Oatman and Route 66

A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend asked me inquisitively, “Would you be interested in a free three-day, two night stay at the Golden Nugget in Laughlin?” Without much thought, I quickly responded with a “Sure”. Next thing I knew, I was given an envelope holding the special certificate. The only downside was Al and I didn’t have much time to schedule our get away considering the certificate was due to expire rather soon.

Thus two days later on Jaunary 31st, Al and I packed a small bag and hopped in my little red truck bound for Laughlin, Nevada. Since we were starting our journey in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we guesstimated the drive would take a little over an hour allowing us plenty of time to dilly and dally and take a detour off the beaten path. And dilly dally we did!

Route 66 Arizona
part of our drive – traveling historic Route 66 in Arizona

One of my favorite things about blogging is engaging with you, my readers. I love your suggestions, recommendations as well as reading your own personal blogs enlightening me on sites to see and things to do. Thanks to a few of you, Oatman, Arizona made my list of places I wanted to visit, and it just so happen to be “kind of” on our way to Laughlin.

Oatman Arizona wild burros
A couple of locals welcome us to Oatman, Arizona.

Off the beaten path

Route 66The town of Oatman started life over 100 years ago as a mining tent camp, and quickly became a flourishing gold-mining center.

In 1915, two miners struck a claim worth 10 million dollars in gold, and within a year, the town’s population grew to more than 3,500.

But both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down most of the small shacks, and three years later the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good.

Oatman survived by catering to travelers on old U.S. Route 66. But in the 1960s, when the road was rerouted to what is now Interstate 40, Oatman almost died.

Oatman, Arizona
Souvenir shops line main street.

Since then, Oatman has undergone a tourism renaissance thanks to the increasing interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the historic town.

wild burros Oatman, ArizonaOatman is a fun little place to visit. It’s an authentic old western town with wild burros roaming about and gunfights staged in the street. Although the burros are said to be tame and can be hand fed, they can also get aggressive if you have food in hand. We watched one women get surrounded by the burros and nipped when she wasn’t giving them food fast enough.

And when I say food … for $1, purchased from any number of vendors, you’re given a paper bag filled with hay nuggets to hand feed the burros.

The towns people ask that you please not bring apples, carrots, etc. to feed the wild burros. It all has to do with burro poop  💩   After all, someone has to keep the streets clean of dodo for all the tourists. With that said, I do recommend you watch where you step! 🤭

baby burro Oatman Arizona
The baby burros are so dang cute. I couldn’t resist a little scratch behind the ears.

Do note, the little babies, aside from being irresistibly cute, have stickers on their head saying, “do not feed me anything“. They aren’t ready for solid food just yet and are still nursing. Thus, it’s not in their best interest to feed them any hay nuggets or anything else for that matter.

baby burro
Baby burros have stickers on their head requesting they not be fed anything.

Oatman’s “wild” burros are the descendants of burros brought here by the miners in the late 1800’s. When the miners no longer needed them, they were turned loose. Each morning these burros come into town looking for food. They wander the streets and greet the tourists and will eat all day if you feed them. Shortly before sunset they wander back to the hills for the night.

Oatman, Arizona
The town has some interesting signs.

Oatman, Arizona

The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County and has housed many miners, movie stars, politicians and other scoundrels. The town was used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was WonFoxfire and Edge of Eternity.

Oatman Hotel

Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel on March 18, 1939. Their honeymoon suite is still one of the major attractions at the Oatman Hotel. Gable returned there often to play poker with the local miners and enjoy the solitude of the desert.

Oatman hotel Arizona

Al and I ate lunch in “the Saloon” which is located in the hotel. Although the food was average, the atmosphere was entertaining and anything but average.

Oatman Saloon
Al getting ready to order lunch at “the Saloon”. Thousands of one dollar bills adorn the walls.

What’s in a name?

After a few other names were passed over, “Oatman” was chosen for the name of the town in honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by Indians during her pioneer family’s journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mohave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma, Arizona.

Oatman, Arizona

If you enjoy history and quirky out-of-the-way places, you’ll enjoy a visit to Oatman, Arizona.  Al and I spent about an hour strolling around town and another hour enjoying lunch at The Saloon.  It was a fun couple of hours and I’m glad we made the stop, but I don’t think I’d recommend venturing too far out of the way for a visit. Although the drive here was interesting and definitely worthwhile. Another place checked off my list!

Oatman, Arizona
Even Al couldn’t resist the cute little burro!

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Road Trip…

Rocky Mountains
Son and I enjoy a visit

Although I enjoy the freedom of being an empty nester, I relish visits with my children.  Recently son drove in from Phoenix to visit us.  Son has been researching a new career venture and wanted to run some things/ideas past his parents.

I’m not sure when Al and I got soooo smart.  I think it happened sometime during son’s first year in the ‘real’ world.  You know, that first year after college.  In the eyes of youngens, parents can’t possibly be smart or understand the life of the youth.  After all, we were never young, were we?  So it’s nice to know, as parents, there comes a time when we’re deemed not as dumb as we once were.

It is extremely gratifying to have a child acknowledge and share his respect and admiration for his parents.  Having graduated from college three years ago, son has come to realize how innovative and intelligent his folks really are.  I’m such a proud mom.  Son has turned into a responsible, respectful, ambitious young man.  As I say that, I pat myself on the back.  I done good!    (ok, maybe Al helped….. a little)

Interstate 25 in southern Colorado south of Trinidad

As the three of us visit, we collaborate and research.  We come across a one day seminar, a seminar possibly worth attending.  Do I hear “road trip”?  Since this is a spur of the moment decision and the price of airfare on short notice is not cost-effective, we decide to drive.  Son and I hit the road in his fuel-efficient Elantra and leave Al and Bear behind.

New Mexico
Highway 87 in northeast New Mexico
Highway 87 in northwest Texas

It’s early Monday morning the 17th of September.  We head south on Interstate 25 to New Mexico.  Once in New Mexico, we head east on Highway 87 toward Texas.  There’s little to no traffic. We continue east and then south toward Amarillo, Texas.  The speed limit varies from 70 mph down to 35 mph whiling traveling through small farm towns.  In Amarillo we pick up Interstate 40 and head east.  Al and I often take I-40 west of Albuquerque on our travels between Colorado and Arizona, but this leg of I-40 is new to me.  I-40 is well-known to those interested in retracing the historic Route 66, as much of I-40 is intertwined with this historic road.

Route 66
Everything is bigger in Texas.

We continue much of the day traveling through the state of Texas.  We left Pueblo West, Colorado, at 6:30 a.m. and reached Fort Worth, Texas, around 6:30 p.m.  Nope, not our final destination, stay tuned.  We thought we would miss rush hour traffic in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I guess technically we did, but traffic is still pretty crazy.

At the south end of Fort Worth we head east on Interstate 20.  Somewhere in east Texas off I-20, about an hour from the Louisiana border, we stop at a truck stop for food and a potty break.  It’s dark.  We park near a light toward the edge of the parking lot away from the congestion.  We see bugs flying around in the glare of the light.  As we exit the car, we are struck by the thick, moist, warm air…..humidity in all it’s glory.  Our walk to the gas station building quickly turns into a run as we are inundated with crickets….crickets crunching with each foot step, crickets hitting our bodies.  Yuck, we don’t dare open our mouths for fear of swallowing a cricket.

Route 66
Somewhere near the New Mexico Texas border

Son and I make our purchases.  As we exit the building, we race back to the shelter of the vehicle.  It’s like a scene from a science fiction movie….Attack of the Crickets.  We sit in the car a moment in shock as we listen to the crickets hitting the vehicle making the sound of hail.  The windshield and car are covered in these little critters.  They’re everywhere including one caught in my hair. Do I hear a eek and a scream?   Up until this stop, my naturally curly hair had remained in perfect ringlets.  That is until I stepped out of the car.  It was just like that Fructis commercial when the gal puts her toe in the water and her hair frizzes into a do only Bozo would be envious of.  So not only was I attacked by crickets, but my long, waves, and curls turned into a huge ball of fuzz from the humidity making it a perfect nest for flying crickets.  Even son commented, “WTF happened to your hair mom”?

Curly hair and humidity do not mesh, and we’ll leave it at that.  I won’t share the stories of a tearful little girl growing up in the humid midwest in the sixties, when long straight hair was all the rage.  Can I hear an “awe” or perhaps a violin playing in the background?

Aside from all the creepy crawlies, the folks in these here parts, are down right friendly.  However, we can’t seem to understand a word they’re saying.  Are we still in America?  The dialect is definitely unique.

The closer we get to our destination today, the less driving we’ll have to do tomorrow.  Have you guessed yet where that destination is?  We push onward toward Shreveport, Louisiana for the night.  We arrive in Shreveport at 10:00 p.m. mountain time / 11:00 p.m. local Louisiana time.  We find a Sleep Inn along I-20.  It appears to be rather new.  These two exhausted travelers are fast asleep the moment their heads hit the pillows.  Tomorrow, we’ll head south for another 5 to 6 hours of driving time…….

Interstate 49
Interstate 49 near Natchitoches, Louisiana