Oct 112016
 

grand-canyon-cafe-owners








The front door of the Grand Canyon Café in downtown Flagstaff was swinging open and shut multiple times on Wednesday, Sept. 13, and two waitresses inside moved rapidly between booths alive with animated and hungry customers seated for late breakfast or early lunches. The smell of frying bacon and eggs and toasting bread wafted out from the kitchen in the rear of the establishment.

Mid-September was especially busy at the iconic Route 66 dining spot, as devoted patrons visited to pay their respects to the owners and chefs, Fred and Tina Wong, as they headed for retirement after selling their business.

The restaurant officially closed Saturday, Sept. 17. It is scheduled to reopen in December after being gently revamped by the new ownership team: two couples, Paul and Laura Moir, and Michael and Alissa Marquess, who already own and manage several high-profile restaurants and beverage and food supply businesses in Flagstaff, as well as minority partner Paul Thomas, who is a faculty member at NAU’s W.A. Franke College of Business. The location has been continuously open as a restaurant since 1942, a total of 74 years. In the Wong family since 1945, Fred Wong’s father, Albert, in partnership with his two brothers, Alfred and Edward, and also a nephew, Bill Yee, purchased the restaurant.

Through the years, the café became a beloved destination in Flagstaff, with constant loyal customers and visitors, all seeking that historic Route 66 flavor.

“A visit to the Grand Canyon Café was just part of the day for us,” said Bill Cordasco, Babbitt Ranches president and general manager. “It was an important thread in the fabric of our lives.”

On this Wednesday, Maite Blin and Regis Loock, both from Beauvais, France, came to for breakfast.

“It’s not expensive,” Loock commented. “You have a beautiful breakfast, very complex. And the staff is sympathetic.”

Wong, who was born in a small village in China and came to the U.S. at age three, took over management of the café in 1980 when his father retired.

Among local eaters on this Tuesday was James Burns, 44, a regular at the café. He works next door at the Galaxy Sales leather and saddle shop, which his family has owned since 1949.

“I’m a local pest,” he explained. “I come and harass Fred and Tina every morning when I come and get my coffee. They’re some of the kindest people. They’re the oldest, and we’re the second oldest [business]; there’s a lot of history between these two places. Fred’s been here since he was a little runt peeling potatoes in the back.”

Burns also orders out lunch, to eat at the Galaxy where he took over in 2015 after his father, Isidore (Izzy) Siebenberg, died. Lunch often is corned beef, his favorite, or the chicken fried steak, which he said is “the best in town.”

With its art deco exterior and neon signage, as well as the eclectic novelty items adorning the interior, the restaurant has been featured in many cookbooks, travel guides and newspapers and magazines, including the Arizona Daily Sun and Arizona Highways Magazine.

Retiring from the restaurant will give the Wongs more time to work their farm in Camp Verde, where they have another home. They also plan to frequently visit family in Phoenix. The couple, who married in 1982, have three grown children, Mark, David and Jessica, as well as their first grandchild, born earlier this year. “I’ll be able to spend more time at the farmers markets,” said Wong. “I had to skip this year. My son couldn’t help me; we had our first grandson, four months old. We’ll be going between Phoenix and farmers markets. We’ll go back and forth.”

Tina Wong said she plans to keep busy.

“It’s not retirement,” she said. “I’ll find something to do. I can’t sit around.”

Wong, who was a business major at NAU, first learned his cooking skills from his father, who had worked cooking Chinese food in Colorado. Wong said he had also trained as a chef at Hyatt hotel in San Francisco. The Wongs often cook side by side in the kitchen, working from about 13 hours a day, six days a week. Tina, who her husband said learned to cook “on the spot,” is fluent in the Chinese language and is greatly valued for her tasty Chinese cooking.

“She’s known for her eggrolls, fried rice and Mongolian beef,” he noted. “I’m famous for my chicken fried steak. It’s time for me to retire; I’m 68 this month. We’ll stick around to help the new owners if they need us. Flagstaff is nice and cool in the summertime. We want to thank all the loyal customers through the years.”

One of eight staff members, waitress Paige Sandoval, 23, has been working at the café for 5 ½ years.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “I’ve known Tina and Fred my whole life, so working here is just like being at home. My great-grandparents, when I was small and we lived in Tuba City, used to bring us in for lunch just about every Friday. Tina and Fred, they’re wonderful employers, but to me, they’re more like a second pair of parents.”

Sandoval is not sure if she will be staying on with the new employers, but another waitress, Beatris Castruita, 28, will be relocating to be with family in Colorado.
“I’ve been seven years at the café,” she said. “I love it. I’ve met so many people here. Fred and Tina have been great. They’re really good people, and it’s time for them to retire and enjoy time with their grandson. I wish them the best.”

Local businessman Mark McCullough was sitting at the “Liar’s Table,” reserved for hunting and fishing friends of Fred in the back of the restaurant.

“I come down a couple times a week,” he said. “I eat healthy; the Chinese is healthier. Tina changes the special every day. They have worked very hard here, but it took a grandbaby for them to retire. I think that’s great.”

Local Flagstaff Unified School District teachers also made the Grand Canyon Café a favorite eating spot for decades.

At a booth against the wall, Linda Harris sat with her husband, Clair, and Dave Brown, both retired Flagstaff High School teachers, along with Judy Davis, whose husband, Terry, had also been a FHS teacher.

“We used to come at least once or twice a week for breakfast for 35 years,” Harris said. “We just moved out of town. We live not far from Camp Verde where Fred lives, so we know where the food will be.”

Teachers were such frequent diners that seats were assigned to them.

“They would come early,” Davis recalled. “Albert opened early on Friday so they could get to work on time. They all sat in the same seats for years and years. The waitress would say, ‘These people are family.’”

The Wongs always made sure everyone left with a full stomach, including a homeless Native American man who sat in front and was fed regularly.

“We have the most prestigious people in Flagstaff, down to that homeless fellow,” Dave Brown said. “Fred and Tina treat everyone the same.”

Jim Muns, a retired history teacher at Coconino High School, with 31 years in FUSD, has been coming to the café since 1968, when he first came to town to attend college.

“His dad, Albert, had the place; I came in to eat,” Muns said. “I’ve known Fred and Tina about 23 years. I come just about every day. I would come down in the evening and work for them, take cash when they were very busy. After I retired, I upped my job; I’m down here five days a week. Officially, I am the cashier. They’re very, very nice people, who work very hard. I think Flagstaff is going to have a very serious case of chicken fried steak withdrawal.”

Many folks were ordering Fred’s chicken fried steak during the last week the chef would be in the kitchen.

I’ve had a lot of local customers,” Wong recalled. “They come and go, generation after generation. That’s one thing I’m going to miss, all my friends here – all my loyal customers.”

By Betsey Bruner, Flagstaff Business News

Sep 202016
 

standin-on-the-corner-fest-2016








18th annual Standin’ on the Corner Fest Friday and Saturday

WINSLOW, Ariz. — Winslow’s 18th annual Standin’ on the Corner Festival takes place Sept. 23-24 in Winslow, an annual event that started in 1999, which coincided with the unveiling of a mural and statue in the park.

The festival will take place in downtown Winslow on Historic Route 66 (West Second Street) and North Campbell Avenue at the Eagle Pavilion located behind the Winslow Chamber of Commerce (Historic Hubbell Building) and Visitor’s Center. The Eagle Pavilion was built by the Standin’ on the Corner Foundation with donations from businesses, individuals, the city of Winslow and funds raised from the festival and volunteers. The foundation’s mission is the redevelopment of Winslow (the mission used to be the redevelopment of just the historic district but it has expanded that mission to include all of Winslow).

The first festival sixteen years ago was an impromptu celebration for the completion and opening of the park, which has now grown into a huge festival, which draws five to 10,000 people over the weekend.

The event celebrates the well-known single “Take it Easy,” written by the late Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, which became a hit in the 1970s for the Eagles and put the community of Winslow on the map. The verse ‘standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona’ draws visitors from far and wide to stand on that famous corner on historic Route 66.

This year, a Glenn Frey Memorial — a statue dedication — will take place Sept. 23 on the corner of Second Street and Kinsley Avenue from noon to 2:30 p.m. The rest of the entertainment begins at 3 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday. Cost is $5 per person. A horseshoe tournament is $20 per person and takes place Saturday.

Throughout the festival, vendors will sell everything from crafts, food and clothing. The event has fun for the entire family. A beer garden will have a tasting tent.

The festival’s returning bands Tommy Dukes, Stephen Padilla and Take it to the Limit, an Eagles cover band, will perform. In addition to these familiar names some other bands including Rhythm Edition, Coyote Moon Band, Triple Play, The Miller Boys and Higeria, a local favorite alternative band, Ty One on, country rock, and One of These Nights, a tribute to the Eagles, will also take the stage. In addition to the bands, NPC Ballet Folklorico, a Mexican Dance Group and the High Country Dance Team will perform.

On Sept. 245 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the annual Standin’ on the Corner Foundation Auction takes place, which is the big fundraiser for the foundation. Lots of items will be auctioned off, including some Eagles memorabilia.

She said the city of Winslow also benefits greatly from the festival, which is the foundation’s mission.

In addition, the festival is a chance for everyone to shop local, which is important for a small community. Butler said that local businesses are generous with donations to the event and to the live auction.

The money raised ensures the foundation will be able to continue with the annual festival, keeping the park and the pavilion in top form and continuing in the efforts to improve our community, a member of the foundation said last year.

History

The foundation said the history of the park is also important to remember and without the founding members’ hard work and determination, the vision of the historic downtown of Winslow would have been lost.

Seeing the success of their efforts to save La Posada, Marie Lamaar and Janice Griffith focused their attention on creating another attraction in Winslow that capitalized on the hit song, “Take it Easy.”

The Standing on the Corner Foundation was formed by these women and a group of private citizens, including Glenn and Yvonne Howeth, Larry Benham, Chris and Larry Payne, Bert Peterson, Greg and Connie Hacker.

The Standin’ on the Corner Park was built brick by brick with donations made by local businesses, individuals, many volunteer hours and investments by the city of Winslow. The Kaufman family donated the property where the park on the corner is located. John Pugh painted a two-story mural for the park and the iconic, bronze life-size 1970s Rock and Roll guitarist, made by Ron Adamson, was placed over personalized donor bricks.

By Katherine Locke – Navajo-Hopi Observer

Mar 182016
 

sipp-shoppe-winslow








The Sipp Shoppe across from the Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow is doing brisk business as Nikki Greer and Jacob Martin serve up food and ice cold drinks to customers, including Beata King and Bea Cooper, who stopped in on their way from Phoenix to Wisconsin.

Spring is in the air and that usually means the beginning of tourist season along Route 66, but in Winslow the season is already in full swing. It’s a cautious drive along Second Street as tourists step into the road to get a better angle with their camera or take a quick jog to cross from one sidewalk to another surrounding the Standin’ on the Corner Park.
The center of all the attention is the statue of the lone troubadour waiting for a ride, which has become synonymous with Winslow and draws thousands of people each year as strains of Eagles tunes fill the air from the Standin’ on the Corner gift shop.
At the opposite corner from the gift shop is the Sipp Shoppe. There, numerous patrons enjoy a soda or choose from a long list of hot dog specialties such as the Oklahoma Tornado or the Baja Dog. Nikki Greer, who runs the shop, said that it’s been “total chaos” for the past couple of months, ever since the death of Eagles co-founder Glen Frey. “This is usually our slowest month of the year, but so far it’s been crazy busy, mostly with people from in the state,” she said.
A stroll into the Arizona 66 Trading Co. across from the Sipp Shoppe showed visitors sorting through T-shirts with the words, “Take It Easy” and “Such A Fine Sight To See” emblazoned across the chest, and deciding what knick-knacks to buy while a concert video of the Eagles plays on a wide-screen television.
Sabrina Butler runs the shop and said it’s been busy like this since January. “It seemed like the day after Glenn Frey died people just started showing up,” she said. Butler also talked about the success of the Corner and the people who make it happen. “We have a good group of citizens making that effort, between the Standing on the Corner Foundation and the chamber of commerce we have a lot of great things coming up,” she said before going down a list of events that include a Cinco de Mayo festival, the Father’s Day fishing excursion and the Standin’ on the Corner Festival.
La Posada also is a big draw; they get quite a few celebrities over there. We just had (former Diamondbacks pitcher) Randy Johnson in the other day and he was staying there,” she said.
Soon the city will have another attraction for visitors to the downtown. According to Community Development Director Paul Ferris, the $488,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s National Scenic Grant Fund has been freed up and the city can move forward with its plans for the Route 66 Plaza park. The park will be located next to the Standin’ on the Corner Park and will feature a mural of Chicago on the east wall and a mural of Santa Monica pier on the west wall. Winding between the two murals will be a pathway depicting Route 66 and all the highlights of the much-loved road. The work is expected to begin next month, with no time noted for completion.
“It’s taken awhile, but things are finally coming together. This plaza will be another added attraction for our visitors and one more reason to stop,” said Ferris.
Back at the Sipp Shoppe patron Beata King summed up why she stopped in Winslow on her way from Phoenix to Wisconsin: “We love the Eagles and of course we stop in Winslow for the food. We love this place.”

By Linda Kor

May 202015
 

route-66-az-shield







In their latest installment of the AARP Phoenix History Series, come and learn about Arizona’s Historic Route 66 on Thursday, July 23 at 9 a.m. at the AARP State Office in Peoria!

Guest presenter, Libby Coyner of the Arizona Archives will explore how Route 66 was once one of the most famous highways in America.

Established in 1926, Route 66 once served as a roadway for many who escaped the Dust Bowl of the 1930s to head west to California.

Come and learn the rich history of this famous highway and how it still plays a role in Arizona’s rich history! Registration is requested for this free event as seating is limited. Breakfast refreshments will be served.
Click here to register!

Mar 222015
 

66-motel-flagstaff









Another classic Route 66 motel is being turned into ‘affordable housing’.

A child’s hand-drawn pictures adorn the walls. The television plays cartoons and Duchess, a bearded dragon lizard, rests in an aquarium next to a humming refrigerator. Jax, the family dog, sits on a bed.

Food, dishes and utensils nestle in milk crates, and a massive tool box occupies space next to the door.

Mom and dad sleep on the queen bed on the right by the door. The girl sleeps on the queen to the left.

“We get funny looks when we say we live in a motel,” said Mandi Creel, 23.

Mandi, daughter Arianna, 6, and husband Albert, live at the 66 Motel in Flagstaff, and now they can focus on saving money to find a more permanent place to live. The motel was taken over by a new nonprofit called ANEW Living at the beginning of the month.

“It provides a room to call a home,” said Lori Barlow, executive director of ANEW Living.

The mission: “ANEW Living offers a unique approach to meeting the housing needs our our community by converting older distressed motels into affordable housing alternatives. The rooms and small apartments available at ANEW Living are offered as a step up from the traditional transitional housing facilities while continuing to provide on-site services geared towards renewing and restoring hope to individuals and families seeking to end their cycle of homelessness and build pathways to a healthy productive lifestyle promoting self-sufficiency.”

Barlow, former executive director at Flagstaff Shelter Services, said that her experiences at the shelter prompted her to work toward making ANEW Living a reality.

“I saw a huge lack in affordable housing for working people,” Barlow said. “I saw many people at the shelter with jobs who couldn’t make that leap to apartment and home.”

She cited expensive rents and low-paying jobs as the primary barriers for people at the shelter being able to make that leap. ANEW helps with that, she said.

So, she approached the pastor of her church, Church for the Nations, and the church agreed to be the nonprofit sponsor agency to offer temporary financial backing. Barlow was quick to add that her organization is a secular one, and there are no requirements for religious activity.

The motel, leased from owner Indu Patel, has 20 rooms for about 40 people that vary from single occupancy to apartment size.

HARD WORK AHEAD

The expenses for the new project are the lease payment, utilities and insurance with a budget of about $149,000, Barlow said. Projected revenues, including fundraising, are $162,000. The money left over will be applied toward fixing the damaged rooms. The ReStore at Habitat for Humanity has been instrumental in donating supplies and materials.

“Our residents are all pitching in and donating all the labor,” Barlow said. “We have several tenants in construction.”

The residents who help receive deductions off their rent payments.

The bottom line, Barlow said, is that without the repairs, the organization would be self supportive, but the building is nearly 60 years old and has very little work done to it over the years – with plumbing, water heater replacements, roof repairs and electrical upgrades.

And, at some point in the future, she said ANEW is planning to expand to other old motels in the city if possible. The nonprofit is in negotiations with the building owner for a possible lease-to-own arrangement.

Whereas before the motel saw a large population of customers with alcohol and drug problems, those customers have moved on. And rents, which were collected weekly, as a motel, are now collected monthly. A single is $600 a month, which is $200 less than before.

Barlow said that one of the rooms will be devoted to offering on-site programs for the residents – financial literacy, job interview skills, interpersonal skills, coping from loss or trauma, social activities, cooking on a budget, computer skills and more.

“We want to create more than a social environment,” Barlow said.

The potential residents will be referred from agencies that have transition programs and work with people who are working their way to independence and self-sufficiency – Catholic Charities, Flagstaff Shelter Services, Veterans Resource Center, and Dorsey Manor and Hope Cottage at Sunshine Rescue Mission, Inc. The advisory board for ANEW is made up of representatives from those referring agencies. The people who stay at ANEW will have to demonstrate income, and if they have mental health or substance abuse issues, must establish that they are stabilized.

“This is truly a step up,” Barlow said.

REDUCED RENT

Mandi and her family also qualified for the program.

“We were actually happy,” Mandi said. “We were kind of worried when we heard rumors of the motel sold and didn’t know if we were going to have to move.”

Their rent was lowered, too, and now they pay monthly. A $200 reduction in rent is important.

“For people who are struggling, that helps,” Mandi said.

Mandi works at Cracker Barrel, and Albert works in the area installing flooring. Arianna attends school at Killip Elementary. They moved to Flagstaff last summer to be with Mandi’s mother, Julie, who also stays in a room at the motel.

They’ve been saving from paychecks and their tax refund will also go toward building a nest egg to afford a home – first and last month’s rent, deposit, and breathing room to ensure they can cover rent. Mandi said she and Albert are in the process of looking right now – something in the $700 to $800 range.

“We need to make sure after the deposits, we can afford it,” Mandi said.

She said her hope is that they are in a permanent place in less than six months.

As for living in a motel, she said, “It’s not something you go bragging about. But it’s a roof over our head, with home-cooked meals. A place you know you can go to bed and be comfortable with.”

The family, this week, was able to move in a refurbished apartment unit on the property, with separate rooms.

Mandi said she appreciates what ANEW is doing.

“There needed to be a place like what she’s doing here,” Mandi said. “What she’s doing here, I can’t begin to say how great it is. It’s awesome.”

CLOSE TO THE ACTION

Barlow is willing to put her money where he mouth is. She said she will be living at the motel in the little apartment off the office.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it from afar,” she said. “It will help me see what we need to do to make this a safe community for our families – for me to live it.”

“We’re starting to chisel away at that hole with have in our continuum of care,” Barlow added.

By Larry Hendricks – AZ Daily Sun

Aug 242014
 

angel-route-66






Yavapai County has helped its Route 66 communities of Seligman and Ash Fork celebrate their history with new Historic US 66 shield signs painted right onto the highway, with a healthy dose of new Burma-Shave signs on the side.

That should slightly lighten the workload of the mysterious man who travels Route 66 painting the shields onto the road under cover of darkness. Seligman native Clarissa Delgadillo says the legend is widespread across the Mother Road.

“A couple times a year, the shields appear,” Delgadillo said, and then the Arizona Department of Transportation gets rid of them because ADOT has Route 66 jurisdiction in Seligman and Ash Fork.

Her sister Mirna once spotted a man leaving a safety cone in front of her family’s Route 66 Gift Shop right before the shield reappeared, but didn’t get a good description of him.

ADOT officials are concerned that tourists will stand on the road on top of the shields for photos, spokesman Dustin Krugel explained.

But Yavapai County has jurisdiction on the rest of the mostly uninhabited Route 66 segments through this county, so county Public Works employees recently painted the large shields on each end of Seligman as well as Route 66 near the Interstate 40 Crookton Exit and Ash Fork.

route-66-shield
County Public Works employees also crafted four new sets of replica Burma-Shave signs with the blessing of the current owners of the defunct company, Yavapai County Supervisor Craig Brown said. Local citizens picked out their favorite sayings.

A brushless shaving cream company called Burma-Shave came up with the idea in 1925 to place catchy poems along America’s highways and get its name known. Route 66 was born the next year in 1926. Each of the series of typically red and white signs contains one line of a poem.

“Listen birds, these signs cost money, so roost awhile, but don’t get funny,” one of the new sets of signs reads outside Seligman.

The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona has been working with ADOT, counties and municipalities to play up the Mother Road while also trying to make it safer, Mirna Delgadillo said.

“We definitely are trying to preserve and protect Seligman,” she added, praising the county’s help.

“Anything we can do to promote economic development, we’re going to do,” Brown said. By making the signs in-house they cost only about $1,000, he estimated. The county also rehabilitated other Burma Shave signs it originally made and placed on the highway as far back as 2002.

“They help bring nostalgia back for tourists,” librarian Charlotte Lindemuth said. “They’re so interested in the history of Route 66.”

Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona members in Seligman, including the Delgadillo family led by association founder Angel Delgadillo, are concerned about visitors from around the world being able to stroll across the four-lane highway in town, which has no stop signs or lights.

They asked ADOT for two crosswalks and a lower speed limit of 25 instead of the current 35.

ADOT’s preliminary analysis concludes the crossings don’t meet its standard requirements because there isn’t a concentrated area where pedestrians try to cross the highway, Krugel said.

Traffic speeds also seem appropriate as traffic is generally in compliance with the 35 mph limit, Krugel and the regional traffic engineer said.

Clarissa and Mirna Delgadillo say they frequently sees vehicles speeding through town, however.

ADOT hopes to have a final analysis on the crossings and speed limits sometime this year, the regional traffic engineer said.

The Seligman Historical Society also has been trying to restore the 1912 Cottage Hotel that has been serving as a visitors center, Lindemuth said. Community members would like to create a museum there, too.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has awarded Seligman a grant to get asbestos and lead out of historic structure.

“Anything we can do to preserve old historic buildings, we’d better do or we’re going to lose them,” Brown said.

To support the efforts to restore the Cottage Hotel, go online to seligmanhistory.com.

By: Joanna Dodder – The Daily Courier

Dec 032013
 

flagstaff-route-66









Angel Delgadillo’s hand vibrates on the stick shift of his ’55 Dodge pickup as he squints out the cracked windshield and gears down to a stop. “The old road came right along here,” he says, sweeping at an expanse of dust-blown asphalt and the juncture where Route 66 hives off from the I-40, which bypassed his small hometown of Seligman, Ariz., in 1978. He may be showing me a road, but what he’s really pointing out is history.

The Great Diagonal Way. The Mother Road. Main Street of America. Route 66, arguably the most fabled and important road in the United States, was commissioned in 1926 and became America’s main thoroughfare, linking Chicago to Los Angeles. Immortalized in song, film and fiction, the almost-4,000-kilometre road was known as the path of opportunity in the 1930s for dust-bowl farmers from Arkansas and Oklahoma fleeing sharecrop destitution in hope of a better life in California, and was a prominent military deployment route for resources and hitchhiking soldiers in the Second World War. By and large on flat terrain, it spawned a trucking industry determined to usurp the rail cargo that paralleled much of the road. Later, it mapped a 1950s travelogue postcard route for the family road-trip vacationers who were California-bound or headed west to see the Grand Canyon. Motels, diners, gas stations, banks and general stores lined the highway and thrived on the wayfarers stitching their way across rural America. That is, until the road was eclipsed by a series of interstate highways built in the late ’50s, a portent of the inevitable decommissioning of Route 66. The bypassing of the last leg in Williams, Ariz., in 1985 was the end of the road. And then it disappeared off the maps.

“We didn’t exist, we didn’t count, we didn’t matter,” recalls Delgadillo of the rejection of the old two-lane road for the newer highway, which abandoned Seligman and other towns like it in this northern stretch of Arizona. Inspired by the survival instinct of those “flight of America” migrants he witnessed travelling westward through Arizona as a child, Delgadillo, hailed as the “guardian angel of Route 66 and a tourist attraction in his own right, and his brother Juan drove the movement to resurrect the spirit of — if not the traffic on — Route 66 and bolster relic Arizona town economies so that folks could stay. Make a living. Matter.

Arizona was the first state to designate the “Historic Route 66” in 1987, reviving the longest stretch of the original route of the eight states it traversed, and invigorating towns for visitors who share Delgadillo’s passion for the old road and who recognize the importance of a history laden with hope and suffering, exuberance and adventure.

Several towns are essential pit stops on this north-central Arizona journey. Oatman is a dusty former mining outpost where wild burros — descendants of the ones from Oatman’s turn-of-the-century mining days — still patrol the streets amid stalls peddling souvenirs and sentimentality. Kingman is home to three museums documenting the cultural history of Route 66 in the state.

Nostalgia has a certain currency, but Northern Arizona isn’t fetched up on a memory lane.

Route 66 traverses part of the Mojave Desert, and there’s something about that chalky landscape that focuses the senses. Your eyes grab for any departure from scrub — something higher like Joshua trees or bright like the “damned yellow conglomerate,” the way I heard someone refer to the flowers that carpet the dry earth. But grape vines? Don and Jo Stetson latched onto an idea that the virgin high desert soil on their ranch near Kingman, along with the hot days and cool desert nights, might be perfect for a vineyard plunked down in a valley against a backdrop of mountains.

It’s too early to say how Stetson’s Winery’s 3-year-old cabernet, chardonnay, zinfandel and merlot grapes will fare when they’re ready for harvest a few years down the line, but until then, they’ve turned out some pretty great wines using cabernet, merlot and chardonnay grapes from California thanks to the skilled eye and palate of one of Arizona’s wine gurus, Eric Glomski.

Arizona has an innate and comfortable frontier swagger, and this, along with the desert climate, has attracted a bold breed of winemakers. Glomski’s own Page Springs Cellars is located in the Cottonwood region of the Verde Valley, home to a more established group of wineries. The rocky, mineral-rich soils and intense heat contribute to the terroir.

Page Springs Cellars’ success has as much to do with Glomski’s zeal to understand and interpret that terroir as it does with his penchant for traditional southern Rhone varietals like syrah and grenache, or his bent for experimentation with new varietals like aglianico, alicante and marselan. He lets the land speak and the fruit guide the wine, which means some grapes are destined for a blend such as Page Springs’ 2012 Ecips, a mingling of cournoise, syrah, mourvèdre and grenache.

Page Springs, along with wineries like Pillsbury, Javelina Leap, Oak Creek and Fire Mountain, has breathed new life into the valley, as well as the town of Cottonwood, an epicurean hub for the area. They know they’re on to something, and the excitement is palpable. Five tasting rooms line Cottonwood’s main drag, including wineries from southern Arizona that want some northern exposure. Locavore, farm to table, snout to tail all infuse cuisine in the valley, with wine as the stalwart complement. It even informs the desserts: check out Crema Cafe’s Dayden rosé sorbet for a cold treat in the desert sun.

Gourmands might continue on to Sedona for its fine dining and chic shops in the northern Verde Valley, but the red rock hills, buttes and mesas are the real attractions in this city. Surrounded by towering rust-coloured spires and monoliths, Sedona’s “vortexes” beckon folk to explore what the Hopi Indians have known for centuries: there’s a spiritual energy in these here hills.

So it was natural for reiki master and native Indian scholar Linda Summers to settle in Sedona. Attuned to the subtle shifts in energy that draw visitors from around the globe to experience these sandstone pools of power, Summers shares her spiritual skills and area knowledge on personalized guided vortex tours, which include a description of the particular history and energies associated with each vortex, meditation at the sites and reiki. Summers points out the swirling pattern in nature at these sites: coils in rocks and twists in trees. Cirrus clouds begin to eddy above us at Cathedral Rock. And then Summers points at the sun, where a halo has formed: I’m hooked. While some come to meditate, absorbing the subtle energy here, others take to the hills for hikes about Cathedral or Bell Rocks, Airport Mesa or any number of treks around these surreal, otherworldly formations.

Sedona’s red rocks succumb to lush forests of gambel oak, ponderosa pine and canyon maple in Oak Creek Valley, and the ascent to Flagstaff is a sight for green-starved eyes. There are plenty of national campgrounds in the valley for those in need of some forest therapy. The road snakes steeply toward Flagstaff. At 7,000 feet above sea level, this official dark-sky city is not hampered by the tang of Route 66 motel neon, a beautiful, tawdry escort in and out of town. Flagstaff is a mix of the new and very old — check out the downtown core and cocktail lounges at the historic Weatherford and Monte Vista hotels once frequented by Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Clark Gable. This university town has an easy hipness reflected in the great restaurants and craft breweries that have cropped up here. The Museum of Northern Arizona refines the area’s history, geology and aboriginal culture artfully under one roof, and is worth a trip before exploring the Petrified Forest or the Grand Canyon or any of the multitude of other natural wonders in proximity to this mountain town.

The Grand Canyon is, of course, the magnificent main draw in Arizona. But no adventurer on a great journey ever made a beeline to the end. There’s too much to see here along the way. Start by climbing a mountain: watch for the Santa Fe train rolling alongside the old Route 66. Then follow.

The writer flew courtesy of the Arizona Office of Tourism and was a guest of Hualapai River Runners and the wineries listed in the story. The organizations did not review or approve this article.

IF YOU GO

All major Canadian and American airlines fly from Canada’s major cities to Phoenix, but there aren’t always direct flights; you’ll probably have a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare. Car rentals are available at a terminus about five minutes away (via a regular shuttle) from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.
Winter might be an obvious time for Canadians to visit Arizona, trading our cold for the dry, warm winter and perennial sunshine in the state, where many retire to golf and hike and sightsee. Braver souls who love a dry, hot heat will enjoy easier access to all of Arizona’s wonders at off-season discounts from around May to September.

By Lynn Farrell, For The Montreal Gazette

Aug 132013
 




The Hilltop Motel on Route 66 in Kingman recently earned a much-coveted Route 66 Cost-Share Preservation Grant from the National Park Service – the only such grant awarded in Arizona this year.

The Hilltop Motel is an excellent example of the motel experience that was common during the post-war, family vacation boom,” according to a press release from the National Park Service.

Motel owner Dennis Schroeder said he is very happy to get the $20,000 grant, and he will have to come up with a matching $21,478 before the National Park Service will release the funds.

“It’s really a great program,” he said. “It’s funded 114 or 115 projects on Route 66 – everything from oral histories to historic buildings.”

The money from the grant will replace the heating and cooling units in 14 of the 28 rooms at the historic motel, Schroeder said.

The original units were installed when the motel was built in 1954 and were incredibly inefficient, he said.

“The air conditioning units had three levels – on, off and fan,” he said.

“You would turn it on and in a few minutes, you would be freezing. You’d turn it off, and a few minutes later you were sweating.”

The gas heating system was the same way, Schroeder said. Most of the units were replaced in the 1980s, but those systems are now in need of replacement.

He hopes to start work in October.

The hotel has seen a lot of history in its nearly 60 years of existence.

It was originally built with 20 rooms. Over the years, another eight rooms, an innkeeper’s quarters and a pool were added.

More recently, cable TV and then satellite TV was installed.

The motel also has had a few interesting visitors, including the band Cosby, Stills and Nash – who were unable to stay at the motel because there were no open rooms. However, they did get a chance at a shower in one of the rooms.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is probably the most notorious guest.

He stayed at the motel for four days in mid-February 1995. The federal government confiscated his registration card as evidence.

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program focuses on business on or near the historic highway that were built between 1926 and 1970. It targets motels, gas stations, cafes, road segments and landscapes. The target of the grant must be within view or directly on Route 66 and must be in its original location.

The grants are awarded on an annual basis. All grant winners have to come up with matching funds.

Since 2001, 114 projects have been awarded $1.6 million in grant funds and $2.7 million in matching funds have been raised to preserve some of the Mother Road’s historic landmarks.

This is the third time that a Kingman business has gotten a grant from the program.

The first Kingman business to receive grant funding was the owner of the Old Trails Garage on Andy Devine Avenue, next to the Brunswick Hotel. A $10,000 grant with $10,000 in matching funds helped repair the roof on the building.

The second grant recipient was the Route 66 Motel on Andy Devine Avenue in 2011. A $10,319 grant with matching funds helped restore the historic sign that was featured in a 1997 issue of National Geographic, as well as repairs to the roof.

Other well-known Arizona landmarks that have gotten grant funds from the Route 66 Preservation Grant fund include the gas station in downtown Peach Springs, the Frontier Motel sign in Truxton and the Wigwam Hotel in Holbrook.

By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa – Daily Miner

May 062013
 




KINGMAN – Just call it The Gathering.

Roughly 10,000 people attend the Route 66 International Festival held each summer. Those disciples of the Mother Road – and their tourist dollars – could descend on the city en masse as Kingman is considered one of the favorites to host the event in 2014.

Such a gathering would have an undoubtedly positive affect on the city’s economy, but pulling off such a large-scale production will take teamwork by a number of public and private entities as well as residents.

Author Jim Hinckley and downtown Kingman booster Steve Wagner, both Route 66 and Kingman enthusiasts, seek volunteers to serve on committees that would work on specific aspects of the event, from drawing live bands, organizing car shows, food and beverage vendors and Route 66 beautification.

“It began almost 20 years ago in a rented tent in the faded wide spot in the road that is Landegrin, Texas,” said Hinckley of the International Festival now managed by the Route 66 Alliance.

A different community hosts the event each year.

Kingman is a front-runner to serve as the host city,” said Hinckley.

The men are banking on approval with the end game of pulling off a successful festival that highlights Kingman’s attraction as a destination.

If Kingman does land the hosting gig, the event would be held in conjunction with the August 2014 edition of Chillin’ on Beale Street, said Hinckley.

The initial plan, he said, calls for a Saturday car show, an exhibition of artists and authors in the Southwest whose work focuses on Route 66, a barbecue at Hualapai Mountain Park and live music.

The event, said Hinckley, “would introduce visitors to some of the community’s unique attractions, such as the Stetson Winery and the award-wining Desert Diamond Distillery.”

This August the festival is in Joplin, Mo. Last year it was in Victorville, Calif., and the year before that it was in Amarillo, Texas.

“We like to move it around,” said Rick Freeland of the Alliance.

Freeland confirmed Kingman is the front-runner, but an announcement won’t be made until Aug. 3, the final day of the Joplin festival.

“This will be great for Kingman,” said Freeland. “Every town or city that has hosted the event has seen a significant bump in the local economy. And this is a true international event. Route 66 truly does have a global following.”

Freeland said the Alliance’s primary goal is to double the number of cars that travel Route 66 between Los Angeles and Chicago.

If you’re interested in helping out, call Hinckley at (928) 530-7899 or Wagner at (928) 377-2239.

By Doug McMurdo – Daily Miner

Apr 242013
 





KINGMAN – Work is ramping up as four adjoining businesses along Route 66 – including the historic Hotel Brunswick – prepare to welcome customers this summer and fall.

The hotel and a potential restaurant within it are slated to open in September, and an ice cream parlor and bakery will be operating by the middle of June. The ice cream parlor, called Route 66 Ice Cream and Sweets, Inc., will be run by Brenda Marker, co-owner of B & G Accounting and Tax LLC in downtown Kingman.

Ed and Christina Silverman currently own the bakery, called Route 66 Bakery, and operate it out of their home. A restaurant for the hotel has not been determined yet, and developer Werner Fleischmann is searching for a tenant who will provide home-cooked, family-style meals.

Kingman really needs all this,” said Marker. “It needs entrepreneurs who are willing to spend the time and effort to bring this area back. They must have the vision to succeed here. It’s not about the money, because that doesn’t come until later.”

Fleischmann is currently remodeling the three-story hotel at 315 E. Andy Devine Ave and adding a restaurant in the 12,000 square foot building. Also, he is renovating the former 2,000 square foot Old Trails Garage at 311 E. Andy Devine Ave. for the ice cream parlor and full-service bakery.

Fleischmann has been coming to Kingman at least three times a year for the last 20 years.

In that time, he’s developed land, sold real estate, bought properties and rented them out. He owns commercial property at 432 Beale St. that houses three small businesses, and just bought the old J.C. Penney store at Fourth and Beale streets.

Hotel Brunswick was built in 1909 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout the last century, the hotel has seen numerous owners come and go. It was closed between the late 1970s and late 1990s, and after it reopened in 1997, a handful of owners gave running the business their best shot. One after another, their attempts fell short, and the historic building’s doors have been closed since 2010.

“Werner is leaving everything as it was when the hotel was popular,” said Marker. “It will be an old-time hotel with a modern flair. This is going to be great for downtown Kingman and for Route 66.”

Marker said the hotel’s 30 rooms will be accessible to handicapped patrons, and an elevator is being installed in the building. Marker said the hotel will consist of Cowboy and Cowgirl rooms, each containing twin beds and a shared a central bathroom; Railroad rooms, with full beds and bathrooms between the suites; and two Cadillac suites behind the ice cream parlor and bakery, complete with queen beds and kitchenettes.

All rooms will have access to the courtyard, which will feature a garden and block wall.

Marker said Route 66 Ice Cream and Sweets Inc. will offer hand-dipped ice cream, including sugar-free and soy, in gluten-free cones. The business will sell shakes, floats, banana splits and sundaes, as well as old-fashioned candy. Marker said she will work with the bakery to use their brownies and other products in her creations.

The Silvermans, who sell their goodies at area stores and gas stations, are looking forward to creating an environment where customers can meet and share coffee and treats.

“Our business has dictated our need to move to a bigger location, and we want to serve the community better,” said Ed Silverman. “We appreciate the historic value of Kingman as a city and Route 66 being the heart of it and bringing everything together.”

“We’re excited, and believe the combination of ice cream and bakery goods will make this a sweet house.”

By Kim Steele – Daily Miner