MORE FROM THE YEAR IN REVIEW
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.