As in the movie Groundhog Day, I know that the more things change the more they remain the same. In this particular instance I am referring to the fact that time and again one day, a mere twenty four hours, can completely alter the best of well laid plans. Well, that is truly the case since yesterdays post. The winter storm never materialized, there were issues with the internet provider, an unexpected trip to Walmart, and a minor glitch in what was to be the simple matter of gathering everything for the tax accountant in the morning.
It is times such as these that I give serious consideration to becoming an Amish farmer. On occasion this fantasy becomes a bit more modern and we have an old farm but draw the line at 1930 for the technology we will use. Instead, sucking it up to the best of my ability, this morning I plowed through the tasks at hand, let out a very audible sigh when contemplating the website ideas that were not feasible, and took my dearest friend for a long walk in the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains near Fort Beale. The cold morning air, the beautiful landscapes, and the company of my dearest friend, was a refreshing tonic and for a brief moment I was able to forget the impending deadlines that were hanging over my head. I knew that it would be a push to make up for lost time but as there was little that could be done without internet capabilities the only option was to relax. This is not an easy task at this stage of the game. The deadline for Ghost Towns of Route 66 is a mere two months away. The website is now on the fast track towards becoming the travel site envisioned. Travel plans that coordinate with promotional venues for the books need to be made. Spring is around the corner and I need to put a roof on the back side of the house, prepare the cooler, and clean the yard. As in most trying circumstances I find things to smile about, especially if the problems are largely self induced. Topping the list of ironic twists for the week is that I have received an invitation for a video interview and plug on the Jay Leno’s Garage website for theThe Big Book of Car Culturehttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760319650&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr. Here is the ironic part. I have always felt this book did not sell in the numbers it should have as a result of the cover and my lack of experience in what is required to promote a book. Just last week I spoke with the publisher about either an improved second edition or a second volume, sort of a part two. Now, I have this tremendous opportunity to promote a book that was awarded the bronze medal at the International Automotive Awards but it is not my latest book but one written five years ago! In either case this next week I will discuss options with the publisher, adjust my calendar, and see if Mr. Leno would be willing to put this together in early April. If so we will be off on another adventure and further constrict the time for completion of the new book. Trust me, I have absolutely no complaints. As it stands now we have a book signing at Hastings Books, Music, & Videos in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, on the afternoon of March 13, another at the Hasting store in Kingman on April 17, and then two days of speaking engagements as part of the Kingman KABAM festival in mid May. Then there are the loose plans for the last week in May that include a whirlwind tour of Route 66 from Kingman to Missouri, including the pre 1937 alignment in New Mexico that wound north to Santa Fe. As your Route 66 trivia note of the day, this would include some exploration around Glorietta Pass and the old Pigeon Ranch. This was the site of a major skirmish during the Civil War and a real tourist attraction during the 1920s and early 1930s. There is a touch of frustration to all of this. Success, determined by me to be the ability to pay all bills without a full time job and still eat at least every other day, seems so close I can touch it. I just can’t seem to get my fingers around it. So, I will just keep writing and taking pictures because of the enjoyment derived from sharing special places and obscure moments in automotive history. If, by chance, success does arrive I will rejoice. With that said, its time to get back to the book, work on the website, write a proposal to present to the publisher in the morning, answer a few letters, work on the press releases for the upcoming book signings, …
When we first moved to Kingman the running joke was that the town was settled by folks who stopped to wait for the wind to quit blowing, everyone else just broke down here. There is a surprising bit of truth to this. A day without at least a breeze is a rarity here. As far as breakdowns, well I can attest to meeting several dozen characters who did just that and decided to stay. One, a friend who passed away this past year, first came to Kingman in 1937 when enroute to Knoxville from California the distributor on his Auburn gave up the ghost. H.P. went on to a multitude of adventures including World War II but his brief visit to Kingman was a fond memory that led to his return about thirty years ago. My personal take on the weather here is simple. The only reason someone would say we do not have four seasons is because they have not spent a week in Kingman. Consider this past seven days. Rain, snow flurries, spring weather with temperatures approaching seventy and today, a winter storm warning with strong possibility for snow above 4,000 feet in elevation. Enhancing the ability to have all seasons in a week is the dramatic elevation changes found with very short drives. That was one of the determining factors in Ford Motor Company converting the World War II auxillary airfield at Yucca along Route 66 into a test facility in 1955. That facility is still in operation today. However, instead of Fords it is used to test the durability of Chrysler and Harley Davidson built products. There is a bit of Route 66 trivia for the day. The good news about another winter storm is that in the morning I will have time for some photography. I love storms in the desert as they add vibrant and colorful contrast to the stunning but harsh landscapes. Still, there are signs everywhere that spring is just around the corner. Just this morning I jumped out of bed at 4:30, gutted the office, cleaned it within an inch of its life, rearranged the furniture, and then had breakfast with my dearest friend before work. If that doesn’t scream spring, I don’t know what does. This afternoon after work, I will finish a few organizational tasks and settle in to prepare files for the tax accountant on Monday morning. If all goes according to plan, Monday should be a whiz bang sort of day – open the office, tax preperation, picking up some research material and donating a copy of my new book to the library, run errands for mother, and, hopefully, have a few hours to dedicate to Ghost Towns of Route 66. Indications are that this will be a very busy season here on Route 66. Dries Bessel will be leading a Dutch group along the old highway in July, an Australian group is rolling west in late March, in August a contingent of micro car enthusiasts will be heading for Chicago, and I recently learned that some folks from the Scandanavian countries will be rolling west on the old double six this year as well. It is quite apparent that Route 66 long ago transcended its original purpose and is now a larger than life American icon. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the number one choice for those vacationing on Route 66 is another American icon, Harley Davidsonhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1933911107&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr. If that is your favored mode of transport perhaps this book might be of interest. The changes made to Route 66 Info Center have generated favorable response. For me this site seems to be an endless source of frustration and excitement. The frustration stems from lack of time to really build it into a favored destination for those interested in automotive history or planning a trip along Route 66, or some of the other great two lane highways. The excitement is in working on it and the positive response received. With that said, I have set aside a minimum of two hours to work on it this weekend. If you are a regular visitor to the site, I suggest checking in Monday afternoon. As always, your feedback about the site as well as this blog are greatly appreciated.
At about 4:00 this morning I sat bolt upright in bed with a clear vision of what needed to be done to the website. For months I have tried different templates and formats but just couldn’t get the site to fit the vision. So, I spent more time with this than content. This mornings vision and a very busy lunch hour resolved that. Now, I can focus on expansion of material. So, when you have a spare moment please take a look at the new and improved Route 66 Info Center and let me know what you think. On the Memory Lane Garage page we have book reviews, links to automotive club sites, historic and original photos, and, of course, original feature articles. The next addition to this frame will be tech tips and expanded content. The home page has links to the other pages with summaries. In addition, at the bottom of the page there is a calendar of events for the Kingman area. Other pages currently in place feature original photos, travel tips with links, hotel and book reviews with links to corresponding websites, my schedule, a page where readers can share their adventures and photos, and great photos. The forum has a glitch and is not active as of yet and the gift shop is only complete on the Cafe Press site but has not been added to Route 66 Info Center. There is a link for the gift shop on the upper right corner of this blog. If your looking for that special Route 66 related gift or souvenir that might be a good place to start. The material ready to be added is expansive and will only be limited by time constraints. I have a small section for ghost towns of Route 66 but have thirty similar profiles ready to add. Likewise with a ghost towns of the southwest section. The photo gallery at the bottom of hte home page is but a preview. We have almost 500 images ready for the stock photo catalog to add as soon as possible. The Route 66 real estate page is only a shell. I need your assistance to complete this. So, if you have a property for sale in any community along Route 66 please let me know. As we want this to be an interactive and multi dimensional site another area where we can use assistance is in advertisement. If you have a business on Route 66, or the other great two lane highways, please contact us to discuss advertising on the site. Now, lets see if I can get the Info Center open and in full scale operation by the kick off for road trip season. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I just hope it is not a train.
There are many days when it becomes very difficult not to think that I am jousting at windmills. I spend the day at a dead run, accomplish everything on the “to do” list, and the end result is an unnerving silence in response to correspondence as well as a haunting feeling that nothing really was accomplished. Yesterday morning over breakfast I responded to emails, cleared the desk in anticipation of this weekends fun filled tax prep party, ordered a copy of Jim Ross’s book, Oklahoma Route 66, and another title by Skip Curtis, The Missouri US 66 Tour Book, compiled a list of people that I need to thank for making this past weekend a success, and finalized the material for the sale of stock photos that will be added to the website, Route 66 Info Center. During lunch I composed a rough layout for an updated second edition of The Big Book of Car Culturehttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760319650&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr. In spite of excellent international reviews and being awarded the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards this book never sold in the numbers I felt it should have. In retrospect, I now see that to a large degree that would be my fault. At the point in my career when the book was released I did not have the contacts or fully understand what was needed to promote a book. Roughly, what I have in mind is to eliminate some material that stretches the relationship with automotive culture, and add detailed information about Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway. If possible I would also add some material pertaining to U.S. 6. One idea I have is to add a map section for each state. A solid map showing the original alignment and then clear overlays with the subsequent ones. Most importantly, I would like to revamp the cover. It seems everyone who picks up this book finds it fascinating and hard to put down. The problem is the cover does not grab the attention. What I would like to see is some good vintage Route 66 neon, and, perhaps a vintage Harley Davidson advertisement, set against a classic Route 66 photo background. In the background photo a string of Burma Shave signs or a vintage billboard promoting the Lincoln V12 would be seen along the highway. Perhaps something iconic like Cool Springs. Here are a couple of ideas for the background photo –
Meanwhile, work continues to finish Ghost Towns of Route 66. I am suffering from a wide array of emotions with this project. The editorial constraints mean that I will have to leave some material on the cutting room floor. Then there is the looming deadline for completion. Added to the mix is the frustration with documenting the history of some of these places. New Mexico is a particular challenge. Some of the towns on the pre 1937 alignment through Santa Fe are almost two hundred years old and their origins and history is rather vague. While not quite as old, Romeroville is a prime example. I have information pertaining to its founder, the territorial representative in Congress, his lavish estate where he hosted presidents and dignitaries such as General Sherman, and the fate of his home. What I do not have is concrete information about the Indian village that was on the site originally. The flip side is the neat material I do have. This includes diary excerpts from the 1840s, military records pertaining to the expeditions to Santa Fe during the Mexican-American war, and travel notes from the teens pertaining to automotive travel during this period. I am quite excited to see this book in print. My hope is that it will fill in a few of the blank spots in the history of Route 66 as well as encourage folks who travel that storied highway to take more time for exploration as well as contemplation. Meanwhile, the countdown has begun to road trip season!
Discretion being the better part of valor (a fancy way of saying that I am a bit smarter than I was a few decades ago) we began our adventure with an immediate adjustment to plans. A winter storm that coincided perfectly with our trip led to scracthing the long anticpated drive from Prescott to Seligman on the Williamson Valley Road. We made the decision for the change in plans on Saturday evening and were not moved to second guess our decision even though Sunday morning, the day of our departure, it was deceptively warm and calm with banks of clouds dominating the eastern horizon and the faintest whiff of rain in the breeze. As we tend to see things such as a change in plans as opportunity for new adventures, the weather reports did not dampen our excitement. So, as we do most anytime we head east, Route 66 was chosen over I40 in an effort to make this a relaxing drive. The lack of traffic, the familiar scenery and the gentle curves of the old highway as it follows the canyons, hills, and valleys, were so refreshing. It was almost as though I was visiting an old friend.
Even the impending storm was comforting as we always find deep awe in the way cloud shadows transform the landscape here in the desert southwest. By the time we passed the ruins of Hyde Park (“Park Your Hide Tonight At Hyde Park”) we were so engrossed by the storm clouds it was difficult to concentrate on driving or keeping in mind that the purpose of the trip required we keep to a schedule of sorts.
I was further distracted by the occasional glimpses of the old road between Ashfork and Prescott. My pulse always quickens at the site of an abandoned bridge but when it is framed by quintesential western landscapes shadowed by storms I find it almost impossible not to stop. As an added treat the often dry stream beds were full rivers further enhancing the dramatic affect. It was truly a day of surprises and unexpected roadside delights! The premier launch of the new book,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, at the Barnes & Noble in the Gateway Mall in Prescott, Arizona, went well. The book was well received and we met some of the most fascinating people. Counted among these were the recent purchasers of Cool Springs, the actual springs and not the iconic station, near Ed’s Camp. These springs are on the north side of the highway and in the mouth of the canyon. Years ago there was a dairy here and I can’t count the times we camped among those ruins under dazzling desert skies. On more than one occasion we were blessed with an actual stream flowing from the canyon and a stunning sunrise illuminating big horn sheep at the waters edge. When we first to the valley in the mid 1960s there were several occasions when we hauled water from these springs and it wasnear here that I first learned to shoot a pistol. Now the road is impassable with the exception of a 4×4 with ground clearance. Prescott has morphed from a quaint portrait of small town America circa 1950 into a small metropolis during the past few decades but it has managed to preserve a central core that is a veritable step back in time. Anyone traveling east or west on Route 66 would be well rewarded for their efforts if a small detour were made to Prescott, about 45 miles south of Ashfork. The historic district is unique in that it was preserved, not recreated. There are several historic hotels that have without interruption provided lodging for more than a century, a real western saloon that dates to the 1870s, and an amazingly diverse number of restaurants, shops, and galleries. The area is a beehive of activity and the diversity of the crowds quicken the pulse. Bikers and real cowboys, yuppies and celebrities, tourists and retirees, locals and people from throughout the world make for a very exciting mix. As is our custom we stayed at the historic Hassayampa Inn and walked to dinner. This time we tried the little cafe at the Hotel St. Michaels (circa 1902) on the courthouse square, a bit pricey but good food and excellent atmosphere. For my dearest friend and I, Prescott has always been our place, our special get away. With our stay, dinner, and frosty stroll under the vintage lights this weekend that tradition continues. The Hassayampa with its beautiful lobby, vintage furnishings, and wonderful old lounge is a near perfect time capsule circa 1927. Moreover at $49.00 per night it is a true bargain. As an added plus it is centrally located within walking distance of restaurants, museums, and galleries.
It rained off and off throughout the night but the temperatures hovered near 35 degrees so the promised snow never materialized. Then, this morning over breakfast in the hotels authentically preserved restaurant, we watched the rain turn to sleet and then into a hard snow. By the time we left for the studio, I had a morning interview on AM Arizona, there was an inch on the ground and the snow was falling thick and heavy. When we hit the road for home several hours later the roads were a mixed bag of slush and fresh snow more than three inches thick over ice. A unique driving experience for desert folks such as us as my days of dealing with weather such as this in Michigan and other nasty places that start with “M” were long ago!
On the return leg as the weather showed signs of improvement we cruised Ashfork under skies of lead and soft snow flurries in search of interesting photo opportunities. As usual we were not dissapointed. Check out the ornate tin overlay on the front of this building on Railroad Avenue.
We repeated this in Seligman and again found a wide array of fascinating places. Half hidden to the side of this old hotel was a circa 1920 tractor. With the mood firmly set we gleefully abandoned I40 at the Crookton Road exit and rolled across the cedar studded plain frosted in white on Route 66 as rays of sunshine illuminated the deeply snow covered peaks on the horizon. What a spectacular drive!
For the first few miles west of Seligman we drove in sunshine and I honestly felt the storm was behind us. Then, near Hyde Park, we drove into a wall of sleet that erased all landmarks and on occassion, even the road itself. The pattern of blinding sleet followed by bright sunlight continued all the way to Truxton. And so ends another grand adventure on Route 66 and the roads less traveled. Two days, 315 miles, stunning scenery, new friends and old ones, new experiences, and a wonderful new adventure shared with my dearest friend. Next on the adventure calendar – Seligman to Crown King, almost 100 miles of pavement free backroad into the wilderness of the Bradshaw Mountains. Stay tuned –