When I travel Route 66 I'm always wondering what it was really like to travel it during it's heyday, the 1950's and 60's. In my head I can see travelers stopping for the night at the local motor courts or, their precursors, motor camps and fill up on some local food and coffee at the local diner or 5 and 10. Their eyes widen as the see new wonders traveling west across the Missouri river into wide open country filled with Cowboys and Indians, across the red rocks of New Mexico that blend into the vastness of the Great Basin High Desert of Arizona and finally into the beautiful and unforgiving beauty of Mojave Desert. I can imagine family's heading towards Disneyland packed into their Station wagons, stopping for gas and ice cream at the road side stops that doted the route. For those that drove the whole way, the coastal mountains of California must have seemed amazing after the desert, then only to be farther amazed at the dropped down into the boom town of Los Angles and views of the Pacific Ocean.
Okay, maybe I've gone a bit to far in my description, but these thoughts really tear at my heart when I see an icon of the route torn down to the foundation with maybe, if we are lucky, only it's rotting sign left or a place like Twin Arrows, that should have survived because when the Mother Road was paved over it received its own exit.
Twin Arrows, located about 23 miles east of Flagstaff, AZ, was a classic road stop with a cafe, filling station and a curio shop. It is estimated to have opened sometime in the early 1950's. In 1955 it was purchased by the Troxell Family who, with Mrs. Troxell's parents, ran it until the 1980. In an article for the AZDailySun.com, Jean Troxell, 88, was quoted saying, "...it was one of the biggest in its time. It was very busy. We had signs on Route 66 across Arizona. A lot of good things went on there" After that it was bought and sold numerous times and was finally closed in the late 1990's.
Today the buildings and land are in the care of the State Trust. The state has put of barricades to keep people from stopping there, but had done little to not thing to protect the historic stop. The buildings are boarded up, windows are broken, the gas pumps torn apart, trash litters the area and the arrows that gave the spot its name are falling apart. It didn't looks so bad during my first visit years ago, but after six years it has suffered so badly that now only the feathers are left on one of the arrows, so to be just two polls sticking out of the soil.
Often I think to myself, why did this happen. I remember hearing that the Twin Arrows was loved by truckers. They were known for their classic American road food and a joke menu that included fried pack-rat tail, meteor crater stew, and buzzard eggs to name a few of the dishes.
They even, as I mentioned earlier, had their own exit on the new I-40 Interstate.
My perception is that as gas tanks got larger and cars able to travel farther and faster on the new Interstate and the need for smaller stops was gone. People became in a hurry to get where they were going and wanted something familiar when it came to food and a place to rest. Chain restaurants, gas stations, and motels started dominating the new road, the interstate. It became easy to bypass small town America. Enjoying the trip and stopping to enjoy the local fare and attractions was no longer part of the trip. American's lost the joy of the road and apart of it's history as a result.
There is some hope for this site. The Diner on the site is a Historical Valentine Diner. There has been some effort to restore those diners left around the country. Also, in January 2008 the Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley announced that a site near Twin Arrows "as the most profitable in Arizona." according to a press release from his office. "This site provides the best chance throughout the Navajo Nation for the development of a destination resort,” Shirley said. “In addition to the casino, which will have about 800 slot machines, plans include a hotel, RV Park and conference center, as well as other amenities."
Of course when I heard this news I wondered is this good or bad for Twin Arrows. The site and land are not for sale, but as a whole 872.5 acre site could be acquired for a price from the state. Will someone who believes in the dream that history can be saved and has the funds to purchase it come along in time, or ...? What will happen to this icon of the road?
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For more information on Twin Arrows visit:
AroundAZ - Twin Arrows page