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  • Candace Ahlfinger

Getting Our Kicks on Route 66

Wigwam Motel on Route 66

We took an early morning walk along the Grand Canyon Rim Trail outside the El Tovar Hotel for a wonderful way to begin our day and to take a final look at the magnificent creation. (Be aware: El Tovar and the other hotels inside Grand Canyon National Park make it easy to experience much of what the canyon offers, but El Tovar is a National Historic Landmark, so updates to the rooms and common areas are limited.)

We headed south from the Grand Canyon via 180 to enter Flagstaff one more time. The snow-capped mountains made a majestic backdrop to much of our drive. Snow and ice on the roadsides and in the shade of the pine forest, along with the snow blowing across the road, belied the fact that the thermometer read 54 degrees.

Twin Arrows on Route 66

Since I-40, which runs along Route 66, was our highway of choice between Flagstaff and the Petrified Forest National Park, we felt compelled to make multiple stops to take pictures at historic sights. Our first stop was at the twin arrows (Exit 219) for a quick photo op. The arrows are the only remnant of the Twin Arrows Trading Post once located on the site. Our second stop was in Winslow, Arizona, for a photo op of “Standin’ on the Corner.” With the famous Eagles song, “Take It Easy,” stuck in our brains, we drove on to our last stop which was at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post for another photo op. (Exit 269).

Standin' On the Corner in Winslow, AZ

Jack Rabbit Trading Post Sign

We arrived at the Petrified Forest National Park for a quick visit to the Visitor Center (Exit 311) and a walk around the short loop trail that contains helpful information explaining how woods became petrified and how the region is maintained. (You cannot take or buy pieces of petrified wood within the National Park; however, outside the park are many stands that sell petrified wood and other amazing rocks found in the area. Don’t buy petrified wood before your visit as it may be confiscated.)

Petrified Forest National Park

The best part of the park for us was the southernmost section of the 28-mile drive with the majority of petrified woods and the better examples of painted desert. (The Painted Desert is located within the Petrified Forest National Park.) The teepee formations were our favorite of the Painted Desert. The park has many marked trails that would be fun to explore, but our time was limited. The Painted Desert is more awe inspiring if you see it before the Grand Canyon as many of the colors reflected in its formations are magnified at the canyon.

Petrified Forest National Park

Continuing our Route 66 adventure, we drove back to Holbrook, Arizona and checked into the Wigwam Motel., one of only three remaining from the original Route 66. Driving through the parking lot of the motel was like stepping into the set of the Cars movie. In front of one teepee was Doc Hudson while at another was Tow Mater and his Grandpappy. We, along with other Route 66 and/or Cars fans, had a great time wandering around the parking lot taking pictures.

Wigwam Motel

So…What was the Wigwam Motel like?

The rooms are actually motel rooms with the wigwam applied over it. Old cars were parked in front of each wigwam. The friendly staff was willing to answer all our questions and help with suggestions of places to eat. Our 1950’s room was clean and came with a comfortable bed, table, and television. Even though we didn’t hear the trains, our bed vibrated when the largest one went by on the track behind the motel—but that was only once. Since 2002, the Wigwam Village has been on the National Register of Historic Places.

Interior of the Wigwam Motel

We walked down the street to Butterfield Stage Co. Steak House for a great dinner with excellent service before settling in our wigwam for the evening.

We were up early the next morning to head for Scottsdale, Phoenix, and our flight back home. On the way, we passed a horseback rider galloping purposefully along the highway. We noticed we began passing multiple horses and riders located at intervals along the highway. Thank goodness for Google! We were witnessing the annual recreation of the Pony Express!

Hashknife Pony Express

The annual Hashknife Pony Express is generally held in January or February, but Covid had forced them to change the date to April. The event is led by the Navajo County Hashknife Sheriff’s Posse who ride from Holbrook in authentic cowboy attire carrying mail bags that are passed off to the next rider on their way to Scottsdale, 200 miles away. What a wonderful piece of serendipity to witness the event!

We had lunch in Scottsdale near the Waterfront Mall, walked around Old Town and the waterfront before heading to the airport—a fun trip that simply piqued our interest in returning to see more of Scottsdale and Phoenix.

The trip kept songs going through my head.

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” by Glen Campbell

“Oceanfront Property” by George Strait

“Get Your Kicks on Route 66” by Nat King Cole

“Take It Easy” by the Eagles

And off to the next adventure….

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