Unless tethered to a schedule or appointment, I seldom give thought to getting lost, following a road just to see where it leads, or making a wrong turn. On more than one occasion it was a wrong turn that led to some of our most amazing discoveries. During the research for Ghost Towns of the Southwest, we took Barney, our tried and true 1968 Adventurer, and sought the fast vanishing remnants of Stockton Hill. The town dates to establishment of mines in the area during the 1860s but it proved to be a short lived venture. However, as was the case with most mining camps on the western frontier, Stockton Hill died several times. Usually, after the first abandonment most buildings were dismantled for use elsewhere. Then with new discoveries or improved methods of extraction or mining the town was reborn.
Barney on the road in the Cerbat Mountains
As a result it can often be a challenge to find the exact site or even traces of the earliest incarnation. Stockton Hill is one of these places. On this particular adventure I chose a road we were unfamiliar with in an effort to get above the town site for a birds eye view. As it turns out we never found the original town site but we did meet a fascinating fellow who had built his home high on the ridges above. A geologist by training, recluse by choice, he was an endless source of information about the surrounding canyons, the wildlife and the history. A detour led to a grand adventure and new acquaintance. The main roads, the roads of least resistance are where the modern world flows in myopic focus of the destination. However, the back roads are only traveled by those who seek their charms, their history, and their hidden wonders. It is on these roads you find grand adventure, memories that stand the test of time, and people as fascinating as the roads themselves.
The new face of Route 66
You just don’t find people like Melba at 4 Women on the Route along the sterile interstate highway. You don’t find places of stunning serenity draped with history such as the painted Desert Trading Post anywhere along the roads where the traffic never stops. I often travel the interstate. I am grateful for the speed and safety made possible by it but lament the price paid for the convenience. I am not alone in my fascination for the road less traveled. Nor am I the only one that laments the transition to a generic world. In the most recent issue of Hemmings Classic Carhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B00006KGT1&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, published by the fine folks at Hemmings Motor News, Jim Richardson used his editorial to reflect on the changes found in a 40th anniversary cruise along the west coast in his 1955 Chevy. “A lot has changed since we made this trip the first time. Gone are the two pump gas stations out in the country where someone pumped your gas, wiped your windshield and checked your water and oil.” He also notes, “Sadly, the mom and pop cafes where you could get a good home cooked meal have disappeared, too.”
The Midpoint cafe in Adrian, Texas
It would seem Mr. Richardson is unaware that a resurgent interest in Route 66 is transforming that legendary ribbon of asphalt into a 2,300 mile time capsule where the mom and pop cafe still thrive. Cast adrift from the modern era, Route 66 was left to wither on the vine but instead has flourished as a paradise for those seeking a haven from the generic, the sterile, and the bland.
It is not just travelers that are rediscovering the adventure of the great American road trip. A new breed of entrepreneurs are discovering the pleasures and profits of resurrecting a time capsule to meet the needs of a new breed of traveler. There is Bill at the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari and Laurel at Afton Station, the Patel’s with the Wigwamand Dan Rice on Santa Monica Pier, Albert Okura and Amboy. All along the old road tarnished gems are being polished and neon darkened for decades again lights the night. If your thoughts are similar to Mr. Richardson’s may I suggest you consider rediscovering, or discovering, the non generic world of Route 66 in 2011. And if your thinking it might be time to reinvent yourself, are looking for a slower pace in life, or are wanting something a bit more fulfilling in life may I suggest you consider finding a dusty gem that needs a bit of polish.
After years of hearing folks say that it seemed as though I could talk about old cars for hours and enjoy myself even when alone, I decided to try sharing my fascination with all things automotive through the written word. Much to my surprise the first submission sold to a prestigious publication, Special Interest Autos published by Hemmings Motor News. Flush with the excitement of my first sale the decision was made to apply my new found formula for success to my second passion, travel and adventures on the road less traveled. For this endeavor I drew strength from a long list of acquaintances that told me I had a gift for telling folks where to go in such a manner that they looked forward to the trip. Again, my first submission sold to a leading magazine, Route 66. Well, that was in 1990. By 1992 with the stack of rejection notices dwarfing the approvals and checks, the vision of quitting the day job that was fueled by initial success was a fast fading dream. Still, I clung to it like a dog with a bone. I still do. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760326894&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr The highlights of a life lived as a starving artist on Route 66 and the road less traveled during this past twenty years are many. There were family trips to Colonial Williamsburg and San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago, Denver and Bisbee. Father and son trips are a favorite memory and there were many. Rated http://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=ifrhigh on my list of favorites was an adventure to Chattanooga that provided an opportunity for me to introduce David to a favorite childhood haunt, Sand Mountain in Alabama, and to family that still lived there. During this past three or four years the scope of the adventures has grown in direct correlation to the size of the projects. In writing Backroads of Arizona, my dearest friend and I found ample excuses for spending most weekends exploring this amazing state. These adventures also served as a foundational element in the writing of Ghost Towns of the Southwest. This book was our incentive to retire the 1973 Olds and the well worn Crown Victoria wagon, and replace them with the Jeep Cherokee. The current project, a Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas is built on the research and adventurers that went into writing of Ghost Towns of Route 66, scheduled for release next http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=076032817X&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrJune at the big international Route 66 festival in Amarillo. Another foundational element for this work was the research and writing of Route 66 Backroads. As 2010 is the 20th anniversary of my adventure as a writer, it is quite fitting that it has been the best yet. There have been trips to Missouri that led to the meeting of Laurel Kane at Afton Station and Melba at 4 Women on the Route, and adventures to California and Prescott. The financial rewards of writing may have proved elusive but the benefits have been beyond my wildest dreams. The adventures, the people met, and the friends made as a result of my writing endeavors have been truly priceless. Perhaps that is why I continue the quest and strive to fulfill the childhood dream of becoming a writer while keeping a day job that supports the writing habit.
The first item of the day pertains to the Painted Desert Trading Post on a scenic section of Route 66 to the east of the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park. In recent years these forlorn ruins set against a backdrop of quintessential western landscapes have become a favorite stop for die hard fans of the legendary double six.
The ruins of the Painted Desert Trading Post east of Holbrook.
The property was listed for sale numerous times during the past few years but to the best of my knowledge never sold. This past week the most popular topic on the message board for the Route 66 egroup on Yahoo was the closure of the road to the alignment of Route 66 that provides access to the picturesque ruins. Could it be that the old Painted Desert Trading Post has new owners? Next on the agenda is the big anniversary bash at Santa Monica Pier on November 11. Dan Rice, the recently elected vice president of the California Route 66 Association, is spearheading the event which promises to be the last big Route 66 fling of 2010.
Santa Monica Pier
Coinciding with the event is the launch of Dan’s new book, End of the Trail. The book chronicles Dan’s long struggle of recovery from traumatic brain injury and is an inspirational book I am quite eager to read. Unfortunately we will not be able to attend the festivities. The long road of conflicting schedules is drawing to a close and we will be driving to California shortly after this date to tape an interview with Jay Leno that will appear on his website, Jay Leno’s Garage. Rest assured, I will keep you posted on the trip, another opportunity for adventure on Route 66, as well as information pertaining to the release of the interview. The topics of discussion are being finalized. Among them are two books, Checker Cab Photo History, released as a second printing this month, and 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. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=158388100X&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr The profile of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company was my first book. Even after writing for some of the most prestigious magazines in the nation, I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs about this project. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to write a larger, more detailed history of this company. The primary frustration I had with this work was the tight editorial restrictions on size and the resultant decisions about what to leave out and what to include. The Checker story has it all and I just scratched the surface with this book – poor immigrant makes it big in America, corporate intrigue featuring E.L. Cord and SEC fraud hearings, innovative thinking, and obscure history with far reaching ramifications. The cars built by this company manifest all of this and more. There was the model M Suburban, a one ton, nine passenger wagon that converts to a panel truck or hearse, a special armor plated Checker for a customer who fled the country one step ahead of the law, a four wheel drive-four wheel steering Jeep, and a car that became an American icon on par with Route 66 or Harley Davidson. The Big Book of Car Culture, bronze medal recipient at the International Automotive Media Awards, remains one of my proudest accomplishments as a writer. It was also one of the most enjoyable projects ever undertaken even though we had an incredibly tight schedule of just six months from contract to deadline. Tragically, it also represents the high water mark for a friendship as this was a joint effort between myself and the talented author and photographer, Jon Robinson. The title and cover are deceptively bland. Within these covers are concise, illustrated histories of everything from gas pumps and pavement striping to crash test dummies and seat covers, from the Ford Mustang to the hearse and from truck stops to parking meters.
Dan Rice and Chris Durkin on Santa Monica Pier
Our trip to California will be including a trip to Santa Monica Pier and a visit with Dan Rice and his delightful wife. I need a dose of his infectious enthusiasm, my wife needs some sea air, and we need a signed copy of his book. As noted previously this week, the postings are a bit sparse as I am back to a six day work schedule at the office. Compounding these time constraints has been a family emergency. Thank you for the patience.
Those who follow the blog, or that are familiar with the books I have written, know we prefer the road less traveled, the attractions that fly under the radar, and obscure destinations such as Rhyolite in Nevada or the ruins of the Painted Desert Trading Post. So, places such as Las Vegas seldom enters the discussion when we begin discussions about the next road trip even though it is a mere 100 miles up the road.
We will make the trek through glitter gulch when a major airport is needed and on occasion we will zip through as we travel to some obscure place in the desert. There are some fascinating sites and attractions in Las Vegas such as the impressive automobile collection at the Imperial Palace and the neon bone yard.
However, for us they are overshadowed by the thin superficiality of most everything. In my humble opinion it is as though the creators of Disneyland were give free reign, the best hallucinogenics, and access to unlimited funds. Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert and they have lagoons and city officials talking of recreating the canals of Venice to breathe new life into the downtown area. Still, there is an interesting history here that is often lost amongst the glitter, the fake pirate ships, and scantily clad silicone princesses. Here is a link to a Las Vegas history site that also has information about sites overlooked by visitors focused solely on the adventure of the casino. It will keep you busy for quite some time so you might book mark it for a cold snowy winter afternoon. On the personal front, I am back to a six day work schedule for the foreseeable future. So, unless I drag my backside from bed around 4:30 blog posts might become a bit sporadic because evenings will be set aside for the encyclopedia and atlas project, the movie night with my dearest friend, and work to ensure 2011 is a banner year for Kingman as a vacation destination.
Santa Monic Pier as seen from Palisades park
Scheduling conflictions and the situation at the office make it impossible for me attend the gala Route 66 anniversary celebration on Santa Monica Pier scheduled for November 11. Dan Rice, the recently elected vice president of the California Route 66 Association, is spearheading the major event and all indications are it will be an exciting new chapter in the history of that legendary highway. Still, we have plans for one more big adventure before the year draws to a close. Details will be forthcoming soon and rest assured, photos will be posted upon return. Speaking of photography, the first of the 8 x 10 prints noted a few days ago are enroute to the Lile Gallery. The proceeds from their sale will be donated to the Triangle Motel project. For more information about ordering these or other prints click on the photo tab at the top of the page.
This afternoon’s post is a short one. In fact it is more a plug, shameless self promotion if you will, than an actual post. If your looking for a unique gift this holiday season, want to support a starving artist and or gallery owner, want to contribute to a worthy cause, or just want to treat yourself this is for you. Four new prints are being released through the Lile Gallery beginning November 1.
These are 8 x 10 prints loosely matted to 11 x 14, signed and bagged. All proceeds, minus gallery commission, for the first four sold will be donated to the Triangle Motel restoration project. So, for less than $50.00, including domestic shipping, you can get a nice gift for a friend, or a nice addition for the office or den, and contribute to a worthy cause. I should also note that the Lile Gallery has the last two 11 x 14, limited edition, numbered prints in the Ghost Towns of the Southwest series for sale at $125.00 each. The entire proceeds from the sale of these, minus commission, will also be donated to the Triangle Motel restoration project. Contact information for the Lile Gallery is listed above on the photos tab. If your travel plans include Amarillo do not miss the Sunset Galleries. However, I suggest setting aside at least an afternoon for your visist or better yet, contact the galleries and plan to attend one of their special evenings. Now, the gift shop tab at the top of the page is your one stop shop for unique, Route 66 and ghost town gifts and calendars. All of these items are crafted utilizing photographs from Jim Hinckley. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.