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  • Writer's pictureGareth Owens

Route 66 - Day 19 - Las Vegas to Needles

Oatman, AZ "The ghost town that wouldn't die"

Google mileage: 124 Actual mileage: 184

Total trip mileage: 2,749 We waited until rush hour was over before leaving Las Vegas. It was late in the morning, but we didn't have far to ride today. I have been really happy with the distances we've been doing this trip. It's far less each day than I've done before when touring. On my last trip to Nordkapp, the North Cape of Norway, I enjoyed the journey, but regretted the heavy mileage targets we had set and the places that I didn't get to see because I was always passing through. Given the number of things to see on Route 66 it's still hard to pack things in to a two week trip. Three weeks feels just about right. It didn't take long to leave Las Vegas behind and soon enough we entered Lake Mead National Park (We really should have got that National Parks Pass). No sooner than we entered the park, we were riding out the other side and down a winding road to Hoover Dam.

At the Dam we took the time to do the Dam tour (about and hour long). It involves a ten minute video about the history of the Dam, though it is less history and more propaganda by the water authority. We then took the elevators down to the tunnels and the generator hall to see the turbines.

After the official tour we did our own tour of the top of the dam. We loved the art deco details and the effort that had gone into making this place such a design icon. After a stroll around in the hot sun in our biking gear we recovered in the High Scaler Cafe onsite cafe where I had their 'Dam Burger' and fries followed by a milkshake to set me up for the rest of the ride.

We crossed the Dam on the bikes and then had to double back as you can no longer access the highway from both sides. 

Our next leg was on Highway 93 to Kingman, AZ. This part of the ride saw us crossing wide open terrain where we had an impressive view across about 8-10 miles to the mountains on the edge of the valley. We eventually descended into Kingman after this lengthy stretch of straight road where Mr D'z Diner was there to greet us.

We dropped in for a drink and a break at Mr D'z which does a brisk trade with locals and Route 66'ers alike. After we crossed over the road to take in the local Route 66 museum. It's a small museum, but is thoughtfully laid out, I particularly liked the scenes and texts from the Grapes of Wrath.

We were getting into the early afternoon so we left Kingman and the highway. We were now back on Route 66 again. We were soon on a desolate back road which was straight at first, as it crossed the valley, and then started to climb gently up towards the town of Oatman. Soon the road became steeper and began to grow curves until we found ourselves carving round a tight, twisty mountain road with gradient changes, switchbacks, cracked tarmac and loose dirt.

The town of Oatman is almost 3,000 feet above see level in the Black mountains of Mohave County. It was once a mining town and there are still mines operating in the area. It looks like a town from a Cowboy movie and, in fact, it's often used for that purpose.

The town has boardwalks from end-to-end and all the buildings are wooden fronted and somewhat dilapidated. It's known as 'the ghost town that refused to die' and is largely filed with artists and alternative types that make a living off Route 66'ers and day-trippers from California.

Oatman, Arizona, the ghost town that refuses to die

We left Oatman in early evening and followed the winding road into the valley below. The flash floods that we had ridden through in Las Vegas had obviously hit this locale too. Every so often the road would dip and we would hit water or sand where a wash had washed away the road. Most of these were now dry but we were careful about hitting water or mud at speed in a hidden dip, in the fading light of the evening.

A meal fit for a cowboy after a day in the saddle

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