Day 8 & 9: Eric Lalor’s Route 66 Diary

We had the day off yesterday to give our bodies a rest from the bikes. We took the opportunity to see a little more of what Arizona had to offer and took ourselves off to see the Grand Canyon. It’s more than grand, it’s mind-boggling and amazing! I took a few snaps, all the while knowing quite well that the snaps could never do it justice. It didn’t stop me though which is a worrying mental trait I seem to have developed. The Grand Canyon has to be seen to be believed, it’s just a staggering product of nature.

Today I woke up bright and early looking forward to getting back on the bike and continuing this magnificent journey. The destination today is Laughlin in Nevada. Most of you reading this are pronouncing it Laughlin, but even though it’s spelt that way, it’s pronounced ‘Lofflin’. Are they having a laugh?! Or a lack? I’m confused.

Route 66 Day 8 & 9 Yet again, Arizona continues to throw amazing vistas at us and just when we think we have seen it all, something else breathtaking appears on the horizon. Arizona is an amazing place. Today, I’m with another new team and this one is led by the gent that is Eddie. Eddie is the Road Captain for this crew and he told me I would be riding with his second in command, the very lovely Peter. We said our goodbyes to Flagstaff and hit the road. The sprawling landscape is something to behold, just miles and miles of mountains, rolling hills, dotted with tiny dwellings and all in glorious technicolour. This is natural beauty like nothing I have ever seen before.

Our first stop today is at a place called Seligman. This is a hugely significant stop on Route 66 as one of it’s inhabitants, a fella called Angel Delgadilo, is a founder of the ‘Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona’, established in 1987 to campaign for “Historic Route 66” signage on the former US highway. He took on the big men who built the inter-states and won. He is a barber by trade and still works in the town. Obviously we popped in for a nose and some of the lads had their beards shaven by him. I declined. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an absolute hero and legend, but I wasn’t brave enough to let a 90 year old man go at my throat with a switchblade. It should be said that he did a fantastic job on Tom and Phil though.

Route 66 Day 8 & 9 Our next stop was a place in the middle of nowhere, a store, called Hackberry General Store. It’s surrounded by huge mountains and contains a shop selling souvenirs. Outside it has the really classic old American gas pumps and inside there is a gents which is covered wall to wall and ceiling full of pictures of women in bikinis. No reason, it just was.
On the bikes again and we headed up the hills of Black Mountain in Mohave Country along a narrow pathway, climbing higher and higher, with me holding tighter and tighter. This was white-knuckle motor-cycling at its very best and I have to say, I loved every minute of it. We reached a point at the top which was an old Indian burial ground. The Irish Route 66 team have been doing this journey for years and sadly, in that time, some of their former members have passed away. They like to visit this area to place memorials to people who have passed on and everyone gathered for a bit of reflection. It was lump in the throat stuff and a beautifully poignant, serene stopover on this madcap journey that we were on.

Route 66 Day 8 & 9 After a while we headed downhill to an old mining town called Oatman. It’s perfectly preserved in the state it was in back in the gold rush days. It’s also a town over-run with donkeys. Yes, donkeys. The donkeys which were used in the mines were obviously left obsolete when the mines shut down, but they kept on breeding. These donkeys we saw today were direct descendants of the donkeys from those golden days.

They’re not shy either. They invariably walk up to you and rub their heads off you as if to say ‘You’re in my town now squire, we’ll have none of your lip.’ There’s a little bar there too and it is covered wall to wall and on the ceilings with $1 bills. It’s estimated around $100k is there in $1 notes. I did not make off with $7,598 dollars at all. Honest.

We resumed our journey again and this time it was to our destination, Laughlin in Nevada. I bid farewell to the majestic Arizona, but I know myself I will be back. One of the most stunningly beautiful parts of the world I have ever seen. Laughlin is a casino town, a mini-Vegas if you like and we are staying in a hotel called the Golden Nugget.

The Route 66 Challenge for Temple Street has been an incredible experience so far and easily one of the greatest experiences of my life. There is an amazing team of people organizing this and participating in it and I am humbled and honoured to be allowed to be part of it. It’s an even better feeling knowing that a huge amount of money has been raised by these heroes for the amazing and deserving little heroes in Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Until tomorrow….

Eric Lalor