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- Chicago Traffic

Welcome to "Roz on the Road" the official traffic Blog of ABC7 Chicago. This is the place where ABC7 Anchor/Reporter Roz Varon will share extra information, behind-the-scenes reports, and tidbits about roads and traffic in the Chicago area. Learn more about Roz >>>

On The Road to Liberty Island

Hard to believe it's our last full day in NYC - the week just flew by!  Making the most of our precious time, we started out on a morning rush hour subway ride (and you thought the CTA was crowded!) to Battery Park.

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 From there we would catch the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.  We had plenty of opportunities to take pictures, as the security lines were long, even with reservations!

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The wait to visit Lady Liberty was worth it.  Seeing the magnificent torch, reaching into a clear, blue sky, one could only imagine what thoughts of freedom and opportunity filled the minds of the millions of immigrants as they approached, searching for the "American Dream."   My group of 7 toured the museum, climbed the 215 steps from the lobby to the top of the pedestal, caught our breath and captured breathtaking pictures!

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The visit wouldn't have been complete without a stop at Ellis Island.  Although this historic National Monument is open on a limited basis only, due to the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, it was still worth a visit to see the Great Hall, and look at a nearly one hundred year old ship's registry! An amazing piece of American history.

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As tired as we were, we forged on to meet with the entire group of 70 at the top of the Empire State Building!  Marveling in its 'art deco' style from the outside, we delighted in taking magnificent pictures from the observatory.  It was the world's tallest building from 1931 to 1973 - CHICAGO CONNECTION -  guess what building beat it out as the world's tallest in 1974?!

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To complete the day we went back to the theatre district for an 8:00 performance of "Pippin" at the Music Box Theatre.

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 Too tired to pack that night - we'll deal in the morning!!

On The Road to Broadway

Sleeping in is a good thing! Our first two days were so full, it felt like a week had gone by!  Our day started with the students' final concert of the trip, at Madison Sculpture Garden on Madison Avenue near 57th.

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We had some early afternoon free time after the performance - the boys grabbed some lunch, Sara and I snuck in a litte shopping.  

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Our next stop - a matinee of "Jersey Boys."  I was so excited to  share this experience with my group, as most hadn't seen it - plus I had scored some pretty sweet seats - 3rd row orchestra!  I don't know if I was over-tired, over-scheduled or just abscent-minded, but I could have sworn the showtime was 3:00 pm. When we showed up at 2:45 and no one was in the lobby, I had a really bad feeling! The show started at 2:00!!  I was SO UPSET with myself, I couldn't hide my disappointment.  The kids, on the other hand, took the high road, and were so kind and appreciative, it just reaffirmed my assessment of how special my group of students was!  Plus, they still LOVED the show (minus the first 45 minutes)!

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Next stop - dinner at Juniors - more yummy New York deli-style cuisine in a fun, sit-down setting.  

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Now it was time to get ready for our evening event, La Boehme at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.  The evening had become bitterly cold with wind gusts of up to 50 mph!  I made an executive decision - no walking to the subway that night - we were cabbing it!

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The opera was lovely, but I can assure you, with such long, full days, there were many heavy eyelids during the 3 hour performance - mine included!

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It didn't take long to fall fully asleep once we got back to the hotel!  

03/27/2014

On The Road to Downtown, Uptown and Midtown Manhattan

Our second full day in NYC was full of surprises! My group had a very early wake-up call! We had to be at the stage door of the Good Morning America studios by 6:45 to see the show from "behind the scenes."  

 

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My group already knew the GMA visit was in the plans - they didn't know if we'd be part of the local "talk-back" with ABC7 Chicago!  Luck was on our side, and my group of 6 not only got to stand on the set behind Robin Roberts, but they got to sing to her and all of Chicagoland from New York!

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We stayed for the entire 2 hour show, which included special guest Diana Nyad, and the band Karmin! #KodakMoment!

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Once the show wrapped, with continued with our ambitiously planned day, heading downtown on the subway to see the 9/11 Memorial.  

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We had to wait in a long security line to get in, but everyone understood.  There was strained sunshine, with a bone-chilling wind, which seemed appropriate during this emotional, yet powerful visit.

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The Memorial is beautiful, with 2 large cascading fountain pools marking the locations where the Twin Towers stood.  The new Towers are magnificent, like a phoenix rising with resilience.  I wasn't the only one to shed a tear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our day continued on an upbeat note, literally, as we took the subway Uptown to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament for the students' next concert.  Another impressive performance.

  

My Uncle Malcolm Varon, a native New Yorker, came to see the concert and then gave our group a brief tour of Central Park.  I say brief, because it was SO COLD and brutally windy, even the boys were complaining they needed to get out of the elements!

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We wrapped up our day with another Broadway musical - "Matilda" at the Shubert Theatre.

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 A jam-packed, exhausting yet fulfilling day.  At least we got to sleep in on Wednesday!

03/26/2014

On The Road To Uptown

Our first full day in New York began with a quick breakfast and a quick subway ride Uptown for the students' first performance at St. John the Divine.

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After the performance we had a few hours of free time. Several of the guys in my group had requested a visit to Nintendo World. They checked out the latest video games, I checked my email!
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After that grueling game, it was time for some gruel. You know the saying...when in Rome - so I took them to a Kosher Deli!


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I felt the need to top off all that pastrami with some chocolate - how convenient, the M & M store was just a few blocks away!

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For dinner, the entire group met at Da Nico Ristorante in Little Italy. A charming place with authentic food in a historic neighborhood.

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Me being me I couldn't end the day right then and there - so I took my group to see "Avenue Q." Of course they loved it! Of course with my group consisting of my daughter and 5 teen guys, no surprise there!

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Yes, it was a full day and a late night. Yes I was getting them up VERY early the next morning for a big surprise. I guess that's why they call it "The city that doesn't sleep!"

03/23/2014

On The Road to Midtown

The past two days have been a whirlwind! It started Saturday afternoon with a farewell dinner at the school and some 60 students who could barely contain their excitement!

IMG_9804My group, affectionately known as "Sara and The Boys," were among the first on the bus to Union Station. Still bursting with energy, they found ways to occupy themselves waiting for Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited, which not surprisingly departed an hour behind schedule!

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By the time we rolled out of Chicago it was close to 11:00 pm! As tired as we were, those of us who were lucky enough to drift off to dreamland didn't get more than a handful of hours of sleep.  

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Speaking strictly for myself, definitely a "Motrin Moment!"  Sunday morning brought us through Cleveland Ohio, past Erie Pennsylvania, then stopping in Buffalo New York, where a fresh snow storm reminded us that while the calendar said spring, winter still had an icy grip on much of the country.

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Eventually, the sun broke through and we were treated to a very scenic train ride through upstate New York!

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By 6:30 pm, after more than 20 hours on the train, the excitment began to mount as we approached our final destination - Penn Station!

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For most of the students, this was their first experience in "The City That Never Sleeps!" I took my group to  the Brooklyn Diner, for some gi-normous sandwiches!

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On the walk back to our hotel, we couldn't help but stop for a quick tourist moment near Times Square!

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Tomorrow, the students will have their first performance in NYC.  The adventure continues!

 

03/22/2014

On The Road to NYC

After surviving the most brutal winter I can remember, I should be spending "Spring Break" in the most tropical climate I can find!  Instead, I'm heading to New York,  on my final trip as a school chaperone - bittersweet, I know.  I felt the same way when Sara decided not to continue with Girl Scouts, after having been her leader for 8 years!

In just a few hours I will be joining more than 70 Oak Park & River Forest High School Choir students and chaperones on a week-long trip to New York City!  The students will be performing at several locations, as well as seeing several Broadway shows.  Each chaperone is responsible for a group of 5 to 6 students, during show time, as well as free time!  Here's where it gets interesting...my group of students is comprised of Sara...AND 5 BOYS!  How did this happen?  I don't know, but honestly it's turning out to be a blessing in disguise!  These young men want to take in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple during their free time, as opposed to say, shopping!  They were so serious about our group scheduling fun activities, they created a group Facebook page so we could more easily make plans during our "free time!"  Impressive!

As I embark on my latest adventure, I invite you to join me on this "virtual vacation" to NYC! I will be posting pics and videos of our travels and concerts, as well as a couple of surprises I have up my sleeve!

Catch you on the east coast!!

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08/04/2013

On The Road to Rt. 66 - Santa Monica CA Back Home to Chicago IL

No matter how amazing the trip, it's always good to come home! Such is the case with our Rt. 66 journey - home, safe and sound, basking in the wonderful memories.  There is, however, a postscript!

Before I begin, I want to sincerely thank everyone who followed our incredible road trip on Rt. 66 via Facebook or Twitter! I appreciate all your feedback and am trying to respond back to everyone.

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Many of you expressed an interest in motoring along the Mother Road in response to my “virtual vacation” and asked for some specifics, so here is the time line - how many miles per day, where we stayed, rough budget estimates, etc.

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We decided to rent a vehicle (mini-van) and fly back so we could take our time over a 2 week period. I spent time researching the route, using two very helpful tools -  the website "Historic Route 66" http://www.historic66.com/,  and an app, “Road Trip 66.”  The website gave us an idea of what we were in for ahead of time, but the app was my main form of information and navigation throughout the trip - best .99-cents I ever spent! This app gives you the entire route, old alignments and new, as well as attractions, complete with descriptions, pictures, websites and phone numbers (if available).  It also has hotels/motels along the route and restaurants/diners, again with accompanying information. 97% of the time it was SPOT ON!  Pretty impressive, since there really are no existing maps of Rt. 66, because the infamous route no longer exists! You know what I mean.

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Day 1 - we drove  309 miles from Chicago to Kirkwood MO and stayed at the Best Western 1200 S. Kirkwood Rd.  Price range $110 to $120. ***I used my AAA discount - all but one hotel took it.  With all the stops along the way (and 2 hours in Pontiac, IL!) this took 10 hours.

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Day 2- we drove 431 miles from Kirkwood MO to Tulsa OK and stayed at the Campbell Hotel, 2600 E. 11th St. This restored boutique hotel was built in 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Introductory rates at $119.  This was our longest driving day!  We actually had to get off Rt. 66 and take I-40 part of the way to make up some time! Kind of mis-judged this one a bit - even with the interstate it took 11 hours!

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Day 3 - we drove 402 miles from Tulsa OK to Amarillo, TX and stayed at The Big Texan Motel, 7701 I-40 East. Price range, $46 to $85.   Again, another L O N G driving day - 11 hours. Never having been to these states, I didn’t realize how long a drive it would be, particularly with stops along the way!

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Day 4 - we drove 310 miles from Amarillo, TX to Santa Fe, NM and stayed at the Santa Fe Sage Inn, 725 Cerrillos Rd. Price range, $75 to $160. This drive was lovely and short, comparatively speaking! We rolled into town at 3:30 pm!  Never having been to the state of New Mexico we opted to stay one night in Santa Fe and two nights in Albuquerque.  In hindsight I would have done the opposite. Santa Fe is such a charming town, an artists’ town with history and character.  Loved it!

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Day 5 - a short 77 mile drive from Santa Fe, NM to Albuquerque, NM. We stayed at The Hotel Blue, 717 Central Ave.  Price range $69 to $149. This hotel had an unusual feel to it; no pictures on the walls - but it was clean and it had Tempurpedic beds! Good enough for me! Stayed here 2 nights.

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Day 7 - we drove 368 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ. This was a long day because we spent hours driving through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. SO worth it!  Also hit some major storms (monsoon season) and rolled into the Radisson Woodlands Hotel, 1175 W. Rt. 66  around 7:30 pm.  Price range $79 to $149. NICE hotel :)

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Day 8 was spent driving across Arizona - 243 miles - to Needles CA. We stayed at the Best Western Colorado River Inn, price range starts at $72. Decided to stop here before spending a day driving in the Mojave Desert - to make sure we had water, ice and the car was in good shape!  We spent a lot of time at various towns in AZ since this drive was a bit shorter.  We got into Needles before 6:00 pm.

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Day 9 - we drove 161 miles through the desert from Needles, CA to Barstow CA. We took our time, drank plenty of fluids and arrived at the Rodeway Inn, 1261 E. Main St. around 3:00 pm. Price range - rates start at $66.95.  Gave us time to repack, do some laundry and prepare for the upcoming week.

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Day 10 - it was only 168 miles from Barstow CA to Santa Monica CA and the end of Rt. 66 but it seemed like it took FOREVER, once we got into the LA traffic grid!  We finally made it to the Santa Monica Pier around 5:00 pm!  After we took the celebratory pictures, had dinner and just enjoyed the ocean view, we checked into the Doubletree by Hilton at 4th and Olympic, just “off” Rt. 66 - the only hotel that wasn’t located exactly on the historic route!  We stayed there 4 nights, visiting family and friends before flying home on Day 14.

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One last bit of parting advice: if you do decide to tackle this baby, give yourself MORE time than you think you’ll need!  Even with all my planning, I could have easily used another week, and there are still things I wouldn’t have been able to see!

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Good luck, and happy motoring!


07/30/2013

On The Road to Rt. 66 - Barstow CA to Santa Monica CA

 

I woke up this morning with mixed emotions - for the past 9 days I had been looking so forward to reaching our final stop on Rt. 66, and now that it was rapidly approaching I didn’t want the journey to end!  Coffee in hand, we pulled out of Barstow on our way to Santa Monica. I wanted to capture as many images as I could of the iconic road as we drove west, mountains beckoning.

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In the town of Helandale, a rather unusual sight pops up  seemingly out of nowhere! Elmer Long’s Bottle Cactus Ranch is filled with trees made of bottles - hundreds of them!  Long created this unusual display after inheriting a huge bottle collection from his father. Quite a colorful spot in the middle of the desert!

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The next town gave us an opportunity to do some antiquing at the Oro Grande Antique Station.  I found some interesting items, but I think they would go over the weigh limit in my suitcase!

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More movie history in Victorville - a stop at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe - great Rt. 66 road food, and a feature in the film “Kill Bill.” What more would you want in a cafe?!

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Heading south between Angeles National Forest and San Bernadino National Forest, the scenery was breathtaking against the clear blue sky!

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More fun sights on Foothill Blvd! The Wigwam Village Motel in Rialto, and Bono’s Giant Orange Stand in Fontana.  The motel is open - the juice stand has closed!

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The city of Rancho Cucamonga had many beautiful Rt. 66 displays, both along side and above the roadway. 

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Next town over, the Madonna Of The Trail pays tribute to the pioneer mothers who traveled west with their husbands. From serious to surreal - more towering fiberglass as chicken boy looks down on us from a rooftop in L.A.!

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For lunch, we decided on a recommendation from the “Road Trip 66” app we’d been following - Mom’s Tamales in Lincoln Heights.  All I can say is WOW! Best tamales I’ve had outside of Mexico - seriously!

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Past Los Angeles, Rt. 66 follows Santa Monica Blvd.  We passed several famous sights: The Hollywood Forever Cemetery - the final resting place of many famous actors, directors and producers; The Troubadour, where many famed musicians and performers got their start.

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At long last, we hit the end point of Rt. 66 at Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Avenue, where we received a certificate for making the 2,448 mile journey from Chicago! 

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It is bittersweet, but the experience will stay with me for a lifetime.  As we know, life is a journey, not a destination - this was just part of the journey!

 

 

 

07/28/2013

On The Road to Rt. 66 - Needles CA to Barstow CA

As we began the 9th day of our Rt. 66 journey, we thought we would, as the song says, “Take it Easy,” and only travel the 155 miles from Needles to Barstow.  We had breakfast at The Wagon Wheel - a Rt. 66 favorite. 

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With a high of 105-degrees predicted for our drive through the desert, we loaded up with ice and water and hit the road.  One thing I noticed driving the Mother Road through California - there were very few street signs marking Historic Rt. 66 - instead the iconic shields were on the pavement itself!

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Driving through the Mojave Desert was hot - our car thermometer was proof, but that did not take away from the majestic beauty of the mountains in the distance.

 

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As this is monsoon season here in the desert southwest, we found ourselves driving into threatening looking storm systems with severe lightening in the distance.

 

Fortunately the storms stayed to the north allowing us to partake in the “Rock Art” along the railroad berm just east of the town of Amboy!  There is a several mile stretch decorated with initials, greetings, signatures - all spelled out in rocks!  And yes, Facebook fans - I did watch out for snakes and other desert critters!

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Our next stop was a National Natural Landmark - The Amboy Crater and Lava Field.  The crater is an extinct 250 ft. high volcanic cinder cone that lies within a 27 square lava field in the Mojave Desert.  You can hike to the top of the cone, but with temps topping out at 108-degrees, we chose to take pictures under the shade of the visitors’ lookout!  

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One of the most delightful things about driving Rt. 66 is the people you meet along the way.  The people in every town we’ve visited have been more than hospitable and all have had stories to tell.  Travelers, like ourselves, have conveyed the same amount of enthusiasm and wonder, venturing cross country on this historic highway. We met Scott and Linda, driving Rt. 66 on a motorcycle from New York! Now that's a road trip!

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Roy’s Motel and Cafe is one of only a few left along this stretch of 66 in the desert and comes with an interesting story.  Amboy was a railroad town before Rt. 66.  When the highway, and the subsequent travelers came through during the Great Depression, Roy Crowl opened a diner with great success.  When I-40 rerouted traffic around Amboy, the town died.  Fast-forward to 2005 - Albert Okura, owner of the Juan Pollo Restuarants bought the entire town, and is said to be in the process of restoring many structures.  It was looking good as we drove by!

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Our final stop today, the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs.  It was the inspiration for the 1988 film “Bagdad Cafe” which was filmed in the area.

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Overnight in Barstow - tomorrow our final destination on Rt. 66 - Santa Monica!

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On The Road to Rt. 66 - Flagstaff AZ to Needles CA

 

Have you ever had a day that felt like three jammed into one?! Well that was our day on Rt. 66 from Flagstaff AZ to Needles CA - and I mean that in a good way!  We started with a late breakfast as the Galaxy Diner - a ‘50s style eatery with great food to go with the retro decor!

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Our first stop after breakfast - what is said to be the highest point along Rt. 66 - elevation 7,410 ft. along Brannigan Park Rd in Bellemont, AZ, in Kaibab National Forest.  Nearby in the town of Parks, an Auto Tour sign marks the original alignment. 

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The next stop is Williams, where you have the option to take the train on a side trip to the Grand Canyon.  Since we’ve seen that magnificent site on previous vacations, we opted to walk through Williams, which has become a mecca for all things Rt. 66!

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All that site-seeing (and shopping!) worked up an appetite - good thing the Road Kill Cafe in Seligman was  just a short drive away!  Yes, the food was DELICIOUS!

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We had hoped to take a side trip down Diamond Creek Road to see the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the Colorado River, but due to the heavy rains over the past several days, the road was currently flooded and impassable.  Instead, we stopped at the General Store in Hackberry and found a treasure trove of Rt. 66 memorabilia and souvenirs! 

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Entering Kingman, the scenery changed once again - a quaint town against a backdrop of rugged mountains. No shortage of Rt. 66 history here, from the welcoming water towers to the train depot-turned museum.  Driving through the mountains, the rains moved in and here’s where things got interesting….

 

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Fortunately my husband is an exceptional driver - and the rain let up!  As we approached the town of Oatman, we were greeted by the infamous burros!

  

Oatman Arizona was a gold mining town in the early 1900’s with more than 3500 residents.  Today, it is described as a “living ghost town” with perhaps 100 residents, but for visitors along Rt. 66, this throwback to the Old West is a must-see!

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The drive leaving Oatman is just as scenic, especially since we had sun glistening from the mountain tops and a rainbow to boot. 

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There were many times we felt like we had the road to ourselves.  And out here, in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, there is still a reminder that we are traveling on the most historic stretch of roadway in America!

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We are now just 22 miles from our stop for the night, Needles California.  We follow the old Rt. 66 alignment as we cross into California, but somehow this road is no longer an options - it is filled with rocks and impassable.

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We take to the interstate and within minutes found ourselves approaching the town of Needles, so names for its pointed mountain peaks.  We pause for a picture, and pause for a night’s rest! Tomorrow we take on the Mojave Desert! Water, water, water!

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