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Life Here

August 2, 2018 By Fred Montonye

A Trip on Route 66

We recently returned from a trip to the Arizona and New Mexico Indian lands. On our trip, we did not realize that we were also witnessing the centennial of Highway Route 66. Of course, almost everyone in our age group is aware of the very popular song (I think it was in the 1940s) about Route 66 from Chicago to LA.

As soon as we started traveling on US Highway 40, we became very aware of this celebration, for we saw an unlimited number of commemorative souvenirs for sale every time we stopped for a rest break.

However, it was a little sad because Highway 40 pretty much parallels Route 66 and most of the towns it passes through. It was the first time we were aware of the number of “ghost towns” along the route.

One of these towns where we stopped for the night was Winslow, Arizona. My remembrance of Winslow was the old comic strip “Don Winslow, US Navy.” Needless to say, it had nothing in common with the town. Our reason for stopping in Winslow was to take some pictures of the “Standing on the Corner in Winslow” statue that commemorates the song by “The Eagles.” The City Council has begun revitalizing the downtown area.

Another interesting stop in Winslow is the La Posada Hotel. We had an excellent dinner in their dining room. Sitting in the hotel grand hallway was a man playing his guitar in an extremely pleasant and relaxing way. We stopped to talk with him, and he told us his name was Khent Anantakai and that he was a Navajo and was actually born on Route 66 in the car that was taking his mother to the medical facility. The hotel had employed him for eight years as its historian and musician.

He said the hotel was built in 1930 as part of the train station for the Super Chief, which was the most elegant US passenger train at that time. He added that the station, town and hotel survived very well until the Eisenhower era, when the massive interstate highway system was constructed. Since the new Highway 40 bypassed the town, it virtually died.

Mary Colter, a noted southwestern architect designed many hotels for the Harvey Corporation, which was noted for their hospitality and the services of its hostesses known as the Harvey Girls. La Posada was one of their grand hotels. A new owner acquired the hotel and has invested a great deal of money to restore it to its former elegance. The restaurant is under the separate ownership of a husband and wife team, both of whom are chefs. They have won the annual James Beard Foundation award. The restaurant is named The Turquoise Room after the private dining car on the Super Chief. The food, service and décor of the restaurant are excellent. We did not stay in this hotel, but wish we had. And, P.S., we did buy a CD of our hotel historian and musician.

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