizona.


Episode 1: As you may already know, my name is Ernie, and I am a Boston Terrier.  By nature, Boston Terriers are individualistic, curious and energetic. So, it should not be a surprise to anyone that one of my favorite things to do is to explore and sniff around different places in Northern Arizona. Living in Sedona and having Northern Arizona as a playground for a dog is perfect for new adventures, and for meeting new friends. So, what I plan on doing is exploring some of the wonderful and interesting places in the area, and sharing my thoughts and observations.

Obviously, these adventures will take me away from my home here in Sedona, but because of my personality and friendly nature, the peoples (my word for human beings) are always nice to me and I always find ways to get fed and taken care of when I am on the road and get to those places that are really cool! I suppose it’s my charm and good looks that does the trick! But, I always find other dogs who are willing to help me out, share some of their food, and point out some of the more interesting things along the way that tourists may not be aware of.

Seligman attractions include antique cars with Elvis.Seligman Route 66 attractions include antique cars and shops, and memorabilia with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.

Possibly, my fans can use these stories as a guide when they visit Sedona and the surrounding area. Some of these trips will be off the beaten path. They will not all be your typical side trips that you would read about in the standard travel guide. I want to take you on some adventures not usually experienced by tourists on their visits to Sedona and Northern Arizona. And, in this case, you will have it from a dog’s point of view.  As a dog, I can sniff out interesting places that are somewhat off the beaten track but still very visitor-friendly for the peoples.  While some of my adventures will be to typical tourist attractions, being a dog, I will be able to give you a somewhat different perspective of those places, and even throw in a few surprises along the way. Of course I will get some help from some of my new friends that I meet along the way, who are more familiar with some of the local attractions in their area. I will be counting on dogs, cats, birds, and even wild burros to give you more insight into interesting things to see.

Click images to view slide show.

My first trip was a real doozey. I decided to go on an adventure to Oatman, in northwestern Arizona, following the Old Route 66 most of the way. This is a must do for anyone who wants to experience the nostalgia of the fifties and sixties and see first hand some of the historic locations that served the thousands of travelers, dogs and cats heading out west for adventure and a new home. Many peoples already agree with me that there is nothing like experiencing Oatman.  It is a real taste of what Arizona must have been like in the mid to late 1800’s. From what I have heard, it is one of the most unique towns in Arizona and definitely worth seeing. So, we will see about that.

So to start, this dog will give you a little history to set the stage.  I learned most of this information by just listening to the peoples that I met along the way, and talking to other dogs and cats. It’s amazing what you can learn from the peoples if you just listen, and do a few tricks like shaking hands and sitting up. For the most part, there were a lot of friendly dogs at many places along Route 66 that really helped me and showed me some real cool out-of-the-way spots.

From what I heard, the original Route 66 ran for almost 2500 miles, beginning in Chicago and ending in Las Angeles. Since the 1920’s, this two-lane road served the thousands of people from the "Okies" escaping the Dust Bowl in the 1930s to Easterners and Midwesterners heading out west to seek fame and fortune. Route 66 was once considered a key east-west artery.  But by the mid-1980s, the road was no longer considered a viable highway. Almost thirty years ago, Route 66 was decommissioned. But even as the colorful motels and locally owned businesses along the road disappeared, the legends of America's "Mother Road" grew and grew.

Missouri is credited as the birthplace of Route 66, but Oklahoma is arguably the most famed location on the route.  Oklahoma boasts the longest segment of the original Route 66 (about 400 miles), and several of the road's most celebrated travelers came from the state, including Woody Guthrie, Will Rogers and the fictional Joad family from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. It was John Steinbeck’s creativity in his book that coined the route’s most recognized name, “The Mother Road.”

Route 66's last stretch in Arizona was decommissioned when I-40 was completed in 1984. About 85% of the road still remains navigable for travelers and dogs who are looking to explore.

So, I head out on my first adventure.  Starting from Sedona, I head up Oak Creek Canyon through one of the most incredible displays of scenery for peoples as well as dogs like me.

Oak Creek Canyon overlook gives one a view of Oak Creek and State Route 89A below.Oak Creek Canyon overlook near Sedona gives one a view of Oak Creek and State Route 89A below. 
It’s hard not to sniff every tree along the way. When I finally reach Flagstaff, I found a path along for I-40 West, and begin trotting towards Williams, the first stop on my Route 66 adventure.

WILLIAMS, ARIZONA

Dogs are a lot smarter than the peoples give them credit for, so it isn’t too hard to figure out the signs. It turns out that Williams is about 30 people miles from Flagstaff. As I-40 heads west from Flagstaff, it generally follows the original route of Route 66.  And, at different points along the way to Williams, I was able to actually see and explore short segments of Route 66 along I-40. One such segment is located in Parks, about midway between Flagstaff and Williams. Parks was a stop along Old Route 66 and still has a small gas station and general store that still serves residents who live in the heavily forested surrounding county area, and the occasional hunters and tourists. The General Store is a friendly place, and when I was there, I was able to play for a while with a big Labrador/shepherd mix, who filled me in on the local history.

Between Parks and Williams, there are some great places to hike and camp not too far off the highway. One in particular is  a place that most tourists don’t even know about and is filled with historic and prehistoric Arizona history. You can read about my Laws Spring adventure here.

When I finally trotted into Williams, I decided to head downtown to find some generous peoples to feed me a meal.  I really don’t look at this as begging because the peoples always get a kick out of scratching my  neck and having me kiss them with a real slobbery lick. It is amazing what you can learn from some of the old “locals” that hang out along the main drag of Old Route 66. I can only assume that they are telling the truth.  What reason would there be to lie to a dog?

It turns out that Williams, Arizona was founded in 1881 and incorporated in 1901, and was named for a famous trapper, scout, and mountain man, "Old Bill Williams." A statue of "Old Bill" stands in Monument Park, located on the west side of the city. I checked it out, sniffed around a bit, but decided not to relieve myself here, because there was a police officer eyeing me the entire time.  The last thing I need is to be tossed into the dog pound!

The large mountain directly south of town is named Bill Williams Mountain. On another trip, I will take you on an adventure up Bill Williams Mountain and Kendrick Mountain, located in-between Flagstaff and Williams.  There is an historic cabin close to the top of Kendrick Mountain, built in 1912, and used until 1930 as one of the first fire lookouts in the area.  The historic cabin still exists and has survived a number of threatening fires.  Hikers and dogs alike still use the cabin for overnight adventures.  But, that adventure must wait for another time.
Williams is also known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” and was the last town on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40. The community, bypassed in October 1984, continues to thrive on tourism related to its history. I walked over to the Grand Canyon Railroad Depot, a very popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. The train transports tourists approximately 70 miles north, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on a nostalgic train ride, another adventure coming in the future! Williams has a rich heritage that features the Old West and Route 66 coupled with tourism trends today and the town's heyday years of the '50s and '60s.

I met this dog named Rocky in Williams, and he gave me some great tips on places to check out in the area.  He was a  dachshund, kind of squatty, and his tummy almost dragged on the ground. He told me about the lakes in the area and actually accompanied me to check out a couple of these lakes south of town. I was really impressed with the picturesque setting! Both Dogtown and Whitehorse Lakes are perfect locations for daytime hikers and overnight campers.  Lots of campers were enjoying the outdoors and fishing.  I liked it because I didn’t have to worry about upsetting someone if I decided to find a tree. It was a great place for Rocky and I to play and we actually  waded into the lake and took a nice nap under a big Ponderosa Pine.

It was clear to me that Williams offers unlimited recreational opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast, including seven area fishing lakes, hiking trails up Bill Williams Mountain and into Sycamore Canyon (another future trip), an alpine ski area and cross country ski trails, four seasons weather and an abundance of wildlife. The Historic Downtown District covers six square blocks, and is definitely worth the stop, especially for a dog like me. There are a number of great restaurants in the downtown area, including the Pine Country Café, the Cruisers Route 66 Café, and Rod’s Steakhouse.  All are easy to find and within easy walking distance from parking lots in the downtown area.

Ok, so it’s time for me to move on.  I have lots of sniffing around to do before I get to my next destination. The best part of my adventure is yet to come.

ASH FORK

About fifteen miles further down I-40, I follow a cool path along exit 145, and find myself on Route 66, which is the main street in Ash Fork. This town is another example of a community that, after the decommissioning of Route 66, was able to re-create itself, building on the nostalgic road themes. The town is filled with the remnants of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s vintage buildings, signs, and vehicles that marked the heyday of Route 66. Driving down the main street is like traveling back in time sixty years. No one hassled me during my visit, and tons of tourists were really friendly to me. The dogs were great, but as usual, the cats are really a pain, and always in a bad mood and wanting to fight.

Ashfork Arizona railroad crossing monument.

As I listened to some of the locals and chatted with some local dogs, I heard that in 2014, the Arizona State Legislature officially declared  Ash Fork  the Flagstone Capital of the World.  Flagstone quarries and stone yards can be seen throughout the town as you drive head on the main thoroughfare. The community was established in 1882 as a stop on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, later known as the Santa Fe Railroad. The entire town of Ash Fork burned to the ground in 1893, and was rebuilt on the opposite side of the railroad tracks from its original location, where it remains today.

There are many interesting shops with incredible art/deco type displays that add to the whimsical, nostalgic feel of the town. What a fun and exiting place to visit, especially for a dog! There are some really cute and friendly dogs in this town, all out visiting the peoples along the main street. I enjoyed hanging out with them for a while, but soon, I realize that if I don’t move on, I may end up being “tied up” in some people’s back yard.

About five miles west of Ash Fork on I-40, I finally trot onto Exit 139, called Crookton Road.  Based on the reaction of the peoples taking “selfies” of themselves in front of a Route 66 sign, this must be where the adventure really begins.  It seems a bit silly to me. The only good thing I see about the sign is that it is a great sniffing opportunity and a great substitute for a tree. This is the official beginning of the longest, continuous stretch of Old Route 66 in Arizona that runs approximately 160 uninterrupted miles to Topock, Arizona, near the Arizona California border. From this point, to my people’s final destination of Oatman, it is about 135 miles.

One thing that seems to really excite the peoples driving by me in their cars are the “Burma Shave” signs that periodically pop up along the way. These signs are relatively new to Route 66 since its revival as a tourist attraction, and harken back to the 50’s and 60’s when these signs could be seen on many highways across America.  Whimsical rhymes interlaced together on five or six signs offer comical advice to drivers. The first stop on this stretch is Seligman, approximately 17 people miles due west on Route 66 from Crookton Road.

BurmaShaveGoByAir Composite 1415 900

As I trot along the vast and beautiful stretch of Route 66, between Crookton Road and Seligman, I can’t help but notice the trains and tracks disappearing and reappearing on the horizon. The trains harken back to an earlier era, and played a key role in the development of the West. Trains played an important role as well in Seligman’s development as a community in the late 1800’s. Route 66 follows the general route of the trains, and all along this stretch of Route 66, they are not far away.

Seligman had its early beginnings in 1882 as the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad extended its to what is now the town. The railroads were enticed and rewarded for laying track by the US government granting land in a checkerboard land pattern near where the tracks were being laid. Seligman became a thriving community as a result of the development of the railroads, and continued to thrive up until the mid-1940′s.

Seligman was settled in the late1880’s and early 1890’s by two southern families who had lost everything as a result of the Civil War and the aftermath of Reconstruction. Both were prosperous slaughterhouse owners in Southern antebellum families. They moved West hoping to find a new life in the largely uninhabited territory of Arizona. This area had been the settlements of the Apache and Havasupai Native Americans before the settlers displaced them. The Havasupai Tribe is based in a picturesque and popular village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  I definitely plan on going there in the future for another adventure.

In the 1950’s, it again became prosperous when Route 66 was built. Today, Seligman is known as “The Birthplace of Historic Route 66” not because it is the birthplace of Route 66 itself, but because it is the birthplace of its revival as a historic highway. In the late 1987, the State of Arizona dedicated U.S. 66 from Seligman to Kingman as “Historic Route 66.”  Now, all stretches of Route 66 in Arizona have been given the historic designation, and Seligman is its birthplace. Seligman is the beginning of the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66.  For approximately 170 miles, from exit 139 (Crookton Road) on I-40 all the way to Topock, Arizona, those seeking adventure and nostalgia can drive back in time and experience America’s Main Street much the same, as did travelers from different eras.

As I mosey down the main drag, on the west end of town, there is a restaurant called the “Road Kill Café” that really caught my attention.  Although it sounds somewhat unappealing to peoples, I don’t have too much of a problem with the name.  But, by the reaction of peoples walking out of the restaurant, the food must have been pretty good.  The peoples were talking about how the items on the menu are described with the same theme of unfortunate road mishaps to various creatures, but the food apparently was pretty good and the portions were very generous.  There is a small museum adjacent to the dining room in the restaurant, and outside, there is a mini western town with vintage paraphernalia placed around the grounds.  It even has an old rustic jail! I made a point to avoid that stop.  No need to get locked up as a stray dog and get in all kinds of trouble. A definite must-see and great option for a meal!

Road Kill Cafe in Seligman Arizona.The Road Kill Cafe in Seligman, Arizona has surprisingly good food with highly amusing, road-kill-related names for menu entrées.

As I trot out of the west end of town into the open prairies of the high desert, I can only dream of the adventures that await me. I hear that there will be many interesting and unique places to explore on my way to Oatman.  Well it has been a long couple of days, and most of the journey still lies ahead of me.  

As I bed down for the evening on a hillside overlooking what lies ahead of me, I gaze at the endless expanse of open prairie, as far as the eye can see.  I listen to the coyotes off in the distance, excitedly howling over their next meal.  The sun is quickly sinking in the western sky, surrounded by an array of multi-colored clouds that are splashed with the yellow and orange beams of the sun. What a glorious vision to end the day. My eyes close, and I am off to sleep, dreaming of the adventures that lie ahead of me.

To Be Continued!

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