March 24, 2019

Photo Essay: Welcome to The Real Radiator Springs, Old National Trails Highway

Well, it's not exactly Radiator Springs. There is no real Radiator Springs, the fictional town created for the movie Cars.

But Cool Springs, Arizona comes pretty darn near close.

Driving east along Oatman Highway—a former alignment of Route 66—along the hairpin turns through Sitgreaves Pass between Oatman and Kingman feels much like racing on the Radiator Springs ride at Disney's California Adventure.

But there's no Cozy Cone Motel here, nor a Flo's V8 cafĂ©—just an old Mobil station that acts as a rest stop...

...with a mini-museum and gift shop...

...and no gas.

Cool Springs Camp, located on the eastern slope of the Black Mountains, was abandoned in 1964—just over a decade after the new Route 66 alignment bypassed Sitgreaves Pass. Although the camp burned down in 1966, its rubble subsequently attracted the attention of Hollywood location scouts (including those for the movie Universal Soldier).

In 1997, Chicago real estate man Ned Leuchtner drove through town and somehow ended up adopting the site, purchasing it in 2001, rebuilding it to its former circa 1926 glory, and reopening in 2004.

Eight tourist cabins were built in the 1930s by James Walker and his wife Mary, who later operated them in the 1940s with her second husband, Floyd Spidell—but those are long gone.

But Thimble Butte is unquestionably still there—looking unmistakably like one of the geologic formations in the animated landscape of Cars.

And then, of course, are the cars themselves at Cool Springs... of which may have been the original "Tow-mater."

Just like Radiator Springs, Cool Springs has struggled to survive without a steady flow of traffic coming through.

But now, tourists come for the delicious abandonment more than for travelers' services.

So pack a lunch and kick back for a nice picnic. There'll be plenty of peace and quiet—at least, until the old Nash starts talkin' to ya.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Ghost Town That Won't Die, And the Animals That Keep It Alive
Photo Essay: Amboy, A Quintessential Ghost Town Along Route 66
The Cult of the Happiest Place on Earth

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