By Linda Kor —
If there is a connoisseur of Route 66, it may very well be Roger Naylor. Over the past 17 years that Naylor has been writing, no other subject matter has held greater fascination for him than historic Route 66. Calling himself the travel writer who hates to travel, Naylor has visited and re-visited most every point of the route within Arizona’s borders.
Last year Naylor, along with photographer Larry Lindahl, decided to share those experiences in a recently published book entitled Arizona Kicks on Route 66 that takes the reader along his favorite stretch of the historic roadway, right through Arizona.
“I love the people that save these old buildings,” stated Naylor, gesturing about as he sits in Joe and Aggies Cafe in Holbrook. “They save an old piece of property and make it their own. Joe and Aggie’s is one of my favorites. I love sitting in this booth right by the window where I can look about and across the street at the neon at Romo’s Cafe and watch the cars drive by. It reminds me of what the old days of Route 66 must have been like.”
When asked about his new book, Naylor explained that he didn’t want it to be the typical guide about Route 66. “I wanted it to be vibrant. I didn’t want just a look back on what it used to be, but what it is now. I want to encourage people to just get up and go and see what’s new, like the Globe Trotter Inn here in Holbrook,” he stated, referring to the roadside motel recently revived by a couple from Austria and given a fresh quirky look that includes painted sinks, Mexican rug curtains and handmade furnishings.
Another favorite spot for Naylor is Winslow’s jewel in the desert, La Posada Hotel, the last of the great railroad hotels built in 1929 by Fred Harvey and renovated over the past 15 years. The Spanish hacienda style hotel gleams with hand-painted glass windows, tin chandeliers, beautifully restored rooms and the latest addition, the Tina Mion Museum.
Naylor fell in love with the Mother Road a few years ago when he was asked to write a story about the little town of Seligman. “I go to this tiny town in the high desert mid-week in the middle of summer. As I drive through I see four tour buses, then this big group of motorcyclists. There were crowds of people from Japan and France, and they are all walking in and out of this barbershop. I thought, ‘Man, how good is this guy?’” The barber, Naylor later discovered, was Angel Delgadillo, an icon of Route 66. Born and raised in the community, Delgadillo has been a bar-ber in Seligman since 1950. He was instrumental in forming the Historic Route 66 Association that lobbied the Ari-zona Legislature to designate and preserve Route 66 in Arizona as an historic highway. His barbershop is now also a gift shop, museum and visitors center. “Here is this wonderful, cheerful man; a guy that makes Santa Claus look surly, and he’s so much of what Route 66 is. This is where the preservation movement began. I wrote about it and fell in love,” he recalled.
For Naylor, Route 66 is an eclectic mix of history, scenery and pop culture, the last frontier of Arizona. “People just don’t put the dots together. This is the only place where Route 66 is part of a national park (Petrified Forest). It’s the first road to receive an All American Road designation, Only 32 roads in the nation have that,” he exclaimed. That designation means it has features that do not exist elsewhere in the United States and is scenic enough to be tourist destination itself.
“Route 66 was so important in the growth in America. It was the first cross country highway and became known as the Mother Road during the Dust Bowl Era as travelers headed west to find relief. During World War II there were military training camps and facilities all along the route, and when those GIs returned home, they brought their fami-lies back to see everything they had seen,” said Naylor. The route was more than a stretch of asphalt, it became a treasure chest of surprises. “You never knew what you’d find around the corner. It was mysteri-ous, yet home. There was a local diner with homemade pie and a curio shop. There were signs beckoning travelers to stop and see oddities. Now that magic’s lost on the freeway, where every exit is the same, offering fast food and mini marts,” he said.
According to Naylor, what it really comes down to are the Route 66 moments. No matter how grand the trip, it’s the small moments, the encounters along the route that stay with you long after the rest of the journey is a blur. “We live in such a beautiful historic place and it’s important to get out and see it, especially since it’s right here in our back yard.”
As Naylor makes his travels along the route, he’s beginning to see something new that has him excited: a resur-gence. He sees a revival running through the veins of Route 66 as old buildings are being restored, not to new modern facilities, but to their former eclectic quirkiness that refuses to be defined by what marketing agencies claim will draw travelers. He sees towns like Holbrook, Winslow and Williams beginning to shine once again as the places for travel-ers to get their kicks. Naylor hopes more people will take part in the movement by either restoring or visiting what the communities have to offer.
“Places like Holbrook and Winslow are my favorite places. This is where the route still lives and breathes,” he said.
Naylor and Lindahl’s 96-page book features wonderful stories and many photographs of Holbrook and Winslow, as well as all areas along Arizona’s stretch of Route 66. The book is available at Joe and Aggie’s Cafe, La Posada Ho-tel and other local hot spots, as well as online at Amazon.com.