I have often thought I would like to drive the Historic Route 66 in its entirety one day. Known as “Main Street America,” this iconic road was once the main thoroughfare for travelers looking to “motor west.” One of my earliest childhood memories is driving this route through New Mexico and Arizona on our way to Hollywood.
My favorite stops were always the teepees and Indian Curio Shops. I can still remember my fascination with the leather and feathers used in the warrior costumes. Back then, the “Indian dances” took place for free along the roadside to beckon customers to stop and shop for plastic dolls, fake turquoise, and fancy Indian headdress replicas that probably weren’t even “Made in China” back in those days.
My Dad had a brand new 59 Chevy with the big “fins” on the back, and Route 66 was just the ticket to turn heads along the route. Too bad he had a wife as co-pilot and two kids in the back seat. 😉 Still to this day, I can remember my Mom singing the musical travel log, “Get your kicks…on Route Sixty Six.”
And now, after being increasingly diminished by interstate traffic over the years, the Route is making a big resurgence. Or at least showing signs of attempting one. The Burma Shave Signs are definitively making a comeback:
Don’t lose your head
To gain a minute
You need your head
Your brains are in it
I have yet to drive any great length of this road, so I was looking forward to the Kingman to Seligman stretch on my way to finding the blue-green waters of Havasupai Land. The closest place to park the Winnie was the Grand Canyon Caverns Inn and RV Park, 66 miles from the Haulupai Hilltop trail head, perpendicular to Historic Route 66. (There is also a KOA in Seligman 25 miles away, but I personally draw the line at KOA Kampgrounds.)
I never could figure out if this place was so desolate because of the time of year, or due to disrepair. It was a confusing contradiction. For instance, the RV sites were all well maintained, with evidence of events like group barbeque areas and an amphitheater advertizing “Ghost Walks.” I saw a sign for a Good Sam Rally in May. Yet the bathrooms were all boarded up with instructions to “Use the Port-a-John.” I reserved for the dry camping area, but when I arrived, I was told to “Park anywhere you like.” I was the only rig in the lot.
The “Inn” was the same way. Rooms were apparently being used as storage, with mattresses and furniture stacked high. But the front desk was open and active. The restaurant offered “free breakfast” every morning starting at 5:00am, but I never saw any guests there. It was at best, off season. At worst, downright odd…
Grand Canyon Cavern Inn is catering to many audiences, in spite the fact that few seemed to show up. Not only are they billed as the closest stop to Havasupai, but they also have a lot of Route 66 shtick out front to attract the road trippers.
But probably their biggest draw is the caverns themselves. Billed as “The largest dry cavern in the United States,” the gift shop has almost enough paraphernalia fill a cavern in of itself. Being “dry” means the caverns have no stalactites or stalagmites. For this reason, I just couldn’t muster up the interest to pay $19 for a 45 minute tour, especially just having visited both Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Cave last year.
As one of the patrons was coming off the elevator, I lie in wait to ask the burning question “Was it worth it?” His answer, “Well….you’ve come all this way…” was enough to tell me what I wanted to know as I thanked him and walked “all this way” back to the Winnie.