First road trip of the year

February 21-22 marked our first weekend trip onto Route 66 for 2020. I had planned for this post to be the first in a series about several short trips we intended to make, but the recent pandemic has shut down much of the country and it doesn't look like there will be any more trips for a while! We hope to get back on the road as soon as conditions allow. For now, I hope you enjoy this account of our first Route 66 road trip of the year.

Northern Arizona Route 66 weekender
Route 66 in northern Arizona is among the closest places to access Route 66 from our home in Las Vegas, Nevada, so we took a short weekend trip to check out the route and see how things are going in 2020. Our first Route 66 destination was Kingman. While there we met up with a friend, Route 66 proponent and author Jim Hinckley. Jim is involved in the promotion of Route 66, showcasing Kingman and many other Route 66 locales, guiding travelers, and also provides expertise for the promotion of businesses both on and off the route. Visit his web site at Jim Hinckley's America to learn about Jim and his extensive knowledge, experiences and services.

Our first charge of the trip was at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman. This location originally went live with an open-source J1772 charging unit in the summer of 2019. This donated unit proved to be not robust enough for the task and had to be taken offline. But the Powerhouse returned their charging station to service with a new JuiceBox unit. We plugged in while we visited the Powerhouse gift shop and chatted with Josh Noble with the City of Kingman, and The Blue Spirit charged at a respectable 24 amps at 208 volts, good for about 16 miles of charge per hour.

Plugged in at the Powerhouse in Kingman.

Downtown Kingman has experienced a resurgence over the past few years, with many new shops opening and a much more lively atmosphere than it has had in a long time. We had a bite to eat at Sirens' Cafe, and then spent some time shopping and chatting with the owner at Dript Candle Kitchen. Another nearby stop we were happy to visit was Savon Bath Treats, which we have visited before. Keep these local businesses in mind the next time you are in Kingman! Dript and Savon also have online stores so you don't need to wait for an in-person visit to support them - check out their sites linked above for their offerings.

By mid-afternoon we still hadn't left Kingman, but we were planning to get to Seligman for the evening so finally we needed to hit the road. A pleasant cruise on 66 followed. Due to the lateness of the hour we decided to catch other stops on the way back rather than this first day. Straight into Seligman was the plan, but an unfortunate circumstance changed this plan before we could get there.

About 7 miles west of Seligman, there was an accident blocking the road. There was a collision between a semi truck and a car. Some debris was scattered across Route 66 along with a wrecked car to the side, and the semi also sat off the road, truck cab on fire. We were the first eastbound travelers to come upon the accident. Although the wreck was very recent, first responders were already on scene so there was nothing we could do to help. We kept a safe distance from the truck fire and waited, as eastbound cars began to accumulate behind us. After awhile it became clear that this would not be a brief stop. The road was technically passable but police and fire personnel were doing their jobs attending to the accident, not allowing traffic through. A few other anxious travelers walked up to speak to the officers, and word made it back to the growing line of cars that Route 66 would remain blocked, probably for hours. With no way to get to Seligman, we turned back west toward Grand Canyon Caverns to get a motel room for the night.

A car/semi crash west of Seligman.

We have stayed at Grand Canyon Caverns before. In addition to their classic roadside attraction, they also have a motel, RV park, convenience store and cafe. We arrived to the main building close to Route 66 just as the front office and store were closing for the evening. The cafe, which is away from the highway at the caverns entrance, was already closed. With the sudden influx of travelers due to the accident, the front office stayed open for a bit, and after we got a room they brought the lights back up in the convenience store so we could buy a few snacks for a makeshift dinner.

An assortment of vehicles grace the front of the Grand Canyon Caverns store.


The facilities at Grand Canyon Caverns are unusual in that they're not all in the same place. It's a large property and the caverns entrance is about a mile away from Route 66. The store, motel and breakfast room are close to the road for the benefit of travelers while the cafe and RV park are near the caverns entrance. For EV drivers that creates a bit of an inconvenience - your motel room is separated from your charging spot by about a mile. It's a pleasant walk though, and there is a trail between them that you can choose during daylight hours instead of the private road.

The Blue Spirit meets the Sheriff on the road between motel and caverns.


After unloading our bags at the motel room, we took our snacks and drove out to the RV park. There were plenty of open spots - it's quite a large park and February is the off season - so we picked one and plugged the car in to the NEMA 14-50 outlet using the mobile connector that came with our Tesla. Rather than heading straight back to the motel room, we hung out in the car for awhile with our snacks and played video games. I had already purchased a pair of inexpensive controllers from Amazon and they're stowed in the center console for whenever we feel like a game. I have to say that this is one of the most enjoyable software features that has been added to our car since we bought it.

Our charging spot at the Caverns RV park.

After an hour or so of snacking and gaming, we were ready to head back to the motel. Given the mile distance back to the motel from the RV park, this took about 20 minutes. The road is not steep, so it was a pleasant walk. After a not-entirely-filling dinner of random convenience store snacks, we got a good night's rest at this classic Route 66 motel. In the morning we were definitely ready for the included breakfast before heading back up to our car. After breakfast we had a great chat with John McEnulty, owner of Grand Canyon Caverns, and he was gracious enough to give us a ride up to our car. I gave out my last copy of the Tesla Destination Charging brochure, and spoke with him about the possibility of adding one or two RV-style connections near the motel just for EVs. The good news is that this may be feasible! On the Tesla front, I learned upon our return home that Tesla has discontinued their policy of offering free destination chargers to businesses. It's unfortunate but not unexpected as their destination charging network continues to grow. The units are still available for purchase of course, but at $500 it can be a steep cost of entry for small businesses that want to electrify.

Outside our room at the Caverns Inn.


Since we were not on a tight schedule for this trip, we elected to stay on site to take a cavern tour, the first time we've done so in several years. It was as enjoyable as ever, and we marveled at the natural formations inside the caverns and also spotted new additions since our last visit - underground dining and a unique underground motel room. Grand Canyon Caverns is a great Route 66 attraction and highly recommended for anyone passing through the area. After the obligatory trip through the gift shop we headed onward at last towards Seligman.

The Blue Spirit is parked outside the cavern and cafe entrance.

Inside the caverns.

EV charging at the RV park is included not just with a stay at the motel, but also with a cavern tour or meal at the restaurant.


Since we had taken a cavern tour, it was already midday by the time we arrived in Seligman. Before being stopped by the accident the night before, we had intended to stay at the Aztec Motel in Selgiman. We tried to stop in once we arrived in town but the office was closed. A couple of days after our visit, it was posted to the Aztec's Facebook page that the motel has been sold and is closed for a little refurbishment. We wish long time owners Marie and Dwight good luck in their future endeavors, and look forward to meeting the new owner after the Aztec reopens!

The Aztec Motel, Seligman.


We walked down the street to Angel & Vilma's Route 66 Visitor Center & Gift Shop, a sort of epicenter of Route 66 tourism in the town. Retired barber Angel Delgadillo is one of the premier personalities of Route 66 and stopping at his shop is always a must-do. Angel wasn't in at this time, but there was still plenty of shopping to do in this jam-packed gift shop. We spoke with the folks at the gift shop about EVs and charging; we'll revisit again in the future to see what we can do to help the town get a foothold in that department. Seligman would be a great place for Tesla superchargers and other DC fast charging, given its distance between Kingman and Flagstaff. Visit the link above to support Angel & Vilma's shop with online purchases during this difficult time! While at the gift shop we also learned that the car accident we encountered the night before had resulted in at least one fatality. Our hearts go out to those affected by this tragic event.

A display inside near Angel's barber chair.

The weather for this trip was pretty gloomy, with rain on and off. The rain got a little stronger as we headed for lunch at the Roadkill Cafe near the west end of Seligman. It's a pretty large place and also includes a gift shop. We had a nice lunch, and after a purchase at the gift shop we headed on our way. We didn't have any discussions about EVs this time; maybe next time!

The rain-soaked Blue Spirit outside the Roadkill Cafe.
 
No visit to Seligman is complete without a stop at  Delgadillo's Snow Cap, so we ran in to grab a couple of shakes for the road. The rain continued, but that didn't matter to us - a Snow Cap shake is great in any weather as far as we're concerned. The Snow Cap has a lot for the traveler to look at for such a small place, and photo opportunities abound. In the summer tour buses can frequently be seen parked nearby for oodles of tourists to take in all its kitschy glory, and get something to eat as well.

The Blue Spirit at the Snow Cap. The 1936 Chevy seen in this photo is not the only vintage car on display here.

An Electric Route 66 sticker now joins the many, many stickers that adorn the windows of the Snow Cap.

Due to the rain and the fact that it was February, some places where we might have stopped were closed. One stop we did make was Keepers of the Wild, a non-profit wild animal sanctuary near Valentine. We spent some time in their gift shop and picked up a few things, but as it was raining we did not head out into the sanctuary due to muddy trails. We will definitely return in the future for a more extensive visit. See their site linked above for their online shop supporting their mission. On the way back towards Kingman we stopped to visit some good friends who run a dedicated writing equipment shop. Pendemonium has retail space at Time Was Antiques in downtown Kingman, but their primary business is online. Visit their site to shop vintage and unique writing products.

By the time we arrived back in Kingman, evening was already at hand. We plugged in the car at the Tesla supercharger outside Carl's Jr. and headed inside for a bit of dinner. Another too-short Route 66 trip was drawing to a close. By the time we were finished with dinner the car was ready to get us home to Las Vegas.

At this writing, we are basically house-bound aside from work and necessities, like much of America. Road trips are on hold for at least the next month, if not longer. But, the local businesses along Route 66 and elsewhere are still in need of customers to keep going during this difficult time. Many local restaurants that normally depend on sit-down diners are still open for take-out and need support to survive. Please consider exploring these options, wherever you may be. I have linked many businesses in this article, so that you can show your support via online purchases while their in-person traffic is restricted. We will get through this together!

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