Tag Archives: Route 66

Arizona Route 66 Motorcycle Ride

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Oatman
Riders enjoy the winding asphalt on this Route 66 motorcycle ride outside of Oatman.

Route 66, or the Mother Road, is indelibly stitched into the fabric of the American psyche. The iconic road once traced its way for 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. But it was more than just a long stretch of tarmac. Route 66 became a cultural phenomenon that inspired and piqued the American obsession with travel and adventure. Songs were written about it, quirky and kitschy roadside attractions sprouted beside it, and Americans longed to traverse it. The Mother Road was a main artery crossing the torso of the U.S. through which dreams and possibilities pulsed warm and red.

Related: Get Your Kickstart on Route 66 –
Riding a kickstart-only 1978 Yamaha SR500 from Chicago to Amarillo on the Mother Road

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Yearning to rediscover the road, the towns, and the magic of Route 66’s path through Arizona, I packed up my BMW R 1200 GS and set out. Fittingly, my trek began Nov. 11, the date on which the Mother Road was designated a federal highway in 1926. Arizona claims the longest rideable portion of the original Route 66, and it has a significant number of attractions and bustling historic towns.

Riding from west to east, I began my Mother Road adventure on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation where the Colorado River separates Arizona from Nevada. After a short climb toward the mountains on Boundary Cone Road, I came to an intersection indicating that I was transitioning onto the historic U.S. Route 66. The road became curvier and more interesting, and the jagged rock formations of Arizona’s Black Mountains became more immediate as the road coiled through the rugged terrain.  

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Oatman burros
Friendly burros in Oatman weren’t impressed with my BMW beast of burden.

Within minutes, I entered the historic mining town of Oatman. In 1915, two miners struck a $10 million gold find. Within a year, the small mining camp grew to a population of 3,500. Recent census figures indicate there are now just over 100 human residents. If you include the dozens of semi-wild burros in the area, that population is much larger.

Oatman is a hotbed of activity during any motorcycle rally on the Colorado River or in Kingman.  However, my BMW was one of only two motorcycles in town on this crisp November morning. I walked the street beneath the weathered wood facades of the various shops and watering holes.

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Kingman
This ride-through photo stop in Kingman is located next to the Arizona Route 66 Museum.

Route 66 north and west of Oatman is a pure delight. The pavement is mostly smooth and intact, and it’s filled with sweeping turns and hairpins, many of which are nicely banked. There are several signs warning motorcyclists to stay aware, and these are best heeded. With the road gradually uncoiling, I made my way toward Kingman, passing several abandoned open-pit mines that dotted the rocky slopes and at least one small operating mine. 

I was ready for a cup of coffee and some gas when I rolled into Kingman, where my father was an art teacher in the local school district before I was born. It is a clean and bustling small city fully embracing its Route 66 roots. I stopped at the colorfully adorned Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner and parked amidst historic cars, trucks, and motorcycles. As I chatted with my server over a hot cup of joe, she talked about the dual nature of the city. We were in the historic downtown district, but just a little ride up Interstate 40 is the modern district with chain hotels, restaurants, and thriving industry. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner
Across the street from the Route 66 Kingman sign is Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, one of the many kitschy restaurants along the Mother Road that draw in curious, hungry travelers.

After rolling through the industrial zone in the Kingman outskirts, I headed northeast on the longest existing stretch of the Mother Road. Small roadside businesses dotted the path toward Peach Springs, each clearly embracing its Route 66 heritage with appropriate signage and vintage memorabilia. Historic gas stations were particularly interesting. While they no longer pumped fuel, they still oozed with the nostalgia of the road’s heyday. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Burma-Shave
Between Peach Springs and Seligman: You can drive / A mile a minute / But there is no / Future in it / Burma-Shave.

After Peach Springs, I rode past three sets of Burma Shave signs with rhyming slogans, reminding me of childhood. As I rolled and swayed through the high grasslands, it was easy to imagine classic cars and motorcycles plying this portion of the route.

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Copper Cart
Formerly a restaurant that opened in 1952, the Copper Cart in Seligman is now a gift shop.

Entering Seligman was the most visually nostalgic part of my ride. This small town is a well-preserved tribute to its Route 66 heritage, with every shop, garage, and diner adorned with colorful signage and logos. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small sign for the Route 66 Motoporium. Not expecting much, I threw down my kickstand and walked into the Copper Cart to see what was inside. A bearded man said, “You look like a rider,” and pointed to a room in the back. It was filled with the motorcycles of my youth – both those that I rode and those that I ogled in the pages of motorcycle magazines of the 1960s and ’70s. Vintage Indians, Hondas, Hodakas, and Kawasakis, especially the 2-strokes, brought me back to the enchanting smell of premix laced with single-track dust that was a big part of my teenage life. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Route 66 Motoporium
The Copper Cart in Seligman is home to the Route 66 Motoporium, a small museum full of vintage motorcycles and memorabilia.

After a lengthy trip down moto-memory lane, it was time for lunch, and the legendary Delgadillo’s Snow Cap diner was just a block away. Juan Delgadillo and his wife, Mary, opened the Snow Cap in 1953, and Juan and his brother Angel formed the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. The Delgadillo family still owns and runs the historic diner, and I had a fantastic green chili burger and onion rings. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Delgadillo's Snow Cap diner Seligman
This 1936 Chevy is an eye-catching fixture in front of Delgadillo’s Snow Cap diner, a Route 66 institution in Seligman opened by Juan and Mary Delgadillo in 1953.

East of Seligman is a short stretch of the original Route 66 that runs into I-40 just before Ash Fork, and I noticed a few remnants of the Mother Road that are now spurs off the roadway. Beyond Ash Fork, much of Route 66 has been fully replaced with I-40, but there are still several towns that have embraced and preserved their historic Mother Road character.

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Flagstaff
Route 66 runs through the heart of Flagstaff, a bustling city with great restaurants, bars, hotels, and nearby attractions like the Grand Canyon.

Williams, just off I-40, was the last town to be bypassed by the interstate, and it still teems with Route 66 charm. The main street is lined with historic stone buildings filled with antique stores, diners, and bars. I motored by one of the more famous watering holes, the Sultana Bar, which was opened in 1912, predating Route 66 by more than a decade.

See all of Rider‘s Arizona motorcycle rides here.

After Williams, I-40 is as attractive as an interstate can be. Views of the San Francisco Peaks tower impressively to the north, and vibrant evergreens line the road. Flagstaff is the largest city on the Arizona portion of Route 66 and is home to my alma mater, Northern Arizona University. The original Route 66 skirted the beautiful campus just to the west and north. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Wigwam Motel Holbrook
Built in 1950, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is a Route 66 icon.

Flagstaff boasts several original Mother Road attractions, including the historic downtown train station that houses the Flagstaff Visitor Center. On the way out of the city, I rolled past several diners that boast the Route 66 name, but my favorite is Miz Zip’s Route 66 Cafe. Then I felt the magnetic pull toward the Museum Club, an iconic Route 66 watering hole and one of my favorite college hangouts.

See all of Rider‘s Western U.S. motorcycle rides here.

The majority of Route 66 east of Flagstaff has been replaced by I-40. While that is a shame, there is solace in the fact that many of the original attractions of the Mother Road era are still partially or fully intact on the way to the Arizona/New Mexico border. I took the short access road to the ruins of the Twin Arrows Trading Post. Up until very recently, both twin arrows still stood, but the ravages of weather and time toppled one. The trading post was a fixture on Route 66 since its opening in the late 1940s. Just across the freeway looms the new Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Twin Arrows Trading Post
Alas, only one arrow is still standing at the ruins of the Twin Arrows Trading Post between Flagstaff and Winslow.

Riding another 30 minutes east on the interstate, I exited at Winslow, which sits on another existing stretch of Route 66. The loop into Winslow is festooned with various Route 66 advertisements. My first stop in town was to look at the impressive red sandstone St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. After snapping a photo at Standin’ on the Corner Park, I saddled up and headed to my lodging for the night, the beautifully restored La Pasada Hotel (see sidebar below). 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Winslow Standin' on the Corner Park
At Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow, Arizona, the author stands with a bronze statue of a balladeer resembling Jackson Browne, who co-wrote the famous Eagles’ song “Take It Easy” with Glenn Frey.

After settling into my room, I walked the grounds of the beautiful rail-side resort before sitting with a post-ride cocktail and watching the trains roll by. Later that night, I strolled back into downtown Winslow for some shopping and a chili relleno dinner at the tiny Brown Mug Cafe. An unassuming photo on the wall beside my booth showed a youthful Harrison Ford sitting in the same spot many decades back (he’s an avid motorcyclist, by the way, and also owns a GS!).  

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride
Some motorcycles you’ll find on Route 66 have seen better days.

After a great night’s sleep, I had one last stretch to complete my Arizona Route 66 tour. I rode the few miles to Holbrook, which is the last of the original historic towns on my eastward stretch of Route 66 and home to the Wigwam Motel. From Holbrook, it’s another 74 miles on I-40 to the New Mexico border.

I highly recommend riding what you can of any portion of the Mother Road. This Arizona stretch of Route 66 is best ridden from late spring to early fall, as the winters in northern Arizona are cold and snowy. Pack for variable conditions, and enjoy your ride down memory lane.

Arizona Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Resources

SIDEBAR: La Posada Hotel

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride

La Posada in Winslow is a crown jewel of the historic Fred Harvey railroad hotel empire. Designed in the 1920s by renowned architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, it’s currently a first-class hotel, art gallery, and museum in an expansive garden setting. There is a gourmet restaurant on-site, and downtown Winslow is a short stroll away. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed in a warm Southwestern motif, and photos of the hundreds of legendary actors and public figures who stayed at La Posada line the hallways. There is even safe designated motorcycle parking in front of the property. For more info, visit the La Posada website.

See all of Rider‘s motorcycle tours here.

The post Arizona Route 66 Motorcycle Ride appeared first on Rider Magazine.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
John Alger rides the historic U.S. Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois, to Amarillo, Texas, on his kickstart-only 1978 Yamaha SR500.

Dubbed the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath and known as “Main Street USA,” U.S. Route 66 will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2026. No other road in America had such an impact on growth, migration, transportation, and popular culture. During the Great Depression and the horrific Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Route 66 was a paved pathway to a better life, transporting tens of thousands of people from the heartland to the West.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Map of Route 66 courtesy of Encyclopedia Brytannica

Right after WWII, my Uncle Don traveled from California to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, using much of Route 66 and riding a kickstart, air-cooled, single-cylinder AJS. As I pondered my own journey on the Mother Road, it seemed fitting to attempt it on my 1978 Yamaha SR500, which is also an air-cooled, kickstart Single. Over the years, I have owned several Yamahas, but the SR500 has been my preferred ride for its light weight, effortless cornering ability, competent disc brakes, and simple but elegant design. I like it so much, I own two.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
The author’s 1978 Yamaha SR500 on Route 66 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

For my trip, I chose the one with 30,000 miles on the odometer. Except for upgraded brake hoses, it was bone stock. To get it ready for my Route 66 adventure, I gave it a complete engine and chassis overhaul, as well as a 535cc big bore kit, an oil cooler, and a SuperTrapp exhaust. I retained the stock air box and K&N air filter but re-jetted it as required. The new chain and sprockets were one tooth larger on the countershaft, which lowered cruising rpms and resulted in a mostly vibration-free ride.

Related: 2015 Yamaha SR400 Review | First Ride

The SR500 also has a no-frills CDI ignition system with a strong charging system, allowing me to keep my cellphone and Bluetooth full of juice, and a centerstand, a must-have for daily chain lubrication and fixing flat tires (I had one).

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
U.S. Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois, within sight of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).

Find out more about the First 100 Miles of Route 66

Since Route 66 starts in Chicago, I transported my bike from my hometown of Merritt Island, Florida, in my Chevy van. The first day of riding started in Chicago rush-hour traffic on the Kennedy Expressway, which was undergoing road construction, but after stop-and-go for two hours in record heat, I was rewarded with the U.S. 66 “Begin” sign at the corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue across from The Art Institute of Chicago. Just a few blocks away is the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), and a few blocks farther is the famous Lou Mitchell’s restaurant, which is over 100 years old and served a great breakfast to start my trip.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Lou Mitchell’s is a legendary eatery in downtown Chicago.

Aside from the sweltering temperatures and humidity of August, Chicago’s beautiful residential areas and parks made the short trip to the suburbs quite pleasant. The first 100 miles of Route 66 is known as the Heritage Corridor, which also includes towns along the Illinois & Michigan Canal, which connected Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, and Starved Rock State Park. In Cicero, I stopped to see one of Al Capone’s houses. In Berwyn, I checked out the world’s largest laundromat, which is over 13,000 square feet and even has a bird aviary, and I also passed by one of the oldest-operating White Castle restaurants.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Dick’s on 66 is located in Joliet, Illinois.

Traveling south, I found a neat roadside display in the town of Joliet called Dick’s on 66, an old towing shop decorated with several vintage vehicles and a patch of bricks purportedly from the original Route 66. Across the street is a restored gas pump and ice-cream shop. Joliet is also the home of the state prison and was featured in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers.

In Wilmington, Illinois, I cooled down with a sundae at the Route 66 Creamery and spotted the first of five “giants” I would see on my trip: a Sinclair dinosaur on the roof of G&D Tire Company.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Route 66 Creamery is in Wilmington, Illinois.

For this trip, I tried to take the oldest sections possible of Route 66, and Illinois had them clearly marked. Some sections of road looked more like abandoned driveways, with weeds growing through cracks in the concrete. My little SR500 was perfect for this kind of duty.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
One of the few remaining Muffler Men is located in Wilmington, Illinois. The bright green Gemini Giant holds a silver rocket and was named in honor of the Gemini space program of the 1960s.

In Towanda is Dead Man’s Curve, a sharp curve that caught many drivers unaware and was the site of numerous accidents from the 1920s to the 1950s. There’s even a preserved series of Burma Shave signs that say: Around the curve / lickety-split / beautiful car / wasn’t it? I had a 25-plus mph headwind for most of that first day, and it felt as if I was riding into a blow drier. My first night was spent at the Ghost Hollow Lodge in Chandlerville, Illinois, where I fortified myself with a dinner of venison and fresh veggies.

On the second day, I stopped in Springfield to cool down with an iced tea at Route 66 Motorheads Bar & Grill, which also has a museum and gaming room. Just south of Springfield in Carlinville, my fun was interrupted by a flat tire. I had packed tools, tire irons, a portable compressor, and a tube patch kit, but my tube was too badly mangled by the nail. Scott McDaniels of S&S ATV came to the rescue by delivering a new tube (at no charge), a local resident across the street brought me ice water, and the local city hall allowed me to do the work on the north side of their office in the shade on the concrete. It just goes to show how kind strangers can be when you are in a bind.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is located in Granite City, Illinois.

The repair set me back almost four hours, and I had to bypass many of the Route 66 sights from Carlinville to St. Charles, Missouri, where I stayed with friends. The following day, I unloaded my luggage and backtracked to Granite City, Illinois, to see the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The mile-long bridge was part of the original Route 66 from 1936 to 1965 and allowed motor vehicles to cross the Mississippi River from Illinois to Missouri. It features a 30-degree turn partway through. I had gone over this bridge in a car as a kid before it was decommissioned in 1968. It is now only open to foot traffic and bicycles.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
The 630-foot Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, was completed in 1965.

While in St. Louis, I also went up into the 630-foot Gateway Arch, which was completed in 1965. It is now part of the National Park Service, and with recent remodeling and upgrades, it’s a not-to-miss experience. I also visited the National Museum of Transportation on the west side of St. Louis. This may be one of the best transportation museums in the country and has the only remaining GM Aerotrains. It also has a running Chrysler Turbine Car like the one at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
A Chrysler Turbine Car at the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.

After getting my luggage loaded back on the SR500, my next stop was Times Beach, Missouri. Route 66 used to cross the Meramec River there, and the remnants of the bridge are still there, along with a Route 66 State Park. I met some folks from Europe riding Route 66 on rented Harleys, and they were aghast that I was attempting to make the same trip on my antique bike with no GPS navigation and only an EZ66 guide in my tankbag.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Remnants of the Route 66 bridge in Times Beach, Missouri.

Times Beach was the site of the second largest EPA Superfund site due to a local contractor spraying dioxin on the dirt roads for dust control. All the buildings were bought by the EPA and leveled, and it’s currently considered a ghost town. West of Times Beach is the Meramec Caverns, where I ran into my new European friends again. My bike would do roughly 100 miles per tank of fuel, which coincided with my body’s need to stand up and stretch out a bit and suck down a cold beverage.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
A group of Europeans riding Route 66 on rented Harleys stopped at the Route Route 66 State Park in Missouri.

I stayed at the KOA in Springfield, Missouri, that night and rented a cabin. I had planned on renting a primitive campsite, but for only about $40 more, I got an air-conditioned cabin, lights, electricity, a mattress, a table, and a TV. It was a bargain!

Along the way in Missouri are a few museums and stops such as a replica 1930s Sinclair station called Gary’s Gay Parita in Ash Grove, Missouri, where the sign reads “Gas Wars” and advertises fuel at 15 cents per gallon. Another sign reads “Kendal, your 2,000 mile oil!” We have certainly come a long way!

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
A replica 1930s Sinclair gas station called Gary’s Gay Parita in Ash Grove, Missouri.

Shortly after the Sinclair station on the Old Route 66 trail, I crossed an old truss bridge that crossed over Johnson Creek in Spencer, Missouri. Like the old sections of Route 66 in Illinois, this section looked like an abandoned road going into the backwoods. It was beautiful.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Only 13 miles of Route 66 pass through Kansas.

Kansas only has a very short 13-mile section of the Old Route 66 path, and if you take that, you are blessed with crossing one of the few remaining Marsh Arch bridges left in the country – and the only remaining one on Route 66, this one having been built in the early 1900s.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
The Rainbow Curve Bridge was built in 1923. It’s the only remaining Marsh Arch bridge on Route 66.

Oklahoma likely has the most Route 66 sites of any state. After the road was decommissioned by the federal government for use as a federal highway, Oklahoma named it State Road 66. It’s easy to follow, although I did manage to miss a sign and ride maybe 50 miles off course. The best Route 66 Museum is in Clinton, Oklahoma. It covers the initial planning and construction of the route, along with different scenes of Americana, a video of the Dust Bowl, and more.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Buck Atom, a 21-foot-tall space cowboy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one of the iconic Muffler Men of Route 66.

There are more giant statues to be seen as you pass through Oklahoma, including Buck Atom, the 21-foot-tall space cowboy in Tulsa holding a rocket. Tulsa also has a cool park downtown called the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza that has three tall old neon motel signs relocated there from the early days of Route 66. Further south is a Route 66 village with an old train, a gas station, and an oil derrick.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Route 66 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The last section of Route 66 I rode in Oklahoma was a mostly abandoned concrete road that paralleled Interstate 40, but you could tell it was part of the original route. How many mostly abandoned four-lane concrete highways going into nowhere with no traffic do you see? At one point, I thought I was off-track, but then I saw the Texas state sign and the familiar white outlined Route 66 logo painted on the road.

In Texas, much of Route 66 is access highways on either side of the interstate, which worked just fine for my trusty mule since I could travel at more relaxed speeds in the intense heat. Along the way, you pass by the Leaning (water) Tower of Britten in Groom, Texas, and Amarillo gives you the Cadillac Ranch.

Get Your Kickstart on Route 66
Cadillac Ranch is located in Amarillo, Texas.

After visiting the Cadillac Ranch, I stopped at a KOA, and when I tried to start my bike again, it didn’t fire up. It turned out to be an issue with the ignition system, and despite having the parts from my other SR500 shipped to me to attempt a repair, it didn’t take. I cut my trip short and loaded the bike in the back of a Penske truck and headed back east.

In spite of a flat tire, intense heat and humidity, and an ignition failure, this was the most fun I can recall in most of my life. In retrospect, I should have tried making this trip on a newer bike, but part of the fun was riding a kickstart antique.

If you are considering riding this road, I would suggest waiting until 2026 for the 100-year anniversary since I heard plans in various towns along the way for some centennial events, so it should be even better.


The post Get Your Kickstart on Route 66 appeared first on Rider Magazine.

Source: RiderMagazine.com