Southwest of Prescott: AZ 89, 96 (to Bagdad)

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Day 5 turned out to be the least interesting day of my trip.  Even so, I still managed to travel across some interesting countryside, and hit an old Route 66 town in the process.

Here’s the route for Day 5.  Starting in Cottonwood, I followed AZ Rte. 89A through Jerome, then Prescott.  At Kirkland Junction, I turned on AZ Rte. 96, and followed it all the way to Bagdad, then took AZ Rte. 97 to US 93, through Wikieup, to I-40 westbound.   The rest of the day’s route (to Oatman via Old Rte. 66) is on the next page.

I had visited Prescott before, back in 2005.  Prescott has a picture-perfect downtown district surrounding a beautiful town square.  On one side is historic Whiskey Row, and on the other, a chain of antique stores.  To see pictures, check out the 2005 trip to Prescott.

It’s 22 miles from downtown Prescott to Kirkland Junction, and most of that distance is curvy.  At around 6,000 feet, it’s nice and cool up here, with plenty of trees.

After you make the turn onto Rte. 96, the desert landscape returns.  The highway makes a narrow pass through an outcropping of rock…

… and if you stop in just the right place, you might spot the skeleton of this classic car, slowly rusting away in a dry wash near the road.

It’s a little confusing as to where Route 96 begins and ends.  Although some maps show the numbered route running all the way from Kirkland Junction to Bagdad, the official numbering doesn’t begin until the intersection near Hillside.  East of here, it’s simply Yavapai County Route 15.  RockyMountainRoads.com also reports that on recent maps, Rte. 96 is truncated before it reaches Bagdad, but there’s no explanation why the change was made.  Also of note: before Arizona added Rte. 97 back in 1964, Route 96 was an “orphan” highway, completely separate from any other state or federal road.

Route 96 spends a long time circling around Kirkland Peak.  Finally, on the western side, there’s a good opportunity for a picture, looking back at the mountain from the middle of a lonely road.

This is a road that’s fun to drive, if you have nowhere else to be, and aren’t looking for an exciting destination.  For a moment, the road passes through a field of boulders.  Closer to civilization, this would probably be preserved as a park of some sorts, but out here, it’s just a habitat for snakes, I’d imagine.

Later, the road narrows and winds down a canyon, surrounded by Saguaro cactus.  Eventually, you pass the turnoff to Rte. 97, and a few miles later, you arrive in Bagdad, a copper mining town owned by Phelps Dodge, that offers just a couple of amenities to the traveler from the outside world: a gas station and a small Basha’s grocery store.  I looked around for something to take a picture of, but didn’t find anything exciting.

Since Rte. 96 dead-ends here, you have little choice but to turn around and find Rte. 97 again, taking it over to US 93.

Once you’re on the federal highway, not a lot changes.  It’s a beautiful but barren desert, which would be perfect for an enjoyable drive, if not for the sudden appearance of impatient people directly behind you, who think 90 miles an hour is appropriate for a 2-lane road.

After about 30 miles of nothingness, you roll into…

Wikieup, Arizona

As far as I can tell, the only reason to get excited about Wikieup is, there’s nothing else nearby to get excited about.  Wikieup provides a chance to buy a soda or some expensive gas, if you simply can’t make it to Kingman (which often has cheap fuel at exit 48).  Other than that, you can take a moment to admire the fading signs lined up at the edge of the road…

… and Wikieup’s other inexplicable claim to roadside fame: a rocket pointing skyward, with Snoopy, his brother Spike, a smaller Snoopy relative, and Woodstock all riding on the back of the rocket.  Why is it there?  Good question.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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