The Mother Road – Part 1

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

A little while ago I teased ya’ll with a bit about the adventures I was starting on late this spring. Then I disappeared off the face of the earth, and the blog till I ended up in Key West a few of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve “had my head down” writing the first draft a new book from inspiration I got while in Key West… “Key West With a bit of Rum, A Shot of Tequila, and A Grain of Salt” (working title). While working on that I’ve ignored the blog and “Travels With a Naked Parrot.” Well, this starts back in the beginning of the adventure when I spent a little time on route 66… with a Naked Parrot. I hope you like it. Most of the pics are on my facebook page.

As I was driving into town… trying not to smooth out all the folks just walking down the middle of the street… I heard from the peanut gallery:

Barraaaakkk – Look at that ass! Look at that Ass! – Barraaaakkk

At first I thought Sgt Pepper was talking about a guy wandering into the street without looking. But instead, a little ways into the town there was a four legged animal just walking along the street. I turned and sternly said to Sgt. Pepper, “That’s a burro.”  I laughed to myself and under my breath said, “that guy’s the ass”.

I thought… hummm, “burro” is Spanish, so what is the translation. With the help of “Uncle Google” I found out that burro translates to “ass”. So the guy wandering into the street was indeed a burro.

The town I was driving into was Oatman¸ Arizona. I first passed through here by accident. I was on a trek to Wally-World in Florida. I hear ya… why in the world would I go all the way to Florida when there’s a Wally-World close by in La-La Land. Well, let’s just say for now that I was on a quest. I played “destiny road” on the CD player as we headed out each morning of the trek… really, I did.

Anyway, on that earlier trek I sorta got lost. I missed the sign pointing to Kingman, Arizona via the main road. So, a few miles later down the road, on the Arizona side of the Colorado river, I finally came to a sign that pointed to Kingman. It didn’t take long till I knew this was not the way I intended. But since the sign did show this was a road to Kingman I kept going.

The area looked very interesting. But since I didn’t have time to explore anything I just drove on trying to make good time to Wally-World. At that time I said to myself, “someday I’ll come back here and check it out.” This was that trip I promised myself I would make.

Signs all along the way proclaimed the road was, “Historic Route 66”… the “Mother Road”. It’s a two-lane road that winds away from the Colorado River. It heads off into the nothingness of the Arizona desert and up into the Black mountains. One of my favorite characters from movies, Capt’n Barbosa, would have said, “Arrrrggggghhhh, they be more like foot-hills.”


It isn’t a bad drive but you can’t make good time. The farther you go, the more twisty it gets. If you make this trip, don’t be in a rush. Pull over and look back toward the river. It’s an amazing view and pictures just don’t do it justice. As you get close to Oatman the road gets a even more twisty. For the last couple of miles you can only do about 35 or 40 MPH. I wasn’t in a hurry so I was only doing maybe only 30 MPH.

There are lots of stories about Oatman. Perhaps they are more in the realm of “lore.” If I were to do a lot of digging I could find out the real truth. But that’s the lure of the town. The stuff could be true, and I choose to believe everything the town folk say… even if the aim is to attract tourists.

Even the town’s name¸ Oatman, evokes a bit of a mystique. Olive Oatman was captured by Indians when she was 14 years old. Stories tell of her years with the Indians. After five years she was she was released. One story is that here release was near the current site of the town. According to some, she lived in the town of Oatman till she married and moved to Texas.

The Olive Oatman Saloon

The Olive Oatman Saloon

A little before you get to town you start to see signs of the town’s mining heritage. To the side of the road you can see “tailings” from various mines in the area. Starting in the early 1900s and until World War II, Oatman was a mining town… GOLD! For a while it was a “boom town”. One of the signs in town proclaims that the area produced 1.8 million ounces of gold.  At today’s prices, that would be a couple of BILLION dollars.

“Route 66” goes right through the middle of the town. Of course Route 66 doesn’t even exist any more. But don’t tell that to the town-folk. Every store, mercantile, emporium and tourist trap has some kind of sign exhorting the town’s heritage of a Route 66 stop. Indeed, Route 66 kept the town alive after the gold mines closed. The town became a stop along the route. Eateries, hotels, shops and gas stations were kept in business by “mother road” travelers.


The Oatman “hotel” proudly proclaims that Clark Gable and Carol Lombard stayed there on their way west during their honeymoon.  I have something of a romantic view of what it must have been like during the glory days of Route 66. Folks traveling west were on an adventure. I vaguely remember the adventure it was when my parents moved from Georgia to California and we traveled portions of Route 66 to get there.

Unfortunately, today the Oatman Hotel is not a hotel. I would love to have stayed there to imagine what it might have been like to sit down to dinner next to Gable and Lombard. Of course today it’s a grande tourista trap. But who cares. There is a coffee shop. Go in and check the place out. For just a minute you can pretend to be a famous actor from the past.

The Oatman Hotel


My favorite... of course. *smiley face*

My favorite… of course. *smiley face*

When the highway bypassed Oatman… and Route 66 was “decommissioned”, it became virtually a ghost town. Today it’s only the tourists that keep the place alive. There are shops and trinket vendors in every little place in town. The owners have come up with a lot of clever names to pull in the visitors. “The Bucktooth Burro”, “Fast Fanny’s Place” (my favorite), “The Classy Ass”, “Jackass Ron’s”, and “The Nugget Corral” are just a few of the most clever names for the tourist traps.

They even have daily gunfights in the streets… right on time at 11:15 and 3:30. I don’t think they ever really had gun fights in the town, but it’s just another way to entertain the tourists and keep the town alive.

Gun fights and bed races

Gun fights and bed races

The biggest draw is the wild burros that wander into town each day. After the gold “petered out”… and the miners went off to mine copper for the war effort… the miners just released their burros into the Arizona desert. The burros that wander into town today are decedents of the ones the miners released.

I started on a walk-about down Route 66 when:

Barraaaakkk – Where do the burros go at night?  – Barraaaakkk

Before I could answer one of the old timers working on setting up his trinket stand answered with a perfectly straight face, “Wherever they want to go”… and then went back to his work.

That made me ponder… where they really go. Do they really just wander off into the hills?… or does the local tourist bureau have them herded to a nearby coral so they will still be here for the next day’s tourists. I considered hanging around to really find out. But I decided to take the old timer’s word for it.

Barraaaakkk Watch Look out!!! Watch yur step  – Barraaaakkk.

Ah yes… the Oatman two-step. You see, those burros really do “go” wherever they want to. That means Route 66 through the middle of Oatman… and the only street of consequence… is peppered with “road apples” from the burros. So indeed, watch yur step.

Look-out. You'll be doing the Oatman 2 step

Look-out. You’ll be doing the Oatman 2 step

I stopped in at a t-shirt shop just before I left town. The last thing I ever need is another t-shirt. But I couldn’t help myself. This shop had shirts that were not like all of the ones I’ve collected over the years… they were for Route 66. So I had to have one. Ummmmm, make that three.

Stopped in for a Route 66 T-Shirt

Stopped in for a Route 66 T-Shirt


Next up, The Mother Road – Part 2.

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