Route 66's 90th birthday draws interest of Europeans

HUBBLE RAY SMITH/Miner<BR>
Brigitte Baudriller, a freelance writer on assignment for Le Figaro magazine in France, interviews Route 66 historian Jim Hinckley at the Dambar Restaurant during her visit to Kingman. She’s writing a feature article on the 90th anniversary of the famous U.S. highway.

HUBBLE RAY SMITH/Miner<BR> Brigitte Baudriller, a freelance writer on assignment for Le Figaro magazine in France, interviews Route 66 historian Jim Hinckley at the Dambar Restaurant during her visit to Kingman. She’s writing a feature article on the 90th anniversary of the famous U.S. highway.

KINGMAN - French travel writer Brigitte Baudriller learned a few things on her first night staying in Kingman, where she began a week-long tour of Route 66 to gather information for a feature article about the highway turning 90 to be published in Le Figaro magazine.

She was introduced to A-1 steak sauce, something she'd never seen or tasted in France, though admittedly she prefers seafood over steak.

She'd never eaten fried ice cream, a Southwest specialty prepared for Baudriller and photographer Eric Martin during a hospitality dinner hosted by Dambar Steakhouse.

And she had no idea there were two wineries along Route 66, giving a favorable nod to the Root 66 California red table wine she was drinking from Stetson Winery.

Okay, so A-1 doesn't measure up to the classic sauces of France, your Hollandaise and your bernaise, but it's a staple at every steakhouse in America, said JD Marshall, director of restaurant concepts for Fork in the Road Restaurants.

Those are some of the fine dining points that Baudriller can take back from her Kingman experience.

A freelance writer for Le Figaro, which has a circulation of more than 400,000 in and around Paris, Baudriller was told about Kingman by a travel agent who came here in December on a familiarization tour with the Arizona Office of Tourism.

"She told us it was interesting to stop in Kingman, especially the (Route 66) museum," Baudriller said in well-spoken English.

Jim Hinckley, author of more than a dozen books on Route 66, served as a tour guide for Baudriller and Martin, providing historical notes and background information for their story.

"It's like a myth for French people," Baudriller said about the famous U.S. highway. "We talk about freedom and 'Go West' and dreams."

The automobile gave Americans "unprecedented mobility," Hinckley said, and Route 66 was the great escape.

"You don't like where you're at, throw everything in the car and go someplace else," he told the magazine writer.

Baudriller's itinerary in Kingman included a tour of the Route 66 Museum, a drive to Oatman, breakfast at the Kingman Airport Café (upon the recommendation of the French travel agent) and two nights at the Quality Inn.

Josh Noble, president of the Powerhouse Museum and Visitors Center, said he's lucky to have travel agents and writers spend even one night in Kingman, so two nights gave him a chance to show what the area has to offer tourists looking for the great Southwest experience.

"A lot of the tangibles are gone, but it lives in our culture and we look for ways to experience it," Noble said. "You can drive down original parts of Route 66 and play a part in it. People are looking for that because they know it's going away. It's locked into America's psyche. It's locked into our culture."

One thing Noble learned from the travel representatives visiting in December was that the history behind Route 66 gained in Kingman helped them to "fill in the blanks," he said.

Baudriller met Hualapai artist Joe Powskey and learned about the meaning of the Hualapai Tribal Seal, along with the tribe's tradition and philosophy and what Route 66 represents to him.

Photographer Martin noticed an empty downtown when he drove around scouting for picture opportunities.

"Everything looks very quiet. Nobody on the street," he said. "Only the noise of the train, but it's very special for us. Oh, we are in the West."

The French writer and photographer also traveled to Hackberry, where Martin wanted to get a shot of the general store at sunrise, and on to Seligman to meet with Angel Delgadillo, who owned a barbershop on Route 66 and founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona.

From there, they go to Williams for dinner and a stay at the Lodge on Route 66, followed by three nights in Flagstaff and a drive to Monument Valley. Their tour wraps up with a trip to Holbrook to see the Wigwam Motel and visit the Petrified Forest National Park, and one last overnight stay at La Posada in Winslow.