At first glance this photo appears to be of just another lonely, empty desert hillside with thunderheads on the horizon heralding the approach of a summer storm. Look again, click to enlarge.
This is an original alignment of Route 66, a portion of the highway bypassed in the late 1930s. The location is just west of Peach Springs, Arizona.
Just imagine, seventy-five years ago this was the future. This was the latest and greatest thing since sliced bread. Now it is a fast fading remnant, an American Appian Way.
Roads are fascinating things when we take the time to reflect upon them. They run the gamut from dusty trail to engineering marvel but all serve the same purpose, to tie point “A” with point “B”.
Walking, or driving, old roads is an opportunity to reflect on what was and to take the imagination for a walk, if you will. They are a tangible link to the past and as they represent the hopes and dreams of a previous generation they are also a sobering reminder about the importance of not taking life to seriously.
These ruts worn into the stone near Kingman, Arizona, are little more than an historical curiosity today, a small time capsule from when this represented the land of opportunity for a nation still in its adolescence. The point “A” and point “B” it once connected are both little more than historic footnotes.
Even though this small remnant of a road once as important as Route 66 is being squeezed by development on both ends there are still quiet days when walking these worn ruts provides free reign for the imagination and an almost eerie sense that this is a portal into an earlier time. On those days you can almost hear the iron tired wheels scraping on the stone and the teamsters cursing their mules as they strain to pull their load up the long grade.
As with Route 66 there is a growing fascination about these old roads. However, unlike with Route 66 these old roads are vanishing quickly and their history even faster. This particular window into our past as well as its history is being kept alive through the loving tutelage of the good folks at Old Trails Tours, www.OldTrailsTours.com
I suppose my fascination with lost highways and the road less traveled is another reason the deserts of the southwest have such a hold on me. Here there is still open range with countless miles of trails, tracks, and roads with countless surprises for those adventuresome enough to seek them.
There is an old saying that the worst day fishing is better than the best day working. My take on this is the worst day exploring the road less traveled, be it Route 66 or US 6, the Mojave Road or El Camino del Diablo, is better than the best day fishing, even if the only treasure found is a never before seen, never to be seen again, awe inspiring, breathtaking sunset.
On a final note, not all roads lead somewhere. Enlarge the photo below to see Barney on a road really less traveled, a road to solitude under clear blue skies.
At first glance this photo appears to be of just another lonely, empty desert hillside with thunderheads on the horizon heralding the approach of a summer storm. Look again, click to enlarge.
Today seemed like a good day for an update as I have not posted a “Week in Review” type of entry for sometime. So, what we have is a mixed bag as evidenced by the odd array of illustrations.
Lets start with the calendar. For more years than I care to count odds and ends such as this have found their way into my file cabinets and then subsequently into features or books I write.
I purchased this interesting Route 66 related calendar specifically for use as an illustration in The Big Book of Car Culture, a book written a couple years ago with Jon Robinson. I was quite delighted the essays penned for the book on topics as diverse as gas station give aways and the evolution of crash test dummies provided an opportunity to share my eclectic collection with others. http://www.motorbooks.com/Store/ProductDetails_16162.ncm
Well, I now have another opportunity to share treasures such as these though the audience will be much smaller. When the owner decided to remodel the building that houses my office I was able to convince them that there was merit in allowing me liberties with its decoration.
One of the crown jewels from this endeavor is a shadow box counter top where I can display a wide array of the material and then change its contents on a monthly basis. I have also adorned the walls with numerous automotive advertisements and related items creating a small museum of sorts.
Part two was to create rental car packages that center on weekend exploration of Route 66 as well as the many sites and attractions in the Kingman area. This required selling the owner on the idea of stocking my books. http://search.motorbooks.com/?q=jim%20hinckley
Though it remains a work in progress the response has been quite positive. So, consider this an invite. The next time you find yourself in Kingman, Arizona, stop by and take a peek at my shrine to America and its love affair with the automobile and the open road.
The address is 2610 E. Andy Devine Ave. (Route 66) next door to Martin Swanty Chrysler. http://www.martinswantychrysler.com/
A couple of interesting items pertaining to Kingman and its association with Route 66 are about to become news.
The Route 66 Association of Kingman is about to launch an exciting, interactive website. In addition plans are nearing fruition of an extensive mural that will chronicle the entire history of the Hualapai people from their creation story to the future which is the skywalk at Grand Canyon West. http://www.grandcanyonskywalk.com/mainmenu.html
The mural will be located on the west end of Kingman, along US 93, near Fort Beale. This military outpost represents a milestone in American history, a dark chapter for the Hualapai and with the establishment of an extensive trail system in the Cerbat Mountain foothills a new chapter for Kingman.
The plan to line the south side of Route 66 with vintage signs and to restore existent signs is also moving closer to becoming a reality. On Monday morning representatives from the Route 66 Association of Kingman will meet with Kingman mayor John Salem to discuss the project in detail in an effort to win city support.
Then there is the Route 66 Jeep Club now in the formative stages. The concept is a lofty one that has the backing of the local Jeep dealer – a family orientated organization for fans of the Jeep that want to get out and do some exploring, that likes to update their Jeeps with the latest and best, and that enjoys raising funds for local charities. I will keep you posted as development progresses.
This weekend my wife an I will take to the road once more. After work at noon on Saturday we will head for a book signing in Lake Havasu City at Hastings Books, Music & Videos located at 321 N Lake Havasu Boulevard.
As gas prices have plummeted I have toyed with the idea of using Barney the wonder truck for this trip. This would work well as we plan on returning through Oatman (photos next week).
Still, I have been running Barney a great deal lately and there are some small problems that need attention if we are going to keep them from becoming big problems. The valve covers are seeping, the temperature gauge climbs higher than I am comfortable with leading to thoughts of changing the thermostat, and the oil pressure sending unit is seeping.
I suppose we will just see what wild hair possess me when the time comes to leave. We are fortunate enough to have several options – the trusty, crusty ’73 Olds, the family truckster
seen in this photo lurking behind Barney, or a rental car.
With the exception of a Saturday afternoon or Sunday adventure close to home that should be the extent of our travels until February 15. That is the Sunday I have been asked to give a farewell sermon for Pastor Harlan Dennis in Peach Springs as he will be moving into full time evangelism on reservations and in his Hopi homeland.
To say I am honored by this opportunity would be a gross understatement. This dynamic man has been a mentor to me for several years and embodies the spirit of the early disciples and apostles.
The final note also pertains to Peach Springs. I finished the feature profiling the unique, colorful, and overlooked history of this Route 66 community for Route 66 magazine and have been told it will be published in the spring issue. So, if you have any curiosity about Peach Springs you might want to make a mental note to pick up a copy. http://www.route66magazine.com/
The wonderful discussions I have been having with members of the Route 66 group on Yahoo about ghost towns on Route 66 and taking photographs in Peach Springs last week for an upcoming feature to be published in Route 66 magazine has led to a great deal of reflection. http://www.route66magazine.com/
My association with Route 66 is a lengthy one that continues to this very day. As a result I often take the old highway for granted and stand in amazement at the international fascination with this ribbon of asphalt that stretches from the heartland of America to the gold coast of California.
I suppose if there were but one word to describe that phenomena it would be memories. Memories of good times, of bad times, of a simpler time and of memories to be made.
Shortly after arriving in Arizona during the summer of 1966 we moved from Kingman to the Sacramento Valley. Our house fronted the alignment of Route 66 now designated Oatman Road, the stretch of pavement where I learned to drive at a very early age.
Today, when you turn onto Oatman Road from I40 the first building you see, on the south side of the road is an old ranch type house with a big water tank. When I was a kid there was still a big sign that read “Oasis” here.
Before the realignment of the highway in 1953 this was a gas station and road house. Folks from Kingman, Oatman, and during the war the Kingman Army Airfield, flocked to the big Saturday night dances held there.
For me, this will always be remembered as the first place we hauled water from. As I gained proficiency and the strength required to move the big World War II vintage water truck down the road, on occasion I would wander past the Oasis as far as Whiting Brothers, now Dan’s Auto Salvage, for a cold soda.
With improvement to the homestead we began hauling water from the tank behind the old Fig Springs station or from the spring at the dairy south of Cool Springs. When Jack Rittenhouse made his trip west this station was already closed and by the time I arrived there was little left with the exception of a slab, the island for the pumps, lots of old wood and tin, and a kids play house built as a miniature of the station.
During these years Ed of Ed’s Camps was still living. His salty, expletive filled tours of the Black Mountains and the surrounding deserts were the catalyst that led me to see the desert as a place of beauty rather than the place warned about in Sunday school.
The entry photo for this blog is of Route 66 looking west into the Black Mountains. I can’t count how many windshields I have seen this view through and I never tire of it.
Shortly after moving to Oatman Road this became a view seen every Saturday as it was my job to haul water or help dad with this chore. If there were problems with the supply line to the tank at Fig Springs station then plan “B” was to drive to the springs at the ruins of King’s Dairy. This was directly across the highway from the ruins of Cool Springs and about a mile down the canyon.
I hated hauling water from there. The road was rough, rocky and steep. On quiet mornings when wandering that canyon I can still here that old motor strain under the load of pulling several hundred gallons of water up that hill.
It was a great place to be a kid. There was almost no traffic on the old highway, there were an endless supply of dirt roads to drive upon, and the possibilities for exploration seemed limitless.
Often I would drive to Oatman in my dad’s ’49 Studebaker truck or the ’53 Chevy truck. Cool Springs was in ruins as was Snell’s Summit Station, with only a visible register pump and foundations, at the top of the pass to mark its place in history.
Goldroad still had a fair number of buildings in various states of decay in spite of a tax law that encouraged companies to destroy existent structure with abandonment of mining. The cemetery was still intact and you could, with care and daring still drive the original alignment which, was also the National Old Trails Highway, east up the pass. Today, just before arrival at Goldroad, if you look over the edge you can see this road with is cable and post guards below.
Oatman was a hoot in those years. It was as dead as the highway with one store, a cafe that was open on occasion and about fifty people.
I don’t get to Oatman very often. I still love the drive but my memories make it tough to enjoy the town as it is today with throngs of tourist.
Most of my association with the highway is now the section that runs east of Kingman. In Peach Springs, where these photos were taken, we have many friends. This is also where we often go to church and on occasion I even preach a sermon.
On any trip east we always choose this route at least as far as Seligman and if time allows all the way to I40 at the Crookton Road exit. It is one of those rare opportunities to actually take a relaxing drive.
The first steps into what I now refer to as my “John Wayne” period were along this portion of the highway. The first ranch I worked on was in the mountains north of Antares Point where the big “A” frame building still stands and an Easter Island head has become an icon for travelers in search of unique photo opportunities.
Supplies were dropped at the Valentine store and post office. One of my jobs was to pick these and the mail up every week.
Then there is my office. It fronts old Route 66 (Andy Devine Avenue) and was once part of the Hobb’s Truck Stop.
I have fond memories of that old truck stop. When I used to drive into town from the ranch for a weekend of hootin’ and hollerin’ or to pick up a load or hay this was always my first stop. Even though we had first rate chow at the ranch there were many a morning I would dream of the next chance to drive into town for a big plate of huevos rancheros at Hobbs.
Now, my association with the old double 6 enters a new phase. Through books, through magazine features and this blog I introduce a new generation to the adventure found only on Route 66 and encourage an older generation to awaken old memories.
It would seem I have a new project – a possible book profiling a select number of ghost towns along Route 66. The good folks at the Yahoo Route 66 group have been a real blessing on compiling this list and for that I say thank you.
The criteria for towns selected are that they have a history which predates Route 66 and that they lost more than 75% of their population and 85% of their business district as a result of the Route 66 bypass with the interstate highway system. Here is what I have so far.
Oro Grande – an important mining supply center in the late 19Th and early 20Th century as well as service center for travelers on the National Old Trails Highway and Route 66.
Helendale – the springs here made this an important stop for Indian traders, Spanish explorers, and American fur traders such as Kit Carson and John Fremont before an actual community was established to serve the railroad in the mid 1880s.
Daggett – the discovery of silver in nearby mountains during the 1860s led to the formation of the community as a supply center. Mining remained the primary source of income for the community until the development of tourism with the National Old Trails Highway and then Route 66.
Newberry Springs – the springs made this a key stop on for travelers on the Mojave Trail, the Spanish Trail and, after 1885, the railroad. This importance continued through the glory days of Route 66.
Ludlow – founded as a water stop for the railroad in 1883 the town became an important stop for desert travelers on the National Old Trails Highway as well as Route 66.
Essex – a well installed by the Automobile Club of Southern California made this a veritable desert oasis for travelers on Route 66 and numerous business were established here to cater to those needs.
Goffs – mining, ranching and the railroad were the hinge pin for establishment of this remote desert community. Tourism fueled a small boom until a realignment of Route 66 in 1931 bypassed the community.
Oatman – about twenty years before the creation of Route 66 this community became the center for the last great gold rush in Arizona. In 1914, the National Old Trails Highway was selected as part of the course for the Desert Classic Cactus Derby race. This provided residents a front row seat as Barney Oldfield, Louis Chevrolet, and other drivers roared through town. The collapse of mining in the 1940s and the realignment of Route 66 in 1953 left the town a ghost of its glory years.
Hackberry – at one point during the late 1870s there was talk of this becoming the Mohave County seat. Mining, ranching, the railroad and eventually Route 66 kept this town alive well into the 1960s.
Truxton – speculators hoping to cash in on the construction of a proposed dam in the nearby Grand Canyon gave rise to Truxton in the early 1950s. The dam never materialized but the traffic on Route 66 transformed the stillborn dream into a town.
NEW MEXICO –
New Kirk – was less than a wide spot in the road until the arrival of the railroad in 1901. The town experienced steady growth fueled by the need for services of travelers on Route 66. By 1934 the population was reported as 200.
Montoya – the initial development of Montoya was as a loading point for the railroad in 1902. This coupled with the development of homesteading in the area gave rise to a small community with a thriving business district. Route 66 fueled the growth and the bypass of the 1970s marked its demise.
Endee – the town was founded in 1882 as a ranch supply center and was large enough to warrant a post office by 1886. As late as the 1950s the population was purported to be 150.
San Jon – founded in 1902 this sleepy ranching community became a boom town with the arrival of Route 66. At its peak the business district consisted of several garages, gas stations, cafes, motels, and a general dry goods store.
Glenrio – straddling the border of New Mexico and Texas this town dates to 1901. By the year that Route 66 was commissioned the community boasted of a hotel, hardware store, cafes, service stations and even a newspaper.
Jericho – the cornerstone for this high plains ghost town was the establishment of a stage stop in the 1880s. Ranching and the arrival of the railroad in 1902 fueled growth to a point that a post office was warranted. Serving travelers on Route 66 fueled the growth and by the mid 1930s more than 100 people lived here. The realignment of Route 66 in the late 1930s initiated a downward spiral that resulted in complete abandonment.
Alanreed – in the early 1880s a group of entrepreneurial farmers decided this was an ideal spot for a town and established the Clarendon Land & Cattle Company. With completion of the railroad in 1903 the town entered its glory days. At is peak the town population was purported to be 500.
Erick – founded as a farm and ranch supply center in 1901 the town boomed with an oil discovery nearby. By the 1940s the oil boom was over, farming was a distant memory and only Route 66 kept the town alive.
Texola – also founded in 1901 this town, the result of disputed surveys, has been listed as being in Texas as well as Oklahoma. From the 1940s on it was Route 66 that was the lifeblood of the community.
Afton – this community dates to 1886 and was established as a farm community. At is peak the community boasted several banks, hotels and numerous stores. Its most famous Route 66 connection is that it was home to the famous Buffalo Ranch.
Foss – farming in the Turkey Creek Valley led to the establishment of the town. By 1905 after relocation due to a severe flood the population soared to an estimated 1,000 people. In spite of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression a small air force base and Route 66 kept the town alive well into the 1970s.
Picher – the mines here were counted among the nations leading producers during World War I and World War II. This grey gold was also at the heart of the communities demise as toxic levels prompted abandonment of the community. This one is a bit of stretch in that its demise was not really the result of the Route 66 bypass.
Paris Springs Junction – this Route 66 service center is often confused with nearby Paris Springs, a milling center established in the 1850s. This community became an entity solely as a result of Route 66 with the first building, a garage, being built in 1926.
I have a few other places in mind including Times Beach and Heatonville in Missouri. The Illinois slot is still empty but I am busy scouring old maps, comparing them with new maps and chasing leads. As progress continues I will keep you updated.