Become Best Friends with a Burro in Oatman

The burros own the town

No trip to Laughlin is complete without a detour to Oatman, a Route 66 ghost town in Arizona that has become a bit more touristy over the years. The new escape room at the local jail is fun. The Oatman Hotel is a great stop for lunch. The restaurant has killer buffalo burgers and the walls (and even parts of the ceiling) are covered with dollar bills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the real draw is the burros roaming Oatman whose ancestors were brought in to work during the mining days. A few unwritten rules to follow: first—burros and dogs don’t mix. Second—don’t feed the burros carrots which are high in sugar and do a number on the digestive tract. You’re more than welcome to feed them alfalfa squares, sold in bags for a dollar.

Finally—when the burros are in the middle of the road (which they frequently are), they have the right of way. Cars have to wait, no matter how long it takes. No honking, revving engines, or doing anything else to encourage them to move along.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They know how to have fun in Oatman where good-humored shops line the street and the burros contribute to the annual fall Burro Biskit Toss.

More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history as well as the legend of its namesake. Olive Oatman is entrenched in western lore as a woman who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe, then sold to a friendly local tribe before being freed to her family near what became Oatman.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman was sparsely settled starting in 1863 when a small bit of gold was discovered in the surrounding Black Mountains. Not much came of the discovery until two lucky prospectors struck it rich in 1915 with a 10 million dollar claim. The town grew rapidly after that, and in the course of a single year the tiny tent village became a town of 3,500 people. In the 1920s and ’30s, the population grew to around 10,000. In 1921, a fire swept through the town destroying most of Oatman’s buildings.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman certainly prospered during a decade-long gold rush, but when the mines dried up, so did everything else. The town’s biggest mine closed in 1924, and by 1941, the government ordered the closing of Oatman’s remaining mining operations as part of the country’s war efforts.

Because of its location on Route 66, local commerce shifted toward accommodating motorists traveling between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California. From 1926 to 1952, the Mother Road coursed through the heart of Oatman, sustaining a healthy tourism business. Interstate 40 bypassed Oatman in the early 1950s, however, and by the early 1960s, the whole area was all but abandoned.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A revitalized interest in historic route 66 saved Oatman from demise, and while it may not be thriving, it’s got a lot to offer visitors looking for that kitschy slice of Americana. Oatman is often described as a ghost town, but that is not quite accurate. The current human population is 128. The burro population is close to 2,000.

The town prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops. (You can even adopt a wild burro and take it home!)

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard allegedly honeymooned at the 1902 two-story adobe Oatman Hotel after marrying in nearby Kingman. Some say the lovebirds’ spirits as well as other former lodgers still vacation there. The hotel remains open as a museum and restaurant.

Oatman is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management wilderness which is also home to desert bighorn sheep. Outdoor activities include hiking, camping, hunting, photography, and rock climbing.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

A Cheaper Mini-Vegas

Laughlin is a more relaxed Las Vegas. They’ve created a niche with Nevada-style gaming, but without the high-speed lifestyle of the Las Vegas Strip.

While flying his plane over the Colorado River in 1964, Don Laughlin saw a world of potential in a strip of Nevada land across the river from Arizona’s Bullhead City. At the time the area was home to less than a thousand people. He took a big risk invested it into an old boarded-up eight-room motel. From there, success took over.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That motel added casino games and eventually evolved into the Riverside Resort with two massive towers. The town itself—about a 90-minute drive from Las Vegas—became official when postal services were established.

Don Laughlin is still going strong at 88 years and living in a penthouse at the top of his resort. The town that shares his name is now home to nine casino hotels, 10 if you include the Avi Resort about 15 miles south on Native American land. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laughlin’s population is approximately 10,000 while Bullhead City and its unincorporated area boast a population of about 42,000 permanent residents. An estimated 14,000 Nevada and Arizona residents currently work in Laughlin’s hotels and casinos. Multi-million dollar Laughlin housing developments have rushed into construction to keep pace with the business boom.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stretch your legs while exploring Laughlin on foot at the Riverwalk. Well maintained and offering fantastic views of the city and the Colorado River, the Laughlin Riverwalk is a great way to get from one casino to the other while soaking up sights like Don Laughlin’s Riverside to the boats sailing by.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coolest way to get around town is by water taxi. These small boats, piloted by certified captains, zip around on the river from one property to another. Most casinos have their own dock and if you stand around on one, a water taxi will show up fairly quick. A single ride is $5, although wristband deals are available for unlimited rides.

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If someone directs you to anything described as a “nightclub,” be warned it won’t be anything like Vegas. They’re mostly lounges with live bands and line dancing. Bikini Bay Bar & Nightclub is really a sports bar with pool tables and drinks served by girls in bikinis who dance on countertops. It’s probably the closest thing you’ll find to a strip club in Laughlin—and oddly enough, it’s at the outlet mall. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One local gem is Losers’ Lounge, a two-level drinking spot where the walls are decorated with framed photos of “losers” throughout history like OJ Simpson and Tonya Harding. The gallery stays surprisingly up to date—recent additions include Bill Cosby and Lori Loughlin. 

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No trip to Laughlin is complete without a detour to Oatman, a Route 66 ghost town in Arizona that has become a bit more touristy over the years. The new escape room at the local jail is fun. But be sure to visit the Oatman Hotel for lunch. The restaurant has buffalo burgers and the walls (and even parts of the ceiling) are covered with dollar bills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the real draw is the burros roaming Oatman whose ancestors were brought in to work during the mining days. A few unwritten rules to follow: first—burros and dogs don’t mix. Second—don’t feed the burros carrots, which are high in sugar and do a number on the digestive tract. You’re more than welcome to feed them alfalfa squares, sold in bags for a dollar. Finally—when the burros are in the middle of the road (which they frequently are), they have the right of way. Cars have to wait, no matter how long it takes. No honking, revving engines, or doing anything else to encourage them to move along. The burros own the town!

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For another out-of-town excursion, Jet Boat tours travel nearly 60 miles down the river from Laughlin to Lake Havasu. You can hang out in the town for a few hours and check out London Bridge, a historic structure that actually spanned the River Thames and was brought over brick by brick. Along the way, the boat travels past the California town of Needles, the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, and vantage points that can only be seen from the water, including petroglyphs in Topock Gorge. 

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And if you’re looking for a selfie station take a photo with River Rick. Or at the Losers’ Lounge. Or at any one of the other gems in Don Laughlin’s little resort town.

Worth Pondering…

The road is there, it will always be there. You just have to decide when to take it.

—Chris Humphrey

Scenic Route It Is

When it comes to RVing most folks know the timeless mantra, “It’s not about the destination; it’s the journey”

With travel restrictions being lifted across the U.S. and Canada, it’s time to start dreaming about your next journey. As you figure out where that adventure may lead, consider what you want to see along the way.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How about choosing the scenic route? It might take longer, but we promise it is worth it!  And even as travel restrictions are being lifted, it might be a while before gatherings and events take place. So, scenic route it is!

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is something magical about the open road as you watch the world pass by through the window of your RV. Sometimes the journey from point A to point B is a dreaded chore, but if you’re traveling along any of these scenic roads you’ll want to soak up every second of the drive. Just make sure to take your eyes off the landscape and watch the road every now and then! 

Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As states begin to reopen, consider planning an entire trip around one of these routes, making stops along the way and helping contribute to the local economies of each small town.

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Red Rock Scenic Byway Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway, Arizona

Just outside of Sedona, the Red Rock Scenic Byway boasts everything from breathtakingly beautiful rock formations to ancient Native American cliff dwellings. If you’re a believer in the supernatural, you’ll find the Byway is sprinkled with what like-minded folk refer to as “vortexes” of spiritual energy—two of the biggest are Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, formations which are stunning regardless of your personal beliefs.

Route 66

Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel back in time to vintage Americana along Route 66. This highway was the route many travelers took during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s looking for a better life. Stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica, much of Route 66 is still drivable and loaded with vintage neon signs, deserted gas stations, classic diners, and interesting people. Recently, many locations on Route 66 are getting revitalized providing even more photo opportunities.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway that connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, with Robbinsville, North Carolina. This highway starts at 800 feet in elevation and climbs over mountains as high as 5,390 feet at Santeetlah Overlook on the state border. Enjoy mile-high vistas and great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. It is a 2-laned road with wide shoulders and 15 scenic overlooks.

Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Lemmon Highway, Arizona

Climbing more than 6,000 feet, Mount Lemmon Highway begins with forests of saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert and ends in a cool, coniferous forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prepare yourself for breathtaking views and a climate change that would be similar to driving from Southern Arizona to Canada in a mere 27 miles. Each thousand feet up is like driving 600 miles north offering a unique opportunity to experience four seasons in one trip. This scenic drive begins at the northeastern edge of Tucson.

Along the Gold Rush Trail in Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California Highway 49

Throughout its length, the Gold Rush Trail winds through many of the towns that sprung up during the Gold Rush as it twists and climbs past panoramic vistas. Rocky meadows, oaks, and white pines accent the hills while tall firs and ponderosa pine stud higher slopes. The old mining towns along the Trail retain their early architecture and charm—living reminders of the rich history of the Mother Lode. Placerville, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphys all retain their 1850’s flavor.

Needles Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Needles Highway, South Dakota

Driving the Needles Highway isn’t about getting to the next destination—it’s about taking in the scenery. Highway 87 in South Dakota might not be that long, but it’s 14 miles of really awesome road that twists and turns its way through some of South Dakota’s most stunning natural scenery. This curvaceous stretch of narrow pavement, known as Needles Highway, travels through unique rock formations in the southeastern portion of Black Hills National Forest.

Botany Bay Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Botany Bay Road, South Carolina

We would not put a stretch of road that clocked in at just 6.5 miles if it wasn’t really, really something to see. Botany Bay Road is the entrance to a plantation-turned-wildlife-management area. Slow down to a crawl—safety first—and watch the trees lacing together overhead in an eerie, Sleepy Hollow kind of way. Drive back and forth a few times, why not. When you’ve taken all the photos you can stand, don’t worry—we didn’t bring you here just for 6.5 miles of road. You’re on Edisto Island, one of the most beautiful places in all of South Carolina.

Worth Pondering…

The journey and not the destination is the joy of RVing.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros

Driving to the historic town of Oatman is a favorite Arizona road trip

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Here is our plan: We’ll drive to a town that shouldn’t exist. We’ll travel a twisted ribbon of pavement along Historic Route 66.

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

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. Often described as a ghost town, Oatman comes close to fitting the category considering that it once boasted nearly 20,000 people and now supports just a little over 100 people year-round.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 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 as well as the sights of burros walking the streets.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The burg’s most famous residents are its four-legged ambassadors. Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping on alfalfa squares sold by the shop owners.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the burros are in the middle of the road (which they frequently are), they have the right of way. Cars have to wait, no matter how long it takes. No honking, revving engines, or doing anything else to encourage them to move along.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. Also, it’s best to leave Rover at home. Many burros consider the family pooch nothing more than a coyote with connections. The burros are descendants of animals used by miners and abandoned when the ore played out.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman owes its place in history to two miners who struck it rich in 1915, uncovering more than $10 million in gold. A tent city soon sprang up as other miners heard of the gold find and flocked to the area; within a year, the town’s population grew to more than 3,500.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By 1930, it was estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold had come from the mines. The town boasted two banks, seven hotels, twenty saloons, and ten stores. The town’s name is attributed to Olive Oatman, a young girl kidnapped by Indians and eventually rescued and returned to her family.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More modern events add to the allure of the tiny town, the most famous of which is a visit by Clark Gable and Carol Lombard who spent their honeymoon in the Oatman Hotel in 1939. The well-used building, listed on the National Historic Building Registry, continues to attract visitors today. The Oatman Hotel is a great stop for lunch. The restaurant has killer buffalo burgers and the walls (and even parts of the ceiling) are covered with dollar bills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you notice folks clustering in the street without a ravenous burro in sight, it signals an impending gunfight. Gunfighter groups stage shootouts at various times throughout the day.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the mines shuttered, the stream of traffic along Route 66, the main route from the Midwest to California, kept Oatman alive. Then in 1952, Interstate 40 was constructed from Kingman, Arizona to Needles, California, bypassing this stretch of mountains. Oatman barely hung on.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the ’70s, Laughlin, Nevada started up; and in the late ’80s, Route 66 became a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Today, a half-million people visit this historic outpost each year. Not bad for an old ghost town off the beaten path. The town just waited for the world to come back around.

Folks start to roll out of town in late afternoon. Even the burros clock out and mosey back into the hills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Back in the hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

Grand Canyon RV Park: Road Trip Heaven

Perfectly placed adjacent to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and within walking distance of the Route 66 historic district

Some of the happiest travelers are the ones who never leave home. Why? Because they take their home with them in the form of an RV!

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each year hundreds of thousands of these dedicated RV travelers map out their personalized Great American Road Trip and push a pin into one of the world’s great destinations, the Grand Canyon. As they wrap up their driving day, they find a great place to spend the night at the 5-star Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. But it’s not just the park’s many amenities that attract RV travelers. It’s the location, location … and history.

Historic Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66 once stretched uninterrupted from Chicago to Los Angeles. Over time, however, it lost ground to the interstate system until, on October 13, 1984, I-40 bypassed the final, stubborn section of Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. Having outlasted every other mile of America’s Mother Road, Williams retained a retro-hip 1950s vibe highlighted by kitsch signage, neon lights, and cool diners—an absolute must-do for road trippers.

Grand Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perfectly placed adjacent to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and within walking distance of the Route 66 historic district, the highest rated and only all-paved RV park in the Williams area offers three levels of options, from pull-through sites to buddy spaces to back-ins. Each full-service site is equipped with 50-amp utility services and is large enough to accommodate big rigs.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And while the Tin Can Tourists who once traveled Route 66 would have been astounded to receive a Western Union telegram at their campsite, today’s guests can stay as connected (or as disconnected) as they wish, with free Wi-Fi as well as high definition digital TV. Other amenities include coin-operated laundry machines, updated shower facilities, a community picnic area with gas grills and fire pit, and access to the hotel’s indoor swimming pool and hot tub.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guests of the RV Park and Railway Hotel enjoy an extra perk for their traveling pets, namely the animal equivalent of a luxury vacation. The Grand Canyon Railway’s Pet Resort is one of the area’s most comfortable and modern facilities where dogs and cats, both small and large, enjoy abundant indoor space for lazing about. This is especially useful since they must be leashed at all times at the Grand Canyon South Rim and are not permitted on trails below the rim, on park buses, or in park lodging (service animals are exempt).

Aboard the Grand Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But from their base in 28 clean, cool kennels at the pet resort, dogs will enjoy individual playtime in the outdoor exercise yard and dog run. Kitties, too, can enjoy a dog’s life in 16 sun-filled cat condos overlooking the basketball and volleyball courts. From atop their private sitting ledge, felines savor the setting as they take a catnap.

En route to the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For both people and pets, the location and amenities of the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is about as good as it gets — a welcome adjunct to the railway itself.

Arriving at the Grand Canyon Train Depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon Railway takes passengers on one of America’s most picturesque train journeys. Departing each morning from the station beside the RV Park, the train chugs north out of Williams for a ride up and over the massive Colorado Plateau. At just over two hours, the journey gives RV travelers the chance to take a 65-mile shortcut and leave the driving to the engineer. It’s a perfect way to arrive at Grand Canyon National Park rested and relaxed without worrying about navigating an RV through the twists, turns, and often dense traffic that concentrates at the park’s south entrance.

Departing the train at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And it’s all made easier by a quiet night, modern conveniences, and the perfect location of Grand Canyon RV Park.

Worth Pondering…

The Grand Canyon…

Do nothing to mar its grandeur…

Keep it for our children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.

—Theodore Roosevelt

Williams: Gateway to the Grand Canyon & Much More

Cowboy shootouts. A bear and bison park. Historic Route 66. Welcome to unexpected fun in this gateway to the Grand Canyon

The opium dens, bordellos, and other landmarks of Williams, Arizona’s, rough-and-tumble past are long gone. But some kinder, gentler vestiges of this town’s Wild West era remain. And that’s fortunate for Grand Canyon-bound visitors seeking a fun, full-service spot as a base before and after a trip to the canyon’s South Rim, 56 miles north.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town of 3,000 residents, considered the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is also home to the Grand Canyon Railway, an excursion train that traverses the scenic, high-desert plateau between a historic depot and the canyon.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even if you’ve been to Williams before, you might not be aware of these surprising facts and how they can enhance the visitor experience.

On the Right Track

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon Railway takes passengers on one of America’s most picturesque train journeys. Departing each morning from the station beside the RV Park, the train chugs north out of Williams for a ride up and over the massive Colorado Plateau.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At just over two hours, the journey gives RV travelers the chance to take a 65-mile shortcut and leave the driving to the engineer. It’s a perfect way to arrive at Grand Canyon National Park rested and relaxed without worrying about navigating an RV through the twists, turns, and often dense traffic that concentrates at the park’s south entrance.

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams boasts the final stretch of Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 (on October 13, 1984). The original “super-highway,” as Route 66 was known in 1926, spanned more than 2,300 miles from Chicago to Long Beach, California and opened up the West to road travel. (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 singer Bobby Troup marked the day Route 66 was bypassed, October 13, 1984, by plunking out the 1946 tune on a piano in the middle of America’s most iconic byway—called “The Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his classic novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the town’s Main Street is a National Historic District. Its storefronts house curio shops, an old-fashioned soda fountain, and classic diners and motels, which preserve a bygone era.

Shootouts On Main Street

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a nightly shoot-out downtown at 7:00 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day in which classic Old West “outlaws,” the Cataract Creek Gang, get killed (civic boosters prefer the term “plugged”) as hundreds of “witnesses” (i.e., visitors) look on. The costumed bad guys—cowboy hats, spurs, and all—bounce back and come back the next day to perform their evil deeds again. And get plugged again.

See the Forest and the Trees

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williams is surrounded by the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest. You can explore the Kaibab National Forest’s 1,100 miles of U.S. Forest Service roads via mountain bike, all-terrain vehicle, or four-wheel drive. Elevations range from about 3,000 feet to 10,418 feet on top of Kendrick Mountain. Hikers can explore more than 300 miles of trails, some along the rims of the Grand Canyon.

Where the Wild Things Are

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bearizona Wildlife Park on the eastern outskirts of Williams is a rare spot where you can see bears, bison, wolves, and other North American critters, seemingly wandering free in the 160-acre facility. Guests view them from the comfort (and safety) of their cars through three miles of Ponderosa pine forest in the drive-through park.

Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A separate 20-acre walking area set up like a more conventional zoo is home to otters, beavers, porcupines, and more. The park also features a Bearizona Barnyard petting zoo, a special exhibit of “kindergarten” bears not old enough for the adult enclosure, and a high-country raptors show of hawks, owls, falcons, and other birds of prey.

Fill ‘Er Up

Remember when gas station attendants wore jumpsuits? Remember when there were gas station attendants?

Pete’s Route 66 Gas Station Museum (101 E. Route 66) does. The cheerful red and white vintage building contains car-culture memorabilia harking back to another era. It’s open daily in summer.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort in Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.

—Major John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons

Top 6 Road Trips for Summer Travel

See the best that America has to offer from the open road

The best part of any road trip isn’t the place you’re going to, it’s the journey to get there. The most memorable moments are the quirky pit stops, the roadside dining, and the ever-changing landscapes out the window. So load up the RV and queue up the music (think, On the Road Again and King of the Road) because summer is the season of road trips.

There’s a long distance between point A and point B, but on these road trips there’s plenty to do and see along the way.

Turquoise Trail

Santa Fe, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico State Road 14, better known as the Turquoise Trail, may only be about 50 miles long, but it’s got enough history, art, shops, and sights to make it the perfect day trip. Designated a National Scenic Byway in 2000, the Turquoise Trail is named for the precious stone first mined here centuries ago.

Albuquerque as seen from Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Formally known as New Mexico State Road 14, the Turquoise Trail is the perfect road trip for those who want to immerse themselves in Southwestern culture. Driving south from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, the route follows the trail where the precious turquoise stone was first mined.

Historic Route 66

Historic Route 66 in Western Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although Historic Route 66 is no longer the “Main Street of America,” this long stretch between Chicago and Long Beach, California is still an iconic American road trip.

Historic Route 66 display at the Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This corridor is like a journey through American history, where you can see flickering neon signs, abandoned gas stations, quirky museums, breathtaking natural formations, old-fashioned diners and motels, and some of the nation’s most-famous landmarks. Don’t rush your Route 66 road trip; the journey is the destination here.

Florida’s A1A

Along Florida’s AIA at Daytona Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Running along the eastern coast of Florida, you’ll get plenty of beach views on Florida’s A1A. Travelers taking the A1A can experience sea turtles at Fort Lauderdale’s Sea Turtle Oversight Protection Headquarters, explore fine art at J.M Stringer Gallery of Fine Art in Vero Beach, and spend time in the historic city of St. Augustine.

Along Florida’s A1A on Amelia Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The northernmost point of A1A is Amelia Island, which also feels like a living history museum. Especially Fort Clinch State Park, where you can see remains of a pre-Civil War fortress. Visit the small Fernandina Beach and end your trip with a night at Fort Clinch campgrounds.

Portland to Seattle

Off I-5 neat Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two of the Pacific Northwest’s most vibrant cities, Portland and Seattle, have plenty of exciting stops in between. RVers can take various pathways between the two cities. For the most scenic—and slow—route, veer to the coastline and hop the cities there. 

Columbia Riverfront RV Park along the Columbia River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But even the most straight-shot route, up Interstate 5, is full of fun stops. A drive straight through will only take about three hours, but you can drag it out over a few days and see scenic parks and mountains, museums and gardens, islands and lakes.

Highway 191 from Moab to Lake Powell

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s around 186 miles from Moab to Lake Powell—a long highway packed with an endless amount of outdoor adventure and recreation. This road trip gives you access to Arches National Park, the Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, and Monument Valley.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Valley of the Gods is Utah backcountry at its finest. Those looking for Ancestral Puebloan ruins can search for petroglyphs around Bluff, Utah, and catch a glimpse of the Tsegi villages.

Catalina Highway

Along the Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Climbing to over 9,000 feet with a near 7,000-foot elevation change in a mere 30 miles, the Catalina Highway (also called the Mount Lemmon Highway) is a brilliant ascent with countless curves, numerous vistas, and three major switchbacks. Numerous pullouts and vista points line the route up the mountain. They’re all beautiful and worth a look but there are two in particular you won’t want to miss—Windy Point (Mile 18) and Aspen Vista Point (Mile 27).

A veiwpoint along the Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since there’s only one paved road up this mountain, when you reach the top, you’ll have no choice but to turn around and let gravity assist in your descent.

Worth Pondering…

It’s not just a drive.

It’s an experience.

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

Get your kicks on Route 66

You can travel by plane, by bus, or by train, but you’ll never experience the satisfaction you’ll have with an RV road trip. There’s something about the long and winding road—and the RV lifestyle—that’s partly hypnotic and wholly satisfying.

In a commission survey for Hertz in the UK which polled 2,000 British adults, the top road trip in the world is a drive along Route 66 with 56 percent of respondents naming the US as “the road trip capital of the world”.

Historic Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

“The influence of social media has had a huge impact on destinations of choice, bringing increased awareness of less well-known areas, as well as ensuring that gems such as the Route 66 are still as popular as ever,” Temerity Vinson, senior director of international marketing said in a news release.

Historic Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mother Road stretches from Illinois to California through eight states. Once among the main routes for cross-country travelers, the largely two-lane road was decertified as a U.S. highway in 1985 in favor of modern interstates.

Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Powderhouse Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the original highways in the U.S. highway system, Route 66 stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, totaling in 2,448 miles of ribboning highway. A major route for western migration in the 1930s, the route is chock-full of history, nostalgia, and sites you’ll see nowhere else.

Route 66 Mural in Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas or see a living ghost town with gunslingers and burros (Oatman, Arizona). Spend the night in a tipi at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. And be sure to visit the near-by Petrified Forest National Park.

Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, Route 66 was followed in the Hertz survey of British adults by the roads around Grand Canyon and the Pacific Coast Highway, giving the U.S. three spots on the top 10 list.

Wigwam Motel in Hollbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrating its centennial this year, Grand Canyon National Park has become one of the country’s most beloved sites. More than 6 million people visited the park in 2017.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is difficult to comprehend through photos or words.  Much of the canyon is over a mile deep, 15 miles wide, and 277 miles long, carved through geologic formations that are over 1.7 billion years old.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most popular viewpoints, such as the South Rim, are visited by over 90 percent of the park visitors. Roughly 30 miles of the canyon along the South Rim is accessible by the road. The North Rim, about a 220-mile drive from the South Rim, gives access to the Kaibab Plateau and Bright Angel Point.

Hopi House, Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centennial celebration events will include a historical symposium, a living history week, and an effort to showcase some of the lesser-known sites through social media and other events throughout the year. Focused ranger-lead talks on the geology, cultural history, and natural resources will be available as well.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to celebrate the Grand Canyon on its 100th birthday is to see it yourself and take in the natural wonders spanning 13,000 years of human life, and eons of time before that.

Take the train from Williams to the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Furthermore, the survey identified the ingredients of an epic road trip as wide-open roads, driving past famous attractions, and spotting wildlife along the way. Discovering views and enjoying the scenery is the main purpose for adults over 38-years-old while millennials want to enjoy a new experience.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the survey, over two-thirds of millennials use Instagram to plan their trips, and 36 percent say they’d have a hard time remembering it if they didn’t post photos to the platform.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.

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