To Oatman, we took old route 66 out of Kingman AZ. Route 66 is the "Mother Road", the road that brought hundreds of thousands of people from Illinois to settle in California in the 1800's and early 1900's. It fed the gold rush and brought people escaping the dust bowl.
We crossed some of the most barren land I have ever seen.
Route 66 goes over Sitgreaves Pass, through some of the richest gold mining country in the U.S. Oh, that lovely windy road with steep buttes and deep washes on the right--and few guard rails! Rich was very glad we didn’t attempt this last night in the dark (we took hwy 68 down to the Colorado River and had dinner in Bullhead City instead).
Gold Road, once a thriving town with post office, hotel, restaurant, bar, etc, has entirely disappeared! Even remnants of stone walls with gaping door and window holes are gone. Nothing there now but mining equipment and piles of dirt. Even the mining equipment is silent, waiting for the price of gold to go up.
We arrived in Oatman in time for breakfast, but nothing was open yet. The air was cool and the streets deserted except for about a dozen wild burros and few shop keepers, both getting ready for tourists. We were greeted by a baby burro with a sticker on his head that said, "don't feed me", and signs saying "don't feed the babies; they are still nursing."
Burros came to Oatman with the prospectors before off road vehicles could manage the terrain and the mines were still operating. Tough little guys, they can subsist on almost nothing, so when the prospectors abandoned them, they stayed on and flourished. Now a good many of them come into Oatman to beg from tourists, who love to feed them! I didn't ask if they still rob garbage cans and gardens; when I lived here, I lost an entire crop of corn the night before I planned to harvest it!
I had to chuckle; every empty lot I knew then is now filled with a new shop built of rusty tin and weathered wood--built to look old. Reminds me of the Patchwork House. And a shop called the Gold Burro!--really?
In just 8 days I'll be in Oatman!
I haven't been back to Oatman, Arizona since....since my youngest son, now a father himself, was a toddler.
I'm told it has changed and not for the better. The patchwork house we lived in is long gone. The Brown Jug, where we danced on the old wood floor, burned down years ago. Judy's Pottery Shop, where I spent many an afternoon chatting with friends, is now a bar.
I wonder if any of those old miner's shacks are still there?
I called Judy yesterday. She and Willa, who owns the Glory Hole Antique Shop, are the only old timers left, she said. Judy wondered why I would even want to come to Oatman now; it's just a tourist town, she told me. I told her, the cliffs will still be there; there's no way they could get rid of Elephant's Tooth! I've a hankering to walk up to Elephant's Tooth. Walking in the hills above town was my joy and my solace when I lived in Oatman.
It is said that at one time these slopes were covered with gold seekers tents!
Apparently the wild burros still come into town for handouts from the tourists. I bet you can still see a "gunfight" staged in the street. Not that the gunfights ever interested me, and the burros got ALL my corn the night before I planned to harvest it one year, so I'm not overly fond of them!
And the hills are still there! I wonder if they've fenced or covered the mining shafts? Some of them were pretty darn deep! Once I dropped a stone down one, and counted to 12 before I heard it hit bottom.