Saturday, January 11, 2014

The wild burros of Oatman, Arizona

Feeding wild burros
Calling the burros that roam the street of Oatman, Arizona, wild would appear to be a misnomer. Technically, they are wild as the freely wander the area and belong to no man. In actuality, they can be petted and fed snacks.  Townspeople warn they can be aggressive, though I would call them greedy instead. No tourist carrying a sack is safe as the burros think the sack is filled with snacks for them and will take appropriate action to get them.

When the burros see someone with food, they immediately proclaim that person their new best friend. When the carrots or burro chow is gone, they immediately begin looking for their next new best friend. Jon was barely out the door of our piclup when the burros spied the bag of carrots he’d brought to feed them, and surrounded him. One burro thought he’d outsmart the others and tried to climb into the cab where he was sure Jon had more stashed away. He was SOL.

A wild burro
Today’s burros, which townspeople have named, are descendants of the burros prospectors turned lose in the 19th century. Oatman is an old mining town. It’s main street is Route 66. If a motorist is lucky, he can speed through town at the posted 10 mph. He usually isn’t, which means inching along the street filled with burros and the tourists who are feeding them. When cars are parked on both sides of the street, only one car can go through at a time.

The burros are the main draw to Oatman; restaurants even serve burro ears, which aren’t burro ears at all, just super sized potato chips served with a dipping sauce of sour cream and salsa.

Oatman was once a major stop on Route 66 between Kingman, Arizona, and Needles, California. Now it’s a tourist attraction, with lots of souvenir shops. Jon even found some antique motorcycles tucked away in one store, and said he was impressed with the collection.

Oatman's main and only street
We had lunch at the Oatman Hotel, the community’s oldest two-story adobe building. Built in 1902, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s claim to fame is that it is the place where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon after being married in Kingman in 1939. Gable reportedly visited Oatman several times to play poker with the miners.

Getting there

Traveling Route 66 to Oatman
Oatman can be reached by taking the first exit off I-40 after crossing the California border into Arizona. From there, it’s a 25-mile drive over twisty, hilly, chuck-hole filled roads. But, hey! This is Route 66, America’s highway, that you’re driving on. Just pop your favorite car-sickness remedy while remembering when the highway was built, roads followed the contours of the landscape, and were not flattened or straightened out like today’s superhighways are.

The road is filled with quaint signs, such as "Hill blocks view."  Sure enough, you can't see the view on the other side until you reach the top of that pesky hill.

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