Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bumped by Burros in Oatman, Arizona

It all started innocently enough.  Tired of the monotonous drive between Arizona and California along Interstate 40, I managed to talk my family into a detour to see the ghost town of Oatman, neatly tucked away on Old Route 66 between Kingman and Bullhead City. Indeed, it would add a few hours to the monotonous drive, but they would be entertaining hours, which would give us something interesting to think and talk about as we crossed the great Mojave. 

Just outside of Kingman, we exited I40 at Shinarump Dr.  Following the signs to Oatman Highway, we took in the sights as Old Route 66 led us away from civilization. My 9 year old son and I took turns guessing at locations from the movie "Cars". Sighting several old mine shafts, we discussed the possibilities of venturing out to do some gold prospecting of our own. Soon we were passing the Gold Road mine. (Link goes to a blog with some highlights about the mine.) The mine is officially closed, but every time we take this detour, we see at least a dozen vehicles parked there.

Oatman springs out of the landscape suddenly from this direction, so as soon as I saw the sign I slowed down. The highway goes right through the middle of town, and very likely, there will be some burros wandering the streets. Once a defunct mining town, reborn as a tourist attraction, Oatman boasts a charming Old West atmosphere with its false-front stores, board walks and daily "gun fights". Wild burros roam the streets freely, and have no hesitation about walking up to you and inspecting to see if you have any treats for them. Burro food is available in nearly all the shops. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent part of their honeymoon at the Oatman Hotel, (click link for some great reviews), their Honeymoon Suite is still a major attraction. Several ghosts are reported to haunt the town, but mostly we saw other tourists.

 Food is available at several restaurants and shops, and there are quite a few souvenir stands offering a variety of commercial and handmade items.  One vendor, Brenda, was set up in a covered wagon, offering cold drinks, kettle corn and her own self-published children's books and calendars featuring the Oatman burros. I have a soft spot for authors in general and self-published ones in particular, so I stopped to chat and ask a few questions.  As we talked, I kept getting bumped in the behind. I looked around me, but no one was close enough to be the guilty party. As I turned to scold my son, I found that the culprit was actually a jenny, looking for a handout! As our entire party burst into giggles at my expense (which I was more than happy to provide), I scratched the critter behind the ears, then shooed her away to pester someone else.

It was getting time for us to move along anyway. We cast last, longing glances at the hills, then got in the car and turned up the air conditioning. Oatman Highway to Bullhead City is a pleasant drive. From there, it's just about 20 minutes to Needles, California, where we pick up Interstate 40 again, to cross the desolate Mojave desert. Only now, we have a burro bumping adventure to relive, and a host of gold mining dreams and ghost stories to get us across to grandpa's house.

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