Route 66 in a Corvette

Some facts about Route 66: It was commissioned in 1926; It was finished in asphalt in 1937; It starts in Chicago and finishes in Santa Monica; It crosses eight states and three time zones; It is 2,249 miles in length.

In 1960 a new television show called Route 66 was introduced to America. The show starred Martin Milner and George Maharis and ran through the 1964 season before disappearing. The concept of the show was two young men driving Route 66 and encountering various adventures. In reality, very few of the shows were filmed on Route 66 and the road was rarely even referred to in the script.

The third star of the show was the car that was driven, a Chevrolet Corvette. The first season it was a 1960. Chevrolet updated the car throughout the series and the final season featured a 1963 Stringray. The show has endured as a cherished part of the American Culture. It also led to one additional fact about Route 66: The Corvette is a Route 66 icon.

In 2018, my wife Sue and I participated in the Route 66 Fun Run in Arizona. We drove our 1966 Mustang to and from the event. This year she indicated that a repeat of that trip was off the table. She said she would fly to Las Vegas and I could pick her up there. I was not totally comfortable doing a solo trip of that length with any of our classic cars. As it turned out, we both flew to Las Vegas and rented a 2017 Corvette and drove that for the Fun Run. Much more comfortable than the old Mustang and how can you beat driving an open car in 80-100 degree heat when it has air conditioned seats?

The Route 66 Fun Run is sponsored by the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. It began in 1987 when a group of people, mostly from the Seligman and Kingman area got together dedicated themselves to getting Route 66 its historic designation. The event has now been going on for 32 years with the continuing goal of preserving and maintaining the highway.

Once again this year, nearly 800 cars were registered for the Run. Cars of all makes and years are welcome. The variety of vehicles is impressive with cars from the early 20s through late model vehicles. Foreign and domestic vehicles are both welcome. The large majority of the vehicles are classic cars and hot rods. Once again this year it appeared that the largest single category of cars was the Corvette. We observed everything from a tie-dyed Subaru to military vehicles, T-buckets to DeLoreans and roadsters to limos.

The Fun Run is a two day event that starts in Seligman and proceeds to Kingman for a huge car show on the main street. The Run continues the next morning departing Kingman and proceeding over the mountains, through Oatman, and ending in Topock.

The Corvette we were driving performed flawlessly. Being virtually brand new (only 6,000 miles) that was to be expected. Not everyone was so lucky. We encountered a 1952 Chevy pickup that was temporarily stranded along the road. Apparently running out of gas on the first day had led to some dregs from the bottom of the fuel tank being picked up and causing a clogged carburetor. A few minutes with a wrench and screwdriver and it was back on the road in short order. In keeping with the nature of these types of events, several cars stopped and offered help, including a Sheriff’s Deputy.

This is an adventure well worth attending. Preserving this historic highway should be something that all car lovers can support.

Pebble Beach

Car people often have a bucket list of events that they want to attend. Events like Hot August Nights, Bonneville Speed Week, or the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. My brother, Tom, and I have such a list. We have been to Hot August Nights in Reno and to the Salt Flats for Bonneville Speed Week several times. This year we decided to forgo a trip to the Salt Flats and go instead to Pebble Beach for the Concours d’ Elegance.

The Concours d’ Elegance is held on the famed Pebble Beach Golf Course on the final day Monterrey Motor Week. Motor Week consists of a number of events occurring throughout the week. We chose to attend a few select events and not try to do it all (I’m not sure you could do it all, even if you wanted).

We chose to go to the Tour d’ Elegance, the Concours d’ Lemons, Exotics on Cannery Row and of course the Councours d’ Elegance. We did not attend any of the new car displays, vintage car races at Laguna Seca nor any of the five or six car auctions with the likes of Mecum’s, Bonham’s and Russo and Steele. In fact I had received instructions from the home front not to attend any auctions, apparently fearing that I might make a purchase.

The Tour d’ Elegance consists of the majority of the vehicles that are going to be on display at the Concours being driven around a 34 mile course around the famous 17 mile loop, into Carmel by the Sea and then a short run down the coast and back to Pebble Beach. The route is published in advance, but being unfamiliar with the area, we had no idea where to find a good viewing spot. So we headed for the loop and began looking for a wide spot to set up some lawn chairs and watch the parade of vehicles. We happened upon a fairly large area with a number of cars parked and tables and chairs being set up along the road, looking very much like tailgating at a football game. We asked a woman if this was a good place to view the cars. She responded that she was a local and this is where she watched every year. Turned out to be an excellent spot. Over 160 of the 210 show cars came driving by. It is always fun to hear and see the cars in motion. Several of the vehicles were moving slowly enough that brief conversation could be held. We did have to decline one driver’s request for a beer. Seemed like a bad idea. The cars do stop about half way through the tour and park on Ocean Avenue in Carmel by the Sea. This is a chance for spectators to get an up close look at the cars for free.

The Concours d’ Lemons is a satirical take on the Concours d’ Elegance. All of the vehicles entered in this event are of questionable quality at best. As opposed to some of finest vehicles in the world, these are some of the worst. The winners were the ugliest and the rustiest of the bunch in categories such as American Rust Belt, Soul Sucking Japanese, Swedish Meatball, etc. You get the idea. This year’s winner was a modified, extremely ugly 1977 AMC Gremlin. Great fun and good way to spend a sunny morning.

That afternoon, we headed down to Cannery Row to view the exotics. About 12 blocks for Cannery Row was closed off and filled with dozens upon dozens of late model exotic vehicles like Maeserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mclaren and many others. Cannery Row certainly did not look the way John Steinbeck described it in his novel of the same name. Music was blaring, people were crowding the street to see millions of dollars worth of cars. A far cry from the poverty and desperation described by Steinbeck. After a couple of hours of looking, we decided it was time to go hit the In-N-Out Burger. While we were eating a group of 25 Mclarens arrived at the restaurant, quickly drawing a crowd. Rarely do you see one Mclaren in the circles I travel, let alone 25. It was a rare treat.

Finally it was time to attend the Concours d’ Elegance. We arrived early and followed the signs to the general admission spectator parking about five miles away from the golf course. We parked right along the shore line with seals and otters playing directly off shore and got a shuttle to the course. The shuttle were extremely well run and organized by the way.

Once we arrived it was a bit of a walk down to where the show is held on the 17th and 18 fairways of Pebble Beach Golf Course. You walk through new car display areas, most offering complimentary drinks and finger foods. When you arrive there is a sense of “Am I really here?” The scenery is beautiful, overlooking the bay, with yachts anchored just off shore. The weather was perfect, as were the cars. These are truly some of the finest cars in the world. New categories and eras are non display each year and a featured marque is selected annually. This year the featured car was the Tucker, the futuristic brainchild of Preston Tucker built in the late forties. Of the 51 Tuckers known to have been built, 12 were on display. Other show categories included Coach-built Citroens after 1945, American Sporting Cars of the 1920s, Motor Cars of India, Rear-engined Indianapolis Racers, Eisenhower Era Convertible, Oscas, Scarab Sports Cars, as well as a few others.

Being traditional hot rod/muscle car guys, this was a learning experience for us. We were unfamiliar with many of the cars. We found it to be quite interesting and spent some time studying our programs in order to understand what we were seeing. Needless to say, all of the cars were in spectacular condition. Also, many of the cars have a historic provenance. The Indy cars for example belonging to drivers like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and others. Two if the Eisenhower Era Convertibles have ties to United States Presidents. One was Eisenhower’s inauguration car. Another was the car carrying the secret service agents when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. This years best of show was a 1937 Fiat Touring Berlinetta.

Along with viewing the cars, the people watching is superb. When you buy your tickets to get in, you are provided with some helpful hints for what to wear at the show: resort casual, a nice finished look topped off a with perfect hat. We saw every kind of outfit you could imagine. Everything from bib overalls and a T-shirt to Armani suits. Women’s hats would rival anything you might see at the Kentucky Derby while many men were wearing pastel sport coats (pink, sky blue, lavender, etc.) and trousers of all colors including bright red, green and yellow. Some of the more interesting sport coats looked as though they had been tailored from old living room drapes. Very interesting. It is also a place to see car celebrities. We saw Donald Osgood from Jay Leno’s Garage, noted hot rod/rat rod builder Jimmy Shine and Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars.

If you decide to go, get hotel reservations well in advance and expect to pay premium prices. Get your tickets early. They will go up in price as the event gets close. Be prepared to pay a healthy price for your tickets. We payed $325 for general admission. Some high end tickets that allow access to restricted areas of include parties hosted by various groups may cost over $2,500. Also, be prepared for crowds. Every event we attended, except the Tour, had crowds that numbered in the thousands. Tom and I have checked this one off our list. I think we will head back to the Salt Flats next year.

Route 66 Fun Run

Route 66. The Mother Road. My wife Sue and I have traveled short stretches of Route 66 incidental to other vacation trips. But this trip is different. Following an invitation from Sue’s cousin, Avery Cantwell, we are on our way to Arizona for the Route 66 Fun Run. It is on day one, while on our way to Arizona, that Sue makes the observation that there is a certain symmetry to the fact that I am 66 years old, driving a ’66 Mustang on Route 66.

The Route 66 Fun Run is now in its 31st year. The event is sponsored by the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona headquartered in Kingman, Arizona. It is held the first weekend of May each year. Things get started in Seligman on Friday afternoon when you pick up your registration material. In the evening there is a parade (cruise) on the main street of Seligman open to all registered vehicles. There is also live music and dancing.

Saturday morning the Fun Run officially departs Seligman for Kingman, passing through the Hualapai Reservation and the Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs, Hackberry and Valle Vista. Each of these stops has some type of attraction making a quick stop worthwhile. Upon arrival in Kingman, those who wish to participate are parked along Andy Devine Boulevard/Route 66 in the downtown section for a huge car show that lasts throughout the afternoon. There are many attractions to see and visit in the area, including the Route 66 Museum. It is also a great time to see all the other cars and talk to other participants.

Sunday morning the cars start lining up for a ten o’clock departure on the second leg of the cruise. The departure is led by the 1954 Chevrolet Kingman police car “Pickles.” The ultimate destination is Topock/Golden Shores by noon for lunch and the awards ceremony from the previous day’s car show. This section of the highway is a bit more challenging as it traverses some mountainous terrain. Much of the driving for our Mustang was done in second gear and it was on this section that we saw more vehicles suffering breakdowns or overheating issues.

At the top of the mountain is the old gold-mining town of Oatman. Oatman’s main street is lined with real vintage old west buildings. The town stages gun fights throughout the day for travelers’ entainment. It is also home to wild burros that are free to roam the streets. The burros are federally protected and are tame enough to be approached and petted. Be careful though—as on member of our traveling group lost his bag of popcorn to one of the burros. The animal gave him a little head-butt in the ribs and then snatched the popcorn from his hands.

The Fun Run is open to all cars. This year there were cars from the 1910s all the way through the 2010s. The vast majority of the cars are classics, hot rods or special interest. Just observing the cars while we were driving, it appears that Corvettes outnumbered most other makes.

Registration for the event is limited to 800 vehicles. This year they had 788 rides signed up. Cars come from all over the southwest and farther to attend. During the awards ceremony it was noted that the domestic car club attendance award went to a group from Australia who brought eight Mustangs and a 1932 Ford Coupe all the way to Arizona. But they did not win the long distance award. That plaque went to a young coupe from Argentina who had driven a 1980 Volkswagen Van to the to the event. For them this was a planned stop on their way to Alaska.

Attending the Run was a great time. Although it may not have as many of the classic roadside attractions as other sections of the highway, it is one of the longest remaining sections of the road. It gives you a real sense of what early travelers must have encountered. If you go, be prepared for the possibility of very warm weather. At the end of the run in Topock the temperature was 104 degrees at noon. A little warm for a native Oregonian. It is also highly recommended that you reserve a place to stay early. At his mother’s insistence, since it would hold the entire family, Avery was driving a 1957 Rambler. As Avery put it, “Nothing says fun like driving your momma’s Rambler.” Turns out he was right. The car got a lot of attention and it did comfortably transport the whole family from start to finish.