By Dave S. Clark
Bright lights giving you a migraine? Hoards of people making you claustrophobic? Trying to stay out of the casinos so you don’t go broke?
Whatever your reason is to get out of Las Vegas for a day, there’s an excellent road trip that will take you far away from everything that Sin City is known for. You’ll leave Vegas for the Hoover Dam, the historic Route 66 and a town stuck in time. It’s the making of a very memorable road trip.
This road trip will take a good part of a day. Depending on how hungover you are and how late you wake up, you should have enough time to take the trip and be back in town for supper.
So assuming you flew to Vegas, your first order of business would be to pick up a rental car. There are a ton of options out there for you but I’ll narrow it down to two. The first option would be light, nimble European or Japanese sports car. There are a few places that rent the Lotus Elise and you’ll thank me for that recommendation when going through the switchbacks on Route 66. The other option is a classic American ’50s cruiser. Yes, you can rent those in Vegas too. It won’t handle well in the twisties, but driving the iconic highway in a vintage cruiser will make you feel like you’ve actually traveled back in time. Choose wisely.
One your way out of Vegas, you stop for a quick photo op with the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign. There’s a small parking lot just south of the sign where you can get out and snap the obligatory photos.
Your first major stop, about 30 miles out of town, is the Hoover Dam. Built in the 1930s it’s dam impressive (sorry). You could probably spend 30 minutes to an hour here. There’s a gift shop and free, guided tours that tell you about the construction and history of the dam. If you’re really adventurous there are helicopter tours as well.
Get back on Highway 93 once your sightseeing is over and start heading towards Kingman, Arizona, which is where you will meet up with Route 66. If you haven’t spent much time driving through the desert before, soak it up. There are a few lookout points that are worthy of a few minutes. Enthusiasts of cars of old will also enjoy what appears to be an old scrap yard with hundreds of cars from the ’50s and ’60s. The cars are for sale too!
Once you’re in Kingman you may want to stop for lunch then carry on to Oatman. The section of road between Oatman and Kingman is arguably the best section of what remains of Route 66. The narrow road winds up hills and into valleys and there’s no shortage of views as you climb up to 2,700 feet. Use your imagination to think of what the early days of motoring were like, when this was the major route across the country, as opposed to the modern freeways that cut through everything in their path.
It’s a great drive that just happens to lead you to a great destination — the pseudo-ghost town of Oatman, AZ. I’m pretty sure it’s the town that all the western movies I’ve ever seen based their sets off of. There is free parking right when you get into town, so get out and explore. Be careful around those roaming donkeys that wander the streets! When you’re in town you can catch a gunfight, which happen several times a day, by donation. Pick up some antiques, eat at the Oatman Hotel, where people have tacked up thousands of dollar bills on the wall, and just enjoy this little piece of history.
When you’re ready to get back to the real world, hop back on Route 66 and meander your way back to Highway 95. After you pass Bullhead City you’ll have to get on 163 to meet back up with 95, which will then take you back to Vegas. Round trip, it’s about 250 miles so make sure to take that into account if you don’t have unlimited mileage on your rental.
Once the day is done, you’ll be back in Sin City to do whatever it is you want to do. I don’t want to know!