Its odd how the mind works. I have been asked to
consider a third ghost town book, one that profiles towns that had their boom and bust during the period 1900 to 1950.
When the topic was introduced the first thing that came to mind were the towns of the desert basins of eastern California, central Nevada, and western Arizona. Many of the towns established in these rugged, forbidding landscapes during this period represented a new era in the history of the southwest.
Towns such as Rhyolite, Goldfield, and Tonapah, unlike their frontier era cousins, may have been rough and tumble mining camps at their core but they were also modern, bustling communities of brick and stone construction.
Residents enjoyed running water and electricity. Most had railroad stations, movie theaters, and a few even had automobile dealerships.
Perhaps this is one reason their demise is so fascinating. For all intents and purposes these were modern towns with promising futures. In my mind this makes their empty streets even more haunting as it seems as though they represent the ghost of Christmas future.
Somewhere in the back of my mind thoughts of the project must have been circulating. As I was organizing some photo files this one of a sunset on Route 66 near Kingman grabbed my attention and in an instant I had a working title – Ghosts of the Purple Sage, a nodding tribute to Zane Grey.
It makes me wonder what other loose things are rolling around in there and where they will surface.
The international fascination with Route 66 never cease to amaze me. Its almost as though this highway has transcended its original purpose to become a community suspended between the past and the present.
Examples that reflect the sense of community among fans, those who preserve its history, or that make a living from it abound. Yesterday, Mike Wallace, owner of Central Garage in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, stopped by the office/museum/unofficial Route 66 visitor center on the return leg of his ride along the old double six. On his trip west he delivered a note from Laurel Kane at Afton S
tation to Debra at the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in the old Harvey House in Barstow.
Two weeks ago I was adjusting my plans to breakfast with Dries Bessel of Holland so we could include Johan, another resident of Holland that had chosen a bicycle rather than motorcycle for his Route 66 adventure. A few days before that it was a delightful couple from England who had been told in Illinois to contact me if they had questions or problems in western Arizona that stopped by.
Less than one day after Jeff Meyer, an icon of the Route 66 renaissance movement, was hospitilized forums, messsage boards, and chat rooms were buzzing about his condition.
You can bet your bottom dollar he will be inundated with cards and prayers from well wishers throughout the world. If you are familiar with Mr. Meyer’s many contributions to breathing new life into Route 66 and would like to wish him well the mailing address is:
Bed 31, ICU
Northwest Community Hospital
800 West Central Road
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
What is it about the old double six that promotes such a camaraderie among enthusiasts? How is it this highway was elevated to the status of icon and others such as the Lincoln Highway languish as an “historic highway” and a nice drive?
Mine is not to question why. Mine is to lend a helping hand where I can and to enjoy my front row seat to the delightful parade that never seems to end.
All along the length of Route 66 are amazing gems and breathtaking surprises that are only accessed with small detours from that iconic highway. Seeking them enhances any trip along the old double six and adds a new dimension to savoring the journey rather than focusing on the destination, the very essence of a Route 66 adventure.
To that end I penned my last book, Route 66 Backroads. A few detractors have quipped the book takes the focus from the highway. The reality is the book presents the highway as a portal to more than the past.
Perhaps the best example I can give is the Hualapai Mountains, an island of pine forested mountains in a sea of desert. From Kingman this oasis is accessed from Route 66 with a brief but stunningly scenic twelve mile drive.
Laced with miles of beautiful trails these mountains are among our favorite haunts during the months of summer. As Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick off of the summer season we decided today was an excellent time for our first mountain hike of the season.
We followed the original alignment of Hualapai Mountain Road to the Aspen Peak trail just below the ranger station. With small cooler bag, camera, and tripod in tow we set out on our kick off adventure.
Our first stop was the ruins of the old Silver Bell Mine, a nearly forgotten footnote to history.
Rock slides have almost completely obscured the last vestiges of this once promising enterprise.
We savored the cool, pine scented breezes as we followed the deeply shadowed trail higher into the mountains. With each break in the trees and every clearing the views became more spectacular.
As we crested one ridge the spectacular views of the broad Hualapai Valley, the Cerbat Mountains as a backdrop, and the sweep of Kingman brought us up short. Enhancing the stunning vista was a wide array of wildflowers.
Comparing the Hualapai Mountains to an island is not an empty analogy. As with an island paradise
there is fine dining at the Hualapai Mountain Lodge, a wide array of lodging choices from rustic camping to cabins and a resort.
From Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona, the Hualapai Mountains is a very short detour, not one you will soon forget. And isn’t getting there half the fun?
It is with great embarrassment I confess that in spite of my fascination with Route 66 and the other great American two lane highways we never watched Cars until last evening. What a delightful, insightful, and inspirational film!
First there was the computer generated animation. It was absolutely stunning. I have long been a fan and admirer of early Disney animation. Without reservation I can say this is a worthy successor of that artistic tradition.
Next was the insightful choice of vehicles to represent the past, present, and future of Route 66. What a delightful way to introduce the next generation to vintage automobiles as well as Route 66. You can bet your bottom dollar Hudson’s obscurity is over.
Then there was the scenery and Radiator Springs, a delightful and fun filled landscape of Route 66 landmarks. From the fanciful design of the hills that hint of the Cadillac Ranch on the high plains of Texas to the landmarks of Shamrock Texas and Holbrook, Arizona.
If there is any fan of Route 66 that hasn’t seen this film I strongly suggest it be made a priority. And if you just want a fun filled, family friendly movie reminiscent of the glory years at Disney studios this is a must see.
We are not overly quick to embrace change. I suppose we are sort of like the slow moving ground sloth when it comes to embracing the trappings of the modern era.
This is not to say we aren’t fascinated and even intrigued by the amazing array of gadgetry that is the hallmark of our society in the first decade of the 21st century. Its just that we have found more often than not these things complicate rather enhance life.
As a result we jokingly refer to ourselves as the Hinckley Hillbillies. We live in a sort of suspended animation somewhere between the extreme electronics geek whose home is fully automated and the Amish farmer.
This brings us to the unusual photo displayed with this mornings post. This was originally a color photo of the Adventurer in front of Cool Springs along Route 66 in the Black Mountains of western Arizona.
In building and developing our companion website, http://www.route66infocenter.com/
, largely with the assistance of Building a Web Site for Dummies,
I discovered the fascinating world of electronic photo manipulation through http://www.irfanview.com/
. This photo is the result of some play time spent on that site.
When we first launched the website there were issues with extremely slow load time. We found the photos were to large. As a result we were forced to sterilize the site by removing the photos. Now we have a solution and by Monday afternoon vibrancy will be restored to the site with colorful photos of our corner of the world, from our escapades, and with historic photos. As I can’t resist playing with a new toy you can bet money there will also be some oddities such as this as well.
This should be the final obstacle with the website. Now we can focus on transforming it into the interactive, one stop site for travelers and travelers with a fascination with automotive history originally envisioned.
To that end I look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions. I would also like to encourage business owners to consider advertising with us. There is a contact form on the website or you can reach us through the blog comment section.
Another project of importance for this holiday weekend is final coordination of the Route 66 Ghost Town project with the primary photographer, Kerrick James. This includes compilation of the towns to be included for profile.
It is my sincere hope that as you enjoy this holiday weekend a moment of two will be set aside to meditate on why it was established. Perhaps an opportunity will even present itself for saying thank you to a veteran.