Well, its time to say adios to 2010. Even though it didn’t end very well in the grand scheme of things we had a pretty good year and are looking toward 2011 with a degree of optimism as well as excitement. After an almost two month hiatus I am ready and eager to get back to the Route 66 atlas and encyclopedia project. With that being the goal for the first weeks of the new year, I composed the following letter and am submitting it to historical societies as well as communities all along Route 66.
As an introduction, I am an itinerant author and photographer obsessed with Route 66, the great two lane highways of America, and their history. Until quite recently I served as the associate editor for Cars & Parts magazine but my body of published work includes more than one thousand feature articles and six books. My current project is an ambitious one, to chronicle 85 years of Route 66 history in an encyclopedia and atlas. I fully understand it will be an impossibility to document every aspect of the highways colorful history during this period but my intention is to provide a summary of every community along Route 66, biographical profiles of key figures in the highways development, promotion, and the era of resurgent interest, as well as overviews of specific properties. One of the key aspects of this project is to document existent motels and restaurants along Route 66 that have a history which predates the decommissioning of the highway. To ensure relevance, I am also hoping to document future plans for these properties.
Thank you for the assistance.
Please feel free to circulate this letter as I want this work to be as accurate and relevant as 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=ifrpossible. Additionally, I am hoping it will also be a valuable promotional tool for businesses along the highway. Even though I have a wide margin in regards to editorial constraints my opinion at this time is this work will have to have “Volume One” in the title. How can the amazing 85 year history of this iconic highway, and the people that wrote it, be encapsulated in a mere 120,000 to 150,oo0 words when I have already exceeded 50,000 with just an overview of the communities along the route? Another aspect of this book that I am quite excited about is in regard to the illustrations. I have been supplying the accompanying photos for my magazine articles since at least 1994, provided a few images for books written including the bottom shot on the cover of Route 66 Backroads, and about five percent of the photos for the forthcoming Ghost Towns of Route 66. For this project I will be supplying about 90% of the current photos. I really like the concept utilized in Russell Olsen’s book, Route 66 Lost & Foundhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760334927&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr and would like to apply that to this work but on a larger scale. As Joe Sonderman and Mike Ward have graciously offered access to their wonderful collection of post cards, my vision is to portray Route 66 businesses then, now, and perhaps at some point in their transition. We have photographed and scouted locations from Santa Monica to Springfield in Missouri. Now the plan is to use material garnered from the circulation of this letter to coordinate three photography expeditions; California this winter, the trip to Amarillo for the festival in June, and then a drive from Chicago back to Arizona in early fall. At 4:30 this morning the temperature was hovering at eleven degrees. For reasons unknown exactly, I decided that as the wind wasn’t blowing a bicycle ride to work would be an invigorating way to start the day. I am always amazed at the clarity of thoughts during bicycle rides on mornings such as this. Perhaps it is merely a natural defense to keep the body from realizing it has been plunged into a freezer rather than encased in the warmth and comfort of the Jeep. By the time I arrived at work, and could again work my facial muscles, the thought of having an excuse for several road trips made me smile. In all honesty just the realization that I had feeling in my face would have probably been reason for smiling. Even though the finish line is still quite some distance down the road, I am turning thoughts toward the next project. As enamored with Route 66 as I am, my thinking is that it might be time to shine the light on another historic road like the Lincoln Highway or something a bit more obscure like enigmatic U.S. 6. Meanwhile, with thoughts of peanut butter chocolate pie at the Midpoint Cafe, another night nestled in comfort in the Wigwam Motel, and another opportunity to savor the solitude in Endee dancing in my head, the focus is turning toward the ride home now that it has warmed up to a balmy 35 degrees, a New Years eve spent with friends, and a weekend composing the history of America’s most famous highway. To each and everyone of you that has contributed to making this one of our most exciting years, a hearty thank you. It is is our sincere hope you will be richly blessed this weekend and in the year to come. See you on the road.
In my corner of Arizona winter is a fickle thing. Warm and sunny, snowy and cold, rainy and warm and sometimes that is in the same day. Now, add dramatic changes in elevation with short drives and you can almost pick your season. This morning the temperature is hovering right at the freezing mark, the wind is blowing, there is a dusting of snow on the Jeep, and the road in front of the house is a sheet of ice shimmering under the street lights.
Barney the wonder truck with a coating of snow.
Snow in Kingman is a relative rarity and substantial snows are something experienced two or three times in decade. Even when we have the heavier snows there is seldom a trace of it just two or three days later. To be honest I find a snow in the desert rather refreshing. It transforms the landscape and with the exception of the beauty of a summer thunderstorm building over the mountains, it is one of the most awe inspiring times to be in the desert. In a nutshell, during an average winter we get just enough snow to be enjoyable but not enough to be miserable. And unlike in northern Minnesota or Michigan, you can make a short drive and adjust your season.
Winter in Hualapai Mountian Park
Twelve miles south in the Hualapai Mountains you can bet money the road is closed as a result of snow and ice this morning. My brother-in-law, a blade operator for the county, is going to be very busy this morning. I wouldn’t recommend driving east on Route 66 or I-40 right now as I am quite sure that by the time you reach Peach Springs or Seligman the roads are an ice skating rink covered in snow. Driving west or north to Las Vegas would be a different story. Along the Colorodao River, thirty miles to the west, the roads will be wet but the temperatures will be at least a dozen degrees warmer.
The road to White Horse Lake near Williams, Arizona.
In the months of summer you can reverse this. Drive to Needles, about seventy miles, for sheer misery – temperatures exceeding 120 degrees and humid. Drive south to Hualapai Mountain Park and you can walk among the pines, head east and in about 120 miles you can be in deep forest where I have seen a touch of ice on the water during a 4th of July camping trip. For first time visitors to Arizona it is the deep forests and the dustings of snow that are most surprising. The ideal implanted in most minds, largely the result of more than a half century of Technicolor epic horse operas, is that this state is a land of sun scorched rock where lizards and snakes seek shelter from the blazing heat. Imagine this if you will. If I were crazy enough to take to the road this morning and head east on Route 66 or I-40, there is a good chance we good find someplace to go ice fishing. Here is a nother tid bit, in the winter near Alpine they have dog sled races. Now, all of this is less than 200 miles from the desert valleys that embrace Phoenix! One more little winter tip. Just outside of Tucson, looming above vast fields of towering cacti, is the southern most ski resort in the United States. So, I suppose you could say that in Arizona, if you like winter sports and the sunshine, it is possible to have your cake and eat it to. Take care and if your motoring east along the old double six, it might be a good idea to spend a day or two in Kingman and wait for the return of spring.
I am not a rebellious person by nature but it was such a beautiful winter morning the urge to ride the bicycle to work even though the weatherman was predicting doom and disaster in the form of winter weather just could not be ignored. A secondary excuse was the fact that I really did not want to scrape the frost from the Jeep windows and fixing the heater in the old Dodge, aka Barney the Wonder Truck, is still on the “to do” list. As it turned out, I was right. The ride to work was wonderful and the ride home was even nicer.
A rare dusting of snow in Kingman
Contrary to the happy talk put out by the chamber of commerce we do get snow in Kingman. However, it is usually just enough to provide picture post card scenes and remind those of us from northern climates why we moved. In all honesty we get one or two snow storms a year with accumulations that range from two to six inches. And as a rule of thumb it is gone in a day or so as temperatures sneak back up to the fifty or sixty degree range.
Elk in Hualapai Mountain Park
For those rare times when we have snow withdrawal Hualapai Mountain Park is less that twenty miles south of Kingman, which is just about the right distance when it comes to snow. A drive to the lodge for some coffee, chocolate, or nice meal after a fresh snow can be an invigorating break, especially with the realization I don’t have to live with the white stuff for months and I don’t have to shovel it just to get to the end of the driveway. Seldom is the weather severe enough in winter for us to abandon our weekly ritual of a movie night that begins by walking to http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0000CBY1C&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr Hastings Books, Music & Videos. Our most recent selection was an old favorite from 1963, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This lighthearted film must have the largest all star cast ever assembled. Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Phil Silvers, the Three Stooges, Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Andy Devine, and Jerry Lewis are just a few of the celebrities that appear in staring roles or that make cameo appearances. If you like a good laugh tinged with a bit of light slapstick, great highway scenes in from the early 1960s, and veritable herd of now vintage cars and trucks this is a great way to while away a winter evening. Set aside about three hours and be prepared for automotive mayhem worthy of the Keystone Cops. I am still awaiting delivery of the new camera, a Canon Eos 50D. If you have had experience with this camera perhaps you could give a few pointers. The Olympus has been a very loyal and durable workhorse. However, as we will be providing all of the material for the Route 66 encyclopedia, am currently in the process of negotiating http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760338434&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifran assignment to provide photos for a Kingman promotional project, and need to develop a photo exhibit to accompany the release of Ghost Towns of Route 66, it seemed a good idea to have a solid back up camera. Once this decision was made we decided an upgrade was in order. So, the Olympus will be placed into semi retirement and we set out to expand our horizons by learning something new. Another photographic endeavor that we are quite excited about is a program to provide motels, restaurants, and offices with scenes of either Route 66 or the desert southwest. These signed 8×10 prints, professionally printed on Kodak paper, with matting, will be sold wholesale for $9.00 each plus $3.00 shipping. Contact us for further information, to place an order, or for select samples of the prints currently available. On a final note, our companion website, Route 66 Info Center has been revamped. Now, we need your input, specifically event information so we can fill in the calendars for each state.
Christmas in our home was a time of blessing and refreshing in spite of the tragedies that have haunted our family this past few weeks. Grandchildren and children, family and friends from faraway, laughter and good food, made it a celebration of life as it should be.
Kingman from the Cerbat Mountains
Still, what I needed was the restoration, the deep refreshing of the soul that is at the heart of the Christmas story. To that end my dearest friend suggested a long, quiet walk deep into the Cerbat Mountains on Sunday morning. So, with a lunch of sandwiches, oranges, rum bread, and the trusty Olympus camera in tow, we set out in the early morning chill for the canyons that shelter the fragile remnants of the town of Stockton Hill and the mining boom that spwaned it. As we drove along the flank of the mountains crowned with clouds that promised rain or snow, they appeared deceptively nondescript under winter skies of pewter. The morning chill was invigorating and the breeze light as we began our climb into the mountains on a long abandoned mining road. Surrounded by some of God’s finest handiwork and the quiet, loving strength of my dear friend it seemed as though a heavy weight was being removed from my shoulders with every step.
Cattle in the Cerbat Mountains
We had the mountains to ourselves until we neared the summit. Here, sheltered amongst the juniper and cedar on the rocky slopes, a well fed herd of cattle watched us pass with a wary eye. Soon, we discovered the reason for the cattle’s nervousness in the form of large, fresh cat tracks in the sandy crossings. My hopes of seeing deer were dimmed with this discovery. My dearest friend positively glowed with the exertion, the early morning chill, and the simple joy of sharing such a beautiful morning with me. It is at times like this, as I watched her face reflect the sun that broke through the clouds to highlight our picnic spot, that the realization of just how blessed I am overwhelms me. With laughter we shared our lunch as the clouds cast dancing shadows over the cedar studded valley and rock strewn slopes that sheltered it. For the first time in a month I felt whole and complete again. It was as though I had drank from the Fountain of Youth for these were the pleasures we shared so many years ago when we first made the decision to face the challenges of life together. Now, it is Monday morning, and the running of the gauntlet begins anew. There are the memories of mother and my sister that fight for dominance over thoughts of work, of bills to pay, of skin cancer, of the encyclopedia, of photography assignments, and of friends that have also suffered loss these past few weeks. Overshadowing them all is the memories of yesterday and the thanksgiving that comes with the realization I have been blessed with a very rare gift, a true and dear friend to soften the bumps and bruises of life.
The first item of the day is a hearty but belated Merry Christmas. It is my sincere hope that it was a time of great blessing filled with joy and laughter.
Wigwam Motel, Rialto, California
Our weekly feature highlighting great new books and travel tips begins with a couple of lodging suggestions. First, on the west end of Route 66, we have the Wigwam Motel in Rialto. If you are looking for clean, basic lodging for a budget price in the L.A. area, look no further. If your quest is to discover life as it was on Route 66 before the dawning of the generic age the Wigwam Motel should be a destination. Now, if you have a family and are looking for a fun place where memories that last a lifetime can be made this has to be added to your list. The neighborhood is a bit dog eared but Kumar and the staff at the Wigam Motel have dusted off a jewel and transformed it into an oasis as well as a living time capsule. If your travels take you into the Ozarks of Missouri the small city of Springfield is an ideal base camp for exploration of the area. My lodging choice when staying Springfield is the historic Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven on Glenstone (Route 66). A central location, reasonable rates, historic property, clean, and comfortable. What more can the traveler ask for? Now, my suggestion of the week for roadside attractions – Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois. Even though this roadside wonder is a relatively recent addition to Route 66 it epitomizes the attractions from the glory days of Route 66 when that storied highway was truly the Main Street of America and gleaming new Studebaker’s rolled from the factory in South Bend. The recipe is a simple one and Henry’s rabbit Ranch follows it to a “T”. Take a simple theme, build on it so there is something for every age group, mix in a bit of educational opportunity, add some history and a great gift shop filled with unique items and you have the classic quintessential roadside attraction. Our book reviews for the week are again a very mixed bag. We have an encyclopedic reference that just happens to also some excellent reading between the covers, what just may be the ultimate book profiling America’s favorite pony car, the Mustang, and legendary hot rods. Now, I am not a big fan of hot rods or custom cars. If properly executed I can appreciate the craftsmanship but it pains me to see an original car go under the torch. However, I must admit that hot rods and custom cars have been an integral component of the American automotive world since at least the days of Ransom Olds and the curved dash model that bore his name. E.L. Cord kicked off his business empire with customized Model T Ford’s and an argument can be made that a key component in our success during World War II was the result of a generation of young American men well versed in the art of transforming junk into transportation or even a race car. http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1934709220&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrFrom that perspective the American hot rod is an important part of automotive heritage. It is the search for the historic hot rods, the dry lake racers, and the cars that graced the covers of hot rod magazines of the 1950s that is the subject of Lost Hot Rods: Remarkable Stories of How They Were Found, published by CarTech. In mid December the author, Pat Ganahl, sat down with Jay Leno to discuss the book. Here is a link for that interview. If your interest trends toward interesting stories of automotive archeology I am quite sure you will find this book of interest. The book is available by following the link to Amazon.com or through CarTech by calling 1-800-551-4754 or their website, http://www.cartechbooks.com/. Next on the list is American Cars, 1946-1959: Every Model, Year by Yearby J. Flory Jr. Released through McFarland Publishing (http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/) 1047 hardback behemoth is truly stunning in scope. An overview of the industry and market year by year, complete weights and dimensions for each make and model, paint codes, engine codes, and http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0786432292&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifravailable options listings are merely the tip of the iceberg. Even the independent companies such as Crosley, Kaiser, and Tucker, are awarded the attention to detail usually reserved for makes such as Chevrolet or Ford. My hat is off to Mr. Flory for this is truly an epic undertaking. The next book is a bit of an older title as it was released in 2007 by Motorbooks (http://www.motorbooks.com/). Still, this astounding 348 page, hard bound wonder with 480 stunning color, and 110 black and white, photos written by Mike Mueller just may be the ultimate book on the legendary Mustang. Initial prototypes, pace cars, and limited editions are detailed through concise, well researched text accompanied by fine art quality photographs and historic images, many never before published. Additionally, there are sections on street and competition driving and models as well as a detailed appendix featuring in depth information ranging from prices, engines, and engine codes. To say The Complete Book of Mustang: Every Model Since 1964 1/2http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760338302&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr is the ultimate book on America’s favorite pony car is akin to saying winter in Duluth is a bit chilly. This book is far more than a classy dust cover for the coffee table or colorful shelf filler, it is a must own for any automotive library. In the next weeks there will be lots of interesting, and possibly exciting, things here at Route 66 Chronicles. I will fill you in on the adventures of mastering our new Canon EOS 50D that we hope will not be to frustrating or comedic. Of course this means we will be providing some new images of our colorful corner of the world. I will also be providing a few sneak peaks from Ghost Towns of Route 66, provide updates on the Route 66 encyclopedia, and discuss ongoing plans for our attendance of the big Route 66 festival in Amarillo next June that will include the unveiling of our new Ghosts of Route 66 photo exhibit. And, of course, next week there will be more reviews and travel tips.