The Best Stops for a Summer Road Trip

Whether you park for ten minutes or ten days, what destinations do you pull off the highway for?

At some point, everyone starts to think about their dream road trip. For some, it’s a jaunt to the Grand Canyon or touring the Mighty Five in a decked-out RV. For others, it’s traveling Historic Route 66 or the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the destination, though, everyone needs to make stops on the way. What are some of your favorites?

For my purpose, a stop is anything from a national park to a state park or a roadside attraction to a Texas BBQ joint. Anything that gets you to pull off the highway, turn off your engine, and stretch your legs a bit—whether it’s to hike a mountain trail or tour a living history museum is up to you.

My vote for the perfect road trip stop is multifaceted and an ongoing list as I travel to new places and explore America’s scenic wonders.

Roswell UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

International UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico

The International UFO Museum and Research Center at Roswell is the focal point of the industry that has built up around The Roswell Incident, an event that took place nearby in July 1947. What’s beyond question is that something crashed. This could have been a UFO or a military project, either way, there appears to have been some kind of cover-up. The wealth of testimonies, photographs, and other exhibits leaves you in no doubt as to what they believe here.

Roswell UFO Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Believers and skeptics alike are invited to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the famous “Roswell Incident.” Mix and mingle with UFO and space enthusiasts at the Roswell UFO Festival (July 1-3, 2022) while enjoying live entertainment, family-friendly activities, guest speakers, authors, costume contests, and maybe even an alien abduction.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District, Jekyll Island, Georgia

The Jekyll Island Club was called “the richest, most inaccessible club in the world” by Munsey’s Magazine. The Club House is now the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the hotel and 33 other historic structures on 240 acres have been designated by the National Park Service as a Historic Landmark District. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you can visit the museum and take a historic tour, plus visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located near Brunswick, Jekyll Island is one of the barrier islands designated as part of the Golden Isles. In addition to the historic district, recreation opportunities abound golf, biking, birding, fishing, swimming, and more. Other hotels as well as a campground with primitive and RV sites provide accommodations.

Bryce Canyon from Rim Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Point, Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon, Utah

The views over Bryce Canyon are spectacular from any of the park’s 14 viewing points but Bryce Point, the last stop on the shuttle route allows you to appreciate the full scale of this natural wonder. Stand at the viewing point and the sheer breadth of colors of the hoodoos from snow white through pale rusty to brilliant orange is amazing. Bryce Point is also the starting point of the Rim Trail, a relatively easy hike that offers outstanding views of the hoodoos from above.

Bryce Canyon from the Rim Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Rim Trail passes by all the viewing points served by the shuttle (Bryce, Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise Points) so you can hike as much or as little of the rim as you like. Drop your car off at the shuttle parking area opposite the visitor center.

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newport Mansions, Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island is where America’s wealthiest families chose to build their summer “cottages” in the late 19th century. Today, known collectively as the Newport Mansions and managed by The Preservation Society of Newport County, these lavish properties offer a rare insight into the Gilded Age of American history. The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, is the largest and most opulent of them all and was owned by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center, Toutle, Washington

If, like most people, you approach Mount St Helens by the northern route SR 504, the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway. Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center provides one of the best panoramic views along the way. As well as looking left towards the volcano, look down into the valley and you may be lucky enough to spot members of the elk herd that has moved into the mudflow area of the Toutle River Valley. Facilities available at the center include restaurant and helicopter tours.

Powerhouse Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Powerhouse Visitor Center, Kingman, Arizona

As its name implies, this 1907 building was once the source of electrical power for the city of Kingman and remained so until 1938 when the Hoover Dam was constructed. It was such an eyesore by the 1980s that the city considered demolishing the building but fortunately, it was saved, restored, and in 1997 reopened as the Powerhouse Visitor Center. Today it is also home to the excellent Historic Route 66 Museum which tells the story of the highway from its earliest years through the 50s and 60s.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont

Fans of “The Sound of Music” will love visiting the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Take one of the daily Von Trapp Family History tours. Pictures of the family and its history are also hung in public areas. For resort guests, there are a variety of activities for all seasons, tours, and food choices.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A variety of accommodations are available. History tours are $10 for adult guests, $5 for children, and $15 for adult day visitors. Services are available in nearby Stowe.

Sylvan Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park, South Dakota

This beautiful—and extremely photogenic—the lake was created in 1881 when Theodore Reder built a dam across Sunday Gulch. Described as the “crown jewel” of Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake offers a swimming beach and boat rentals and there’s a wonderful loop trail that leads between the rock formations that make this such a distinctive site.

The Sylvan Lake campground is open from late May to the end of September (not suitable for large RVs). The upscale Sylvan Lake Lodge, built-in 1937, is also nearby.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Washington Cog Railway, Mount Washington, New Hampshire

At 6,288.2 feet, Mt. Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire. Ride in style to the summit on a historic cog railway that has been operating since 1869. Grades average 25 percent! Keep your eye out for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which crosses the line about three-quarters of the way up. Enjoy far-reaching panoramic views at the summit on the Observatory deck on a nice day. The visitor center has snacks, restrooms, and a post office. And, don’t miss the Mt Washington Weather Museum.

Perrine Bridge and Snake River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls, Idaho

The Perrine Bridge spans the majestic Snake River Canyon on the northern edge of Twin Falls. The bridge is 486 feet above the river and 1,500 feet long and offers pedestrian walkways with views of the river, lakes, and waterfalls. BASE jumpers can enjoy the Perrine Bridge year-round as the launching point for parachuting to the canyon floor below.

Snake River from Perrine Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on the south side of the bridge is a large parking area (RV friendly) with the Twin Falls Visitor Center and access to the canyon rim trails leading to the bridge. To the east of the bridge along the south rim of the canyon the dirt ramp used by Evel Knievel when he unsuccessfully attempted to jump the canyon on his steam-powered “skycycle” in 1974 is still visible.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota

Certainly one of the most famous roadsides stops out there, the Corn Palace is a great place to take a short break from the road while traveling across the prairie. Located a few miles off I-90 in Mitchell, South Dakota, The Corn Palace is a big building that’s covered in the corn! Each year, artists design murals that are created using nothing but locally grown corn. Inside the building is a small museum showing the site’s history dating back to 1892 and pictures of the murals from previous years, a basketball arena, and a gift shop.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg was once the capital of Virginia, the largest and most influential colony in the budding republic. The restored version of Colonial Williamsburg has provided the public with a detailed, vibrant re-creation of this city with the opportunity to travel back in time amid 88 rebuilt homes, taverns, restaurants, and shops.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience the grandeur of royal authority in Virginia just before its collapse in the Revolution. The Governor’s Palace, home to seven royal governors and the first two elected governors in Virginia, was built to impress visitors with a display of authority and wealth.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg is part of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown. Each of these sites has its unique features and historical significance.

Lake Winnepesaukee Cruise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Winnipesaukee cruises, Laconia, New Hampshire

Take a narrated day cruise on New Hampshire’s largest lake, Lake Winnepesaukee. The M/S Mount Washington holds over 1200 passengers and has several ports of call. Dinner cruises are offered in the evenings plus Sunday brunch and specialty cruises. Or, ride along on the M/V Sophie C, the only U.S. Mailboat on an inland waterway, as it delivers mail to five islands.

The season begins near the end of May and runs through most of October.

Hole N’ the Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hole N’ the Rock, Moab Utah

Located 12 miles South of Moab on Highway 191, ‘Hole N’ the Rock’ is a unique home and Trading post carved into a huge Rock. Take a tour through the 5,000-square-foot home with 14 rooms. Have a wander around the Gift store and keep the kids happy with a visit to the Petting Zoo and an ice cream from the General Store.

Gilroy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gilroy, California

If you don’t already know that Gilroy is dubbed the Garlic Capital of the World, your nose might tell you as you approach the town. So will your eyes as you see not only plenty of garlic fields and numerous shops selling garlic and other produce, and garlic-related items such as garlic-flavored chocolate and garlic-flavored ice cream. The city also holds a garlic festival every year that has drawn worldwide attention. The Garlic Festival is held in late July each year (42nd annual, July 22-24, 2022). Some of the most interesting and longest-established garlic shops are located on Highway 101 on the outskirts of town.

Corning Museum of Glass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York

The museum is just about all that remains of the original Owens-Corning Glass Factory in Corning. All but a few commercial products are now made in other parts of the world. The museum houses a fabulous collection of rare glass artifacts, a modern art/glass gallery, and several demonstration areas where visitors can watch glass being blown, heated, and worked into practical or artistic shapes. There is even an area where you can make your glass pieces.

A reasonable entrance fee covers two days which you might need to see everything. A cafe is on the premises to accommodate lunch guests. There is a massive gift shop, too, so you can purchase just about anything made in glass.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wall Drug Store, Wall, South Dakota

Love it or loathe it, you can’t ignore Wall Drug, not least because of the dozens of signs that announce its existence from miles away. The original signs were erected back in 1936 as owners Ted and Dorothy Hustead used the offer of cheap coffee and free ice water to tempt travelers to their drug store in the small town of Wall.

Wall Drug © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the store is so tacky it’s brilliant with dozens of specialty stores and a collection of novelty items from fiberglass dinosaurs to animations that can be activated for a quarter. It’s not subtle but makes no pretense to be. Yes, they do still offer free ice water and coffee at 5 cents a cup.

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough, New Hampshire

Completed in 1914 as the estate of shoe tycoon Thomas Plant, Lucknow Estate, as it was called, is considered a prime example of Arts and Crafts architecture. Opened to the public in 1959, Castle in the Clouds is now a museum that preserves the opulent lifestyle of the period.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is known as the City Different and within one visit you will know why. Santa Fe embodies a rich history of melding Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures whose influences are apparent in everything from the architecture, the food, and the art. Santa Fe has more than 250 galleries and has been rated the second largest art market in the country, after New York City. Canyon Road is a historic pathway into the mountains and an old neighborhood that has become the city’s center for art with the highest concentration of galleries.

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downtown Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors on the plaza is one of the most iconic sites in the city. The oldest continuously inhabited building in the United States, it’s perhaps best known for the Native American market beneath its portal.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The visitor is drawn to Loretto Chapel to see the spiral staircase that leads to the choir loft. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase.

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

Route 66: The Road to Adventure

In its glory years, Route 66 proved an escape for drivers seeking freedom and adventure on the open road. It provides the same today for those willing to get off the interstates to traverse what’s left of it.

Michael Wallis, author of the 1990 book Route 66: The Mother Road, describes what became known as “The Main Street of American”:

“A thread looping together a giant patchwork of Americana, this fabled road represents much more than just another American highway. Route 66 means motion and excitement. It’s the mythology of the open road. Migrants traveled its length; so did desperadoes and vacationers. Few highways provoke such an overwhelming response. When people think of Route 66, they picture a road to adventure.”

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northwestern Arizona is home to the longest uninterrupted portion of the historic highway, the 159-mile span from Seligman to Kingman. A great starting point for those wishing to explore this stretch is the Arizona Route 66 Museum and Visitor Center in Kingman where travelers can add context to their journey into a storied past.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Formally established in 1926, Route 66 was “a 2,448-mile journey to the heart of America,” the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona pamphlet reads. “Contrasted with the other highways of its day, Route 66 did not follow a traditionally linear course. Its diagonal path linked hundreds of communities across eight states and became the principal east-west artery.”

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At first, much of Route 66 was dirt. It was not paved in its entirety until 1938. It was on this dirt road that one significant group of people traveled from the Midwest seeking a better life. The combination of economic depression, ill-advised farming practices, and severe drought led to the “Dust Bowl” in the 1930s when extreme storms literally carried the topsoil of farmland hundreds of miles away.

Related Article: Route 66 across Arizona

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Dust clouds several miles high blew across the plains covering everything with fine, dry silt,” a museum interpretive plaque states. “Crops would not grow and animals and humans were actually driven mad by the wind and the dust.”

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These harsh conditions inspired farmers who became known as “Okies” because they were centered along the panhandle of Oklahoma to travel west to find their greener pastures. Their principal route became known as the “Mother Road” because of John Steinbeck’s description of it as such in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which chronicled the travails of a fictional Dust Bowl family.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Chapter 12 of Steinbeck’s masterpiece, he wrote: “66 is the path of people in flight . . . they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from wagon tracks, and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road.”

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interestingly, according to the museum’s interpretation materials, more than 200,000 people fled west to California during the era but less than 16,000 actually stayed there. “Prosperity was supposed to be just around the corner but some made the long trek to California in dilapidated ‘tin lizzies’ only to turn back after finding more poverty and despair,” one museum plaque reads.

Related Article: Get Your Kicks (And Burros) On Route 66

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The completion of paving the route on the eve of World War II became significant to the war effort. Improved highways were key to rapid mobilization during the conflict. The military chose numerous locations in the West as training bases because of their geographic isolation and good weather. Many were located on or near Route 66 including the Kingman Army Airfield Gunnery School. It was not uncommon to see mile-long convoys of trucks along the road transporting troops and equipment.

Wigwam Motel along Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is from the post-war years that most of the nostalgia for Route 66 stems. This was the era when the motor-going public decided to go out and explore the country in droves spawning a dramatic increase in roadside commerce. The development of gas stations, motels, and diners mushroomed in the 1950s and 60s and with them creative landmarks to draw tourists in, from twin arrows in the middle of the stretch between Flagstaff and Winslow to motel rooms that resembled Indian teepees at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving Route 66 was literally an adventure and Los Angeles resident Jack D. Rittenhouse wrote the adventure guide in 1946, titled A Guide Book to Highway 66. It became a bible to travelers of the open road. In it, Rittenhouse provided some important advice, including:

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to have your auto jack. A short piece of wide, flat board on which to rest the jack in sandy soil is a sweat preventer . . . Carry a container of drinking water which becomes a vital necessity as you enter the deserts . . . An auto altimeter and auto compass add to the fun of driving, although they are not essential.

Related Article: King of the Road: America the Road Trip Capital of the World

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The same year Rittenhouse’s guide hit shelves, Americans also heard Bobby Troup’s ode to the highway song, Get Your Kicks on Route 66, which has been covered by numerous musical groups since.

According to Tom Snyder, founder of the California Route 66 Association, Route 66 was for travelers, not tourists. To Snyder, tourists are all about rushing to the next popular place and finding the right souvenirs, but travelers are not in a hurry, want to explore, and want to find the souvenir makers, not just the souvenirs.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1956, however, just as Route 66 was experiencing its heyday, the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower enacted the Federal Highway Act of 1956 which would authorize the construction of a 41,000-mile network of interstate highways across the country and eventually signal the death knell of the “Mother Road” which it replaced with five interstates. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, formerly vibrant towns in Arizona such as Seligman, Peach Springs, and Hackberry were bypassed by Interstate 40 and in a way taken off the map and out of the motoring public’s consciousness.

One of the museum’s plaques explained the end result in less than glowing terms:

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rest stops were no longer dictated by the unique and enticing attractions along the road but by large signs that said so. Today, food, gas, and lodging facilities are nearly identical from state to state and the blandness of driving an unremarkable stretch of highway takes its toll.

Like many towns along Route 66, Seligman in Arizona depended on the traffic along the highway to sustain its businesses. In 1978, when Interstate 40 replaced Route 66 and rerouted traffic two miles south of town and away from its downtown, businesses suffered, some closed and buildings were abandoned.

Old Powerhouse building along Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The old Powerhouse building became a visitor center in 1997 and the association started the museum on the second floor of the building in 2001, fittingly using money earned from the raffle of a 1964 Corvette Stingray donated to the organization. At first, the association operated the museum but then the Mohave County Historical Society which also runs the Mohave Museum and Bonelli House took it over.

Route 66 Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum features exhibits portraying three epochs of history along the route: the pioneer era, the Dust Bowl era and, of course, Route 66’s golden age as America’s Main Street with vehicles of each time period as each display’s centerpiece. The museum gives younger visitors the chance to complete a scavenger hunt, looking for specific items on a list within the exhibits, and if they find all the items, museum staff rewards them with a souvenir coin.

Route 66 and Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the Arizona Route 66 Museum, the Powerhouse Building is home to a visitor center and gift shop as well as an electric car museum. Admission to the museum also allows visitors to visit the Mojave Museum of History and Arts just a block away and the Bonelli House, the restored home of a Kingman pioneer. 

Route 66 Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Well, if you ever plan to motor west
Jack, take my way, it’s the highway, that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

Well, it winds from Chicago to L.A.
More than two-thousand miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66.

—Bobby Troup

Route 66 across Arizona

Route 66. The Will Rogers Highway. Mother Road. Main Street of America. The quintessential American Road Trip.

Route 66 served travelers for some 50 years, before the advent of the interstate highway system. Established on November 11, 1926, Route 66 was one of the original highways in the U.S., stretching southwestward from Chicago out to California’s coastal city of Santa Monica.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to California, covering a total of 2,448 miles. 

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66 was recognized in popular culture by the hit song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, a popular rhythm and blues standard, composed in 1946 by songwriter Bobby Troup and the Route 66 TV drama in the early ’60s.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you are motivated by an interest in history or feel a nostalgic yearning for the “good old days”, Route 66 offers an unforgettable journey into America, then and now.

Historic Route 66 to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman

We’ll start our trip just west of the Colorado River and up the hill from Laughlin, Nevada in the historic town of Oatman. Once a gold-mining boomtown, Oatman hunkers in a craggy gulch of the Black Mountains, 28 miles southwest of Kingman. Rising above town is the jagged peak of white quartz known as Elephant’s Tooth.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though Oatman is only a shadow of its former self, it is well worth a visit to this living ghost town that provides, not only a handful of historic buildings and photo opportunities, but costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies strolling the wooden sidewalks, as well as the sights of burros walking the streets.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping carrots sold by the local shop owners.

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kingman

From Oatman, take the thirty minute scenic drive through the Black Mountains to Kingman. A visit to the old powerhouse, which has been converted to a Route 66 Museum and visitor’s center, is a must. The Powerhouse Building is also home to Arizona’s Route 66 Association.

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kingman is a jumping off spot for Hoover Dam and Chloride, a well-preserved ghost town, 20 miles northeast.

Hackberry & Valentine

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing east along the Mother Road you’ll come upon the small ghost towns of Hackberry and Valentine. The oldest town along this old stretch of the road, Hackberry’s origin dates back to 1874 when prospectors set up a mining camp on the east side of the Peacock Mountains. Today, Hackberry sits mostly silent with the exception of the revived Hackberry General Store and Visitors Center. 

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The main attraction at Valentine is the old schoolhouse at Truxton Canyon Training School on the Hualapai reservation. Now referred to as “The Red Schoolhouse”, the boarding school was constructed to house and assimilate young Hualapai Indians.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winslow

Popularized by the Eagles first hit single “Take It Easy” in 1972, “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see…”, put the town on the national map of consciousness. Winslow was a major stop for early travelers on the Santa Fe Railway as well as Route 66. Built in 1929, the La Pasada has been fully restored and caters to a new generation of Route 66 travelers.

Holbrook © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holbrook

From Winslow continue east 32 miles to Holbrook. In 1881, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid its tracks through an area that was known as Horsehead Crossing. Home to cowboys, cattle ranchers, and railroaders, the settlement soon took on all the vices of a typical Wild West town, complete with a saloon called the Bucket of Blood. Law and order were non-existent, gambling was popular. Before long, Holbrook became a trade center for the area, where cattle, sheep, and wool were shipped out on the railroad.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the time Route 66 made its appearance, the wild and lawless town had become more settled, and the narrow strip of asphalt became a symbol of hope to the city and the many travelers of the Mother Road.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tour the nearby Petrified Forest National Park, one of the world’s largest and most vibrantly colored assemblies of petrified wood, historic structures, and archeological sites.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spend the night at the real cool Wigwam Motel, comprised of 15 large wigwam sleeping units and vintage cars and an RV.

Worth Pondering…

Well, I’m running down the road

Take it easy, take it easy

Don’t let the sound of your own

Wheels drive you crazy

And take it easy

Well, I’m a standing on a corner

In Winslow, Arizona

And such a fine sight to see

Oh, we got it easy

We oughta take it easy

—Eagles, 1972

Get Your Kicks (And Burros) On Route 66

The Mother Road. Route 66. Main Street of America. Will Rogers Highway. The quintessential American Road Trip!

The mention of Route 66 to most baby-boomers conjures up images of George Maharis and Martin Milner cruising along in their early Corvette roadster in the television series of the same name.

While reminiscing, you have the popular rhythm and blues standard (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 echoing through your mind. Composed in 1946 by songwriter Bobby Troup, this hit song was followed by the Route 66 TV drama in the early ’60s.

Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But a trip to Oatman, a small, quaint community situated in Western Arizona will quite possibly reveal a whole new dimension to that 60-year-old song.

Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tucked away on a very old section of Route 66, Oatman is about 25 miles from Kingman and Bullhead, Arizona, and Needles, California. This allows for a quick day trip from any of these locations.

Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Upon entering the historic old downtown, visitors are greeted by wild burros that roam up and down the main street hoping to get a healthy snack. These seemingly tame creatures actually live in a free-range area of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land adjacent to the tiny town. The burros are descendants of animals used by miners and abandoned when the ore played out.

Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

No matter how tame they seem, the burros are wild animals. Use caution and common sense when feeding them. Do not feed junk food to the burros. Local merchants sell bagged carrots for $1, a small price to pay to meet a new friend!

It’s best to leave Rover at home. Many burros consider the family pooch nothing more than a coyote with connections.

Historic Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Most of the shops and restaurants that line the main street are housed in the buildings that were constructed soon after gold was discovered in the area in 1902. As with most mining towns of the Old West, Oatman is a shadow of its former self. Once catering to a vibrant population boasting nearly 20,000 people, there are a little over 100 folks that live here today.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Oatman has about 40 gift, antique, and craft shops, two Old Time Photo Shops, Judy’s Bar, assorted ghosts, and several places to eat and listen to live music.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The town first became known as Vivian, after the Vivian Mining Company, which produced over $3 million in gold ore during the early 1900s. In 1909, the name was changed to Oatman, to honor Olive Oatman, a young child who had been abducted by Apache Indians during the 1850s. She was subsequently rescued near the present town site. 

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Several economic cycles relating to the mining industry have occurred in the area over the years, but after the rerouting of Route 66 in 1952, the town’s success quickly faded. Since then, it has become a popular tourist town. Because of the numerous old buildings and the towering mountains, the area has had its share of appearances in various movies, including How The West Was Won and Foxfire. The old Oatman Hotel (formerly Drulin Hotel, circa 1902) is still in operation today and is reported to be where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard spent their wedding night.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Beyond the burros, shops, and restaurants, Oatman also features costumed dancers and daily gunfights to help preserve the feeling of the Old West. There are various special events, too.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When traveling with your RV, it is strongly recommended that you use your tow vehicle or toad to make your way to and around Oatman. This is especially true if driving from Kingman on old Route 66, coming over Sitgreaves Pass. This section, although graced with breathtaking scenery, is extremely twisty and steep. Vehicle length is limited to 40 feet. Few or no turnarounds for larger vehicles are available in the downtown area of Oatman. 

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Numerous RV parks are available in Bullhead City, Kingman, and Needles. Additionally, Lake Havasu is only 55 miles away. When in the Kingman area, we use Blake Ranch RV Park as our home base.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Oatman is a day trip full of surprises—of ghost towns and ghost roads, and wild burros. And one of the most scenic drives in the state.

Now that’s something to bray about.

Worth Pondering…

So many ghosts upon the road,
My eyes I swear are playing tricks;
And a voice I hear, it’s Tom Joad,
Near Oatman on Route 66.

—Dave MacLennan