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How to do the great American road trip: Arizona

Simon Calder’s Travel

“By the way, don’t let your dog out of the vehicle in Oatman,” advised the tourist information assistant at the Kingman visitor centre. “The wild burros will bite its head and rip its scalp off.”

Dog-eating donkeys were probably about the last hazard we could imagine on Route 66, but we took the warning at face value as we set out on the original 1926 road from Kingman to Oatman, a section dubbed The Arizona Sidewinder for its 191 turns – and no guardrails – in one eight-mile stretch through the volcanic jumble of the Black Mountains.

As it turned out, the advice was well judged. As the descendants of the pack-carrying animals of the miners from the 1915 gold rush, the burros of Oatman were free to wander and scavenge throughout this Wild West mining town, frequently nudging visitors for the hay-pellet treats sold in many shops. Apparently to the donkey eye, a dog equated to a coyote that needed to be attacked on sight.

The dangerous dog-scalping burros of Oatman (Simon and Susan Veness)

Our Ruthie was therefore happy to watch from the back seat as we went out to explore the ramshackle collection of original buildings and tourist traps that lined the only viable street, which featured the 1902 Oatman Hotel with its “haunted” saloon, and twice-daily cowboy shootouts.

We had arrived in Arizona determined to slow the pace of our first five months, which had seen us cover 6,403 miles in our RV. With seven months still to go, we were in danger of over-stressing both ourselves and our wonderful Winnebago, Indefatigable (or Fati for short), as well as our faithful tow car, Nippy.

Boating on emerald blue Lake Havasu is an Arizona highlight (Simon and Susan Veness)

Opting to split Arizona in two, we would tackle the northern half – for the Grand Canyon, Route 66, Monument Valley and Meteor Crater – from an RV base in Kingman, and the lower half from Lake Havasu City, Mesa, Tucson and Willcox, for Lake Havasu, Phoenix, Sedona, Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument.

At Kingman, we discovered Blake Ranch RV Park and Horse Motel, a true original in mixing the ranch world of yesteryear with the modern road trippers of today, as well as the ideal base from which to launch forays in Nippy. We had already decided Fati was not suited to the high mountain sierras around the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, and the…

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