Route 66 is weird. Really, think about it. And I am talking about Route 66 in Arizona, as I can’t speak for parts of it east of there. You’re driving down the highway in the middle of nowhere Arizona and all of a sudden you pass drive-in motels that advertise modern luxuries like cable TV and air conditioning on bubbly, neon signs. Or you might see something like the historic (and weird!) Wigwam Motel #6, in Holbrook where you can experience a night sleeping in a teepee. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll see that the parking lot is full with classic cars. No, you haven’t taken a ride in a time machine, you’re just on Route 66.
I actually love “The Mother Road.” I do. When I was studying for my MA, I always told people that the idea of the postwar, all-American road trip was my favorite time in 20th century history. Route 66 offered a feeling like no other highway. The idea that the nuclear family could pack up the car and head out on the open road, while stopping at independently owned motels and restaurants along the way is really the American ideal, isn’t it? McDonalds was still a novelty. Walmart was still being conceptualized.
But that was all decades ago, as the highway was officially decommissioned in 1985. One place that caught me off guard is just outside the Painted Desert. Here, in the middle of a field, there are still electrical poles that sit neglected, their wires removed long ago. In the distance, you can see the traffic of I-40.
But mostly, if you find yourself in Route 66 towns, you may see a lot of nostalgic references and there are plenty of places to “get your kicks” but there is also a whole lot of weird. Take Seligman, AZ for example. It still houses all of the flavor of those wonder years but it is also home to the Roadkill Cafe and a building that is decorated with half-dressed weathered mannequins…on the roof. On a drive through Winslow, you can actually stand on a corner and take it easy just like the Eagles. So yes, these places are incredibly strange but they are undoubtedly wonderful and continue to provide a celebratory nod a bygone era. Have a look: