Route 66 - Bellemont & Easy Rider

West about 10 miles or so from Flagstaff and the haunted Hotel Monte Vista, we came to the unincorporated community of Bellemont. This  place got it's beginning as a railroad stop in 1882 because natural springs in the area provided water for the steam engines. After a while, it became a lumber center with a sawmill  and by 1887 it was large enough to have a post office. When Route 66 came through, the small town got a welcome boost due to the services needed by the travelers. After WWII began, the army built the Navajo Army Depot  near the town to store ammunition and bombs and then ship them out as needed. Even so, the town never grew beyond a couple of stores and two gas stations.

The old Whiting Bros gas station and Pine Breeze Inn
on Route 66 in Bellemont.
One of those business' was a Whiting Bros gas station and motel, the Pine Breeze Inn. It did a decent amount of business, but eventually, I-40 bypassed Bellemont, most of the few business concerns in town closed and the little community became a near ghost. In 1968 though, a scene in the classic movie "Easy Rider" was shot at the old Pine Breeze Inn and the community's future changed.

Publicity photo from Easy Rider

In the scene, Wyatt (Peter Fonda's "Captain America" character) and Billy (played by Dennis Hopper) have ridden their motorcycles from Ballarat, California into the night almost to Flagstaff. They stop at the Pine Breeze Inn to get a room, but the proprietor, upon seeing their appearance and motorcycles, shuts the door on them and turns on the neon "NO VACANCY" sign. They are forced to get back on their cycles and head on down the road a bit to camp at some old ruined shacks. Hippies and outlaw bikers were definitely not welcomed in Bellemont!

Today, in a rather ironic twist, the town is still alive, mostly because it has become known as a biker friendly town with motorcycle riders on road trips comprising the majority of travelers who have not forgotten this lonely stretch of Route 66. Bellemont is now home to Grand Canyon Harley Davidson and the interesting Route 66 Roadhouse Bar and Grill which brings your food to you raw and you cook it yourself on an indoor grill. If you visit, stop in at the Roadhouse at least for a cold beverage and see the refurbished "NO VACANCY" sign from the movie which is hanging from the ceiling.

No bungalows for hippies or outlaw bikers at the
Pine Breeze Inn!
When we pulled up to the Pine Breeze Inn, Youngest-daughter, being just 13, had no idea of the history of this place or of the cultural significance of the Easy Rider movie or of the almost impact it had on me. I saw the movie when it first came out in the summer of 1969 and I immediately began dreaming and planning to buy a motorcycle and hitting the open road. The seed had already been planted in my brain years earlier from watching the classic TV series "Route 66" and what is now a little-remembered TV show titled "Then Came Bronson," a show much like "Route 66" except the main character was a guy traveling the back roads on a motorcycle. A short time later, after I had managed to save most of the funds needed for my chosen bike, I went to the dealership to try and talk the salesman down on price and to look again at my dream machine. I was almost ready to pay and ride it out, but for some reason I still can't explain, I backed out at the last moment.

I never did buy that motorcycle or chuck it all to cruise the roads of America. Who knows how my life would have been different. I've owned a couple of bikes in my life, but not now and I was never more than a weekend rider. I'm really glad things worked out the way they did because I'm very happy and satisfied with my life now - 3 fantastic children, a really great wife and some very close and dear friends. Still, there's that tiny little devil's voice that every now and then, when it's dark and I'm all alone, buzzes in my left ear, "You should have." Some dreams die hard.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
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