A few months ago, Richard and I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to visit our friend Dean and his mother. Our visit with them was wonderful, full of conversation and stories of past travels. Part of our time in Albuquerque was spent doing a couple of the things Richard, Dean, and I enjoy best, traveling Route 66 and sign hunting. We have fallen in love with signs and the hunting thereof. Not all signs will do, however, as old signs are among the best finds, but neon signs? Now you’re talking! There are great signs everywhere, big cities, little towns, along beaches and roadways too, but as Route 66 lovers, great signs found on Route 66 are the most beloved signs of all. It’s like treasure hunting, but for signs. (OH! And you don’t steal the ‘treasure,’ you photograph it, then continue the search.)
Driving up and down Central Avenue, aka: Route 66, you will see there is no shortage of signs. Many are vintage and downright iconic, like the sign outside the Westward Ho! Motel, with its large Saguaro Cactus outlined with neon. What a GREAT sign! A day time photo of the Westward Ho! Motel is shown below. Unfortunately, we were not able to take a night time photo, so I can’t tell you if the neon works or not. Hmmm, maybe that means another Route 66 trip to Albuquerque in my future?
During our sign hunt, we happened across a well preserved sign uniquely colored to match the colors detailing the motel…or the detailing on the motel was uniquely colored to match the sign. Either way, it was a great sign! The pine trees near the sign and motel entrance made a grand view, which was the name of the establishment, the Grandview Motel.
There was one sign we specifically sought out: the El Vado Motel sign. Like the Westward Ho! Motel sign, this sign was very iconic as well. Two different banners are tied on to the building; they read, “The Purest Route 66 Motel Surviving” and “70 years of Continuous Hospitality on Route 66.” Well, one of those signs may have been true. For several years now, a tall chain link fence has surrounded the adobe style El Vado Motel, as it sat vacant and deteriorating. Awhile back, the once beautiful El Vado neon sign was removed from the property to be restored to its former glory. Once the neon restoration project was complete, the exquisite sign was proudly displayed in an Albuquerque museum, before being returned to its home outside the El Vado Motel. I believe anyone seeing this sign in its current glory would be in awe. Although a colorful sign during the day, the sign glows with brilliant colors at night. The name of the motel is outlined in neon. The photo on the sign depicts an Indian Chief, adorned in a magnificent headdress consisting of a rainbow of neon. As for the former motel, it is reportedly being restored, not as a motel, but a boutique shopping area.
Before our trip was concluded, we stopped at 66 Diner, with its red and blue neon on the outside, and 50’s style décor inside. I’m certain the food is great, but I opted for a shake. It was the most delicious shake I’ve ever tasted-chocolate with Oreos…trust me on this one!
Please remember, a great sign does not always equate to a great motel or restaurant. Research establishments online, ask friends who have traveled the area previously, and maybe even ask a local. Have FUN on Route 66 and as always, have safe travels! (And don’t forget to take photos!)
In November of 2016, Richard and I headed west for a 2 week Route 66 adventure. Route 66 turned 90 years old last year! We planned to meet up with several of our Route 66 friends and all stay at the Saga Motor Hotel in Pasadena, California. (It’s on Route 66) The only thing better than a Route 66 trip, is one with a gathering of Route 66 friends, also referred to as “Route 66 Roadies.” As I prepared to write this blog, I wanted to talk about EVERYTHING we experienced; great food, amazing neon signs, cool mom & pop motels and restaurants, all the awesome sights…I could go on and on. My plan was to end this blog by telling you about the one thing that touched our hearts so much, it was the highlight of the trip! When reality hit me, I realized I could not even begin to write about a 2 week Route 66 trip in one blog. So, here is the story about the highlight of our trip that I want to share with you.
I’ve mentioned before, Route 66 is fun, beautiful, unique, and so much more, but you HAVE to meet the people. There’s the small business owners, the artists, the authors, and of course, fellow Route 66 lovers. I have a special place in my heart for the people of Route 66, past and present. But there was a certain special someone I had not met yet, even though Richard and I had made several attempts in the past to meet this person. Deep down, I was worried our attempt this trip would meet with failure again. The western portion of Route 66 is so far away from our home in the birthplace of Route 66, Springfield, Missouri, it would likely be a long time before we could travel that way again.
As we were heading to California, we stopped at one of my favorite little Route 66 towns, Seligman, Arizona. There, we ate a ‘killer’ dinner at the Roadkill Café, followed by a nice overnight stay at the Supai Motel. The next morning, we would have loved to have traveled down the street to Westside Lilo’s Café, where we’ve eaten superb breakfasts before, but we had an important destination… we wanted to meet an Angel!
Down the street, Richard and I went. We stopped outside a small store, a gift shop, as most people call it. It was too early for the store to be open, but, as my excitement grew, this was going to be worth the wait, I just knew it! Soon, we saw a familiar truck drive up and park near the front of the store. It was not who we were searching for, but he was certainly a super nice gentleman! Mauricio Perez introduced himself and opened the store. He invited us inside to warm up, adding he would make some coffee. After a bit, Richard said, “There he is! He just rode up on his bicycle!” Why was I feeling giddy? I’m not a “groupie” kind of person! The front door opened, and in walked Angel, The Angel of Route 66, Angel Delgadillo.
Angel entered his store and saw us. As soon as he did, he smiled and asked us how we were. Richard then asked Angel how he was. He gave an answer I had never heard before. Angel said, “Happy. I’m happy!” He was still smiling and as I was standing beside him, I could honestly feel it- he was happy! Angel spoke with us for quite awhile. He told us about his childhood and growing up in Seligman. Angel said there used to be so much daily traffic passing through Seligman, it was difficult to cross the street. He said, suddenly, all the traffic went away when the nearby interstate was built. Angel told us other Route 66 towns in Arizona suffered similar losses due to the interstate being built, bypassing their once bustling towns. In the late 1980’s, Angel traveled the Route and met with people from other Route 66 towns in Arizona. They rallied together to bring people back to their Route 66 towns and to show people a slower, more enjoyable, pace of travel. The Route 66 Association of Arizona was created; Angel was named as the first president. Angel, and some of the other Seligman residents, worked hard to bring their beloved Route 66 town back to life. A humble man, Angel never once bragged about his accomplishments, but there are many. Later, we will be able to read and see more about Angel’s hard work to bring Route 66 back to life; he is giving his archives to Northern Arizona University.
Angel will be 90 this year and he rides his bicycle to work, yes, work! Angel is a barber, although not full time. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get a hair cut from him. But for Richard and I, meeting the aptly named Angel will be a memory forever cherished! (And we LOVE this photo!!)
Richard, as I’ve mention before, initiated our love of Route 66. His original plan was to travel the entire Route on his motorcycle. Since he and his friend Danny had traveled the Route east of Springfield, Missouri, they formed a plan to travel the entire Route west of Springfield. Richard and Danny packed their bags onto their motorcycles the night before their trip. They even took a tent so they could camp out and save a little money.
This trip was during the month of October. I grew up on a farm and knew during that time of the year, deer went a little crazy, looking for love, sometimes, in all the wrong places, like the middle of Route 66! I made Richard and Danny promise me they would not drive after dark, which would cut down on their chances of hitting a deer. Deer vs. motorcycle accidents never end well for the deer, the motorcycle, and most of all, the driver.
Richard and Danny left early one morning and took off west. The first 24 hours of their trip was without incident. They camped at a campground just north of Stroud, Oklahoma, the first night.
The next morning, Richard and Danny packed up and continued west on Route 66. As the sun was setting, they were somewhere near Shamrock, Texas, and hadn’t located a campground. Danny suggested they find a spot just off the roadway and pitch a tent. Richard is a stickler for the rules and this made him a bit nervous. Unfortunately, it was quickly getting too dark to see and there really were no other options. They pitched the tent and spent the night.
Richard awoke in the very early hours of the next morning. He typically is not an early riser, especially if the sun isn’t up yet. However, Danny lived on the east coast at that time. He regularly woke very early and went to work. Throw in the time change factor and that probably made it seem like the middle of the night for Richard. Danny was already packing, so Richard got up and packed up his motorcycle, too. Although there was no hint of a sunrise, Richard got on his bike and drove west on Route 66, with Danny a little way behind him.
A short distance west of Shamrock, Texas, Richard rounded a corner at approximately 60 miles an hour and saw a large 7 point buck (male deer) standing sideway in the westbound lane of 66. With no time to stop or swerve, Richard tucked in tightly to his motorcycle and hung on for the inevitable. As he struck the deer, its body wrapped around Richard’s bike, leaving hoof marks on both sides of the gas tank. As the deer fell to the ground, Richard was somehow able to keep the motorcycle upright and coasted onto the shoulder of the road. Oil and other fluids from his totaled motorcycle immediately drained onto the edge of the road.
A Texas Trooper responded and investigated the wreck for an accident report. He told Richard he was very lucky, explaining a week before, a married couple on a motorcycle struck a deer on the same portion of the road. Sadly, they did not survive the wreck. Richard told Danny to continue the trip. There was nothing he could do if he would have stayed, so reluctantly, Danny continued west.
Richard called me later and told me what happened. He asked if I would grab a few things and drive his pickup to Shamrock, Texas, to get him and the motorcycle. He said he was going to the hospital to get checked, but he assured me he was alright. I grabbed the equipment he requested and headed out the door, en route to the U Drop Inn, where Richard said he’d be waiting for me.
I do believe in obeying the law, even though I sometimes catch myself driving a little too fast. However, this was an exception. My husband was just in a terrible accident, his motorcycle was totaled, and he was hundreds of miles away from home. I’m certain I broke every speed limit law all the way there. Richard was shocked to see me when I pulled up to U Drop Inn, stating he didn’t expect me for a few more hours. He suggested we drive out to the tow yard and load up his motorcycle before they closed for the day.
We went to the tow yard, paid our bill, and loaded the motorcycle into the bed of the truck. Afterward, he gathered the clothes and other belongings he once had packed onto the bike. I had just put some things into the truck when I heard a strange noise I’d never heard before. It slightly sounded like a baby rattle, but muffled and deeper. Puzzled, I looked back at Richard and saw him jumping into the air, as the noise continued. Richard said it was a rattle snake and he almost stepped on it. Honestly, I am a good wife, but the first thing I said was, “Let me get the camera!” I snapped a few photos of the devil snake before making sure Richard was alright. I told him, “Get in the truck and let’s get the hell out of here!”
I felt like I almost lost my husband twice that day, so we just needed to leave. We got in the truck and I drove home, much slower than I did on my trip to Shamrock earlier that day. No one would have ever known how fast I drove to Shamrock, if only Richard wouldn’t have checked that dang GPS on the way home. We’ve been back to Shamrock a few times since that terrible day, and loved it, but we always think about the unfortunate events of that day.
Has anyone ever told you that you can’t see everything on Route 66 in two weeks? Well, It’s true! I learned that during my recent trip from Springfield, Missouri, to Winslow, Arizona. Two weeks wasn’t nearly enough time on Route 66 to see everything I wanted to between those cities. While I mainly focused on seeing New Mexico and a small portion of Arizona, I was finally able to see a few sights along the way that I hadn’t seen yet, including the “Sand Hills Curiosity Shop” in Erick, Oklahoma, as well as Lile Art Gallery and Texas Ivy Antiques, both in Amarillo, Texas.
Richard traveled with me during the first half of the trip, however, he rode his motorcycle and I drove our car. We decided to spend our 10th Anniversary on Route 66, specifically at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Needless to say, our stay there was beyond our expectations. Besides our clean, comfortable room, there was amazing neon, and best of all, friends! The owners of the motel made us feel at home. Each night, everyone sat outside and visited with each other, even though a few people were strangers. That didn’t matter, because all of us had a common love for Route 66.
Richard drove me around so I could take photos. At night, I was able to photograph lots of beautiful neon. During the day, we drove around on Route 66, exploring and taking photos. Sometimes, our friend, Dean Kennedy, went with us on our drives. Richard and I stopped and visited with the owners of the Safari Motel, (Dean advised us they had the most comfortable beds on Route 66) and we also stopped and visited with the owners of the Roadrunner Lodge Motel, which is a fantastic work in progress. They allowed us to see their most recent renovated room; beautiful! While in Tucumcari, we saw an awesome car show with numerous classic cars and trucks. I never get tired of seeing those old rides!
After a week had passed, Richard and I kissed each other goodbye. While I was sad he wasn’t traveling on west with me, I was excited about the adventures of the coming week. I drove on to Albuquerque. Luckily, our friend, Dean, graciously allowed me to stay with him and his elderly mother, while I was there. I was thrilled when Dean offered to drive me from one end of Central, also known as Route 66, to the other, so I could take photos. He probably deserves a medal, because he took me out again after sunset, so I could photograph the neon on Central. The 4th Street portion of Route 66 will have to wait until another trip…there was just not enough time.
Dean and I met with some of our Route 66 friends the next morning. We were going to climb La Bajada Hill, which is an old alignment of Route 66. It was an amazing hike, made better by being with friends who were also excited about the making the journey. The views along the hike were spectacular!
A few days later, Dean and I traveled to Gallup, New Mexico. Of course, an over night stay at the El Rancho is a “must” when in Gallup. The El Rancho is a beautiful historic hotel where movie stars once stayed when they were filming westerns, years ago. Each room is named after a movie star from that era. At night, the pink glow of neon on the exterior of the hotel made it feel even more glamorous.
The next day, Dean and I traveled to the Painted Desert National Park, where we met with two Park Rangers and several other Route 66 lovers. They took us on a bus ride and showed us lots of relics from Route 66; at one time, the Route went through the Painted Desert. The highlight of the tour was the trip to the Painted Desert Trading Post. The trips to the trading post are few and far between, so if you ever have the chance to see it, please do! It’s on private property, but the Park Rangers received permission to take us there.
The next day, we traveled to Holbrook, Arizona, and had a great stay at the Globetrotter Motel. My room was decorated differently than Dean’s, but they both were homey, adorable, and very clean. After a couple days, Dean and I made a few stops at popular Route 66 sights as we drove to Winslow, Arizona. We “stood on the corner” for a few minutes, then ended our trip west before returning to Albuquerque. The next day, I hopped in my car and made the long trip home…on the interstate. Not that I didn’t want to see more of Route 66, but I had run out of time. It seems there is never enough time when you’re on Route 66.
My husband, Richard, and I always seem to agree on vacation destinations and what we want to do while on vacation. I figure that makes us pretty lucky, because some couples have very different perceptions of what a great vacation consists of. Not that we are experienced world travelers, but no matter where we end up, we always have a great time together.
After we were married awhile, Richard began talking about traveling Route 66. For the first time ever, I disagreed with his travel plans. I thought, “No way! That’s NOT for me! Why would I want to drive on some broke down road and see what? Dirt? Chunks of broken pavement? An old house falling down?” I was supportive of his quest, but it was not my idea of fun.