Louise Speaks: Today may not be the best day to start out on a weekend adventure since it’s Friday the 13th, but most of our journey’s turn out to be an adventure so why not test fate and get on the road.
As part of our journey, you may have noticed that we are trying to visit all the county seats of Arizona. In Arizona there are 15 counties and as we travel through the state we make it a point to visit the county seats. Today, we were staying in Kingman, to see the sites, and Kingman just happens to be the county seat of Mohave County. The court house is massive. It looks like something out of a history book. The dome on top adds to it’s charm. Mohave County is one of the four original counties of Arizona. The county boundaries were established in 1881. It is the county that houses the Grand Canyon and Lake Havasu, which is the largest city in Mohave County.
Mohave County also borders Utah, California and Nevada due to the Colorado River. Bullhead City is on the Arizona side and Laughlin is on the Nevada side. The top portion, borders Utah.
Downtown Kingman is a small, quaint town. There are antique shops, and lots of history. Now it’s not quaint like Prescott, but it is an old town with a lot of unique things to see. We had several things on the list, but once again there just isn’t time to see them all, so we’re going to have to save those for another day. We did however, have time to see the Bonelli House. The Bonelli House was built in 1915 by a contractor named Pendergrast for the Bonelli family. It was used continuously by family member until it was purchased by the City of Kingman in 1973. Joseph Bonelli, son of George, moved at that time, to another house in Kingman, where he lived until his death. A large antique wall clock in the home was at one time, the only clock in Kingman and was loaned to the Santa Fe Railway to be used in the depot. In researching Kingman, it turns out that there are over 30 homes still standing that date back to the early 1900s…that’s what I mean about quaint. You can go visit these homes, and imagine what it was like to live there over 100 years ago. These houses are still being occupied today…they are not museums. The Bonelli home is just around the corner from the court house so it was easy to find and to visit.
The business section of Kingman is one long street, with a couple of side streets. People do try and support local business and each business is unique in it’s own way. This is mainly because Kingman is on Route 66. Kingman is also one of the towns that Oprah and Gail stopped in to visit on their Route 66 trip a few years back. Kingman is actually the largest city on the longest remaining stretch of the 2400 mile Route 66. US Highway 66 or Route 66 was and is the most famous road in the United States highway system, and quite possibly the most famous and storied highway in the world.
Kingman also has a train depot with underground tunnels. The tunnels were used to hide the immigrants and to free them from the train underground….to the hotel across the street. Folks will say that the Brunswick Hotel is haunted and I would have to agree. I could tell you my own stories as I used to live in Kingman and visited the Brunswick Hotel often, but I’m going to encourage you to go and stay there yourself and experience your own haunted tales.
Inside the train depot are many other little shops to see. The staff working the information booth were wonderful and very knowledgeable. The train depot also houses the Route 66 Museum. Yes, another one. It appears that every town on Route 66 has their own museum, so why would Kingman be any different. They don’t let you take pictures inside the museum, so the sign is the best I could do. In the Museum you can view displays from photos to life-sized dioramas depicting the travel and travelers along this road which was so important in its day. The story begins with early trade routes and the Beale Wagon Road, which enabled pioneers to cross the land in “prairie schooners” such as the one on display. No wonder the main street in town is Beale St.
From the downtown area, we took a drive up Stockton Hills Rd which takes you to the top of the Hualapai Mountain Range. At the top is a state park and also a very rustic lodge. The lodge not only has cabins but has a great restaurant. There is a log bar that even has live music on the weekends.
The drive up to the Hualapai Mtn. Lodge is quite interesting. You leave Kingman which is a very dry, desert town. Within minutes you are in the tall pines. The temperature drops drastically, at least 30 degrees and the thought of desert is gone, There is a lake at the top and some of the most beautiful mountain cabins you will ever see. This is a picture of ther “Rangrer Station”. From the looks of this you should be able to imagine what some of the cabins look like. The road is winding as it approaches the top, but the views are breath taking, Being in Kingman you would never believe that just ten miles away is this hidden treasure.
The resort serves the best bbq prime rib around. And whats most unique is that as you are eating your lunch or dinner, it is very common for deer and elk to be looking at your from the window.
They stroll that close to the windows and people do not seem to bother them, The whole resort experience is worth the drive up the mountain. We thought of staying here for dinner, but we had to get to the Alpaca Farm before the animals went to bed for the night.
Like I mentioned earlier, I have lived in Kingman…for over a year. I had a daughter and grand-daughter that lived in Kingman for many years that I visited often. Kingman is also a convenient stop on your way to Vegas. So the point I am making is that I have driven through Kingman many many times in my life. Yet, right off the I-40 is an Alpaca Farm…how is it that I never knew this existed?
The Kingman Alpaca farm is a full operating ranch. The farm began in 2002 with a year of research and they began purchasing Alpacas in 2003. They have had 25 Crias on the ranch and have Alpacas with blood lines from Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The owners shopped the U.S. for these Alpacas and made purchases in 5 states. They have attended numerous seminars on Alpacas and their fiber, as well as the processing of fiber. Now what do you do with an Alpaca you may ask. Well like sheep, they process the wool and make many different types of clothing. Socks, hats, vests, blankets, sweaters, and anything that can be woven from the fur. The most common item are socks. The wool is processed in a way that they will keep your toes and feet “toasty” warm in the Winter and “cool” in the Summer. They also come in a variety of sizes, colors and styles, as the wool can be dyed. They even have theraputic socks that are woven tighter to help with circulation.
The owner that gave us the tour tried to explain the process of raising Alpaca and how they are their main source of income. Apparently it is a type of co-op, where they raise the Alpaca and do the shaving of the animals. Then the wool is sold to a processor who turns the wool into yarn and then companies buy the yarn to make the clothing items and then all parties involved sell the items. Still doesn’t make sense to me, but there must be money in these animals as this is a full time job for these Alpaca ranchers. Now just for fun I checked to see how much does Alpaca wool cost. Well in comparison to regular yarn it is quite expensive. When I crochet, a skein, or pound of yarn is about $2.37. However, a pound of Alpaca yarn is anywhere from $50.00 to $85.00 a pound…no, that is not a typo…that is the cost. So I guess now I can see how these ranchers make a living selling Alpaca wool.
There is still much to see in Kingman, and it’s surrounding areas so we are going to have to make a trip back to Kingman to get the complete feel and history of this town. Of course it is the main stop when doing the Route 66 tour, so maybe we will wait till then…we just haven’t decided. Because I know this town from having lived here, there are more memories than I can write in this blog. People turn their nose up as Kingman is in the middle of nowhere, but it is a connecting point anytime you drive on the I-40. So next time you are heading to Vegas, or California, or New Mexico or the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, take the time to stop in Kingman and see some of the sites. For me, the town gets a rating of a B, the drive up the Hualapai Mtns. and the Resort gets a rating of a A, the Train Depot and Route 66 Museum a rating of a B, and the Alpaca Farm gets a C rating. So if you were to average these ratings out, Kingman gets an overall rating of C. It’s worth stopping by and seeing any of the sites listed.