1 May 2012

Flagstaff to Gallup: The allure of the open road

There’s definitely something alluring – romantic, even - about Route 66. It practically emits a siren’s song, enticing road trippers with its scenic curves and fascinating history.

I’ll admit it: We were powerless against the call. It’s mainly why, when Hagerty staffers purchased the two sports cars we’re piloting, we couldn’t resist volunteering to drive them back ourselves and share our adventures with you. Why let a shipper have all the fun?

In the lead-up to our trip, I had the enviable task of researching Route 66 and choosing the landmarks, hotels and restaurants we’d visit. We intentionally didn’t set a rigid itinerary, so we’ve been able to roll with the punches in terms of the delays we’ve encountered and make the most of the time we have on the road. (And, let’s face it, isn’t that what a road trip is all about?)

We got a late start yesterday, setting about fixing the Jensen’s faulty solenoid in the hotel parking lot before we hit the road. We made it about a block (in fact, our hotel was still in view) before we stopped again to investigate a wobbly wheel on the Jensen. Lugnuts firmly secured, we set our sights on Two Guns, Ariz.

(Click here for Autoweek's Rory Carroll's account of the day.)

Now, I’ve been psyched for almost every little attraction on the list, but there’s something about Two Guns that made it particularly interesting. It could be its violent past, or its dilapidated former zoo and aging, cowboy-adorned water tower, but that place is just downright cool. It’s a can’t-miss stop if you make the trip. I would have stayed all day.

We also hit the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Ariz., which is famous for its “Here it is” sign. Back in Route 66’s heyday, the trading post installed billboards from Chicago to Santa Monica, featuring the silhouetted jack rabbit and the intriguing words: 105 miles. By the time the miles had ticked away, travelers were more than curious enough to stop.

Next up was Holbrook, home of the WigWam Motel, featuring teepee-shaped rooms and a variety of classic cars on display in front of each, including a Beetle, a Hudson and an Impala. Have you ever stayed in a teepee-shaped motel? Me either. The novelty alone makes it worth a peek. We also made a quick stop at The Rainbow Rock Shop to see for ourselves the towering concrete dinosaurs that made it famous.

Because we’d spent so much of the day on repairs, we decided to spend the night in Gallup, about 2.5 hours short of Albuquerque, our intended destination. This gave us the opportunity to stay in the El Rancho Hotel and Motel, which had more than its share of celebrity guests. In fact, each room is named after a celebrity who stayed in it, including Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

Our authentic Route 66 cuisine? Applebee’s. It was either that or Denny’s -  turns out that there’s not much open in Gallup after 10 on a Sunday.

So, although we’ve certainly had more than our share of setbacks on this trip (read about Day Three: Gallup to Tucumcari, for more on that), everyone is still in great spirits. We’re just happy to be here, succumbing to the inescapable siren’s song of Route 66.


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