I really feel for the folks along Route 66 in Oklahoma, Texas, and eastern New Mexico but here in Kingman spring fever is in the air as the temperatures are pushing sixty degrees and the sun is shining. It is enough to make a fellow close the office, hang the “Gone …” sign in the window, fill up the gas tank, and head west or south. Instead I will finish the day in the office, have dinner with my dearest friend, work on getting the forum functional for the website, Route 66 Info Center, answer correspondence, and hit the sack to read the latest issue of Hemmings Classic Car, an issue dedicated to unrestored automotive time capsules. Last night I added the latest installment of Cort Stevens unfolding story to the website as well as a link for his huge photographic journal of a Route 66 adventure. I have been imitating a writer for more than twenty years but Cort has a real gift. I hope it is one he continues to develop. Perhaps he will become one of the fortunate few who see their books on the best seller list and regular checks in the mail box. The game plan for the weekend is in place, barring one of the unexpected events that serve as the spice of life. Saturday will be a half day at the office then there will be a real effort to finish the California chapter for the next book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, and get the long promised shots of the National Old Trails Highway, the first alignment of Route 66, in Kingman posted. To give you idea of just how many incarnations of that highway there have been check out the Route 66 Atlas site. With weather this nice it would be delightful if we could take Monday, my scheduled day off, and make a quick road trip into the desert to photograph sites along Route 66 between Needles and Daggett in California. Perhaps that can be my reward for a job well done Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
I spoke with Chris Durkin, a member of the Route 66 Association of Kingman and the President of the Kingman Downtown Merchants Association, this morning and we should have a scheduled date for the first organizational meeting of the year soon. Shortly after this we will have joint meetings to set dates for the spring and summer season of Chillin’ on Beale Street, the Octoberfest, and, of course, the annual Route 66 Fun Run. I will keep you updated on all aspects and dates. This information will also be posted on the calendar of events at the bottom of the home page on the Route 66 Info Center website. Now for some new business that I find very exciting. I have been asked to appear as a guest speaker to talk of Route 66 adventures at the Adventure in Travel Expo in Chicago this spring. The original idea pitched to me was a whirlwind adventure – fly from Las Vegas at 1:00 in the morning on Saturday, glad hand and mingle that afternoon, talk and sign books on Sunday, fly back to Las Vegas on Sunday night, and then make the 100 mile drive home. I had a better idea – ROAD TRIP! As I envision it we load the Jeep with books, meet the folks along Route 66 who have been so supportive over the past couple of years, meet some new fans of the double six, and sign books at gift shops and museums along the way. So, if you carry any of the books I have written and would like signed copies please let me know so a game plan can be made. If you do not sell these books but would like to, contact Voyageur Press, the publisher, and then let me know if you would like them signed as we roll through. If you do not sell the books and do not plan to but can offer a cup of coffee as we make the epic journey please let me know. Please note, these plans are not set in stone – yet. The original date scheduled for this convention was January. A list of establishments where my books are available, with applicable links, will be posted on the website, Route 66 Info Center, before we leave. The final item of the day is Route 66 trivia. This mural by the legendary Route 66 artist, Bob Waldmire, is at TNT Engineering in Kingman, Arizona. This building, now a machine shop, was a local watering hole signed as The Tavern. In the 1984 movie, Roadhouse 66, the interior scenes were shot in this bar. Numerous other scenes were filmed in Kingman and along Route 66.
This is the season for dreaming of spring, of planning road trips, and thinking of travel in general. To that end the focus will again turn towards fine tuning the website, Route 66 Info Center, in the next week. In the past few weeks we have added a Share Your Adventure page, added some new photography, and a couple of new book reviews. The goals for the next seven days are adding a new chapter to Cort Steven’s unfolding saga as well as a link to the photo journal of his adventure on Route 66 last fall, some new book reviews, add some Route 66 trivia notes and related links, update the calendar of events, add a few more photos, and, perhaps finalize arrangements to add a forum page. The goal for many of the additions is to make this a more interactive site. So, if you wish to share a link to a photo chronicle of your adventure, have tips, suggestions, ideas, or event that would like to share please let us know. After a small detour and a couple of bumps in the road the Route 66 Association of Kingman is back on track. The website is nearing completion, months after the original deadline, but I promise it will well be worth the wait. In the mean time we will utilize the Destination Kingman page on the Route 66 Info Center site as a temporary home. In addition, there will be a membership drive and organizational meeting at some point in the next four weeks. I will keep you updated.
It was brought to my attention that I neglected to post Route 66 trivia yesterday. So, I owe readers two items. First, pertains to the Route 66 Motel in Kingman, Arizona. During the 1960s and 1970s this motel had another name. Care to take a guess? Give up? The Pony Soldier. For those who really want the no frills experience in authentic Route 66 lodging I suggest the Route 66. Several friends have stayed there and always found it to be clean as well as relatively quiet. As an added plus I know they owners and they are very nice, friendly folks. And to round out the Route 66 experience there is a Sonic Drive In across the street, Route 66, where local clubs often gather during the months of spring and summer.
Item number two. This photo, courtesy of the Mohave Museum of History and Arts in Kingman, is of the Old Trails Garage circa 1950. As a point of reference the tall building to the right sporting a Chevrolet Buick sign is the Hotel Brunswick. The garage dates to about 1914 and has served as a repair facility for a number of automotive manufacturers including Packard, Chalmers, Chevrolet, Cadillac, La Salle, and Jeep. If you cruise the alley behind the garage you will still see the faint Jeep logo painted on the wall. The parking lot to the west was the site of the Desert Drug, Frontier Cafe, and Frontier Bar.
Where do we begin? The share your adventure page on the companion website, Route 66 Info Center, is now functional. Our first submission is by Cort Stevens who was inspired by his recent adventure on Route 66 to pen a short story that will be posted in chapters as it becomes available. He has also completed a compilation of photos that chronicle his trip. A link for this will also be added to this page but in the mean time you can check it out here. If you would like to share your adventure on the old double six, or have tips, suggestions, or questions, please drop us a note. We will work to have submissions approved and posted within seven days. I should also note we will be expanding the calendar of events.
For the first time Barney the Wonder Truck failed to start this morning as the float stuck and dumped fuel on the manifold. I have had a bit of a miss this past couple of weeks and there is seepage at the base of the carb. The hope was that I could postpone a tune up and carb rebuild for a couple of weeks but that isn’t going to happen. So, that is now added on the to do list somewhere between complete the first chapter for the new book by Monday, as per contract, update the website as promised, change the oil in the Jeep for an anticipated drive to Ludlow in search of Route 66 sites to photograph, and respond to a ton of important correspondence, most of which pertains to interview requests and book signings for the coming year. Please do not misunderstand. There are no complaints on my end as I am a very blessed fellow. I am grateful for the old Dodge, love to travel, and am thankful that I can share my love of adventure and old vehicles through writing. I am also quite grateful for the full time job that keeps gas in the tank and beans on the table. Still, at some point it would be a real hoot if we could turn things around and have writing and photogrpahy be the primary income.
In an unrelated note another storm is blowing in but indications are it will not be as severe as what we dealt with last week. We are in dire need of rain but I am not of the opinion we need it all at once.
The up side is that if this continues we will be blessed with a stunning spring. The last time we had winter rains like this the Hualapai Valley was transformed into a carpet of flowers as colorful and garish as a casino carpet.
That is truly a stunning site against the stark back drop of Red Lake, the dry lake bed, and the stunning beauty of the Cerbat and Music Mountains. The photo above, taken last year near Tombstone, gives you an idea of just how beautiful the desert can become with a bit of rain. On the writing front, in addition to the items of immediate concern mentioned previously, in the blink of an eye my dance card went from semi busy to booked for the next year. I am being chased by a deadline as work continues on the next book, Ghost Towns of Route 66. As is often the case in these endeavors there is the feeling that the work is inadequate coupled with with the sense that it is just not going as envisioned. Enhancing these feelings is the realization that I am still short in regards to research material, especially in regards to Illinois, and that some of the places I had hoped to profile have a history that is so sparse there really ins’t enough for inclusion. Still, they are so fascinating they deserve at least a sidebar or footnote. One of the great blessings in regards to the research that goes into a book is the folks you meet, such as Laurel Kane at Afton Station in Afton, Oklahoma, or Debra at the Route 66 Mother Road Museum in Barstow. Without these fine folks projects such as Ghost Towns of Route 66 would not be possible. Promotion for Ghost Towns of the Southwesthttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, scheduled for a March release is in high gear. I find this aspect of being an author quite exciting and very frustrating. Time and finances limit just how much I can do. Still, I really enjoy meeting the people who buy my books and hearing their ideas, thoughts, and suggestions.
At this point it looks as though I have a television interview coming up in Prescott, I will keep you posted, and a couple of signings this summer. Again, details will be provided as they become available.
If you would like to schedule an interview, book signing, or speaking engagement, please contact Maurrie Salenger at 612-344-8154.
Okay, we are on to plan “C”.The long anticipated restoration of a vintage Packard sales and service sign that was to mark the first step in the resurrection of the Old Trails Garage is on hold – again. This time its a serious health issue with the owner. From that perspective the sign and the garage is secondary and we pray for speedy recovery. Meanwhile we, the Route 66 Association of Kingman, have initiated a joint project with the local tourism office. For this endeavor the goal is refurbishment of the historic City Cafe sign and placement above the information kiosk in front of the Power House Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum. As I envision it the sign would be mounted in a manner similar to that of the Motel Downtowner in Flagstaff. Perhaps the tower would not be that high but we do want it up enough to provide illumination for the parking lot and to be noticed from a distance. For the trivia buffs the City Cafe, as well as a circa 1939 Texaco, and the Imperial Motel, was demolished this past year and a Walgreen’s now sits on that hill. The cafe was a Kingman landmark that served travelers and locals alike for more than sixty years before closing its doors in 2008. The sign was added in about 1960. Stay tuned for details about the progress of restoration. Now, for an explanation on the car photos with todays blog. The first is a one of a kind factory prototype housed at the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, near Kalamazoo. This vehicle is an American Bantam built Jeep prototype modified by Checker into a four wheel drive, four wheel steering configuration. There are indications that these two very small companies had hoped that by combining resources they would receive the military contract for their construction. The second photo is of a very rare limited production four wheel drive Hamlin Holmin. This photo is dated 1921. The last photo is a revolutionary front wheel drive race car designed by Walter Christie, a pioneer in the develop of front wheel drive. These vehicles all share a common denominator. Besides being highly unorthodox they all feature a variation of front wheel drive. Several years ago I wrote a feature on the evolution of front wheel drive for Hemmings Classic Car. More recently, I penned a brief profile of J. Walter Christie for The Independent Thinker, a monthly column that is published by Cars & Parts magazine. I learned long ago that when it comes to history, especially automotive history, never procalim to be an expert as lurking in the shadows is something to prove you wrong. Well, it would seem that all of my research and writing on the topic of front wheel drive was little more than skimming the surface. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=widgetsamazon-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=078643967X&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrScattered throughout the pages of American Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles of World War I: Illustrated History, are a number of companies that toyed with various configurations of front wheel drive as well as four wheel drive. This was but one of the surprises found in this wonderful book. I was steeled for the worst as the first page was turned. The cover had given the impression I was about to delve into a fascinating subject rendered as dry as a three day insurance seminar. Vintage advertisements coupled with concise, informative, and well written text make this an excellent addition to an automotive research library as well as a fascinating read. Hats off to Albert Mroz for a job well done. The research alone that this book represents gives clear indication it was more than a mere writing assignment, it was a passionate labor of love. A more detailed review will appear in a forthcoming issue of Cars & Parts magazine. I will keep you posted in regards to the scheduled date of publication.
After nearly a week of storms this morning dawned clear and cold with temperatures hovering just above twenty degrees. A thick layer of frost covered the Jeep, the neighboring roofs, and the old Adventurer. It was a perfect day for a Sunday drive, a grand adventure on the old double six. So after the traditional Sunday morning activities we gassed up the Jeep and headed west across the Sacramento Valley, into the Black Mountains, and on to Oatman. Stop one was Fishbowl Springs just to the east of the summit at Sitgreaves Pass. I have been stopping here to immerse myself in the history, the stunning views, and to bask in some of God’s finest handiwork for more than forty years. On our first visits during the mid 1960s there was a tree and picnic table here. For most of the past thirty years I been fortunate enough to share the simple joys of these springs with my dearest friend. Does it get better than this? Today our visit was picture perfect. The weather was a brisk forty degrees with no breeze. The skies were clean and blue, the mountains on the far horizons frosted with snow, and it was so quiet you could hear the cactus wren in the brush and the sound of water trickling over the rocks below. As I have a very full plate right now the inital game plan was to return after a visit to the springs. However, the day was so perfect we just could not bear the thought of a fast return. So we continued west over Sitgreaves Pass, the site of Snell’s Summit Station, a gas station that was well known for its ice cream and sandwiches when this was still the main street of America. When we moved to the area in the summer of 1966, the old visible register pumps still stood on the concrete slabs in front of the ruins. Both sides of the pass are scarred by the path of a pipeline but the scenery here is so stunning even this is but a small distraction. Evidence abounds in signs about private property, expanding tailings, and equipment on improved roads into the side canyons that mining is again transforming the old town site of Goldroad. This historic mining camp dates to 1903 but little remains and even these faint traces are fast vanishing. Oatman is, well, Oatman. Kitchey tourism has transformed the old town into a rustic Disneyland, a curious blend of gift shops, buildings built to appear old and condemned, and a few surviving remnants that give the once booming mining camp a new and dubious lease on life. As a kid Oatman was really kind of neat even if most everything was closed and boarded up. It had a feel of realism, a sense of mystery, and palpable history. Times change. If it wasn’t for the new found fame chances are the old town would today resemble Goldroad. The Route 66 trivia for the day pertains to these two venerable old mining towns. Both date to the early 1900s even though initial mining exploration began in the area during the 1860s. In Goldroad, a service station offered either towing or a driver for those intimidated by the steep grades or whose vehicle was incapable of making the steep climb to the summit for the pass. The driver was often a kid of 15 or 16 that traded his pay for ice cream before the return walk from Snell’s Summit Station. Gas prices are a far cry from the days when a gallon at the summit station sold for .19 but it is still tough to beat the simple joy found in a Sunday drive, especially if you are sharing it with a friend and the drive is on Route 66. Now, a bit of shameless self promotion. If you would like to know more about Goldroad, Oatman, or the dozens of mining towns in the Kingman area I respectively suggest a copy of my latest book, Ghost Towns of the Southweshttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=widgetsamazon-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrt. On a final note, a new page has been added to the companion website, Route 66 Info Center. Here you will be able to share tips, vent, post photos, and in general develop an online community of like minded travelers.