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America — Next Exit on Route 66


Crossing the northern portion of the state, the Mother Road still connects several communities in Arizona’s northwest corner that the interstate system bypassed. In 1984, the section of roadway near Williams was the last point on U.S. 66 to be replaced by the interstate system. In nearby Seligman, the first Route 66 association was established by a local barber in 1987 and, as a result, the nation’s first “Historic Route 66” designation was placed on the segment between Kingman and Seligman.

During its heyday in the 1930s, La Posada Hotel in Winslow was a favored destination of the Hollywood jet set. Fred Harvey built the showplace in 1929 for the Santa Fe Railway. La Posada is known as architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s Southwest masterpiece. The total budget, with grounds and furnishings, was rumored at $2 million — about $40 million in today’s dollars. Rooms feature handmade ponderosa pine beds, handwoven Zapotecan rugs, and Mexican tin and Talavera tile mirrors. Some boast the original 1930s black-and-white mosaic tile bathrooms, complete with cast-iron tubs. Interior views take in the lovely gardens, and Route 66 can be seen to the north.

“Our Turquoise Room’s history and cuisine guarantees that groups will enjoy unforgettable dining,” said Bob Hall, CEO of the Winslow Chamber of Commerce. “From stuffed squash blossom appetizers to the grilled lamb with tamales and a decadent chocolate souffle for dessert, our from-scratch menu incorporates local products for an authentic Southwest experience.”

Route 66 signage is still in use on Flagstaff’s main thoroughfare, where art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops inhabit buildings dating from the late 1800s. A self-guided Route 66 walking tour starts at Flagstaff’s visitors center and focuses on the original stretches created before the mid-1930s. Phoenix Avenue has several operational 1930s motor inns such as Motel DeBeau. Afterward, groups can grab a bite at the Galaxy Diner, which sports a soda fountain and walls covered with black-and-white glamour shots of midcentury movie stars.

Near the California border, the Route 66 Museum in Kingman’s Historic Powerhouse, which supplied power for the construction of the Hoover Dam, depicts the evolution of travel along Route 66. In nearby Oatman, one section of the highway challenged motorists with numerous hairpin turns and was most likely the steepest section along the entire journey — some early travelers hired locals to navigate this treacherous stretch.


Cruising into California, Route 66 covers approximately 325 miles across the southern portion of the state from Needles to Santa Monica. According to Scott Piotrowski, secretary of the California Route 66 Association, more than 90 percent of the highway is still drivable but parallels several interstates.

Needles, which owes its name to the needlelike mountains surrounding it, and the Mojave Desert greet travelers with extreme temperatures in summer that warrant the town’s designation as the hottest in the nation. From Needles, the route follows approximately 150 miles of desert. The Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow describes the road through California. One of the quirkiest stops is Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, a forest of bottle trees made from bottles of all shapes, colors and sizes that were abandoned near Route 66. In Victorville, Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Café has been serving hearty breakfasts and lunch since 1947. The noteworthy California Route 66 Museum showcases vignettes of family life from that era and gives a unique perspective of the journey.

On the edge of the desert, the Cajon Pass is the route’s last and highest peak before it descends toward Los Angeles. San Bernardino serves as the gateway into Los Angeles. The town’s landmark Wigwam Motel offers individual rooms shaped like tepees, with modern features like cable TV and free Wi-Fi. Formerly part of a chain of seven similar establishments, two on Route 66, they served travelers from the 1930s to the 1950s.

In Ontario, the fifth annual Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion will celebrate America’s love affair with the automobile. Held in September, the event invites aficionados to immerse themselves in three days of cruising, contests, live entertainment and food. On historic, tree-shaded Euclid Avenue, classic cruisers, convertibles, hot rods and woodies come out in full force at this jam-packed Mother Road party.

Heading into Pasadena, the iconic Colorado Street Bridge makes a great photo op. Highland Park, northeast of downtown Los Angeles, offers several attractions, including the Soda Pop Stop, with more than 600 handcrafted sodas; the Chicken Boy statue; Highland Theatre; and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 1913 as the city’s first museum.

Finally, the Pacific Ocean stretches out before travelers at the Santa Monica Pier, the “spiritual” end of the road. The road originally ended in downtown Los Angeles at Broadway and Seventh Street, which, at the time, was the busiest intersection in the world. At the pier, travelers can ride the Ferris wheel, stroll the beach or dine at sunset to celebrate their all-American journey.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.