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 Car, 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 Wigwam and 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.
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 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 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.