Route 66 - Wigwams, Geronimo & a Jackrabbit

Driving Route 66 on the way to Holbrook.
After 28 miles on US 180 from the south exit of the Petrified Forest National Park and rejoining Route 66, we came to the town of Holbrook and the 5,000 good folk who live there.

Established by 1882, the town was, at first, home mostly to cowboys, cattle ranchers and railroaders and had all the vices of a typical wild west town. Law and order was non-existent, gambling was the most popular game in town, "ladies of the night" were far more numerous than "proper women" and there were saloons along every street. The most popular saloon was named, "Bucket of Blood," which should give an idea of the type of town it was. It was said that most of the men there were wanted, or men that weren't wanted anywhere else. It was often referred to as "The town too tough for women and children" as no self-respecting family would settle there. In 1895, Holbrook became the county seat of Navajo County and until 1914 was known as "The town too tough for churches" because it was the only county seat in America without a church.

On the evening of July 19, 1912 at 7:15pm, a large, very bright fireball flew across the sky above Holbrook. Several loud explosions were heard which frightened people and animals alike as approximately 16,000 pea-sized stones fell from the heavens. It is one of the largest, most well-documented observed meteorite falls in the world and even today, the town receives many meteorite hunters looking for any remaining Holbrook meteorites.

By the time Route 66 came through town, Holbrook had mostly settle down. The days of the open range and rough and tumble cowboys were over. Service stations, motor courts, trading posts, stores and cafe's selling supplies and food to the travelers sprang up almost overnight and Holbrook became a major stop along the Mother Road. Remnants of these businesses can still be found through town.

Wigwam Motel complete with period cars.
One of the most interesting and probably most photographed of the old Route 66 attractions is the Wigwam Motel. Opened in 1950 and fully renovated in 1988, it is one of only two wigwam motels still open on the Route (the other is in San Bernardino, CA).  Its slogan, "Sleep in a Wigwam"  enticed many a kid to harass mom and dad into spending the night. The Wigwam Motel in California has a different slogan - "Do it in a Wigwam" and no doubt, entices a different clientele.

Wish we could have stayed here!

The Wigwam Motel turned out to be a disappointment for Youngest-daughter and I. Not because it didn't live up to our expectations or anything like that though. We had planned to spend the night there and it was something we both were looking forward to, but when we called the day before trying to make a reservation, the phone went unanswered and when we arrived, we found the place closed for renovation. Whatever renovation was going on, it appeared to be nearly finished as the place looked clean and ready for business.  We took a few pictures and went on down the road. If we ever get back there again, we'll try again to "sleep in a wigwam!"

Geronimo Trading Post
About 5 miles on down the road is another remnant of the Route 66 heydays which is still going strong - Geronimo Trading Post. I'll admit I'm a bit torn by these trading posts - some are in-your-face tourist traps with a lot of cheap crap labeled "Made in China," but some are pretty cool places with good quality items at very reasonable prices. I especially like the hand-made Indian items and have a hard time not purchasing many more than I need or would be healthy to my wallet. Geronimo has a lot of good stuff in spite of looking like one of the tourist trap places on the outside. It is particularly well stocked with Route 66 memorabilia. Youngest-daughter can spend hours in one of these places, but somehow I managed to scoot her out in less than 30 minutes and we escaped with only a sack of road food and a pretty little geode.

Outside of the Geronimo Trading Post

Just three miles further west and we came to Joseph City, a town of 1,500 which was first settled by Mormons in 1876. A nice little town, but we went on through to stop 8 miles later at the famous Jackrabbit Trading Post off I-40 at exit 269.
Here it is!

In 1949, James Taylor purchased an asphalt-shingled shack that had been used previously as a snake farm. He didn't exactly endear himself to the neighbors when he simply opened the cages and turned loose all the snakes. He began fixing up the shack and then painted dancing Indian chiefs on one side, a large jack rabbit on the other side, and installed thirty 12-inch tall hopping rabbits around the roof line. He also installed a 3-foot high composition jackrabbit with yellow eyes just inside the door. Many a child in those days had their picture taken atop the yellow-eyed jackrabbit. In addition to selling food and cold drinks, the shelves were filled with petrified wood, pretty rocks, turquoise jewelry, Indian souvenirs, knick-knacks, and post cards.

Jackrabbit Trading Post
During that time though, there seemed to be a trading post every couple of miles so with all of the competition, James had to do something to make his stand out. He teamed up with his friend Wayne Troutner, the owner of the For Men Only clothing store in Winslow and they traveled along Route 66 all the way east to Springfield, Missouri leasing and plastering billboards along the whole route. Hopping jackrabbits paired up with a dancing cowgirl for over 1,000 miles enticing travelers to stop at the Jackrabbit and the Men's Only Clothing Store. After all those signs for mile after mile, it was almost impossible for travelers to not stop when they arrived at the huge yellow sign which simply said, "Here it is."

Petrified wood and hand-painted sign next to the entrance.

Obviously the effort paid off as the place is still in business. While we were there, we were the only customers. Hopefully, it doesn't take many for the owners to remain open as this is an icon of the old Route 66. And hopefully our purchase of a cool rock, a couple of other souvenir's, a couple of post cards and a couple of cold drinks helped some. We still had cokes from the Geronimo Trading Post, but we threw our new ones into the cooler in the back seat and set out for Winslow and a famous corner to stand on.

Old DeSoto being slowly consumed by the elements as it sits
along Route 66 near the Jackrabbit Trading Post.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: