A spirited and potentially divisive debate is building steam among fans of the old double six. On one side of the fence are those who see themselves as preservationists, on the other those who are focused on the future more than the past. Both camps have valid points.
The former in their fervor to preserve the fast fading remnants of the legendary highway occasionally become myopic and forget that there is only one constant in the history of Route 66 and that is change. From its inception this legendary highway has been in a state of flux as evidenced by the various alignments, the towns that withered on the vine after being bypassed, and the tide of urbanization that sweeps once rural landmarks from the landscape.
The latter may be well intentioned and even in some cases visionary. It could be argued that their endeavors to develop solar and biodiesel facilities within site of the Route 66 corridor have an historical precedence in the development of dams on the rivers of the western United States and the subsequent flooding of historical sites.
This view looking east across the Sacramento Valley towards the Hualapai Mountains on the pre 1953 alignment of Route 66 is unchanged from when this was the Main Street of America with but one exception, the industrial complexes at the bottom of the valley along I40. The harsh reality is that this nation is in dire need of a new generation of energy production and the path of Route 66 across the deserts of Arizona and California is through the center of prime locations for these facilities. In 1947, Jack Rittenhouse noted the Fig Springs station pictured here was abandoned. Thirty years ago the foundational slab was used as level support for a trailer and a small decorative stone wall outlined a garden where the pumps once stood. Today finding the site is difficult as the desert is fast reclaiming all traces.
Route 66 in its entirety will never again be a transportation corridor. That is a fact. The economic viability of property preservation and rennovation will be more of a determining factor in regards to what is preserved for future generations than historical relevance. That too is a fact.
A recent story carried by Route 66 News illuminates these realities. http://rwarn17588.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/a-dream-in-the-desert/ Does Chambless or Amboy or Cool Springs have greater historical relevance than the currently abandoned Truxton Canyon Indian Agency School at Valentine or the Painted Desert Trading Post? If millions were spent to restore the school or trading post what purpose would they then serve? How would their future upkeep be funded?
We have a responsibility to preserve remnants of Route 66 for future generations. However, all preservation be it Route 66 or the redwoods of California is a luxury that only a prosperous, secure nation can afford.
So, we stand at a crossroads. Perhaps our efforts and resources would best be spent to evaluate the economic feasibility and viability of what remains on Route 66, find ways to save these for future generations and then to encourage development of technologies that ensure future generations will also be able to drive a ’57 Chevy on legendary Route 66.
“There is a race of men that don’t fit in, A race that can’t stay still …” So opens the poem, The Men That Don’t Fit In, by Robert Service.
For at least thirty five years this poem has echoed in my mind as I made countless attempts to fit in, to carve a societal niche. Most attempts have been hollow at best as wanderlust and insatiable curiosity keep me from wandering the path chosen by most.
The house needs paint but an opportunity arises for a trip to Virginia so the trim fades and we stroll the streets of historic Williamsburg. It would be relatively easy to pursue ministry opportunities closer to home in comfortable churches but instead find peace and satisfaction serving in churches where the heater is broken, the cracked windws are covered with carboard, and the collection plate is used to gather change rather than dollars.
Over the years I have been blessed with incredible employment opportunities but chafe under the harness as a wild mustang would if serving as a draft horse. In years past there have been opportunities to make contributions in wide ranging fields from politics to finance but instead find satisfaction in jobs where I can work face to face in meeting needs.
So, it is rather appropriate that we inherited Barney the wonder truck, a homely old work horse that carries the succinct summary of my life in chrome script on the rear of the box, Adventurer. Moreover, like this old truck, I seem to be at my best in settings and landscapes often avoided by others.
This old truck presents the illusion of subdued civility with its automatic transmission, power steering, and chrome trim. However, at its heart it is an unpretensious, no nonsense truck little changed from its Spartan cousins built in the 1940s or 1950s.
Expanding on that theme was the recent acquisition of the Jeep Cherokee, a vehicle that seems to symbolize my life as I begin the second half of a century here on planet earth. I am a bit more civilized, find a bit more pleasure with creature comforts such as air conditioning, but still find the greatest satisfaction in seeking the road less traveled, the quiet places where you can press in to God surrounded by His finest handiwork, the forgotten places, the places where there is no need for pretense or the clutter of life in the modern era. Fortunately I have been blessed with a partner, my dearest friend, that loves these things as well. She also provides the needed balance that keeps my wanderlust, my urge to see, to explore from becoming self destructive.
It is my dearest friend that gently led me to channel my adventurers spirit into writing, to share my love for the lonely and empty places with others. This is another example of how richly blessed I am.
With these thoughts in mind I begin a new week and a full schedule. There is work on the website (www.route66infocenter.com), the next book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, another installment of The Independent Thinker for Cars & Parts magazine, and, of course, the office, the job that keeps beans on the table and gas in the tank.
Meanwhile the struggle will continue as I force the mind to focus on the task at hand rather than dream of a trip on old Route 66, into the Black Mountains, to Bisbee, Alaska, Australia, or the myriad of other places I would rather be.
I thought the title of this post made for a fair summary of my world at this point in time. To illustrate this mixed bag I selected three photos.
First, the sunset. Well, that is something I never tire of and that is one of the many things that endear me to the desert southwest.
This particular sunset has a Route 66 connection and as this iconic highway is a thread that ties so many aspects of my life together it seemed appropriate for this post. This sunset was shot from the hills above Route 66 to the east of the historic district in Kingman, Arizona.
Located just west of the parking lot for the Quality Inn this ridge is another often overlooked little gem in the Kingman area. As the views from this lofty perch are nothing short of stunning I often wander up there when I just need a break and a place to meditate on the latest Route 66 related project.
Now, an explanation for the photo of the 1921 Hamlin-Holmin. On Thanksgiving, I took a deep breath and began clearing up the office as preparation for commencement of the next project, the book profiling the ghost towns of Route 66. Buried amongst the various files, notes, and books was a folder pertaining to the development of front wheel drive automobiles in America, remnants of a project that never materialized. In addition to this rare photo the file also contained three photos of the racers built by J. Walter Christie between 1906 and 1910. I posted these on the Memory Lane Garage page of the companion website, www.route66infocenter.com.
The development of front wheel drive is just one aspect of the early years in the American automotive industry that seem to have been lost in the mist of time. Another would be the development of alternative energy vehicles and hybrids.
That is a story for another day but suffice to say that before 1912 there were many locations where it was easier to have the batteries charged for your electric automobile than it was to buy gasoline. During the same period it was steam powered automobiles that shattered all speed records and before 1920 the Woods Dual Electric, a hybrid, was being driven on the streets of Los Angeles.
Now as to the last photo. This imposing brick structure is one of the last remnants from the Truxton Canyon Indian School in Valentine Arizona. The empty structure cast its shadow over Route 66 but few who pass by are aware of its colorful history. That too is a story for another day.
The last position of today’s post title is “welcome to my world.” So, let me tie these threads together and you have a better understanding of the strange world in which I reside.
The front wheel drive vehicle piece is being resurrected in several parts. There will be a feature for the website, an installment of the Independent Thinker for Cars & Parts magazine, and sharing as well as gathering information via the forum on the Antique Automobile Club of America website (www.aaca.org).
The Indian School and its history is on going research project that is used to satisfy my curiosity, to add depth to the next book, and to help me develop a deeper understanding of the Hualapai people. Questions as to the buildings future ties in with an ongoing discussion about what to preserve and what let go of along Route 66 in the Kingman area.
The sunset is wishful thinking. For the first time in weeks we have a chance of rain and the clouds are building. So, perhaps, we will be blessed with a spectacular sunset this evening.
All of this, plus a morning spent at the office, is just another average day for me. Welcome to my world.
A few posts ago I began looking back at the past year in the hope of learning from past mistakes, getting a handle on what direction to head in 2010, and finding a little encouragement in regards to my progress as a writer. Followers of the blog may have noticed the subheading changed in mid year. April was the month that sparked the decision to chronicle the life, times, and adventures of a starving artist on Route 66 and the road less traveled with the emphasis on the latter. The first day of the month was spent at the office followed by a series of meetings pertaining to the Route 66 Association of Kingman and improvements to the historic district. At the time there was no way of knowing the long term ramifications of those meetings. The following week was what folks with a lick of sense call normal; work, home to my dearest friend and errands for mother. The only blip was writing another installment of The Independent Thinker, an enjoyable and profitable venture. This column profiled Ralph Teetor, an amazing and inspirational figure. His primary claim to fame was the invention of cruise control. However, his legacy as an inventor is a lengthy one that includes developmental work on the electric razor, gyroscope development for World War I torpedoes, the largest piston ring manufacturing company in the world, and work on automatic transmissions in the 1920s. What really makes this story amazing is that Mr. Teetor was blinded in an accident at age five! As I had plans for the next several weekends I also wrote another feature for the following month. This one profiled another inspirational character, Charles Nash. On the 12Th, after initial work on the Jeep and a several week test drive of a hundred miles or so around town, we decided to give the Jeep a long distance trial run. The initial idea was to cruise north on US 93 and then up Big Wash Road to the Windy Point campground in the Cerbat Mountains above the old mining town of Chloride. This would allow for about forty miles of highway travel and twenty five miles of moderately rough roads and hill climbing. What we didn’t count on was being struck with a bout of mid life crisis resultant abandonment of common sense and an adventure entirely void of any semblance of maturity. In short it was a most delightful day, an opportunity to revisit that rare moment in time when we were free of responsibility or care with nothing but the simple pleasure of being together in the desert that we so love. After a brief stop at Windy Point to enjoy the view and check the Jeep we decided to continue to the hiking trail at Cherum Peak. A long walk amongst the scrub oak and along the ridges where we rewarded with awe inspiring views seemed to only whet our appetite for adventure. So, upon our return to the Jeep we began discussing the return trip and decided to try the old road that entered Chloride past the murals and the remnants of the legendary Tennessee-Schulyhill mine. At this juncture it should be noted that the last time I drove this road, in 1978 with a 1942 Chevy p.u., it was almost impassable. It hadn’t improved. In fact there were two clear indicators, as we started down the mountain, that his might just border on silly. One, the ground squirrels stood in the road unafraid as though they had never seen a motorized vehicle. Two, there were no tracks indicating a wheeled vehicle had passed this way in some time. With my wife at the wheel and vintage rock blaring from the speakers we set off on our grand adventure. After we survived the first steep down grade and hair pin curve with an eroded edge that dropped into the depths of a very rocky canyon we stopped for pictures and a hearty laugh or two. We were now committed to our brief expedition into insanity. There was no way on God’s green earth the Jeep was going back up. We took turns driving with numerous stops to create a road by filling in huge gaps with rocks, to move rocks, to explore, to laugh, to savor the wonderful desert solitude, and to take a deep breath of the clean mountain air. It was a drive of less than 15 miles but as we neared our second hour we had only covered half of that, partially a result of the road and partially the result of our near constant stopping to explore old mines or small waterfalls. My wife and I are simple folks who prefer to live life uncluttered with many things that most people take for granted, like vehicles manufactured after 1970 with air conditioning. This often leads me to quip that we are the Hinckley hillbillies. Hopefully that will better explain the joke that accompanied the last leg of the journey. Well, we were in site of the murals which meant we were less than two miles to town when the road vanished amongst a veritable sea of rocks and boulders. As forward was truly the only option I got out and walked to pick out a possible route that would inflict the least amount of damage and that had the best chance of success. I was half way across the stream of potential disaster when the wheels began to slip as the Jeep attempted to climb up and over a particularly large rock. It was at this point I heard this small voice in my head whisper, “Its a Jeep, you have four wheel drive.” With a laugh that might have scared anyone listening I slipped it into four wheel drive and the stalwart Jeep made the reminder of the trip into Chloride without missing a beat. We had made this arduous journey without the benefit of the Jeep’s primary attribute because we were so busy enjoying ourselves we had forgotten! It was about this time we turned on the air conditioner. It was also about that time we began laughing with the delightful abandonment of teenagers who didn’t have the sense to pour out of a boot with directions on the heel. It was truly a grand day. We were able to enjoy each others company completely unburdened from the cares of day to day life We became wholly confident of the Jeep and its capabilities. We made memories that still bring a smile to our face. The remainder of the month was quite anti climatic after that stunt. I began negotiation for a new book, the current project, profiling ghost towns of Route 66, finalized arrangements for a television interview, wrote several ghost town side bars profiling Hachita, Chloride, Shakespeare, and Vulture City for True West magazine, and received some encouragement about Backroads of Route 66 from members of the Czechoslovakian Route 66 Association. I ended the month with the realization that I still had a long ways to go if I were going to be an overnight success as a writer. I also confirmed the fact that life is a grand adventure made all the more enjoyable when you have a best friend to share it with.
Shortly after this mornings quick Thanksgiving post I stood at the front window and watched the sky, brighten, turn pink, and the first rays of the morning sun cast shadows of the rosemary and sage on the drapes in whimsical patterns. Breakfast and coffee with my dearest friend were followed by a little blast from the past music, Phil Collins and Cindy Lauper, as I finished preparing for the new day. This included gathering lunch items, fresh pumpkin pie and bean soup, and warming up the Jeep as the temperatures were just a hair under the freezing mark. I so wanted to ride the bicycle this morning as I love the brisk morning air. However, as I need to drive to my mothers this evening via Route 66 it seemed best to take the Jeep. The drive was wonderful. I took the long way which allows for a few miles of driving on the historic old highway and by the time I arrived at the office the sun had crested the Hualapai Mountains casting them in a wild pattern of shadows. What a great way to start a day!