Lost America found...This particular event is such a big subject, that to describe it I felt a dedicated page would do it best. I figure I can add onto this area after each time I attend the rally...
Seligman, Arizona and U. S. Route 66
Seligman was established by the railroad as a service junction, and was originally just called, "Junction". After a while it became known as Prescott Junction, because the trains coming in from Prescott turned around there. That railroad pulled out, placing the town in financial jeopardy. A New York banker by the name of Joel Seligman arranged the financing to put a new railroad through town, and the town was named Seligman at that time.
Route 66 was essentially the first transcontinenal highway in the U.S., running from the Great Lakes area in Chicago, following the main streets of hundreds of towns through eight states, to the coast of the Pacific in California.
The wagon trail that Route 66 followed into the West ran right through Seligman, and when the highway was opened in 1926, Seligman boomed along with all the highway towns in the U.S., with as many as 9,000 cars a day passing through town on Route 66 during its heyday.
When the last section of I-40 was opened in October 1978, finally bypassing all of Route 66, the economic results of this bypass were disastrous, and virtually instantaneous. Almost overnight, towns died in droves across this great country when the interstates opened. Seligman went from 9,000 cars passing through town on Main Street America, to basically none, in one day.
Within just a few short years, Seligman and the other towns in the area were literally ghost towns, with only a small percentage of the population left, if any, and many buildings and services beginning to disappear. The state disincorporated almost all of them as legal entities. They began fading back into the County systems, and into the landscape.
During the 80's, locals in Seligman launched an effort to revitalize their little ghost town, and began a revival of Route 66 as a destination for touring, nostalgia, and education. This effort has grown across the country, and resulted in the passage of bills in Congress for the restoration and preservation of Route 66 and other former U.S Routes, and for the buildings, towns, and attractions along these roads.
The stretch of Route 66 which begins just East of Seligman is the longest remaining stretch of the Mother Road which can still be driven. Each year, the first weekend in May, the faithful from Arizona, and around the world, gather to pay homage to the Ghost Highway, and Lost America...
Hundreds of cars of every conceivable type and quality begin rolling into town, just a few at first on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday morning, they begin appearing out of the desert and pulling up at the coffee shops and steakhouses, motels and campgrounds. For that one weekend, each year, the ghosts revive themselves, and Route 66 is packed solid with travelers from all eras and origins. The color, sound, and buzz of activity seem to awaken these tired old towns, and they somehow seem young again, full of laughter and commerce.
At the appointed time on Saturday morning, to the sound of the air-raid-like sirens on the vintage police cruisers and fire engines, these hardys line up for over two miles, four wide, on the Route and the adjacent curb parking lanes. They parade through town as representatives of the American way, without regard for make, model, year, or expense. An appreciative audience cheers them along their way. Then suddenly, en masse, hundreds of cars are once again at speed across the desert. Local car clubs and sightseers line the sacred two-lane for a glimpse of the bizarre procession. Here are sports cars blazing for the other end, hell for leather, interspersed with Brass Age cars and old scooters, barely making 35 mph.
Every community along the Route is full of festivals, barbecues, dancing and music, and all the rally participants begin to peel off on their own little self-guided tours, before resuming their western quest...
The Grand Canyon, the famous Caverns of the same name, and a host of other attractions beckon, threatening to derail the determined movement westward. Friends parted along the way miles back rejoin at the innumerable coffee shops, cafes and trading posts along the way, recounting their adventures and road stories over a meal.
The distance is around 140 miles to the Colorado River, where enthusiasts must cross the river on Interstate 40. The old bridge from 66 is still in place, but no longer used for highway traffic. Upon entering California, Route 66 begins again, running across the Mojave desert to the Southwest, making for Los Angeles, where it finally reaches the coast on city streets in Santa Monica. The last original section ends somewhere in Claremont, about fifty feet from where I bought two Rambler Americans, from the guy in the last house on the original road. The Mother Road in that spot is now a neighborhood frontage road for the city street, Broad Way.