This time I'm going to tell you about the first time Denis and I visited Oatman, Arizona. We took three days off in the middle of the week, packed the Blazer (our first off-road vehicle), and headed northwest. Outside of Wickenburg, we drove to Kingman via the unpaved Signal Road.
We stayed in an old motel right on Route 66 in Kingman. We drove to an old mining town, Chloride, that evening, and spent the entire next day on the Diamond Creek Trail down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The last day we drove the Mother Road to Oatman before heading back to Phoenix. Oatman was fun!
Denis was more concerned about a certain photo op, and it wasn’t long until he had his chance: pulling off on the road shoulder, he took a picture of the Blazer sitting beside a Route 66 highway marker.
The first part of the twenty-six mile journey took us along the flat valley floor. This was the Mojave Desert. The saguaros were gone, and the valley floor was covered with yucca, cholla, and Joshua trees. Past the halfway point we were finally in the mountains, and the Mother Road had more kinks in it than a pissed-off rattlesnake. (Very few guardrails either.) The rocky, sparsely vegetated mountains were beautiful in the bright morning sun. The view opened up for miles at Sitgreaves Pass, and we had to stop and take a few photos. It’s possible to see three states from that vantage point.
In no time at all, we were in Oatman. Oatman survived when Gold Road didn’t because it’s the last service stop before you start crossing the Mojave Desert into Nevada and California. We slowly traveled down Main Street, looking at all the old buildings. Of course, there was more than one reason for moving so slowly—we didn’t want to hit the most popular residents of the town. When mining died out in the area, the prospectors moved on, but they left their burros behind. The burros became wild, but they knew a good source of food when they saw it, and they have stayed in the Oatman area ever since. Denis and I quickly parked the truck and got out to investigate and meet two of the four-legged residents.
Like any true Old West town, the sidewalks were wooden. Bulletin boards hung outside the entrances of many establishments. I stopped to read a few and this is when I learned that all the burros have names. In fact, not too long ago some desperado kidnapped “Sadie’s” young’un and there’s a reward for the capture of the criminal and the safe return of little “Becky.” In addition, notices on the boards informed visitors what the burros are to be fed. Carrots only. No junk food. The two-legged residents of Oatman don’t want the burros to lose the ability to forage in the wild. No babies are to be fed at all. They choke easily. Ground rules firmly established, Denis and I wandered up and down both sides of Main Street, sometimes having to sidestep other “folks” on the boardwalks.
On our way back to the Blazer, we met Oatman’s youngest resident, Jay Jay. Jay Jay was eleven days old and had the tendency to taste anything he came across. It was fun to watch his progress down the street.
One last stop to help boost the Oatman economy and we were ready to head to Phoenix. But we were thirsty. Where would be a good place to go in for a couple of cold ones? We looked around, took the advice of the residents, and stopped at the Route 66 Deli. We weren’t led astray!
|Route 66 Deli-- The Best Eats in Town!|
If you're traveling through Arizona on Interstate 40, consider spending a couple of days in Kingman. You can visit the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is now home to the Skywalk. You can visit old mining towns full of character like Chloride and Oatman. And you can travel one of the best stretches of the Mother Road, Route 66. Denis and I have had visitors from Washington and England that we've taken on this trip, and they both loved it.