Oatman, Arizona
As mentioned in the last post, it was a banner day. After looking longingly across the Colorado River on more than one occasion, Mike finally set foot (or wheel) across the Arizony border.

Using the Right Lane

Google Maps said it would take 53ish minutes to get to Oatman, Arizona. (And that's after forcing Google Maps to show me the civilized, paved road method of getting from Bullhead City to Laughlin.) Elsewhere on the web, everyone mentioned distance (30 miles, 20 crow miles, "not far"), not time. I hoped for the best.

After traversing most of the Bullhead City river frontage (surprisingly, BC is much larger than Laughlin, not just a mirror image on the other side of the river), we saw a sign for Route 66 and Oatman. Hard left at the light!

Now, for about eight miles on two-lane hilly road, we thought we were on Route 66. "Wow," said Mike, "I didn't expect it to undulate so much." "Well, Route 66 moves with the flow of the land," I replied. "Yes, but I thought that meant side-to-side, not up and down!"

But then we saw a sign saying it was a few miles to Oatman and to Route 66. Oh!

We reached the junction of Boundary Cone and The Mother Road:

Oatman Thisaway

And merged onto the road of autels, diners, and decades of kicks:

Historic Route 66, a Scenic Byway

If we thought the previous road was rural and quaint, this decomissioned path re-schooled us quickly. Despite being designated "America's Scenic By-way," and despite all of the tourism attached to this particular stretch (and despite being near Kingman, which is even mentioned in the song), the edges of Oatman's Route 66 fade into the Mojave desert so quickly it is as if the old highway is being gently scrubbed away. Which I suppose it is.

Plenty of sights to drink in as you drive into town. Like, what was this?

A Fort or What?

It looks like a fort?

We pulled into the first (and perhaps only) place to advertise a parking lot. If you drive all the way to the end of it, you end up just steps away from the main street, perhaps in the sheltering shadows of buildings and tree.

Oatman - A Better Place to Park

(We're the car behind the car.) Parking in the center of town, right there on Route 66, is easily do-able, and what most people seem to do. But, after stepping around mushy burro poop, made mushier by the impromptu rivers of burro pee that spring up all around the town, I like our spot better.

Right away you see the wild burros up and down the road, meandering in front of the (many) shops. It isn't necessary to buy a bag of carrots; the burros will walk right up to you.

Burro Approach

Of course, if you don't have carrots, they'll walk away as soon as they see a more likely meal ticket. Still, they graciously accept pats and light snuggling.

(Just don't set your baby on the burro's back. One of the locals stopped a man from doing this, saying it was a $7000 fine. I don't know if the part about the fine is true, but - however placid the burros may be - they are wild. Don't try to out-jackass them.)

This being the day before I flung a tenner down at Albertson's for some nasty pure cranberry juice (and two days before I doubled the amount at the doc for some heavenly Ciprofloxacin), I had to pee. I was pleased to discover that public toilets are available for free. (As opposed to "with purchase," as in the town's restaurant.)

Gratitude expressed, this is still disgusting:


I guess I'm a city girl.

Mottled Burro Looks Away

I was especially partial to the mottled burros. (They remind me of our "secret hamster," Koda. Isn't it about time a picture of Koda appeared here?)

The Secret Hamster

You can't feed carrots to the younger burros. They will choke and die. To prevent such an unphotogenic event during your tourist experience, these burros are helpfully marked with stickers on their heads:

No Carrots for Baby Burro

Mike, who had no fear of the repercussions of consuming beverages, secured a lemonade from the stand across the road. And a new friend:

Burro Bliss

Behind the lemonade vendor could be found an old safe, the remains of a building (you can read the words "Federal" and "United States" amongst the slough), gas pumps (out of frame), and faded murals:

The Safe

We had plans to eat in Laughlin (Harrah's buffet - pretty decent, even a little inventive), so we didn't try the Olive Oatman restaurant.

Olive Oatman Restaurant

As soon as The Blue Tattoo is out on Kindle, I'm going to get to the bottom of this Olive Oatman mess. The Internet, and especially the Wikipedia article, reflects the misinformation and conflicting stories around this woman for whom the town was named.

Nutshell: Olive's family was massacred by Apaches as they traveled west. Olive and her younger sister were abducted by their family's murderers. (An older brother, left for dead, actually survived, and it was he who kept up the search for Olive and Mary Ann later.) Olive and her sister were slaves to the cruel Apaches for some time. Then the Mojaves traded some stuff (reports vary) for the girls. Mary Ann was puny and died in captivity. Olive remained with the Mojave until Lorenzo - the brother - learned of her whereabouts and a reunion eventually took place. Olive went on the lecture circuit and people made up all kinds of crazy stories about her.

She was an exotic creature to the world, made more so by the blue vertical lines tattoed on her chin by the Mojave. But was she their prisoner/slave, as with the Apache? And/or did she marry in the tribe? Was the John Oatman who petitioned that the town be renamed (it is near her place of rescue) really her son? Only the Kindle will eventually tell.

Today Oatman, perhaps along with the rest of Route 66, caters not just to tourists but to the biker trade.

Biker Windchimes

Oatman isn't just known for Olive and the burros. It was a favourite spot of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, who took their honeymoon in the Oatman Hotel after marrying in nearby (30 miles north) Kingman.

Oatman Hotel - Sign

Unfortunately, the place hasn't been a hotel for some time. The inside was not what I was expecting:

Inside Oatman Hotel

The black tarp meant we couldn't go upstairs to see the Gable/Lombard honeymoon suite. Or try to feel the presence of any of the "ghosts." Oh well.

The not-so-wide-spot-in-the-road may be one shop after another, but I wouldn't call it a "tourist trap."

Corner of Bannon and Oatman

Plenty of genuine history and personality abounds.

Oatman - Classy Ass and Epitaph

And the burros are just so darn cute.

Burro under Flag

Having barely grazed the surface of its history, I think next time I better buy the book.

Oatman - The Ghost Town that Refuses to Die

This was a nice day for an outing, though. Not too warm, although the burros took no chances and went right for the shop with the fan.

The Preferred Burro Shopping Stop

When not "sharing" carrots, of course.

Carrot Nuzzles

11 June 2009 |






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Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
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