National Geographic : 1997 Sep
can get the Vette towed and rent a car." I grabbed my suitcase from the trunk and climbed into his lumbering Peterbilt. And that's how, on a blistering July after noon, I ended up in a sedate Buick sedan, west bound on Interstate 40, traffic rushing by me in a blurted whoosh. I passed a sign that said NEXT SERVICES 60 MILES and turned onto the ramp for exit 123. The road ahead was empty and quiet and beautiful. Seligman and Route 66 were just around the bend. ANGEL DELGADILLO, the barber in Seligman, remembers when traffic moved through his little town bumper to bumper. He recalls the Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl in the thirties, their Model T's piled high with everything they owned ("If they were carrying two mattresses, we figured they were rich," he said); and in the forties, convoys of servicemen, some going home, some to war; and finally, people like me, the ones in spiffy cars, windows rolled up, air conditioners humming-a new generation of Californians motoring west past drive-in theaters, Mohawk filling stations, motor courts with names like Round-Up, Wigwam, and Pal omino, and Burma Shave signs that advised: BUYING DEFENSE BONDS MEANS MONEY LENT. SO THEY DON'T COST YOU ONE RED CENT. "Come on, I'll show you around," Delgadillo said. We walked out of his shop and stepped into the past. No trace remained of the three car dealerships and the department store that once graced Seligman. The canopy that hung over the sidewalk was gone too, and the insur ance office and the beauty salon were boarded up. We sauntered down the middle of what once was U.S. 66, not a car in sight. We stopped at the shuttered adobe pool hall on Railroad Avenue. Delgadillo took out a ring of keys and tried to open the padlock but couldn't find a key that fit. "I don't know why I wanted to show it to you anyway," he said. "It's just full of my sister's junk now" Beyond a vacant lot, occupied only by a nights on the road were full of neon Four-legged traffic is a sightseer staple in Oatman, population 100. Feral descendants of pack animals used in the early 20th-century gold rush, burros troop in daily for handouts. Hand in hand in hand, newlyweds Scott and Kim Lutteke snuggle up in Seligman's OK Saloon.