Shelby GT500 and Charger SRT8 at the Roadkill Café. Click image to enlarge
|Dash for Nash, Part one
Dash for Nash, Part two
Originally published on January 3, 2007 as Part 3 of the Dash for Nash Road Trip Series
Article and photos by Paul Williams
Dash for Nash
If there’s any song that Bobby Troup will be remembered for, it’s the perfectly conceived, “(Get your kicks on) Route 66.” Apparently, the melody came to him almost as a finished piece, while driving from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles in 1946, where he was hoping to land a job playing jazz music in one of LA’s nightspots. He wrote the lyrics based on some of the towns and cities he encountered along the way. It was Nat King Cole who scored a big hit with the song, but you can still find Bobby Troup’s stripped down, nightclub version if you search a little.
It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66.
It’s almost all trucks on I-17 in Arizona. Click image to enlarge
With our mission to see Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns play the Toronto Raptors in Phoenix accomplished (See Dash for Nash Part 1 and Part 2), colleague Michael Bettencourt and I were left with two fast cars, a 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible and a 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8, and a choice of routes back to Los Angeles. The most direct option was the interstate highway, the way we came. But Michael had the excellent idea of traveling along part of the old Route 66, which is north of Phoenix, and features some of the great motels, gas stations, and eateries from the 1950s, or what’s left of them. Now largely a tourist attraction for the nostalgic, Route 66 still has mystique, and as I say, we were in possession of two fast cars, both iconic nameplates of the muscle car era, and had a bit of time to play with (one day, actually, as our flight back to Toronto/Ottawa was scheduled to leave at 7:00 AM, the next morning).
Making time on the Historic Route 66. Click image to enlarge
Now you go through Saint Looey
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.
When you think about it, between the Shelby GT500 and the Dodge Charger SRT8, we had a rather gross total of 925 horsepower at our disposal. So, granted, this was more of an exercise in indulgence than restraint. We also had a significant number of decibels emanating from our combined quad exhausts, and the two vehicles driven in tandem were making quite an impression wherever we went. After refueling yet again (I’ll get back to that), we took I-17 north towards Sedona and Flagstaff, detoured along Route 69 to Prescot, then took Route 89 to Ash Fork, and headed west on the I-40 for 30 km before leaving it for the old Route 66.
As you may know, it was the establishment of the U.S. Interstate highway system in the 1950s that spelled the demise of Route 66 and similar roads, and the towns and businesses supported by them. But we didn’t expect to see shiny diners and friendly “at your service” gas stations from yesteryear; we just wanted to get our tires on that tarmac, for the experience of it.
The Rusty Bolt, in Seligman, Arizona. Click image to enlarge
Leaving I-40 at Seligman, and joining the “Mother Road,” as John Steinbeck called it, our Route 66 experience would take us through Valentine, Peach Springs, Hackberry, and return to the I-40 at Kingman. From there we’d take I-40 to Barstow, and I-15 to San Bernardino and Los Angeles.
A friendly State Trooper at Ash Fork gave us directions and, eyeing the fast wheels, cautioned us not to “get criminal.” Only that morning, he said, he’d stopped someone going 100 mph.
Which we took to mean that staying below “the ton” would be prudent on his patch.
Truth be told, this was turning out to be a long drive. Looking at the map over breakfast (the Grand Canyon Special for me; the All American for Michael) at what turned out to be the excellent Wyndham Hotel in Phoenix, our route seemed a reasonable distance to Los Angeles. But the reality is that like Canada, the U.S. is a huge place. What seems a short hop on a map can surprise you, especially when you need to stop at attractions like the Roadkill Café and The Rusty Bolt Gift Shop and Museum. Phoenix to Seligman was 300 km just to get to Route 66, which itself added another 160 km. The drive from Kingman, through Barstow to Los Angeles Airport added 550 km for a total of 1,010 km. We belatedly figured this out in Ash Fork, in the early afternoon, and pressed on with more urgency.
Seligman, Arizona. Click image to enlarge
But a long haul like this really brought into relief the similarities and differences between our modern muscle cars. We certainly weren’t complaining. What else would we rather be doing?
In the U.S.A., these cars are priced similarly, with a loaded 2006 SRT8 available at $42,885 (base $35,320), and the GT500 costing $40,930/$45,755 for the coupe/convertible (all prices include delivery charges). In Canada, the pricing is not quite as comparable, with a similarly equipped Charger costing $50,940 (base $44,370), and the 2007 GT500 coupe listed at $52,299, and convertible at $57,749.