With a morning to kill in Flagstaff, AZ and a strange fascination with mid-20th century kitsch, I ended up on the road out-of-town to see Bellemont AZ, an ostensible Route 66 ghost town. I say ostensible because while Route 66 has flowers growing through it and there’s a famous abandoned motel, people live there and there’s even a Harley Davidson store and a restaurant (part of Easy Rider was filmed there).
There is also, surprisingly, very little information about Bellemont on the internet. I have no idea how that can be – shouldn’t the internet know everything? – but I’m excited to be able to add a little bit. You start by taking I-40 west out of Flagstaff, exit 185, which is a surprisingly short drive.
Bellemont’s biggest claim to fame is that part of Easy Rider was filmed there. That history is why there’s a Harley Davidson and the Roadhouse. They’re to the left after the Navajo military base along with the famous Pine Breeze Inn.
To the right is a really rough road (the last image above) which I’m fairly certain is also part of Route 66, along with the following sign:
Our stupid little rental car handled driving a bit of the primitive road just fine; you don’t need an SUV to see it. I think it’s easy to think of Route 66 as this permanent cultural object, a pinnacle of American road engineering and it’s mind-blowing to see flowers growing through it, at least for me. I think it’s easy to look at someplace like Detroit as this epic ruin porn and unusual, forgetting how much of America was once prosperous and isn’t any more. Detroit is Bellemont is Claremont NH is the south side of Chicago is new Florida suburbs.
Flagstaff in general is a great way to see a bit of old Route 66. Several of the old motels and their signs still exist.
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As a child in 1951, I lived in what is now called Bellemont Ghost Town and can tell you tons of things about the REAL ghosts of Bellemont. There was a cluster of old, wood-frame houses. Maybe five or six? One house never was rented out because it was haunted. Our house was haunted by a soldier who committed suicide on the back porch of our house years before we rented it. It was a very angry ghost until my mother made peace with it.
Where would those houses have been in relationship to the current buildings? Super interesting!