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 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.