An observant person can often tell the season by watching the movement of herds or flocks. Here, on Route 66 in western Arizona, the arrival of spring is marked by wildly fluctuating temperatures, desert breezes that blow steady at forty plus miles per hour, open toed shoes for the gals, and the ever increasing rumble of the Harley Davidson.
The folks at the Route 66 Museum in Barstow, California, had a special opening for a contingent of Spaniards on motorcycles. Last week we had a group of Austrians who had rented motorcycles in Chicago stop by.
In mid May I will finally get to meet with Dries Bressel with the Dutch Route 66 Association who will be riding through with some friends en route to California. We have been emailing for some time now and I have supplied news and photos of Route 66 for his website but we have yet to meet face to face over a cup of coffee and talk about this fascination with Route 66 and what I can do to fuel it.
However, the most sure sign that spring has arrived is the Laughlin River Run, a huge gathering of the faithful that come to celebrate the legendary Harley Davidson and the counterculture that has become almost inseparable from the motorcycle. Scattered here and there among the herds will be the independent thinkers, the daring few who will join in festivities with Triumphs and Honda Gold Wings, Indians and BMW’s.
As always I will keep my eyes peeled this weekend for classic examples of vintage motorcycles regardless of brand. Check back on Monday and I will post the results. Moreover, you might want to look at the Memory Lane Garage Page on my website, www.route66infocenter.com on Monday, May 4Th as the manufacturer of the month will be Harey Davidson.
If you are in the Kingman area next week on Friday evening check out the sock hop and Route 66 exhibit at the Beale Street Brews & Gallery on Beale Street. In addition to a sampling of our photography there will be historic Route 66 photos and the work of several other artists, good food, music, and lots of cars and motorcycles. I have a map for your convenience on the website.
On Saturday afternoon I will be signing Route 66 Backroads at the Power House Visitor Center as part of the Fun Run festivities. This fun filled celebration of America’s love affair with Route 66, the automobile, and the road trip is another sign that spring has truly sprung. Details and contact information for the Fun Run are also posted on the website.
However, you choose to celebrate the arrival of spring, by vintage car or motorcycles, drive or ride careful!
Well, as always the drive was wonderful with vintage country tunes flowing like smooth molasses from the speakers, pine and sage scented breezes teasing the senses, and my dearest friend and I enjoying each others company and hardly saying a word. The temperatures were absolutely perfect for hiking the slopes of Cherum Peak, the simple lunch was delightful, and my wife’s laughter was as the music of song birds on the breezes that swept up the slopes from the desert below.
The old mine made for a delightful place to stop. Much of the drift had collapsed and the mine was flooded. Water flowed past the old rails and over the edge of the tailings with a musical sound that enhanced the stunning views.
Ghost towns and Arizona ghost towns in particular have been a source of fascination for almost as long as I can remember. Shortly after moving to the Grand Canyon state in the summer of ’66 places once only read about became a tangible link to the history in my books
It is with clarity that I remember our first visit to Oatman, Arizona. It was a hot summer day but the oppressive heat could not detract from my excitement as we climbed ever higher into the Black Mountains on an alignment of Route 66 bypassed in 1953.
At that point in time this section of Route 66 was merely an old road and the ruins of Goldroad as well as the empty buildings in Oatman were simply there. For a young boy enamored with the tales of Stevens as he trekked through the jungles in search of lost cities or the stories of Carter’s discovery of the boy kings tomb in Egypt these were magical places where the imagination could be given free reign.
In the years that followed I sought these empty places for their solitude, for the love of mystery, and for the sheer adventure of discovering vestiges of a lost civilization. I explored the dusty streets and the empty halls of their hotels with reverence.
Many who sought them out did so in a quest for lost treasure or even as a source for cheap building materials. Others came to preserve what remained with canvas and paints or film and camera.
Time and the harsh desert winds, vandals and souvenir hunters have decimated most of these places that were once so full of hope and promise. Many of these ghost towns are now little more than rubble piles, foundations, and a notation on a map.
I made my first trip to Cerbat, once the county seat for Mohave County, in a battered old 1942 Chevrolet pick up truck that was really little more than a search and rescue vehicle (every time you leave town there is a chance some one will have to search for you and rescue your sorry butt). Vestiges from almost a century of mining were everywhere.
Cabins and buildings built of stone still had roofs, the monuments in the cemetery were easily found, and at many of the mines a great deal of vintage equipment could still be seen. My dearest friend and I paid a visit to Cerbat to take advantage of an unusually warm winters day in January and found only the faintest traces of stone walls to mark the site of this once bustling community that held such promise for immigrants to the Territory of Arizona.
Laws that penalized mining companies for not razing structures has also played a role in the demise of the Arizona ghost town. Ironically the resurgence of mining has also played havoc with many of these historic frontier communities.
For me visiting ghost towns has always had a therapeutic effect. They serve as an important anchor for life and help keep my perspective focused on the priorities rather than those things that seem so full of promise today but are mere ruins tomorrow.
As you may have guessed after almost a half century of exploration I have found numerous lost treasures, at least they were treasures for those who lost them. On one trek into the Cerbat Mountains, I did find a 1921 silver dollar in a rusty can under what had once been a porch where a tired rancher or miner rested and watched the evening shadows creep across the Sacramento Valley far below and as the sun sank behind the Black Mountains on the horizon.
Quite by accident I found a 1936 silver half dollar once. I was sitting on a rock savoring the desert solitude when I noticed the remains of coin purse at my feet. All that remained was a small piece of dried leather, the rusted metal of the frame and this shiny half dollar.
Perhaps the greatest treasure found on these many exploits are the memories. I have been privileged to see some of these towns before they vanished and I have been able to share these special places with my dearest friend.
If you seek the road less traveled and the towns now abandoned at their end, please take nothing but photos and leave nothing but foot prints. Save something for those yet born so they too may have treasures that are the memories of special places.
As you may have noticed my daily postings ended abruptly after last Wednesday. That should provide some indication of how the past few days have gone in my corner of the world.
As I left off with this saga last Wednesday we will bring you up to speed beginning with Thursday. The day started off on a normal footing – a breakfast of oats, wheat toast, fruit, and strong Irish tea followed with a little Bible reading, Psalm 103, a quick check of the email and news headlines, and a shave and shower.
On most mornings my dearest friend and I often pass like a graveyard and day shift employee. Still, there is always time for a word of encouragement, a prayer, and a hug.
The morning was absolutely gorgeous so I decided it would be a shame not to ride the bicycle. I am limited on the routes available to work but still manage to find a different route for every day of the week.
In spite of this limitation it seems I always find new surprises that enhance the enjoyment of the ride. On this particular morning these took the form of a remarkably original Chevette Scooter, sharing the road with a vintage Whizzer, and riding along Route 66 as a small herd of Harley Davidson motorcycles flying German flags roared past.
My job is never dull but in recent months it has entered the realm of bizarre. As a case in point consider this conversation from Thursday.
The phone rings and I answer, “Penske Truck Leasing, may I help you.” The response, “Yes, is this Uhaul.”
At that juncture there was little doubt it was going to be one of those days. After all, this was five minutes before we opened.
The conversation continued. “I need to know how much it would cost to rent a truck for a move from Fort Mohave to Spokane. Wait. My wife says we are moving to Sparta not Spokane.” I can’t make this stuff up, I am just not that talented.
My question, “Sparta, Tennessee?” receives no answer so I ask again. The response, “Just a minute, she is checking.” Then, “Yeah, but just in case can we get a rate for Spokane as well.”
Next I ask, “When will you need the truck?” The response, “Can we get it in a half hour?”
Then comes the million dollar question, “What size truck will you need?” This was followed by a long pause and then the beginning of a lengthy listing of every item owned from cat carrier to grand pa’s chair.
I politely interrupted and asked, “How many rooms do you have in your house?” This was followed by a listing of each room, including the bathroom and attic, and a question, “Does the garage and shed count as a room?”
Once we had established a truck size we began discussing towing equipment. “Will I be able to tow my pick up behind the trailer?” “How about my travel trailer?” “Are there limitations regarding people riding in the towed vehicle?”
After this strange litany was resolved we came to price negotiation. We had just started discussing this fine point when the customer interrupts and says, “Let me get back with you in an hour. I want to see which will be closer, Spokane or Sparta.”
At noon the customer calls back. “I spoke with a dude this morning about a truck to Sparta but I don’t remember his name.” I reintroduce myself.
Then I get this. “Yea, man, we will just need a small truck as the furniture company just repossessed most of the stuff. So can you get us that 16′ truck one way to Batavia, New York.”
Well, the last time I saw the customer they had their truck, a Rand McNally print out with directions to Batavia, New York, and they were headed west on I40 towards California.
Granted this is an extreme example but increasingly I deal with similar circumstances every week. Well, the rest of Thursday and the week were rather anti climatic at the office as well as on the home front.
Thursday afternoon my wife called to inform me that Alfred, a neighbor with a passion for old Chevies, had stopped by to inquire about the wagon. That evening after I got home we culminated a deal and the Ford wagon found a new home.
We rounded out the night with an Easter week tradition in our home, watching the Passion. This powerful movie never ceases to bring me up short and sharpen my focus on what is truly important in this life.
Saturday was a half day and the plan was to round up a few components to work on the Jeep, our latest acquisition. As it turned out I had to go to Napa as well as Auto Zone to get the parts wanted but was still home in time for lunch with my son, who had stopped by for a visit, and my wife. Ah, the joys of small town life.
Sunday was a day of reflection which included a long walk with my dearest friend high into the Cerbat Mountains. We followed this up with some prayer, phone calls, and that evening I completed the column profiling Charles Nash for Cars & Parts.
Monday I took the Jeep to Steve’s Route 66 Auto Repair for assistance with things not figured out on Saturday. I now feel that with the exception of a couple small issues, such as not being able to open the drivers door from the inside, the Jeep is ready to take us most anywhere we choose to go and back again.
For a maiden shake down voyage the game plan is a trip to Windy Point high in the Cerbat Mountains above the ghost town of Chloride for a picnic lunch with my dearest friend and a little photography. As the trip will be on Sunday, I should have photos to post on Monday.
If all goes as planned then I will set my sites for a mid May, birthday cruise to the old mining town of Crown King nestled among the pines of the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott. My dearest friend hasn’t made this trip so I think a cruise along the time capsule that is the Senator Highway is in order.
As I promised to use this long winded post to bring you up to speed word has been received that final edit for Ghost Towns of the Southwest will commence in June. This should put us on track for a first of the year release.
I am still in limbo with Ghost Towns of Route 66. In spite of this minor setback research is progressing and loose plans are being made to cruise Route 66, seeking out the earliest alignments where feasible, from Kingman east to at least Amarillo. The rough time table for this is to take a weeks vacation in late Mayor early June.
One final note from my vantage point on Route 66. Most folks who visit Kingman ask how we can live here without real seasons.
I am always polite when I respond by telling them we have seasons, stick around a week and you will see. Sunday and Monday were picture perfect with slight breezes and temperatures near seventy five degrees. Today the wind is howling at around thirty mile per hour with gusts topping fifty.
Wednesday the high temperature is supposed to be around fifty degree with an overnight low in the high twenties. We are also expecting rain, thunderstorms, and possible snow flurries. By Saturday the projection is for temperatures near eighty degrees. Welcome to Kingman!