Sometimes you need the physical and spiritual escape of a road trip, but lack the time to cover hundreds of miles. The drive from Las Vegas to Kingman is relatively short, with unique stops on the way.
Take the scenic route through Boulder City and stop in at the über-Googie A&W to grab a root beer for the road. Admire the view of the mountains; be alarmed at the sight of low-level Lake Mead. As the road rises into the high desert, the landscape becomes barren and unearthly: You can imagine a guy in a tinfoil suit with a fishbowl on his head chasing a guy in a rubber monster costume until someone shouts “Cut!”
Farther along the 93 is the tiny mining town of Chloride (ChlorideAZ.com), a collection of dirt roads and ramshackle houses with outsider-art sculpture and a “ghost town” that hosts “gunfights” every Saturday. Downtown Chloride consists of a tiny post office, a tinier antique shop and Digger Dave’s. It’s owned by the eponymous Digger Dave, a refugee from Washington state who now pours ice-cold beers and cooks a hell of a bowl of chili. The bar/restaurant is bedecked with old postcards, old tools, old sheet music and a sign reading “Girls must be 4 feet 8 inches or less to dance on the bar” to a vintage jukebox stocked with Tom Waits and the Ventures.
Another half-hour—watch for “Santa’s Land”—to our final destination. Kingman calls itself “the Heart of Route 66,” replete with themed signage, visitors center/museum and branded tchotchkes next to every cash register in town. Beale Street is geared toward your contemporary tourist, but there’s still plenty of retro along Route 66, a.k.a. Andy Devine Avenue.
A cruise down Devine is a survey of American roadside architecture: ’70s drugstore, ’60s Chinese restaurant, ’50s motel, ’40s storefront, ’30s train station. The Sportsmans Club is a 107-year-old dive—an enormous room with high ceilings and a battered wooden bar, as well as an endless parade of trains flying past.
Most Kingman dining is of the comfort-food variety: Calico’s is a mid-century A-frame that features a salad bar, a sundae bar and big breakfasts, while Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner (MrDzRt66Diner.com) is an ’80s homage to a ’50s diner with a pink-teal color scheme and excellent milkshakes.
If you aren’t ready to return, the themed El Trovatore Motel is adorned with a giant cartoon Route 66 map along one building, another is done up as a faux-Western village. The Hill Top Motel has a terrific neon sign and looks like the kind of place Don Draper would have taken a secretary for a quickie. Or you can always head back to Vegas—don’t worry, you’ll be home by bedtime.
Handy App: None
Sometimes it’s not choosing the best technology, but getting by without it. If you’re relying on a smartphone for directions, weather, music, reassurance that kittens are still totes adorbs, know that connectivity often fades along the road to Kingman. At least download a map and a playlist before you hit the road so that you can still access them in the no- signal desolation.