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Take a road trip down Route 66 with two new books

Published May 12, 2017 9:07 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In an age of sameness, many American and foreign tourists search for a more authentic, original experience.

That is probably why, on a recent spring Sunday afternoon, hundreds of tourists lined the streets of tiny Seligman, Ariz., the town that is the heart of historic Route 66.

Drivers riding in convertibles and on motorcycles rode the old two-lane road between Ash Fork and Kingman on the glorious day, marveling at hilarious roadside Burma Shave signs, stopping at throwback roadside attractions and enjoying open stretches of highway.

This is perhaps the longest stretch of the old 2,451-mile "Mother Road" that remains on Route 66, which once stretched between Chicago and Santa Monica, Calif.

Busloads of tourists wait in line at the Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, an iconic stop with a backyard filled with Route 66 memorabilia and windows decorated with hilarious signs, including one that reads "Dead Chicken."

They wander through little souvenir shops, taking photos of old cars and trucks parked on Main Street.

Others who elect to get off Interstate 40 and drive the old road might stop at Grand Canyon Caverns or spend time at Hackberry, where an old general store and adjacent parking lot feature incredible amounts of Route 66 memorabilia and historic cars.

Two recently published or updated books help guide folks who want to visit and drive all or part of Route 66.

Drew Knowles' "Route 66 Adventure Handbook" (Santa Monica Press, 5th edition; $19.95) is a by-the-mile guide to the road, with photos, information and trivia as to what can be seen along the way.

Jim Hinckley's "Route 66: America's Longest Small Town" (Voyageur Press; $19.99) includes photos and interviews with people along the route, offering their motivations and reasons for living and working along Route 66.

He calls the road "America's longest attraction" and details its history, even before what is now mostly a historical route.

In one poignant passage on how the old road has revived Seligman, Hinckley writes:

"That popularity, however, represents a new type of threat to Route 66 communities. Underlying the international fascination with Route 66 is a quest for an authentic American experience, or at least the perception of such an experience. Communities can embrace the resurgent interest in Route 66 with such a passion that they lose sight of that fact. As a result, they become an imitation of Disneyland, which in turn can lead enthusiasts to stop for a T-shirt or a cold drink before they seek a destination that provides them with an opportunity to experience the romanticized image of the Route 66 experience."

For Utahns who want to drive the road, the Arizona portion can be combined with a trip to Las Vegas, Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. Consider renting a convertible or motorcycle to drive the route, which is actually in better shape than much of Interstate 40 that bypasses it.

Reading and studying one of the two new books — especially Hinckley's — can give those who ride a feel for the history of one of America's iconic roads.






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