In the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains, north of Kingman, the maze of canyons are fast becoming exclusive suburbs. Providing stark contrast between the past and present are the vestiges of lost and forgotten highways.
Long before there was a Route 66, a National Old Trails Highway, or even automobiles these roads were arteries of commerce on the western frontier. The Beale Wagon Road was one of the first even though large portions follow native trade routes. Traces of this road are difficult to find but for those who know where to look ghostly remnants can still be walked.
The road pictured here was a portion of a supply route that connected the mines of the eastern Cerbat foothills with the rail head in Kingman.
The scene presents the illusion of wilderness. In actuality the golf course is less than a half mile to the north, a new subdivision even closer, and historic Kingman a half mile to the south.
The original plan was to meet two good friends, Mike, an auto body repairman, itinerant preacher, and modern day mountain man, Hugh, a commercial loan officer for Chase Bank and man of many diverse talents, and their family in the woods south of Williams, Arizona, for a weekend camp out. As so often turns out things didn’t go according to plan.
When these things happen there are two choices. Get angry that the world refused to conform to your needs, wants, and schedule or roll with the punches and look forward to the surprises.
This weekends plans were rearranged courtesy of a very unusual late spring storm, work issues, and family obligations. None of these was on the schedule of events but all had an up side and we, my wife and I, still had a delightful day with friends that went better than we had planned.
One week ago we were experiencing record heat with temperatures exceeding one hundred degrees. This weekend we had record cold, temperatures in the forties, with snow in the high country.
My son was moving to his new house and as we were rained out several evenings this left Saturday afternoon. This was pushed later into the afternoon with some last minute problems at work.
All of this resulted in running out of time to get new tires for the old wagon. I thought of taking Barney as there is almost five miles of dirt road between Williams and Dog Town Lake and it had been snowing and raining in the high country for almost a week.
The cost of fuel, $3.79 here in Kingman, and less than 14 miles per gallon negated that idea. That left plan “B”, a rental car from the office.
As it turned out this worked best. The days delay meant the storm had moved on, the temperatures were warmer (near sixty in the mountains), the roads almost dried out, and the savings in fuel costs more than paid for the rental car.
We pulled out early Sunday morning and for a change of pace took I40 rather than Route 66. An interesting thought came to mind as I endured the race track/demolition derby of the modern highway – there is but one major difference between Route 66 and the old two lane highways and the modern interstate. The interstate has no soul.
Williams is a place I have always enjoyed. It is a time capsule peek at what travel on Route 66 was like before you could make the trip between Los Angeles and Chicago without ever seeing a stop light. It has vitality and it has an historic district filled with an array of architectural styles that span more than a century. Additionally, the surrounding scenery is so different from that of Kingman even a day visit can seem like a vacation.
By nature I relate to the mountain man and prospector of the old west with their love for the solitude of the deserts and mountains. However, there are times when being caught up in a crowd of folks just out having fun with friends and families that lightens the mood. It also helps keep me from becoming so narrow minded I can look down a beer bottle with both eyes and so ornery they have to tie meat around my neck so the dog will play with me.
As usual the streets of Williams was packed with all manner of vehicles presenting an opportunity to experience the traffic of downtown Los Angeles though the drive through town is only a few blocks. In addition to the general crush of Route 66 fans this was the weekend for the annual mountain man reunion, a tribute to men like Bill Williams, name sake for the community, and many of the side streets were closed for vendors.
Adding to this eclectic atmosphere was a large contingent of European motorcycle owners on a Route 66 tour, tourists with rented motor homes who seemed oblivious to fuel prices, and a small contingent of vintage Ford owners headed for Sedona. The result was a fun filled, carnival like atmosphere.
In spite of the crowds we were able to get a seat at our favorite eatery, the Pine Country Restaurant without a wait. Surrounded by the stunning artistic work of Frank Lucas and a buzz of excitement expressed in a dozen languages we had a front row seat for the circus out side.
We had a plate of French toast, a cup of excellent coffee, and as usual we soon forgot there was anyone else around as we talked and laughed. Its days like this that have me looking forward to the next fifty years and praising the Lord we weathered the storms of life rather than pulling the plug when times got tough or we stepped on each others toes.
After breakfast we poked our head in a few shops and jostled with the gawking tourists. In a quaint children’s shop Judy bought Hugh a children’s book, Who Pooped In The Park, that introduced kids to reading sign when tracking.
Next we stopped at Safeway, stocked up on few things like salsa and spearmint tea, and headed south on Fourth Street, the Perkinsville Road. In the blink of an eye the crowds were behind us, the new developments that are changing the face of the surrounding mountains, were screened by the towering pines and with the exception of folks tearing up and down the road with their four wheelers we were surrounded by the sounds of the forest.
The visit with Hugh, Mike, and their families was a delightful one. Hugh had his guitar, their kids had the run of the forest, Mike had full command of the grill and temperatures were perfect for enjoying a small fire.
The conversation was a lively and spirited one that centered around the uncertainty of the times, the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday, and how richly blessed we were with our families, our jobs, and our friendship. The visit went far to quickly and soon it was time for my wife and I to head home.
For the return trip we caught Route 66 at the Crookton Road exit west of Ashfork and made several failed attempts to capture prairie dogs and long horned cattle with the camera. Apparently our efforts provided comic relief for the wild life in the Aubrey Valley as we could here the prairie dogs all around us and though it may have been my imagination or the wind it seemed like they were laughing.
All in all it was a near perfect day, the kind that is remembered fondly for years to come.
I have acquired a copy of Popular Monthly from January of 1904, a special addition that profiles “88 new automobiles including illustrations, descriptions, and prices”. I have yet to really have time to study the little pamphlet but couldn’t wait to share some of the tid bits.
The closing pages of this delightful little publication is filled with an array of advertisements, each a veritable time capsule.
“The Luxury of living finds fullest expression in the perfect appointments and absolute safety of Peerless Direct Drive Touring Cars”.
“Motor – The National Magazine of Motoring.”
“The St. Louis – Use the Famous Rigs that Run”.
“Northern Automobiles are rational, trustworthy, roadworthy machines that accomplish their journeys in good shape, good time, to the perfect comfort of their occupants”.
The first pages of the publication are filled with fascinating articles – “Automobile Possibilities”, Ballade of the Automobile”, “What Not To Buy When You Buy An Automobile”, “The Horse And The Automobile”, “A Short Explanation Of Technical Terms For The Uninitiated”.
The heart of this issue is thumbnail illustrations and short descriptions of 88 automobiles manufactured in the United States. A few names are quite familiar – Pierce Arrow, Packard, Apperson and Peerless. Others such as Crest-Mobile, Elmore, The Robinson, Fredonia, Berg and Santos-Dumont are new discoveries.
The short descriptions are true gems. “The Yale – double cylinder, 16 h.p., water cooled, horizontal opposed motor mounted amidships; 2 speeds and reverse; artillery wheels and 4 inch tires; wheelbase, 88 inches; tread, 54 inches; gasoline capacity, 10 gallons; water, six gallons; weight, 1,800 pounds; seats five persons; price $1,500. Thirty h.p. model, with vertical motor in front and 104 inch wheelbase, sells for $2,500 – The Kirk MFG. Co., Toldeo, Ohio. “
Stay tuned for more nuggets from the new car review of 1904.
While most kids dreamed of being a fireman or something equally as glorious I thought of writing books. My near constant immersion in books fueled those dreams.
Fast forward to 1989. I was only thirty one but allot of life and stupid adventures had been crowded into those years. At the center of all of it were books and old trucks as well as a few old cars.
My loving wife jokingly suggested that since I could talk old cars for hours and enjoy myself even when alone perhaps it was time these stories be written.
A dream was rekindled. I dug out a rusty, trusty, 1948 vintage typewriter and an equally battered camera, made a call to the editor of Special Interest Autos published by Hemmings Motor News, and sold my first feature. With visions of quiting the day job and a dream reborn I sent the completed feature with photos.
Fast forward to the late spring of 2008. Now I am fifty. The hair is a touch grey and the ghosts of past adventurers have begun to haunt me in the form of stiff joints, and a couple of missing teeth.
The features and books are written on a computer. The photos are taken with a digital camera. The head is filled with a near constant need to learn new technology that in turn encourages a bit of frustration and challenges me to refrain from digging up words I used to use.
I still have the day job, praise the Lord. The dream of being a writer unshackled from the bonds of a time clock ebb and flow with each success and each disappointment. However, like the prospector of old I just know there is a big strike out there somewhere so just keep plugging along.
To date I have written sections for two books, written three books, coauthored another, and am deep in to the writing of another. I wrote two columns for the local paper for more than a dozen years. Feature articles have been published in Special Interest Autos, Old Cars Weekly, Route 66, American Road, The Laughlin Nevada Times Weekender, Texas Car News, and Hemmings Classic Car. Now I am an associate editor with Cars & Parts and write a regular column for those fine folks as well as a feature once and awhile as well as the book reviews.
One lesson learned is that name recognition and self promotion is key. This led to the creation of this blog. Now the tread mill has me learning to promote the blog to promote the writing that is done when I am not working to support the promotion of the blog and the writing.
The moral of the story is this – don’t quit the day job and don’t give up the dreams. One is important to keep the other alive and the other is important to keep you alive. Without dreams to chase we become as the ruins of Rhyolite.
The title for this mornings post was derived as a testimony to my optimistic nature. I recently turned fifty so you do the math.
The first indication I had reached this milestone came with the mail last Friday. That was when I received my application for AARP benefits that included a membership card, a token I gleefully refereed to as my “old fart card”.
In celebration my dear wife made me a wonderful Mexican dinner and the kids, my son, his wife, their daughter, and my sons adopted BIG brother, “Big Louie”, stopped by. As always my wife had more than enough to feed anyone who stops at the house.
The weekend, as always seems to be the case, was a busy one. Saturday was a half day at the office followed with several hours working on photos and attempting to resolve issues with Filezilla. This has become my latest technological nightmare as it is the required manner for submission for material to the publisher.
The day was rounded out by helping David, my son, pick up some furniture for the new house they will be moving into this weekend. Again, Barney was brought out of retirement for a little light work.
The original plans for Sunday called for me to fill in for Pastor Harlan Dennis in Peach Springs. Public speaking is not my strong point but as I intimately know most everyone at the church there, it is more like a friendly gathering at the house.
Instead we, my son and I, spent the morning recovering an abandoned Penske truck in Lake Havasu City. This desert community occupies the top four places on my list of least desirable places to visit, live in, or talk fondly of.
We were quite blessed as we were able to hit the road early and beat the record setting heat of the afternoon. As a result it was a mere ninety degrees by the time we hit town.
The landlord had neglected to prepare the cooler at the kids house so we had them over Sunday afternoon. With temperatures pushing 105 degrees the last place to be hanging out is an old trailer.
Monday, my official day off from the office, was spent running errands for mother, helping my wife with a couple of projects, a stop at Mr. D’z, and a half dozen hours working on the next book, Ghost Towns of the Southwest. With a fast approaching deadline of September 1, there is a sense of urgency to get a rhythm going on this project.
So far the first stop towards the golden years seems to be business as usual. There is, however, a sense of excitement and anticipation. After all the first half of this life has been a wild ride and there is no indication the second half will be any different.