The Rusty Bolt, a really good store on 66 in Seligman, Arizona

The Rusty bolt is an exception among the collection of stores that line 66 in Seligman that for the most part only sell the obligatory (along route 66) mass-produced stuff that glorifies the road itself.

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These tend to include T-shirts, stickers, mugs, patches (mostly purchased by motorcyclists) that says Route 66, or that glorify the post WWII/50’s time period… and offer up various impulse purchases of that sort (most of it probably made in China), most of which could, at this point, probably found easier by shopping on Amazon.  Of ALL the stores it was the ONLY one I found that actually bothers to sell art produced by local artists that isn’t a trading post (most of whom essentially make their livings by taking advantage of the local native American populations). Although they sell some of that too, because it’s what the customer expects.

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Located half way (1 hour in either direction) between the larger towns of Kingman and Flagstaff, Seligman Arizona takes its place on route 66 VERY seriously… it sort of has to, it’s really got not much else going for it. (even if you needed gas, odd are you filled up Kingman or Flagstaff). It’s initial claim to fame was as a stop on Beale’s Wagon Road, a trade route from Fort SmithArkansas to Los AngelesCalifornia … and then as a stage-coach stop. When the railroads replaced the stage coaches, it was lucky enough to be chosen to be a railroad town, complete with a Harvey House (closed in 1955, demolished 2008), but in 1984 passenger trains discontinued service to the town entirely, and now just pass it by. Cars don’t really stop there much either, as while it had been on route 66 (obviously), when I-40 came through in 1978, it by-passed the town by a few miles — and like I said, most I-40 travelers are far more likely to pit stop at Flagstaff or Kingman, than they are Seligman. As such, all traffic in the town virtually disappeared on that day, according to Angel Delgadillo, a local businessman. To its credit however (you’ve got to work with what you’ve got) the town earned itself the name of “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” ten years later, when through their successful lobbying efforts they managed to convince the State of Arizona to make 66 a “Historic Highway” — and hence spend money on creating the signs that line the 66, and the big printed out 66 symbols in the middle of it.

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Walking around Seligman I was starting to get kind of annoyed at the sheer rapidity of the goods for sale, and extreme tourist trap sensibility of the place. That was until I walked into the Rusty Bolt, which while it has some of the same, there’s actually MORE to it, even though the shelves aren’t as packed full as some of the other stores.

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Walking around I immediately spotted these little sculptures which in my opinion cross the line to art — they have such a feeling of movement to them, and then when I saw the price (they were selling for $26.75 each), I HAD to have them.

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I learned later that at the Rusty Bolt the price includes the tax!!!

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Not only that but, I was slightly amused by the coin descriptor the owner has taped to her checkout counter (see above photo bottom right). You can tell from it that she gets a lot of foreign visitors who aren’t familiar with our currency.

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The bottom right one is made with a tea strainer, and you can open the mouth

They are all made by a guy who lives in Golden Valley and just sits around making stuff by the name of Frank McKee. I looked for him on-line afterwards but couldn’t find him. According to the woman who owns the shop, he shows up from time to time at a nearby flea market that she goes to looking for merchandise for her shop. He’ll usually approach her first, sell her enough to be able to afford his hotel room for the night, and then he sells the rest at the market the next day.

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I went a little bit overboard in the shopping — I bought five of them…  I think they sort of look like a baseball team. The little route 66 magnets are removable. She had added them after the fact thinking they’d sell better if she did that.

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