A few years ago, our close friend, Dean Kennedy, mentioned he was going to go to the Fun Run in Arizona. He sounded so excited, however, I could not imagine why he thought running in the desert would be fun. Finally, I said, “I didn’t know you were a runner.” Dean quickly explained it was a ‘run’ of cool cars, mostly classic cars that met in Seligman, Arizona, then traveled Route 66 to Topock, Arizona. Okay, now he was speaking my language: Route 66, cars, and the scenery of the desert that was so vastly different from my home in Springfield, Missouri. Life was busy at the time, so his invitation to go along had to wait…that is, until this year. My husband Richard, Dean, and I planned an epic trip out west on Route 66. We were going to meet and visit friends along the way, attend the Fun Run, and end the trip at Fender’s River Resort in Needles, California before returning home. I voiced a huge request: I wanted to stop in Erick, Oklahoma and try (again) to meet Harley Russell and I also wanted to seek out The Angel of Route 66, Angel Delgadillo, in his home town of Seligman, Arizona. Although I had met Angel once before, I did not want to miss another opportunity to see him again.
Our trip west kicked off as every Route 66 trip should, a great breakfast. For us, that meant a stop in Vinita, Oklahoma at Clanton’s. (Yum!) After breakfast, we traveled to Erick, Oklahoma. We turned off Route 66 left onto Sheb Wooley Avenue and continued about a block to the Sandhills Curiosity Shop. You can’t miss this place. It’s an old brick building with all kinds of old metal signs attached to it. It screams Route 66! I walked to the front door in hopes of finally catching Harley there, but he wasn’t. I was disappointed, but the outside of his building was so unique, I had to take some photos, like I had every time we’ve stopped by.
After a few minutes, someone drove up and stopped-it was Harley! Dean and I had our cameras out, so Harley sent us to his house to photograph more of his excellent sign collection. He opened his shop so Richard could go inside with him and visit. What a unique sight Harley’s home (and yard) was! We had to tear ourselves away and get back to Harley’s shop, because our goal was to meet and visit with him.
Harley was quite the fun character! He was very kind, entertaining, charming, he brought lots of laughs, and he shared his knowledge about the unique items in his shop. Don’t plan to go shopping there though, his treasures are not for sale. We could have spent hours visiting with Harley and ogling his collections, but we had to continue our trip. A bit of advice: Make time to stop and meet Harley. He is a part of Route 66 you don’t want to miss. Although he doesn’t sell anything, kindly put a little cash in his tip jar. If he isn’t at his shop, I’m certain you’ll enjoy the uniqueness of the building itself.
Fast forward our trip to Seligman, Arizona. (That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves between Erick and Seligman. We had a wonderful time exploring the Route, meeting with friends, and eating…a lot!) As we entered Seligman, we began seeing cool old cars everywhere. Everyone knows I love photographing classic cars and Route 66, so I went into photography overload! However, none of that compared to what I saw next-Angel Delgadillo! He was sitting outside the Snow Cap Drive-In preparing his saxophone to play. What? I didn’t know he played music! But he did, along with his older brother, Joe, (Angel is 91) and a friend, who Angel later told me had played music with them for many many years. The crowd was entertained by the music of Angel on the sax, his brother and friend on the guitars, and a younger family member who joined them and played the drums. What a special, unexpected treat, moments that will always be treasured! Moments that I happily captured with photos and video with my camera.
The next day was the first day of the Fun Run. Excitement was in the air as folks lined the sidewalks of Seligman to watch the cars drive by on their way west on Route 66. We parked on the west side of town and walked east, finally settling on a spot near the middle of town to take in the show. As the cars and trucks drove by, I happily photographed most of them, until I saw I could only take a few more photos that would fit my camera card. Well, that was a fun time filling up those 16 gigs! Prepared, I took the camera card out and put a fresh one in. I repeatedly told myself, “Don’t lose that camera card! Don’t lose the camera card!” So I put it in the little plastic case and put it in my pants pocket. Or did I keep it in my hand, worried it could fall out of my pocket? I’ll never know, because, after taking a few more photos, it was time to leave and follow the parade of cars to the first stopping point on the Route. As soon as we reached our vehicle, I emptied my hands and pockets and placed the contents on the floor. Much to my utter shock and dismay, my camera card was gone! How could that be? I told myself not to lose it! I just had it! My mind quickly went back to the photos and videos of Harley and of Angel. I wanted to cry, but there was no time. Richard and Dean quickly knew I was in distress and immediately, we retraced our steps. We went into businesses and asked if anyone turned in a camera card; nothing. We stopped and spoke with residents along the way; nothing. It was nowhere to be found, even though only minutes had passed since I last saw my camera card. My heart sank, knowing the photos would not mean much, if anything, to the finder of it. On top of that, there was no way anyone would be able to determine who the owner was, even if they wanted to return it. With no other options, we had to leave and continue with the trip.
The remainder of the trip was great, with more fun with friends and more exploration. My mind continually went to the lost camera card. Since I hadn’t taken a turn at the wheel, I finally started driving. At a maximum of ten minutes later, and I’m blaming either Richard, Dean, or both here, someone came up with the idea to drive a basically extinct portion of the Route west of Kingman, Arizona. I almost got stuck, then whacked a huge rock, before backing into some type of desert attack bush with thorns, thorns which could loudly be heard scraping along the vehicle. With a heavy sigh and a big apology, I got out of the driver’s seat and turned the driving back over to the experts. We turned around and made a hasty retreat. As a passenger again, I tried to think of plans to do my best to get that camera card back, a daunting, seemingly impossible task. I began calling businesses in Seligman. I began sending Facebook messages to businesses in Seligman. Later, on the way home, we stopped in Seligman, made many contacts, searched yet again for the camera card, but turned up empty handed.
Before we returned to Springfield, I saw a Facebook post by the Route 66 Association of Arizona, asking people if they enjoyed the Fun Run. I responded positively, as I really did have a great time. As an afterthought, I made an additional comment about losing my camera card. Soon thereafter, I received a message that a man found it and was and trying to find the owner. Really? No way! Dare I get my hopes up? Hmmm, how many other people lost a camera card in Seligman the same day I did?
I was thrilled to learn a kind and honest gentleman from Flagstaff, Arizona really had located my camera card. He worked hard to find the owner and thankfully, an awesome young lady with the Route 66 Association of Arizona put the gentleman and I in contact. Within a few weeks, I had that lil camera card of mine in hand, complete with every photo and video I took. I did my best to show my gratitude to the gentleman for finding and returning the camera card, but nothing seemed adequate.
Ever since falling in love with Route 66 and her people, I’ve always said they are the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. I want to add two other words to their description: honest and dedicated. That’s what real Route 66 folks are made of.