To give you an idea how close to Route 66 we lived after moving to Arizona this photo was taken while standing on the shoulder of that illustrious highway. It was in the summer of 1967 that we moved to this house, that was fourteen years after this leg of the highway was bypassed by the Yucca realignment that would become I40.
Our Arizona adventure began when my dad threw a dart at a map and then purchased, sight unseen, some property near Kingman. As it turned out that piece of property was in the middle of absolute nowhere, almost exactly half way between the two alignments of Route 66 in the middle of the Sacramento Valley.
So, my dad bought this house. At the time it was little more than a well built shell, four exterior walls, a row of studs down the middle as support, and a roof. It was originally built to be the model home for a land boondoggle that included carving roads across the desert in a diagonal pattern towards the mountains. My dad is one of those rare fellows that can build a solar power plant from a sows ear, the guts from a ’53 Chevy, and the electrical system removed from a Studebaker. Okay, that may be a bit of exaggeration.
Still, in short order he finished the interior of the house and masterfully designed a water system to alleviate many of the problems generally associated with hauling water. A few years later we added the garage built from the remains of the Episcopal church and two old houses in Kingman we razed.
The now towering Yucca plants were gathered from the surrounding desert for landscaping effect. To further enhance the illusion of a desert oasis we also hauled more than 200 barrel cactus to create a circular driveway.
In retrospect I know see we were living in grand style if it had been 1936 instead of 1966. Still, for a kid it was really a pretty neat place to grow up.
My explorations of the vast empty places started with a bicycle and hiking boots. Then I added horseback and old trucks.
On weekends and long summer days I often rode my bicycle down to the water hole at the site of Fig Springs station or to visit neighbors. These journeys were most always along old Route 66 as daily traffic numbered in the single digits. I was a bit young to appreciate the incredible opportunity but old man Edgerton, the Ed of Ed’s Camp, took a shine to me and often shared his intimate knowledge of the Black Mountains as well as their history. On more than one occasion in wandering those rock strewn palisades I have wondered what might have been if more attention had been paid to his teachings.
Driving old 66 was a right of passage for the few kids who lived in the valley at that time as this meant we were old enough to haul water. On occasion we would extend our cruising range with a sneak trip to the Whiting Brothers station, now Dan’s Auto Salvage, for a coke.
The miles of dirt roads provided endless opportunity to explore and to imagine we were older than we were. It also provided a litany of life lessons as well as the rare ability to enjoy the solitude that is only to be found deep in a desert wilderness.
My dad had a good job with the mine at Mineral Park but still chose to drive vehicles that reflected the hardscrabble life of those who chose to live as a Dust Bowl refugee along old 66. Our water truck was a World War II era Dodge, a two ton beast. Our first desert wagon was a cut down 1949 Mercury. Our first work truck was a 1949 Studebaker. In time this was replaced with a wonderful, one owner, 1953 Chevy truck that sparked a long love affair and great respect for the Advance Design series Chevrolet.
For years I have cruised past the old homestead without a second glance. Recently, on a return trip from Oatman I felt compelled to stop, to reflect.
Perhaps it was sparked by dad’s visit in May and thoughts that he will be 83 in January. Perhaps it was just simple reflection on my life and the role that Route 66 has played in it.
My visit was short as my past is not somewhere I choose to linger, especially as the future becomes shorter with each passing year. With all of these thoughts in my head I climbed back into the Jeep, rolled east toward Kingman on Route 66, and as thoughts of my first drive on this road, an adventure that ended with several barrel cactus from the driveway under the truck, came to mind smiled to myself.