There are only a handful of towns on Highway 93 between Las Vegas and Phoenix. Wikieup happens to be one of the lesser known stops along this route. In fact, the ghost town of Nothing, Arizona is close by and Nothing seems to get more media attention than Wikieup these days.
Wikieup is one of those places where the highway is the main drag through town. A mix of local businesses, government offices and tourist traps line the streets from one end of the city limits to the other. To many travelers the town of Wikieup is just a point of decision making while on a long trip. Some folks check the gas gauge and stop to take a breather while browsing through the merchandise at the local tourist traps. Other keep on rolling, especially if they are making good time. All I can say is that life is not some kind of a road race. It does pay to occasionally stop and smell the roses, even if the only roses to be found in this end of the Sonoran Desert are cactus flowers.
There are a few interesting sights to see in Wikieup that present good photo opportunities. For example, why would there be Snoopy cartoon characters riding on a rocket with the words "Wikieup Arizona" printed on its side? This mysterious landmark inspires far more questions than answers. Legend has it that people from up north looked upon Wikieup as a business opportunity and then abandoned all hopes. All that remains is the unique Snoopy & Woodstock Rocket marker that now acts as a welcome sign.
Wikieup is famous for being the rattlesnake capitol of Arizona, but this fact is not advertised much these days. Wikieup is ranch country, RV travelers are welcome and it is tourist friendly. It seems like the businesses that cater to these clientele groups do survive in these parts. Business ideas that were a bit too ambitious for Wikieup are evident when seeing the old abandoned buildings on the roadside. Businesses that hit the mark are evident too. Wikieup has a busy bakery diner restaurant with a full parking lot at the RV park and the trading post filling station is always swarmed with tourists. So, there are opportunities to get some good eats and do a little shopping while in Wikieup!
After passing through Wikieup, one simply cannot help but to think about what the history of this place must be. I have passed through Wikieup several times and each time I made a mental note to research the history of this community. This is easier said than done. First of all, it is easy to completely forget about Wikieup after driving a couple hundred miles and the bright lights of the big city appear on the horizon. Secondly, most of the old west history took place way back when the town of Wikieup was called Sandy. An internet search of Wikieup will turn up very little information, while a web search for Sandy, Arizona will turn up plenty of historical data.
On the northern end of town there is a Sandy Valley Historical Marker. At this marker there are some endless panoramic views of the valley and mountains that can be taken in. It is at this place that visitors are reminded that this is the old west and plenty of tales have been told about the history of the Sandy Valley. Not all of the orated accounts have been put into text, but there are some local Arizona historians that offer information at their websites.
The Sandy Valley is the place where the Olive Oatman ordeal took place in the late 1800's. Settlers passing through the area met native resistance and battles were waged. During one such skirmish Olive Oatman and her sister were captured by the Yavapai Apache, before being traded to the Mojave Tribe.
The Mojave treated the girls as their own, yet only Olive survived. Eventually Olive was given a Mojave Tribe ceremonial chin tattoo. Olive was the first caucasian woman to get a tattoo in America and after returning to western society she became quite famous. The old ghost town of Oatman, Arizona was named in her honor.
A few years ago I was taken up by the Olive Oatman story after visiting Oatman, Arizona. The description of where the Oatman girls were abducted in the old story did accurately describe the views that can be seen across the Sandy Valley by the historical marker in Wikieup. Now I know why I stood there staring across the valley in drizzling rain, while wondering about the importance of this place. It is strange how tales of the old west go full circle even in modern times.
When passing through Wikieup on Highway 93 it is all too easy to think that this is just another tourist trap town. Once again it pays to take the time to stop and smell the roses, even if they are just cactus flowers!