ROUTE 66 REFLECTIONS

ROUTE 66 REFLECTIONS


*click on photos to enlarge

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.