C’mon! You know the words, “…standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, what a fine sight to see…it’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.” They pop into mind just seeing the “Winslow AZ, 1 mile” sign on Interstate 40. At least the Eagles’ song will divert music memories from “get your kicks on Route 66” or the kids asking, “are we there yet?”
“Take It Easy,” by the Eagles, “(Get Your Kicks) On Route 66,” from Nat King Cole, and Nelson Riddle’s theme for the “Route 66” TV show are three memory-wracking road trip song about the “mother road” between Chicago and Los Angeles. Though no longer an actual U.S. highway, Historic Route 66 parallels several interstate highways on the same run west from Chicago to Los Angeles. At towns like Winslow AZ, the original highway is still in use.
It’s got to be the most famous corner in the world on the way to dreams of California.
Taking Route 66 to Winslow AZ
Route 66 was the way west for millions of Americans. Only two lanes, its concrete surface with evenly-paced expansion joints created an unique highway sound of whir-kathunk; whir-kathuk. You can experience that original surface on a corner in downtown Winslow, Arizona.
The author made the stop on the old route on his way to New Mexico. It was early on a weekday morning, but still, while setting up the photo shoot, three other families made their stand at the corner with the hitchhiker bronze statue and a real-life flatbed Ford. Bring a tripod, but in most cases you’ll find someone standing on the corner willing to snap the photo of your brood. The souvenir shops open early as well, so it’s easy to stock up on the Route 66 coffee mug or a t-shirt.
Some say that the statue is Glenn Frey, others say it’s Jackson Browne, the two co-writers of the Eagles song. Sculptor Ron Adamson said, it’s Jackson Browne. John Pugh created the life-size mural on the wall behind the statue depicting the story . Maybe that’s Glenn Frey with the “girl, my Lord, in the flatbed Ford” behind the wind-whipped curtains. It wouldn’t be City of Winslow without a flatbed Ford perpetually parked, shined and washed at the site.
Though only 9,500 people call Winslow Arizona their home, hundreds of thousands make the stop each year in the northern Arizona city off Interstate 40 to take their picture standing on the corner of eastbound Historic Route 66 (Second St.) and Kinsley St. The city offers a “Standing on the Corner” festival with live music, art and eats the last weekend each September. In 2019, that’s September 28 and 29.
Other Stops Along Route 66
No summer road trip is worthy of its fuel without slipping off I-40 onto one or more places on Historic Route 66 between Gallup, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona. Visit Winslow and other storied mother road towns. Winslow’s historic buildings adjoin the roadway, and bring history to life with the city’s museums and visitor-oriented features. Winslow Chamber of Commerce is housed in the historic Hubbard Trading Post on Second Street.
The city has emblazoned the history Route 66 symbol into the middle of the intersection, and the white shield is the perfect foreground for shooting a photo of the Standin’ on the Corner park, statute and mural.
Get there soon, but take it easy.
A major stop on the Santa Fe Railroad, Winslow is home to the historic La Posada Hotel. Built in 1929, the last of the Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe, La Posada is restored to its early 20th century grandeur, complete with a formal garden in the front yard and regional Southwestern culinary ventures in the Turquoise Room restaurant. The Turquoise Room usually requires reservations, especially during peak seasons, and is a fine dining fusion of Southwestern and Navajo flavors.
In addition to the historic buildings, there are several homegrown restaurants, a roadhouse, and visitor-oriented shops. Just north of historic Winslow, Homolovi State Park encompasses an ancestral pueblo that was home to the Sinagua pueblo peoples. In the adjoining Painted Desert County Park, stunning sunset views of the colorful desert are shimmering north and east of the city.
Heading West from Winslow
From downtown Winslow, Arizona, one can continue their road trip heading west to Winona and Flagstaff or east the Holbrook and New Mexico. Winslow is also the western gateway to the Navajo Nation.
In the spring or after heavy summer monsoon rains, take the turn-off for Leupp into the Navajo Nation and go to Chocolate Falls — that’s Grand Falls on the Little Colorado River. Carrying sediment from the White Mountains, the Little Colorado runs chocolate-color down the terraced waterfall that’s taller than Niagara Falls.
Heading west, the next stop of interest is Meteor Crater. This privately-owned visitor attraction is one of the best-preserved meteor-impact craters in the world, according to the facility owners. That claim, however, is backed by geologists studying the site for more than 100 years. The create is nearly one mile across and 570 feet deep. It has a visitor center—with a gift shop, of course—and a walkway to overlook the crater. Take I-40 exit 233 about 30 miles west of Winslow. Several science fiction and fantasy movies have been filmed here, including “Starman,” with Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.Moon astronauts also trained here.
Heading East from Winslow
East of Winslow about the same distance is Petrified Forest National Park. It’s actually two parks in one—Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. The park has no camping facilities, but it’s designed for driving through after a stop at the visitor center. The park has its own I-40 exit, Exit 311. While heading east, signs on I-40 direct you through Holbrook to the south entrance of the national park. Taking this route allows a drive that connects back to the Interstate at the Painted Desert, north of I-40.
Starting south of I-40 in the Petrified Forest has a visitor center and cafe, and then numerous pullouts along the road to look at trees turned to stone and agates. The road traverses a number of places where thousands of years of weather erosion exposed trees trapped into rock to a point they became rock. There are many pullouts where the stone trees can be seen and touched. In the Crystal Forest pullout, an easy loop hike goes by trees at nearly full length. The remaining portions of trees are colorful and somewhat surrealistic.
The meandering road the travels north of I-40 into the Painted Desert. The colorful sand, dune, mesa and hillock formations look as if they came from the canvas of an artist like Georgia O’Keefe. There are several overlooks and photo shoot sites for pulling off the road.
Note: If you arrive in Winslow heading west, you’ll travel on Third St., which is westbound Route 66. Almost all of the city’s Route 66 buildings and features are on eastbound Second St. Circle back to the east by turning left on Prairie St. and left again on Second St., about five blocks west of the State Route 87 South traffic light.
A travel writer and photographer in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., Eric Jay Toll has been writing for She Buys Travel from its earliest days. Specializing in the American West and outdoor adventures, Eric also treks in Mexico and Canada, and forays into Europe. He lives with his dog, Chaco, who occasionally joins road trips and camp outs, but tends to be a Downtown Diva.