Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gettin' Our Kicks on Rt. 66

  Route 66, aka "The Mother Road" and "The Main Street of America," was an epic dirt and gravel road completed in 1926, stretching 2,248 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Before it became a popular route for tourists, it was the way west for those who migrated during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. 

  In the 1970s, Rt. 66 was replaced by the Interstate Highway system but parts of it, designated Historic Route 66, are still open for travel.  That includes a chunk that passes through Flagstaff, Arizona.  

  Besides a conduit for travelers, Rt 66 was a major contributor to the economies of the towns it passed through.  Restaurants, gas stations, souvenir shops, and motels edged the highway and brought welcome jobs to locals.  In Flagstaff dozens of motels that popped up 

in the early days still line the highway on the way into town. Ours wasn't that photogenic but the one next to us had not been changed much since the 1950s and 60s.

  El Pueblo Motor Inn today has no air conditioning and appears to cater to bicyclists and those with their belongings in backpacks and plastic garbage bags and no transportation but their feet.

  I was intrigued with the old neon signs downtown that still light up at night. These 60-foot advertisements were erected in the 1930s to attract customers beginning to discover recreational car travel. 

  Hotel Monte Vista was built in 1927 for $200,000 from funds raised by local businessmen, including cowboys -and-Indians novelist Zane Grey.  Guests, including famous outlaws and celebrities, used the first self-service elevator in the U.S.  Below the hotel was an underground tunnel built by Chinese immigrants that contained opium dens, distilleries, and gambling machines, with access from the hotel above.

  Du Beau Traveler's Inn was the first motel (1929) in Flagstaff and was advertised as being for "the better class of motorist."  Rooms went for $2.50 - $5 per night and had in-room baths, carpeting, and garages. Today it is an International Youth Hostel.  

   Motel Downtowner began as a series of brothels before the turn of the century, then, as prostituion was banned and car trips became popular, became the Nackard Auto Inn.  Today it is the Grand Canyon International Youth Hostel.  

If I were a souvenir-buying kind of tourist, I would have bought this one:

It is a pin and the headlights light up!  



  1. great overview. learned much from reading. (forgive one handed typing)

  2. I loved to drive there, made me feel living in a movie! So typical America.

  3. That was really interesting! I know that at one point in our early marriage we traveled Route 66. That was back in the 50s. Way back!!

  4. We use to travel Route 66 back in the 50's when we (meaning my Dad) drove us from California to Oklahoma to visit my grandparents. I remember some of the old motels, but mostly I remember the Burma Shave signs.

  5. As a Canadian I must confess that I didn’t know much about Rte 66, but I googled it and it does seem to have a storied background.

  6. Route 66 was a very famous road with songs and movies about it.

  7. Once again I learnt so much from your post. Great pin, it made me smile.

  8. Route 66 is on my Bucket List, and hopefully I might get there, but if I don't, thank you for your post. It would be a fantastic trip.

    1. I think it would be fun to start in Chicago and drive the whole thing. I have tried to comment on your blog, Rosemary, but it won't let me. It says something about members only. I signed up by email to receive messages of new posts, but it still won't let me comment. Just wanted to let you know I tried!

  9. Dear Cynthia, I'm so enjoying your postings about your Southwestern trip. I love to learn history and geography and you are so good at telling the background for what you are visiting. Thank you--the history behind those motels and hotels is fascinating. Just imagine--Chinese immigrants and underground passages! There's a novel in that! Peace.

  10. Thanks Cynthia, I will try and get the problem sorted out.

  11. Amusing !!!!!
    I stayed for a week in New Orleans in 1976 at a Downtower Hotel on Bourbon Street.
    Quite a place and so central to everything in the street that NEVER sleeps.
    Can't say I noticed any undue "hankie pankie" taking place - then again they
    may have been the QUIET types - ha ha.
    I have had friends who have driven the whole Route 66 from the Pacific to Chicago.
    They enjoyed the experience - but once was enough.

  12. Fabulous post Cynthia. I'm keen on doing Route 66 - but not sure it will happen. There was a great travel doco of Billy Connelly doing it a few years back. I love those run down, forgotten towns.