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.