I end most every day on a thankful note but there is something reflective about Thanksgiving. I know that this is largely an American thing as we have set aside a day for this reflection even though traditions such as football have created just a bit of deviation from original intent.
Even though in many aspects it has been a tough year I have a great deal to be thankful for. As last year ended with a stay in the hospital I suppose the fact that all is well on the health front would be the first thing to be thankful for.
Next would have to be my dearest friend. I had no clue that it was possible to enjoy this level of intimacy with another human being. Over the years we have chosen to weather storms, some seen in today’s society as deal breakers, rather than part ways and this is the fruit. For my dearest friend I am truly thankful.
I have a job. As an added bonus it is really a pretty good one even though in recent months time off has been a bit scarce. In these trying times that is something to be truly thankful for.
Even though my dream of becoming a full time writer and photographer has alluded me for almost twenty years I am grateful that it has been possible to share my fascination with history, passion for vintage automobiles, and love for the road less traveled with others through numerous books as well as several thousand feature articles.
All of this ties in to being thankful for where I live, at the very heart of some of the most beautiful real estate on earth and dead center on the longest remaining uninterrupted stretch of historic Route 66. For a fellow with my interests does it get better than that?
There is a bit of a cloud on my day of reflection and thanksgiving. On this it might be best to let Abraham Lincoln explain it.
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied, enriched, and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all of these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray clemency and forgiveness upon us.”
The sun turning the sky pink and the first rays of daylight twinkling through the sage and rosemary outside the window tell me it is time to get my backside in gear. So, it is my sincere hope that each and everyone of you have a delightful Thanksgiving holiday and that you can find a few things for which to be thankful in these trying times.
It is Tuesday, the first day of a new work week for me. Though I am quite grateful for having a good job it has become a very heavy burden in recent months.
First, there is the increasing sense of desperation in my customers as they move in or move out. People starting over at fifty plus years of age, people selling most everything to afford to move, people moving in the hope that somewhere else is better, people moving on the slim hope of a promise of work by a friend.
Then there was the thrice canceled vacation. This in turn has added to the stress associated with the new book project, Ghost Towns of Route 66.
Last but not least has been the near impossibility of having a weekend off as I train a fill in. This past weekend was the best one since mid September work till noon on Saturday, called back to the office at four, Sunday off, Monday open and close the office.
As usual I try to never waste a moment. So, I used the weekend for a delightful walk along an old mining road that climbs high into the Cerbat Mountains with my dearest friend, work on the website project (www.route66infocenter.com), research, writing, and reading as well as the usual errands for my mother.
As I edited photos for size to ensure fast load time for the website I cam across this shot and was immediately transported to a delight three day weekend last year. It was our 25Th anniversary celebration.
I had arranged for a three day weekend and as the old Ford wagon was suffering from severe oil leaks had also arranged for a rental van from work as well as made reservations at the historic Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee. I have to add at this juncture that Bisbee needs to be experienced at least once.
It was a long but relatively pleasant drive of just under four hundred miles to Bisbee. Along the way we stopped in Tombstone where we visited some sites associated with my wife’s family as her father was born there. These included the Rose Tree Inn and the courthouse where her grandfathers picture hangs in the gallery of Cochise County sheriffs.
The return trip was a long drive as I decided to by pass Phoenix. So, we rolled north through the old mining towns of Globe and Superior, into the bedroom community of Payson, and to I40 at Flagstaff. What a wonderful trip!
Well, its always nice to visit the past but there is the future to plan. So, its off to work I go.
Followers of this blog, or the books and feature articles I write, know that adventures on the road less traveled are how we choose to spend most every moment of free time. In fact it was this love for adventure and the difficulty in finding travel information geared towards those on a restrictive budget that initially led to moving behind my specialty, automotive history, to pen travel books and features.
Well, that coupled with insatiable curiosity led to toying with the idea of creating a website where I could provide all manner of material to assist in planning a trip on Route 66. As my imagination often runs faster than I can keep up this idea soon morphed into envisioning a website that provided this information about Route 66 as well as other great highways. Then it became a virtual clearing house for travel information including reviews of books, hotels, and restaurants, maps, original features, and links to approved sites as well as a place to share my fascination with automotive history.
In typical fashion I read a couple of books and set up an account with Go Daddy. Then I proceeded to build a website that became a sink hole for time.
Still, it was an educational endeavor if not a rewarding one. The most frustrating aspect is that it do not come anywhere near meeting its intended goal of providing travelers with needed information.
So, as my schedule is so full I am currently working 26 hours out of every 24 the decision was made to abandon the website. I toyed with the idea of selling the domain name but just could not get the vision for the website out of my head.
A few weeks ago I took a deep breath, adjusted the schedule and decided to give the website an honest effort. First, I erased everything. Next, I revamped the entire format.
To be honest I am rather pleased with the general site. Now, I will begin trying to flesh it out in an effort to manifest the dream of creating a Route 66 adventure in the electronic age, a site for the armchair traveler as well as those planning to take to the legendary highway.
This photo of the Jeep was taken south of Williams, Arizona, near White Horse Lake. There are miles of forest service roads in this area making it a delightful escape from the summer heat for fishing, camping, or merely cruising dusty back roads.
This area is accessed by taking Fourth Street south from Route 66 in Williams. I should note that if this main road is followed south for about forty miles you will arrive above the stunning red rock country of Sedona in the amazing ghost city of Jerome.
This second photo is Barney the wonder truck in the Cerbat Mountains near the ghost town of Stockton Hill last fall. It is amazing how much things can change in a mere twelve months. We visited the same location a week ago in the Jeep and the road had deteriorated to such a point we actually had to use four wheel drive.
In my top ten list of favorite things vintage automobiles dominate at least one or two of those slots even though I am not the average car guy. As an example, I can repair most aspects of my vehicles, especially the older ones built in an era of carburetors, plugs, and points, but derive little or no pleasure from the endeavor.
I do, however, enjoy driving them. In stock configuration vintage automobiles are the closest we can come to actual time travel. Enhancing that illusion is driving them on historic two lane highways such as US 6, US 66, and the Lincoln Highway. The next best thing is to see, and hear, vintage automobiles in their native habitat, the historic back roads. To be passed by a vintage Corvette, or to pass a slow moving Model A Ford on Route 66 is a brief opportunity to experience a point where the past and present share the same point in time.
From that perspective I am quite fortunate to live here in the desert southwest where vintage vehicles are seen on the streets 365 days a year. As an added bonus I also live and travel daily on Route 66. Then there is the fact that my office is directly across Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) from NAPA auto parts, a stop for many who travel this historic highway with an older vehicle.
So, the opportunities I have for these time travel moments, even if it is vicariously, are a daily event. In fact I can not remember the last time there was a day that didn’t include a vintage automotive experience. The top photo was taken in Hackberry, Arizona, at the iconic general store on Route 66. I was playing with photo shop and felt the sepia towns helped convey the concept of blurring the past and present.
This photo was taken during the Route 66 Fun Run in Oatman. The bottom photo was taken at the same event in Hackberry. Together they exemplify the automotive diversity the event attracts.
The fun run may be the crown jewel of blending Route 66 and automotive history but it is only one weekend of the year. For the next 362 days you will have to drive it with the anticipation of a child on Christmas morning.
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.
This old highway dates to the early 1950s. However, in many places it follows the route of the Mohave Prescott Toll Road also known as the Hardy Toll Road that linked the river port of Hardyville and Fort Mohave with Fort Whipple and the Arizona territorial capital at Prescott.