ADOT Blog: Arizona’s silver-screen highways reel in filmmakers

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Hollywood loves Arizona’s highways and picturesque landscapes.

Filmmakers have been bringing their lights, camera and action to Arizona highway locations for more than 75 years. Director John Ford sent a crew here in 1939 to shoot “Grapes of Wrath” on Route 66, and last year Michael Bay filmed scenes in Arizona for the fifth installment of the “Transformers” series.

Parts of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which opened June 21, were filmed at Luke Air Force Base, a Valley junkyard and along Loop 303 and State Route 88. Paramount Pictures obtained a permit from the Arizona Department of Transportation to shoot its highway scenes (you can see the 303 ever so briefly at 2:14 in this preview).

“We had numerous action sequences that involved specialty vehicles, aircraft and pyrotechnics on ADOT highways,” said Denton Hanna, “Transformers” location manager.

He praised ADOT for its assistance and problem-solving while Paramount was filming in Arizona.

“I cannot overstate the importance of ADOT in the success of filming these action road scenes in Phoenix,” Denton said.

Arizona’s proximity to Hollywood, clear weather and scenic highways across a variety of terrain lure filmmakers here for big budget films, westerns, documentaries and commercials. Many of those shoots involve highway scenes that require an ADOT permit.

ADOT officials work with the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media, to assist film and other media productions.

ADOT issues no-cost permits for filming along its highways with the understanding that film productions generate significant spending within the state.

The “Transformers” production had close to 300 people working at Arizona locations for three weeks, boosting the economy through buying meals, lodging, fuel and other ancillary spending.

ADOT’s requirements for film permits, including adequate liability insurance, safeguard the state’s investment in its highways and ensure there are no costs to taxpayers.

The agency issued 12 film permits in 2015, another 18 in 2016 and 12 already this year through this month, according to Jennifer Cannon, ADOT manager of statewide permit services.

ADOT tries to accommodate film productions even when a producer’s stunts get outlandish. One crew tethered a vehicle from a crane off the Navajo Bridge in an automobile “bungee jump.”

Every precaution was taken to prevent damage to the bridge or debris falling into the Colorado River, Cannon said.

“We don’t generally say no,” she said. “We try to figure out a way to make it happen.”

That can involve a lot of back and forth between ADOT and location managers to protect the traveling public and still get the shots filmmakers want.

ADOT is working with a filmmaker for a complicated shoot recently with multiple cameras and hundreds of extras marching along State Route 80 from Bisbee to Lowell in a historical re-enactment. Typically, the highway can only be closed for short intervals.

“Overall, we want to keep traffic and business flowing,” Cannon said.

A recent shoot south of Sedona involved short closures of SR 179 to film a bicycle rider near Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The footage is for a pharmaceutical commercial.

Cannon ticked off a handful of car brands that have recently filmed commercials in Arizona, including one on US 93 near Hoover Dam.

Of course, big budget movie productions get the most attention when they visit the state, spending millions of dollars and hiring local workers and contractors.

Arizona’s motion picture history covers a road atlas of locations for films like “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Kingdom” from a decade ago to “Forrest Gump” and “Three Kings” in the 1990s.

In “The Kingdom,” filmed in 2006, a stretch of the Loop 202 was a stand-in for Saudi Arabia with highway signs in Arabic temporarily posted on overpasses.

In 1994, Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump was filmed running in downtown Flagstaff. In another scene, he’s shown jogging past the giant twin arrows at the Twin Arrows Trading Post west of Winslow. He ends his epic three-year super-marathon on US 163 in Monument Valley just north of the Arizona line.

Downtown Flagstaff and other Northern Arizona highway locations were also used for location shots in “National Lampoon Vacation,” the 1983 comedy starring Chevy Chase, that featured a humorously brief visit at a Grand Canyon scenic overlook.

Route 66 and US 89 figured prominently in two counter-culture road movies. In “Easy Rider,” (1969) Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cruise on motorcycles across Northern Arizona and the Navajo Reservation before they connect with Jack Nicholson in New Mexico.

Musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys hit the Arizona road in a high-performance 1955 Chevy for “Two-Lane Blacktop,” (1971) a road movie that flew under the radar gun when it was released.

Going way back to “Grapes of Wrath,” Route 66 was briefly featured in bookend scenes with the Joad family from Oklahoma entering Arizona at Lupton and leaving the state on the Old Trails Bridge in Topock.

After filming “Transformers” in Arizona last summer, Wahlberg gave a shout-out to Arizona on Instagram: “Hey Arizona. Thanks for letting us shoot T5 here. It’s been awesome. Amazing, amazing state here.”

Route 66 license plate named tops in the nation

PHOENIX – “Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona… Kingman…” Arizona figures prominently in the lyrics to the iconic pop song celebrating the highway known as the “Mother Road.” Now Arizona gets even more attention because the new Route 66 specialty license plate has been named the Best New License Plate in the U.S.

The honor, which will be formally recognized at a 1:30 p.m. ceremony Thursday, May 25, at the northwest corner of Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix, comes from the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA).

ALPCA has given the award since 1970. ALPCA members worldwide vote based on the overall attractiveness of the plate design and its legibility as a tool for public safety and law enforcement. This is the third time for Arizona to win this award. The general issue plate introduced in 1996 and the Centennial plate introduced in 2011 also received Best Plate Awards.

ALPCA’s President Cyndi McCabe stated, “I’m delighted to announce that the state of Arizona is this year’s recipient of ALPCA’s Best Plate Award for their historic Route 66 specialty license plate. The plate’s visually appealing retro design particularly resonated with our members for its tribute to the legendary Mother Road.”

The Route 66 plate was introduced in late 2016 and has been a strong seller among specialty plates. As of the end of April, more than 3,000 had been sold, and more than $51,000 had been raised to support preservation efforts for the highway that crosses iconic northern Arizona landscapes and historic communities.

Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division Director Eric Jorgensen said, “Route 66 carried more than cars, it carried peoples’ lives and millions of their stories. Even though its use as a major highway ended long ago, its ability to be an inspiration endures. We’re honored to be part of the effort to preserve this historic roadway by offering this award-winning plate.”

Run For The Wall dodges a snow

WILLIAMS – Run For The Wall left Williams this morning missing the experience of 2011. In 2011 they arrived in the snow. This year the snow did not start until about 7:30 p.m. after the Vietnam Veterans were long gone.

Snow started about 7:30 with a few flakes falling. It built up to a full-blown snow by 8 p.m. in Williams. It ran until 10. Reports of an inch of snow by 8 were reported outside Williams. An amateur radio operator reported zero visibility on Highway 64.

Tomorrow the sun is expected to shine and temperatures are expected to rise. Tomorrow the high is expected to be 59 rising to the 70s through next Thursday. The lows at night are predicted to be around 40-degrees.

Sun smiles on Run For The Wall

WILLIAMS – While the annual Run For The Wall was greeted with cold wind and rain last night, the sun shined on the group as they left this morning. Williams is the first stop on their annual trek to the Vietnam Memorial Wall. It seems as though Williams has thrown every weather condition imaginable at the group.

The American Legion hosted a dinner for their arrival and Wild West Junction provided a breakfast for their departure.

Mayor John Moore greets veterans of the 2017 Run For The Wall


The Run For The Wall was started years ago as a healing ride for Vietnam Veterans. In recent years they have welcomed veterans from other conflicts and even civilians who support their mission. That mission is to bring awareness to the POWs and MIAs who have not returned from the conflicts that the United States has been involved in.

We would like to remind motorists to watch for the road guards for the Run For The Wall. Their job is to make sure these heroes arrive safe in Washington. Please be patient and follow their instructions. They will not take a big bite out of your day.

Route 66 Good Friday procession this Friday

WILLIAMS – This Friday the churches of Williams gather to carry a cross down Route 66 (Railroad Avenue) in the annual Route 66 Good Friday Procession. The group will gather at the Mustang on the east end of town and travel west to Memorial Park.The churches start gathering about 5 p.m. with the procession beginning at 6:45 p.m. The Stations of the Cross will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Family Harvest Church on Grant and 7th Avenue across the street from Safeway.

The Williams PD ensures the safety of the procession each year.

The procession is sponsored by the Williams Churches, but anyone is invited to join in on the event that leads up to Easter. The churches of Williams also hold a combined worship service in the evening of the last Sunday of the month.

Hole in the wall on Railroad filled with Everything Arizona

WILLIAMS – The hole in the wall at 126 Railroad Avenue is filled with another business. Everything Arizona brings a new look to the business atmosphere. This business, brought to Williams by Joanne and Virgil is useful to tourists and residents alike.

Everything Arizona can manufacture custom cups, T-shirts and sweatshirts, vinyl window lettering, metal pictures and signs and more. They also carry stuffed TY toys and other trinkets and collectibles. Everything Arizona can use your design or help you make one. They can put your picture on cups and are adding temporary tattoo painting. Most of the work can be completed in a couple of hours. Some may take a little longer to adjust the photos, such as on cups, but it is generally same day service.

Joanne said that many customers have come in to ask for Route 66 T-shirts with Williams, Arizona on them. Something they cannot find in other businesses. Everything Arizona is happy to oblige.

Virgil said they can work with non-profits and groups for special events.

Everything Arizona is located at 126 Railroad Avenue in Williams across the street from the visitor parking lot. If you or your organization has a need for custom-made T-shirts, cups, vinyl lettering or whatever, Check out Everything Arizona and save the shipping.

Specialty plates bring in $66 million for worthy causes since 2007

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PHOENIX — What goes on the back of your vehicle, looks great and makes a lot of money for a worthy cause? A specialty license plate from the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division does, and more of them are on the way.

Since fiscal 2007, the total revenue generated from the sale of specialty license plates has reached $66 million. Those funds support causes including cancer awareness and research, child abuse prevention, environmental awareness, organ donation, university scholarships, veterans’ programs and quite a few more.

“The specialty plate program is a real point of pride for Arizona and is a tremendous success,” said MVD Director Eric Jorgensen. “To have raised $66 million since 2007 proves Arizonans are both generous and eager to support great causes. Even during the depth of the economic downturn a few years ago, these revenues went up and that trend is continuing today.”

Starting December 19, three new plates will be made available. The Grand Canyon University plate will raise funds for academic scholarships. Historic preservation funds will be raised by the Historic Route 66 plate. A Special Olympics plate will support that organization’s sports, health and leadership programs.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to have a Grand Canyon University-themed license plate,” said GCU Communications Director Bob Romantic. “It’s a way for people to not only show pride in the university but also support academic scholarships that make it possible for many students to attend college.”

A fourth plate, for the 100 Club/First Responders, will soon be available pending completion of the plate design. Those funds will go toward scholarships for family members of public safety officers and firefighters.

Specialty plates typically cost $25. Of that, $17 is committed to the benefiting organization. For more information about specialty plates including how to order, please visit ServiceArizona.com or azdot.gov/mvd.

The specialty plate program was established by state law in 1989.

Kiss Every Step author visits Williams

Kiss Every Step 2016-08-09 001 Williams had the opportunity, yesterday, to hear the story of a survivor of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Doris Martin came to Williams from Flagstaff with husband and co-author Ralph to sign copies of her book Kiss Every Step: A Survivor’s Memoir from the Nazi Holocaust at the Wild West Junction. Doris and Ralph also founded the Martin-Springer Institute at Northern Arizona University, whose purpose is to apply the lessons learned from the Holocaust to benefit Mankind.

Mayor John Moore stops by to speak with Doris, husband Ralph and others having lunch before the book signing.

Mayor John Moore stops by to speak with Doris, husband Ralph and others having lunch before the book signing.

Doris has been invited to speak at schools and other venues on her experience. Her whole family was among only about 125 Jewish survivors of her hometown of Bendzin. “We were blessed from God that our family was still together,” she said in her radio interview on KZBX in Williams.Kiss Every Step 2016-08-09 012
During her radio interview, she told the tale of her older brother who attempted to escape the Nazi regime. He attempted to escape Poland to the neighboring Soviet Union. He was caught by the Germans and when he was asked his name he gave his real name of Szpringer. He was beaten and thrown into a river and the Germans shot over his head. He managed to make it to Russia, but once there he was declared a German spy and sent to Siberia.

She related the terror inflicted by the Germans on the Poland Jews. They would be dragged from their homes on several occasions for various reasons and eventually sent back home. One time they were told to go to a stadium to get a stamp. They were told not to bring any food for the children because they were only going to get an identification stamp and would be sent back home.

They were taken to a stadium where the reality was much different. The whole town was herded into a stadium to receive the stamp.

“The whole town took the children, everybody to the stadium. But when we went into the stadium, it was not like that. We were only surrounded with the Nazis, with the German Shepherds, with the rifles,” she said in the interview. “We couldn’t go out from the stadium. And in the stadium was sitting a Nazi at a small table. And he would choose who should live, and who should die.”

Tuffy, the Wild West Junction mascot.

Tuffy, the Wild West Junction mascot.

The Nazis decided that children under the age of thirteen and those with handicaps would have to die. They divided up families into three groups and it is here, Doris said, that the miracles of God began to manifest. When it came to her family, the Nazis were done dividing the families for the day and her family was sent home.

The family lived on a second floor of an apartment building. When they returned home, her mother told them that they should kiss every step up to their apartment, which they did. That was where the title of the book came from.

Though they were eventually separated and Doris was sent to Auschwitz, her whole family survived and were reunited. Unfortunately their hometown of Bendzin no longer existed.

Her story of survival is told in her book Kiss Every Step which is available online at Amazon and is available at Barnes and Nobles in Flagstaff.

You can help conserve wildlife

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Deer graze along Perkinsville Road, also called South Road, out of Williams.

Did you know you can help conserve wildlife? Of course there are many groups working to do this in various ways. You can help without lifting a finger. And you can get paid—in a sense—to do it.

Many visit Flagstaff, Williams, Ash Fork and other northern Arizona Route 66 sites. They come up for camping, fishing and to visit the Grand Canyon in hopes of finding comfort in our cooler weather. The problem is that many come dragging their fifth-wheels exceeding the posted speed limits on Perkinsville Road to get to a camp site in the Kaibab. They exceed the posted speed limits to get to the Grand Canyon so they can take a half-hour to take photos and leave. They do not realize that the speed limits posted are posted for a reason.

Deer and elk also wander around our parks such as these at Buckskinner Park.

Deer and elk also wander around our parks such as these at Buckskinner Park.


During this season deer and elk line our highways and freeways looking for water and food. A problem arises when deer and elk dart across the highways and freeways without warning. They make no attempt to guage your speed and, like most people, are unaware that a speeding vehicle cannot brake in time to prevent them from getting hit.

The answer is simply to observe the posted speed limits and even slow down a bit. Especially when you note animals feeding along the roadway.

So how does this pay you? There is an adage which states A penny saved is a penny earned. Consider that if you hit an animal damaging your vehicle, your insurance rates are likely to rise. Not to mention any payment for injuries to occupants that might occur. If the police or Sheriff’s deputy investigating the accident determine that you were speeding, you might receive a costly citation as well. If it is determined by the insurance company that you were at fault, they may not even pay out meaning that you will be responsible to pay for all damages.

Another thing to remember is that some wildlife may seem cute and tame. It may be tempting to feed them or pet them. Either action is dangerous. They are wild and may attack at any time. Feeding them will attract them to camping areas. It may even attract more dangerous animals such as mountain lions and bears.

Flagstaff, Williams, Ash Fork, Valle and all points north welcome visitors who wish to explore the many exciting activities we have to offer. We thank you to slow down and take care to protect our wildlife and our residents from death and injury.

A visit to the Grand Canyon Deer Farm

WILLIAMS — In March I got a chance to visit the Grand Canyon Deer Farm. It was the first visit I have made to the Deer Farm petting zoo that I made since coming to Williams. For nearly 50-years, the family owned business—owned by Pat and Randy George—has welcomed visitors to Williams and the Grand Canyon.

The petting zoo is an amazing collection of animals from around the world. Before entering you can purchase some food to feed the animals.
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When you enter you are greeted by the friendly cockatoo Mozart. Next is the cute Marmosets native to South America, but some have been spotted as far north as Mexico.
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Next you can meet with Pokeahanus and Qullian the African porcupines. They have two Bison , Mary Ann and Ginger, who came to the zoo in 2008. Gracie the Camel also arrived at the petting zoo at 3 months old. She loves to greet visitors. You can see Llamas, Zebu miniature cattle, Zonky—the half-Zebra, half-Donkey—pigs, goats and a variety of other animals.
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Of course the feature is the deer. You can see Cupid and Vixen; the only two reindeer in Arizona. They have a Mule Deer named Gillian who is a rescue. While they do not normally rescue animals, the Arizona Game and Fish department asked them to take care of this Stormy Rocky Mountain Elk.
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When you bring food into the main area, you will be greeted by the deer to get feed. Surrounded is more like it. The deer are European Fallow deer and Japanese Sika Deer. They like to find out what is in your food bucket and your pocket. Don’t worry, though. Friendly staff members are available to keep them under control.

Staff member, Amy Kravitz, said, “They are really good at picking pockets. I have retrieved several dollar bills from their mouths.” She also recommends long pants and close-toed shoes.
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The gift shop, run by Mary, is stocked with a variety of gifts and souvenirs that you will find no where else in Williams. The Grand Canyon Deer Farm is open seven-days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer months. During the winter they are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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The Grand Canyon Deer Farm offers a new interaction program where you can go in with the Kodamundee, wallabees and other animals for a separate cost of $20. They also offer a Junior Zoo Keeper program which lasts about 3 hours for ages 8 to 15. General admission is $11.50 for adults, $10.00 for seniors, and $6.75 for kids 3 to 6. A family membership is $85.

If you are planning to visit Williams anytime during the year, this is one place you have to visit.