GHOSTS OF THE LOST HIGHWAY
At the risk of giving away to much here are a few teasers for the current project, a book profiling the Ghost Towns of Route 66.
Many aficionados of Route 66 know Afton, Oklahoma, as a result of the hard work of Laurel Kane, proprietress of Afton Station. Few, however, are aware that directly across the street, is a veritable time capsule of dusty, historic gems. There is Bassett’s Grocery, only recently closed after more than forty years of operation, in the building that once housed the Pierce & Harvey Buggy Company.
In the same block is the Palmer Hotel. Built in 1911 the hotel, and cafe built about 1940, once served railroad workers as well as the endless stream of travelers on Route 66 that passed in front of the door.
Another often overlooked Route 66 gem is the pre 1937 alignment in New Mexico that swept north through Las Vegas and Santa Fe before turning south towards Albuquerque descending the switchback curves of La Bajada Hill. Some sections of the highway on this loop are actually part of the historic Santa Fe Trail and a few of the almost forgotten, almost empty settlements predate that trail by decades.
Then there is Vega, Texas, with the Oldham County Courthouse that dates to 1915. Another treasure in this dusty wide spot in the road is Roark hardware.
In Peach Springs, Arizona, Osterman’s Service Station & Garage is now closed and is close to collapse. Its primary claim to fame is being the longest operating station on Route 66, 1927 to 2004.
Dusty, forlorn, empty Essex is more than an historic outpost in the desert on Route 66, it is also the last community in the United States to receive television. Daggett, California, dating to the 1880s, has a unique railroad connection, here was the only three track line in America, a unique system that allowed the Union Pacific to switch between narrow and standard gauge.
In retrospect it would seem that profiling the stories of the ghosts of Route 66 is a logical step for me. For as long as I can remember ghosts have been a large part of my life. As a kid I developed a deep fascination for ghost towns. Next came an interest in vintage cars and the history of the companies that manufactured them. Then came interest in old roads and lost highways.
All of this and the things I am finding in my research for Ghost Towns of Route 66, and the fact that the date scheduled for our trip east on old 66 keeps getting pushed forward have me chomping at the bit to to take to the highway. At this point it now looks as though that long awaited journey will have to wait for the end of March and be anchored at the eastern end with a speaking engagement at the Adventure in Travel Expo in Chicago. This photo is of Hanover, New Mexico. I had the opportunity to explore this little treasure while working on Ghost Towns of the Southwest.
This old road dates to 1905 and the development of mines in Goldroad and Oatman, Arizona. The question is when was it replaced by the alignment of The National Old Trails Highway that became Route 66 after 1926.