There is something timeless about the landscapes of the American southwest. The views of this valley and the snow covered Hualapai Mountains in the distance are the same as seen by Lt. Beale as he surveyed the wagon route that became the path of the railroad. They are also the same as those enjoyed by the Hualapai people for centuries before his arrival and that which awed Father Garces with its vastness in the late 1700s.
It is also the view enjoyed from Route 66 by travelers rolling through Kingman, Arizona. This small portal, this photograph taken only yesterday, presents the illusion of timelessness.
A simple turn to the right and the window into the past reveals a classic scene from the glory days of Route 66. For more than fifty years the El Travatore motel and its signature tower have dominated this bluff above the railroad tracks along Route 66.
Before the highway was widened and the red cinder mountain to the west, El Travatore Hill, was cleaved, Route 66 snaked around the mountain and a sign at the summit announced, “Welcome to the unincorporated city of El Travotore.” A fragmentary portion of that road, often overlooked except by the most die hard of Route 66 enthusiast, remains and is marked as Chadwick Drive. If you continue your spin the modern era and the golden era along Route 66 collide. The faded sign for the Hilltop Motel serves as stark contrast for the new sign that proudly proclaims this is Route 66.
Timeless. That sums up the Route 66 of the 21st century, timeless.
It has transcended its original purpose to become an integral part of an ancient land imbued with the spirit of those who have gone before.
I am a bit behind schedule but as promised here are a couple photos offered as evidence that my affliction for driving vintage vehicles is a lengthy one. In an on line discussion with an acquaintance that is organizing a Route 66 cruise next September p://www.chevytalk.org/fusionbb/showtopic.php?tid/203904/ the topic of old cars once owned and how long we had been fascinated with came up.
Here are two photos taken in the mid 1980s. One is of a 1956 Ford Fairlane and the second is of the 1949 Chevy panel truck that was acquired by trading the Ford.
To give you an idea how little value vehicles such as this had twenty years ago consider this – I paid $500 for the all original, including paint, Ford because it needed a regulator. This V8, 3 speed, and overdrive equipped car was driven for awhile and then traded for the panel truck.
This truck was equipped with the rare chrome fender trim, chrome bumpers, grill, and stainless trim around the windows.
It gets worse. At the used car lot where I worked at the time, this was about 1985, we had a number of great old cars that were trade ins from the parent Chrysler dealership. Among these was a pristine 1955 Dodge two door hardtop that needed a timing chain, a one owner 1955 DeSoto Firedome sedan, a Kaiser Manhattan with less than 60,000 original, garage kept miles, a 1947 Pontiac sedan, a couple of Corvairs, a nice 1950 Ford p.u., a 1957 Plymouth sedan, and the Ford Fairlane.
The owner was desperate to get rid of the “old junk”. He said I could pick any four for $1,000 or one for $500. As I was beyond broke we settled for the Ford Fairlane.
As the years passed, vintage cars as a trade in became more and more scarce. Still, I managed to pick up a rust free, straight as an arrow 1954 Dodge truck with seized engine for $50, and an equally clean, one owner, all original 1950 Chevy p.u. that ran like a watch for $1000.
When time allows I will dig up some photos of other notable drivers (a 1969 Cadillac convertible) and a few that turned up on the car lot including a rust bucket 1976 Pontiac Grand Am sedan with V8 and 5 speed (the window sticker showing the trans as original was in the glove box) and a 1964 Chrysler Newport sedan with what appeared to be a factory 4 speed.
Folks zipping along Route 66, or I40, through Kingman are often surprised to discover the pine covered island in a sea of desert that is the Hualapai Mountains. This delightful little oasis located less than a dozen scenic miles south of Kingman exemplifies the oft overlooked treasures that is at the heart of my new book, Route 66 Backroads. http://www.voyageurpress.com/store/ProductDetails_40566.ncm
This past Sunday morning my wife and I decided getting out of the hospital was reason enough to celebrate the end of another year a bit early with a drive to Hualapai Mountain Lodge for a quiet brunch among the towering pines. As if a good meal enjoyed in the company of a dear friend wasn’t enough we were blessed with the added treat of snow deep on the surrounding mountains and a small herd of elk dominating the view from the large picture window in the restaurant.
As you can see from this photo the drive from Kingman to the park presents a dramatic change in elevation within a short distance. Even with recent attempts to reroute the road the grades are steep and the curves sharp.
The drive is no longer along a secluded mountain road as development has pressed in on the park from all directions. The saving grace has been the steep and rugged terrain as well as the difficulty in well drilling that limits large scale subdivisions to the valley below.
In addition to the lodge the park also features cabins, most built of native stone by the CCC during the Great Depression, miles of quiet mountain hiking trails, and delightful pic nic areas. The original log constructed lodge burned many years ago but the latest incarnation stays true to the rustic theme.
The park is easy to find but reservations for evening meals at the lodge or for cabin rentals are highly recommended. From the corner of Hualapai Mountain Road/Stockton Hill Road and Andy Devine Ave. (Route 66) turn south. This would be the corner dominated by the legendary Dambar steakhouse.
As noted the drive is about twelve miles. The road is kept open all year but on occasion after a winter storm it may be closed for a day. Even with clearing ice can be an issue in shaded areas so drive accordingly.
I have long talked of the amazing 1988 Ford Crown Victoria LX Country Squire LTD wagon. Well, here it is in front of the park entrance.
The paint has been weathered into an interesting multi hued pattern of blue shading. I refer to this as a unique camouflage.
I can park this car in any lake in the country and it would never be seen!
The past few days have been interesting to say the very least.
We received some much needed moisture and were blessed to have it delivered in the form of snow. Unlike with the poor folks who reside in some of those nasty “M” places (Minnesota, Montana, etc.) we in western Arizona only see one or two snows a year and often a day or two later the temps rise to sixty or so.
Its rarity coupled to the natural starkness of the landscapes around here enable us to see snow as a wondrous thing. In addition to the moisture provided it also adds a certain surreal beauty, softening the harsh edges and adding deep contrasts to the browns and reds of the deserts.
As I was at work through most of the storm these are the best photos possible. The first is of Barney the Wonder truck as it appeared in the parking lot after work.
The next is of the car lot in front of my office that fronts onto Route 66. The photo of Route 66 is looking east from in front of the Martin Swanty Chrysler lot.
The last photo is of Route 66 looking west, this was taken on the drive home. I thought the palm trees in snow added a nice touch.
Last night was the general meeting of the Route 66 Association of Kingman and judging from the note received this morning it is the dawn of a new era.
“We had a great meeting tonight!
Joe Powskey is a Hualapai Indian artist introduced to us by Jim Hinckley. Joe showed a story board of murals that he has done depicting the history of the Hualapai people beginning with the creation story flowing through the times at peace into the wars with the cavalry. His depiction of the loss of their culture is stunning. Included was a piece about the trail of tears. This was a forced march which for many would mark the end of their life. This is the event that we have discussed memorializing on the wall at 1301 Beale St. which is only a couple of miles from the site of the internment camp where the march began. He has already surveyed the the building and says that it is a big job but with some help it can be done. Next we had presentations from two web designers. Unfortunately one of the men had some trouble with his lap top and could not show us the sample web pages that he has built. They are going to send me their presentations for us to review at the next board meeting. We will bring them to the next general meeting for a vote. I would encourage everyone to try and make the January general meeting. The web site is critical. It serves as a portal through which Rt 66 enthusiasts will discover Kingman and it will provide the funds needed to accomplish our goals. I will send an email with the date. Thanks for all of your hard work and support. Tim – Our mission is to promote all of Kingman locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.”
In other business Jim Hinckley was “elected to the chair of the Historic Sign Committee.”
This project is quite unique and exciting. The concept is a simple one – preserve Route 66 heritage and add continuity to a walk along Route 66 by lining the south side of the highway with vintage signs refurbished utilizing LED tubing rather than neon.
If you are interested in joining the Route 66 Association of Kingman or would like more information here is the address for email.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend last evenings meeting. It would appear that in my head I am still twenty but the body knows otherwise.
As a result of a severe problem with gallstones I spent early Thursday morning as well as the rest of the day and most of the evening in the hospital. I am evaluating options, causes, etc. in an effort to prevent further recurrence and perhaps glean some knowledge that will help others with this affliction.
The saga or comedy of errors, dependent on point of view, of discussing the Doble with Jay Leno continues. As noted previously I missed him by mere minutes at the book signing in Burbank at Autobooks-Aerobooks http://www.autobooks-aerobooks.com/
Then we had a small bit of phone tag. The postage fell from the letter I sent care of the book store so it was returned marked postage due. The next letter was shredded by the post office leaving only the envelope and a fragment. The last letter was put in the box but never picked up due to the storm. I decided to try again this morning.
While all of this was taking place I wrote the feature on Abner Doble and his amazing steam car for my column, The Independent Thinker, in Cars & Parts magazine. http://www.carsandparts.com/ To meet the deadline I was forced to leave out the impressions of Mr. Leno as he is one of the few men alive today who has worked on and driven one of these amazing automobiles.
If you would like more information about the Doble or steam cars in general catch my column in the April issue or check out this website. http://www.steamcar.net/lsr.html