Road Trip Along Historic Route 66 in California and Arizona
My itchy foot got the best of me again, and we spent our summer vacation cruising the good ol Main Street of America! (Well, the southwestern portion of it, at any rate!) My hubby and two daughters crammed into one car, and my mom and dad took their vintage Mustang, and we went on a week-long sightseeing trip, making all the historic stops along the way!
Route 66, or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. US 66 was established on November 11, 1926, (two years before the birth of Mickey Mouse!) The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles. It was recognized in popular culture by the hit song Get Your Kicks on Route 66 – which I listened to on a near endless loop on the drive.
We started our journey from our home in Visalia, California, and our first stop along the way was at Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner in Yermo, California for lunch. Peggy Sues is an original roadside diner built in 1954 with 9 counter stools and 3 booths. It sets in on the shadow of the Calico Mountains and was built from railroad ties and mortar from the nearby Union Pacific Rail yard.
Diners are encouraged to “Eat to the Beat” with good home-made food and great 50’s music, complete with an adjacent 5 & dime store serving malts, sundaes, and old fashioned floats. While the atmosphere was spot on and the menu was imaginative, the service was… uhhh. Terrible. They were super busy, and had a tendency to forget that we existed. Having fussy, hungry, squirming babies was a nightmare while waiting for service in this joint. But it was still a fun stop, if only for the park in back, which sported the famous roadside Diner-saurs. (Haha, get it?! Diner-saurs?!)
Next stop on the roadtrip (and where we stayed for the night), was Seligman, Arizona. Seligman sits on the northern border of Yavapai County, in northwestern Arizona. This town is TINY. The population was at a roaring 456 at the 2000 census.
Seligman was on the original Route 66 from 1926 through 1978, when Interstate 40 bypassed it a couple miles south. Seligman experienced its real heyday after World War II, when returning veterans and other motorists hit the road and made the Southwest a popular tourist destination. The Seligman Commercial Historic District protects the historical central area’s early 20th century commercial buildings along Historic Route 66, which in recent years has become a revived popular tourist destination.
In 1987 Seligman gained its name “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” due to the efforts of Seligman residents, who convinced the State of Arizona to dedicate Route 66 a historic highway.
John Lasseter, the Disney legend, has said in interviews that the town of Radiator Springs in the Pixar film Cars is loosely based on Seligman. While researching the history of Route 66, Lasseter met Seligman barber Angel Delgadillo, who told him how traffic through the town virtually disappeared on the day that nearby Interstate 40 opened.
Delgadillo’s brother Juan opened Delgadillos Snow Cap Drive-In in 1953; and the eatery has since become a famous roadside attraction. Juan Delgadillo was working on an extremely limited budget, so he built the restaurant mostly from scrap lumber obtained from the nearby Santa Fe Railroad yard in 1953.
Delgadillo’s flair for showmanship extended to his menu, which still features such choices as a “cheeseburger with cheese” and “dead chicken.” His sense of humor is evident in “Juan’s Garden” at the rear of the property with its collection of old automobiles and kitsch in general; the humorous approach extends to the building itself. A neon sign in the window informs patrons, “Sorry, we’re open.” The door which leads to the counter has two knobs, one on the right and one on the left, (and this totally fooled me, I hate to say.) The knob on the right is a dummy; the one on the left actually opens the door. Delgadillo would continue his humorous approach by bantering with his patrons over their choices of food, asking, for example, if they wanted cheese on their cheeseburgers.
Since Juan Delgadillo’s death in 2004, the Snow Cap has been run by his daughter Cecilia and son John, all whom work the counter in the same playful manner. (When ordering, we totally fell for the ol mustard squirting out of a dummy bottle trick!) The walls around the counter area itself are covered with business cards from all over the world.