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!!)