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.
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!!)