Before the dawning of the generic age made manifest in I-40, Route 66 was a magic carpet of asphalt that swept the westbound traveler from the land of enchantment through a portal of towering stone escarpments into another world and another time. For years, these walls of stone served as a backdrop for a massive billboard that proclaimed “Northern Arizona Greets You,” and entranced the eye with a colorful portrait of the Grand Canyon bordered by lists of attractions and sites awaiting discovery on the road ahead.
Dead River Bridge
There was no time for the mind to process the wonders that embraced that ribbon of asphalt, or the wonders promised on the road ahead as colorful trading posts nestled against the rocks assaulted the senses with brightly colored signs promising all manner of souvenirs and tasty treats. With scenes such as this unfolding in the rear mirror, and the vast, multihued landscapes of the Painted Desert stretching to the far horizon only the press of the traffic on the narrow sun baked road that followed the twists and turns of the tortured lands could break the spell of awe and wonder.
Old 66 still sweeps into Arizona beneath towering walls of stone. A few of the trading posts are still here but legendary 66 only lives on as broken asphalt and haunting, picturesque ruins lost amidst the vast, colorful landscapes. The nights offered no respite from the symphony of wonders for the motorists rolling west on the Main Street of America. Under star lit desert skies, neon glowed bright on motels in the shape of looming teepees and on the gleaming chrome of Studebakers, Packard’s, and Edsel’s surrounded by logs turned to stone.
Wigwam Motel, Holbrook
In Holbrook, the neon may have dimmed but at Jo and Aggie’s Café, good food still is served, and you can still spend a restful night in a whimsical teepee at the Wigwam Motel. Logs of stone and brilliant star lit skies are the link that bridge the past and the present. As the westward journey continued, looming snow-covered peaks grew larger on the horizon as the old road skirted meteor made craters, trading posts, and passed over twisted labyrinths of stone that seemed bottomless in their depth, and through the dusty streets of Winslow. Here to the road is broken but the spirit remains in the Jackrabbit Trading Post, in Meteor City, and the Geronimo Trading Post.
Jack Rabbit Trading Post
The neon has also dimmed in Winslow, and the generic has swept away the unique. Yet, tarnished gems such as the La Posada Hotel remain as portals to an era when the double six was a dusty trail and the railroad was still king.
Then it was the crush of traffic in Flagstaff, an island in a sea of towering Ponderosa pines, where the frontier and the modern era overlapped seamlessly. Today, the traffic, the trees, and remnants from the frontier era remain as backdrops for a staggering string of time capsules from the era of the Edsel and the tailfin. Here the running horses and turning wheels framed in neon still shine bright at the Western Hills Motel and the Museum Club is still the roadhouse of choice. In Flagstaff, the Wonderland Motel is still the “Motel with the View,” and the Hotel Monte Vista still serves guests as it has since its opening in 1927.
Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff, Arizona
Shattering the preconceived notion that Arizona was a land of sun-scorched rocks, sand, and cacti was the drive west was over a shade dappled road where a hint of pine dances on the breeze. Today, the old road is segmented but for those who seek its path, the rewards are many, Parks Store, the Deer Farm, and the two story log cabin that was the McHat Inn are but a few.
In Williams, the garish and modern stood in stark contrast to the ornate and solid. Little has changed except now the ornate, solid buildings from the territorial period is now considered the historic, and what was once garish and modern is now seen as classic. Both coexist in the time capsule bound by Route 66 that is Williams.
However, the last community severed from the lifeline that was the highway signed with two sixes when I-40 opened on October 13, 1984 never surrendered. Rod’s Steak House still serves great food and the big neon lit cow still shines bright as it has since 1946. An 1897 bordello now is a bed and bakery. The Frey Marcos de Niza Hotel serves guests as it has since opening day in 1908, and the railroad still runs from the depot to the Grand Canyon. Old Smoky’s Pancake House, as it has since opening in 1946, still provides travelers with a breakfast suitable for a farmhand and at a bargain price.
From Williams old Route 66 plummeted toward the desert in a sweeping series of curves where awe-inspiring vistas were the reward for the white knuckle, brake-burning descent. I40 sliced through the highway like a knife between Williams and Ashfork but the old curves remain as overgrown scars on the hillside and the empty truck stops as ghostly reminders.
Ashfork was a railroad town birthed when Arizona was still a territory on the western frontier and Route 66 was an interloper. Now, the railroad is but a dusty memory, vestiges of Route 66 are the tarnished gems sought by adventurers, and soulless I-40 is the passage of choice for those motoring west or east.
Seligman was a boomtown fueled by cattle, the railroad, and the endless river of traffic that flowed east and west on Route 66. It was a western metropolis in miniature – until that day in 1978 when that river was diverted to the super slab south of town.
Seligman, like Williams, stumbled but never succumbed. In 1987, with a fearless little barber named Angel Delgadillo as their leader, the town fought back and the Route 66 Association of Arizona was born.
Like the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes, Seligman is now a crown jewel in the era of rediscovery that marks the newest chapter in the history of legendary Route 66. Refurbished neon again glows bright at the Supai Motel, the Snow Cap Drive In and Angel’s barbershop are internationally recognized destinations, and Seligman Sundries meets the needs of travelers and locals alike since they have in 1905.
Every year, on the first weekend in May, the curtain between past and present becomes a thin veil as the streets again fill from end to end with a sea of glittering chrome. This is the Route 66 Fun Run, a celebration of the life and times of that legendary highway, an opportunity to turn back the clock and cruise the longest remaining uninterrupted stretch of that highway.
Snow Cap Drive In
The road west across the wide Aubrey Valley, and on to Kingman, and the landscapes that embrace it have changed little in the past sixty years, seventy, or even eighty years. Only the forlorn ruins interspersed with time capsules such as Grand Canyon caverns and the Hackberry General Store, present the illusion this is a weathered tapestry worn thin with the passing of eons. In Kingman, legendary 66 shares center stage with the town’s favorite son, Andy Devine, and with every turn of the wheels on the westward journey through town, the clock rolls backward. It begins with the trappings of the modern era that soon give way to vintage motels of the 1950s and 1960s that soon give way to vintage motels of the 30s and 40s.
Then the mist of time part and Route 66 becomes a portal to territorial Arizona, and the heady days of early statehood sprinkled with colorful reminders that this is the Main Street of America all set against a skyline of stunning buttes and mesas. Gaunt and empty the Hotel Beal with its towering “Air Cooled” sign still cast long afternoon shadows over Route 66, the old depot has been reborn, and the old Kimo Café has been transformed into a colorful, whimsical romanticized image of all that Route 66 once was named Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner.
The crown jewels in this tarnished crown are the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum, and the mammoth 1920s era Baldwin mountain locomotive in the park. In Kingman, Route 66 is the crossroads of the past and the future.
West of Kingman, two different alignments of Route 66, its predecessor the National Old Trails Highway, and east as well as westbound tracks for the Santa Fe Railroad, press together in the narrow canyon before pouring forth into the wide Sacramento Valley. In the valley, almost a century of motoring history awaits discovery.
To the right there is the last incarnation of Route 66 that blends almost seamlessly with I-40, as both were four lane wonders that whisked people through the dusty little town of Yucca and to the Colorado River, gateway to the Golden State. To the left is the Beale Wagon Road overlaid by the National Old Trails Highway, overlaid by the Route 66 of the Great Depression. The scant ruins of Yucca with the classic roadhouse that is the Honolulu Club, towering signs that cast long shadows over empty fields where truck stops and motels once stood, and a giant golf ball standing in silent testimony to a dream that never came true are found to the right. To the left are the steepest curves, the sharpest curves found anywhere on Route 66, the resurrected time capsule of Cool Springs, the ruins of Ed’s Camp, a ghost town reborn with burros in the street, and stunning views at every turn. After the twists and turns of the pre 1952 alignment in the Black Mountains, the gentle curves that caress the flanks of the mountains on the descent to the river are almost anticlimactic and in an instant, an oasis appears. To the south, the sterilized Route 66 and I-40 whisk the motorist to the river with all the flare and excitement of an escalator.
Route 66 in Arizona, before the dawning of the generic age, was a road of wonder. Route 66 in Arizona, today, is the road of discovery. Route 66, then and now, is the stuff of dreams where reality and fantasy, the past and present, are found in every mile.
He was the biggest little man I had ever met, a sawed off little fellow with a western styled hat perched high on his head that that kept his tanned and weathered face shaded. The short stature, the hat, and big spectacles presented an almost comedic look – right up until you looked into those eyes. It was at that moment, if you had the sense God gave a shiny brown rock, that you knew trifling with Clyde McCune could be a very big mistake. When I turned east instead of west on Route 66 after leaving the Cedar Springs Ranch the shiny brown rock had me beat in the smarts department. McCune was tough as nails, honest as the day is long, and cast a shadow that belied his size. He was the type of fellow this country sorely needs today but that has become as scarce as mechanics that can tune up your Hudson. During the war he flew as a test pilot. In 1946, his wife’s illness necessitated relocation from Nebraska to Kingman where he found work as a butcher in Valentine, and then as an electrician. In 1950, he and a partner, Don Dilts, made Route 66 history. The Department of the Interior had proposed construction of the Bridge Canyon Dam on the Colorado River to the north of Peach Springs. There was only road that could tie the remote dam site with the thread of civilization that was Route 66 – the Buck and Doe. Dilts and McCune smelled opportunity. They purchased some property in the valley along the highway just to the west of the Buck and Doe. They built a garage, hoisted a sign that read Truxton Garage, and then Dilts added a restaurant and service station. The dam never materialized but Route 66 ensured the venture was a profitable one. In fact, it proved to be so profitable that others joined them at the wide spot in the road and soon there were several motels, the Orlando and Frontier, several cafes including the Cattlemen and Frontier, stores, gas stations, garages, and signs that proclaimed this was the town of Truxton. In 1952, McCune sold his garage, managed a trading post for the Truxton Canyon Indian Agency, helped write the legal code for the Hualapai Tribe, and in 1953, joined the Mohve County Sheriff’s Department. In that capacity he single handily took down an Indian sniper in the rocks above the Truxton Canyon Indian Agency that had brought traffic to a stand still on Route 66, was the first officer on the scene at horrendous wrecks between Kingman and Seligman, and was involved in countless high speed pursuits across the desert. After leaving the sheriff’s department, McCune served as the justice of the peace and as a magistrate. For awhile he also served as an assistant to the coroner. This was the fellow I crossed when the decision was made to turn east instead of west. When I made it to my destination, where ever that was, this was the fellow I hoped to bullshit into giving me another break. As I had hoped, the time spent at the ranch had erased most traces of the sickly kid. It had also given me some much needed confidence but, as is often the case with youth, not with the temperance of wisdom. I spent the resources of youth like a drunken sailor on leave. At the ranch I worked long and hard, not hard and smart, and embraced the cinematic caricature of the cowboy. The scrapes with the law were minor ones that most were inclined to pass off as the indulgences of a young man that spent to much time in the company of cattle, hogs, and horses instead of people. Clyde McCune didn’t see it that way but he was a patient man that led many, including me, to mistake his kindness for weakness. Many of us jokingly called him “let ’em slide Clyde.” After all, what kind of a judge would haul a kid in for drinking and driving, let him sit in jail for the weekend, haul him into his chambers on Monday morning, and offer to drop all charges in exchange for attendance to AA meetings? What kind of judge would even offer to pick you up and take you to the meetings? What kind of judge would overlook a third minor infraction in exchange for an apology, restitution, and just a bit of creative community service such as helping to paint the locomotive in the park? Kingman was home, at least as close to a home town as I had ever had but a fresh start was sorely needed. There was security there, but there was also a bit of girl trouble in the form of an irate women who had served as the cook at Cedar Springs Ranch, and a bit of legal trouble as I was to be paying $50.00 a month on a fine but instead had been paying $25.00 accompanied by a litany of excuses. There was also the little matter of ignoring a summons to McCune’s court to explain these shortages in person. So, choosing east instead of west seemed a logical one at the time. Now you have a better understanding of why I hinted the shiny brown rock might have been the smart one. Now that Route 66 was bypassed, the limitations on the old Chevy imposed by the crush of traffic was no more. As I rolled east on the almost deserted highway, and past the equally deserted businesses along the way at the heady speed of 45 miles per hour with the warm breeze from the open windshield washing over my face, a plan to revisit Silver City in New Mexico began to form. Over a bowl of chili and a cup of coffee shared with the Barker’s at the Frontier in Truxton, the idea gained merit and by the time I made the Black Cat in Seligman for a cold beer, it was set in stone. Now, imagine my surprise when I walked into that dark old bar, ordered a beer, and then, as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, saw Clyde McCune quietly sitting at a table sipping on coffee and smiling at me! As it turns out, Clyde just happened to have been in Truxton visiting friends when I stopped at the Frontier. My old truck wasn’t the most inconspicuous thing, unless it was parked in a junk yard, and so, when I pulled out of the parking lot heading east, Clyde simply took to the road, passed me by taking a shortcut through Peach Springs, and then, after making an educated guess about my next stop, waited for me in Seligman. All the youthful bravado and confidence seemed to have melted into my shoes when Clyde, in that deceptively soft voice, asked me to have a seat. Then he began to paint beautiful word pictures about my future as he saw it. As he saw it, I didn’t play by the rules. But he accepted a bit of the blame for that as he allowed me to fudge in regards to strike one through four. As he told it, at strike six he knew that I wasn’t taking things seriously enough. So, to rectify his mistakes, to ensure that I truly understood the importance of playing by the rules in the future, he was going to follow me to Kingman where I would be his guest for thirty days. Then I would pay my fine in full. Then, he suggested rather strongly, I make some new friends, and try again in any place that wasn’t Kingman. To drive his point home, he then smiled and said, “I think this would be better for you than serving 18 months and I know it will save the county a bunch of money.” Well, the short version of the story is this. After serving as McCune’s guest, and after being separated from most of the money I had, I parted ways with my loyal old workhorse, the ’42 Chevy, in a manner that made it quite clear the old judge was right, it was time to find new pastures. So, bright and early one morning, I had a friend give me a ride to where I-40 began on the east side of town, stuck my thumb out, and headed for New Mexico. There were, and are still, a number of lessons to be learned but never again would I mistake kindness for weakness. But, perhaps, the most important lesson learned that day in Seligman was this, a man can only be tough if he knows how to temper it with compassion. A man can only gain respect if he is willing to respect those who don’t deserve it. A man can stand head and shoulders above the crowd even if he stands just five foot five. Thank you Clyde McCune.
In the past few days, for reasons not completely clear, I began taking readers on a drive down my version of Memory Lane, which is somewhere between Mr. Rogers neighborhood and the Twilight Zone. I can assure you there is a point to these long winded stories and there is a fair bet it has something to do with Route 66 and the meaning of life. For those who have surprised me with their support and encouragement for these sagas, thank you. Now, everyone else who follows the blog knows who to blame. See, I am a bit like a stray puppy. Once fed there is no getting me off the porch. I find a great deal of satisfaction in writing and with encouragement just can’t quit. Don’t forget where we left off. Now, here is a preview of the next installment. My envisioned road trip to points unknown in my battered old Chevy were cut rather short as I hit a major obstacle in the form of Clyde McCune, a sawed off little fellow that was tougher than a bag of nails who just happened to also be the Justice of the Peace in Kingman. He was also the fellow who had cut me a few breaks for the occasional bouts of alcohol induced stupidity that marked a few of my weekends in town from the ranch. He was also the fellow I had skipped out on and that I owed a little bit of money to. Okay, as they say in the movies, stay tuned. It is the weekend and that means its time for some travel tips, book reviews, and similar items. As most of us are suffering from road trip withdrawal the decision was made that this installment of travel tip feature would focus on great getaways and destination ideas. Don’t forget, your ideas and suggestions are appreciated. Route 66 is often the center of focus here at Route 66 Chronicles. So, with that as our theme, http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0970995164&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrI would like to present two of the best sites I know of for getting the latest and most current information about that magic carpet of asphalt Route 66 News and Route 66 Chamber of Commerce. Now, the next item for planning a trip on Route 66 is a good guide book. If you can find a better one than Jerry McClanahan’s EZ 66 Guide, buy it and then tell me about it as I want one to. In addition to being one of the most detailed and easy to follow guides to legendary Route 66, Jerry also provides information about lodging, often overlooked sites, and introduces followers to alignments of Route 66 often overlooked. As a bonus he provides a web link for updates and the address for his gallery in Oklahoma. As much as I love adventures on the double six, it is the little detours that always enhance my adventure. So, a couple of years ago I took a cue from a vintage post card and wrote a book that listed some of my favorite detours from Route 66. Most are easy, short detours that really don’t require a great deal of time but others can easily morph into a full vacation. And, like Jerry, I try to provide updates here and if all else fails, you can send me an email So, if you find yourself in Kingman, Arizona, but long for a fine dinner amongst the pines, my suggestion would be Hualapai Mountain Park and Hualapai Mountain Lodge just a dozen or so miles south of Route 66 on a paved road. Now, with Route 66 Backroads 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=ifradded to your Route 66 travel kit, lets take a look at some other interesting ideas for road trips and weekend getaways. The forgotten cousin of Route 66 is US 6, at one time the only US highway to run north and south as well as east and west. It was also the longest with an eastern terminus at Cape Codd in Massachusetts and a western terminus at the traffic circle in Long Beach, California. About forty years ago the western end was truncated and now the terminus is Bishop, California. With this exception the road is almost entirely intact. Other interesting factoids about this highway are that it is the highest US highway, Loveland Pass in Colorado at 11,990 feet, and the last US highway to be fully paved with a section in Utah remaining a gravel road until the 1950s. I have yet to drive the entire route. However, what I have driven and what I can determine from maps as well as conversations, this has to top the list for most overlooked highway for potential road trip adventure. Another drive that rates very high on my list would be US 180 from Holbrook in Arizona to Deming in New Mexico. This is an excellent summer drive as much of the route is through deep forests and along mountain meadows bordered by lakes. As an added bonus, the opportunity for leisurely side trips are limited only by the imagination. Ghost towns, wilderness areas, hiking trails, and, in Silver City, art galleries and a staggering array of dining choices, all add up to a near perfect vacation destination. Next week, for our reviews and tips feature I have some new photos to share, updates on Kingman that might be of interest, and some great new automotive books to review.
My old ’42 Chevy was a work of art. Most of the paint applied at the factory, and the two or three coats added afterwards, had been replaced by a reddish brown patina of rust. With the weatherstripping around the doors either missing or petrified, the doors rattled so bad that to drive a gravel road was like being caught in a coffee can full of marbles spinning in a whirlpool, and the use of screen door slide bolts to keep the doors closed had happened at some point in the past so far removed from the time I was in, they too had developed a dull rusty look. Rope held the box sides in place as the tailgate had gone missing, the wide, flowing rear fenders had been hacked off by a drunken blind man with a torch to a point just aft of the rear tires, and the rest of the sheet metal was dimpled with a wide array of dents in varying sizes that often overlapped. In the midst of this rolling wreckage was a beautiful stainless grill, most likely from a 1941 model as in the next year the nation geared for war, declared chrome an important military resource, and the manufacturers resorted to paint instead of bright work for trim. Long before signing on with the Cedar Springs Ranch the drift from mild mannered geek to John Wayne wannabe had begun. The truck was one of the first outward manifestations. With the exception of a trail of blue smoke when I shifted from second to third, I had a pretty decent ’64 Rambler American wagon when the decision was made that Jim Hinckley needed a truck. So, I parted with the wagon in exchange for two one hundred dollar bills, flirted with temptation in the form of a robins egg blue, with white leather interior, ’64 Lincoln convertible, and settled on the ’42 Chevy. The owner was a strange little man by the name of Schultz who walked with a cane to mask the limp, talked like a Harvard man, and was aged to such a point it was tough to tell if he was eighty or two hundred. He lived in a shack matted to an old trailer in Logasville east of Kingman, a little collection of junk yards, empty stations, and similar flotsam from when Route 66 was truly the undisputed Main Street of America, with a one eyed, three legged dog that appeared even older than he did. He must have thought the old truck was a treasure as he kept it hidden under an awning and under a tarp with a tire on the hood and another on top of the cab to keep the rotted canvas from blowing away. To be honest, so did I as it seemed to exude raw, rugged character, just what I needed to reflect the new me. The old work horse wasn’t much to look at but it ran like a Swiss watch, unless of course you decided to exceed 45 miles per hour. The speedometer didn’t work but shortly after my acquisition of the old thing, I learned that at forty she would purr but at 45 she would clang, bang, and throw enough oil to empty the pan pretty quickly. Old man Schulz overcame my objection to the price by making me an offer that was impossible to refuse, free parts for as long as I owned the truck and as long as he lived among the vast field of remnants representing the best Detroit had to offer in the years before December 7, 1941 transformed the world. With a handshake, the exchange of cash for title and keys, I became the proud owner of a barely legal, rolling scrap pile of vintage origin. It was this truck that led me to describe it, and similar purchases made in the years to come, as having a junk yard camouflage paint scheme. I could park this old beast in any wrecking yard and it would blend in beautifully. As the bargain in this purchase was the parts, and as I felt old man Schultz had most likely lived at least a couple years beyond the point of running out of time, it seemed best to adhere to dad’s advice – putting off today’s bargain doubles the cost. So, before taking off I found a sheet of weathered plywood to cover the holes in the floor of the box, gathered up a couple of carburetors, generators, starters, a spare wheel with a petrified tire, and a couple of milk crates for the parts. For good measure I also picked up some old rope to hold the box together, some wire to keep the crates from falling out of the back, and a straw covered saddle blanket for the seat. Last but not least, I hooked up the battery cables and poured the five gallons of gas, with the exception of a cap full for the carburetor, Schultz had given me into the tank. As I rolled toward Kingman, and a breathtaking orange sunset, on the old double six it seemed as though a bridge between the past and present had been discovered, and that I had been entrusted with the care of an ancient legacy. The euphoria over my purchase was short lived. To borrow a line from Johnny Cash, when I pulled the headlight switch all three lights came on; one on the dash, one parking light perched atop the headlight that was perched on top of the fender, and the taillight. There were no functioning headlights and the amp gauge told me that was a blessing as the regulator or generator wasn’t working either. Well, the police don’t take kindly to cruising through town without headlights. They didn’t then either. Even though I was ordered to park the truck, they didn’t impound it. Another blessing is that is was the police officer, and not me, that discovered the field mice living in the seat. Much to dad’s dismay, I was never much of a mechanic. In spite of my almost complete lack of mechanical skills, in a week or so I had the old Chevy street legal and pretty dependable, as long as you knew when to tap the carb with a wrench if the float stuck. By the time I went to work at Cedar Springs Ranch, the old truck and I had survived some pretty interesting adventures. There was the pool table delivered to Lake Havasu City in 120 degree weather and the wait for the truck to cool down at the Honolulu Club in Yucca that ended up lasting lasted two days. Then there was the bright idea to cruise the Las Vegas Strip. For that adventure my buddy and I took the battery out of his Chevy Impala, a work of art in its own right with leopard skin door panels and headliner, and plaid seats, direct wired his eight track tape player to the battery, and set the speakers on the seat. What better way to cruise the legendary strip and slalom with limos than in a beater escaped from the confines of the Great Depression with the sweet sounds of Foggy Mountain Breakdown blaring from the windows? In looking back, I have a much better idea as to why my dad would look at me and that old truck, shake his head, and say, “You went where in that thing? You really are dumber than a box of rocks.” The death of Bruno, his burial on the ranch, and the end of my job at Cedar Springs, left a pretty big hole in my life. That coupled to faith in the old truck, the near complete lack of good sense that is the hallmark of youth, a pocket full of money, and a boat load of unresolved trouble awaiting me in Kingman, made my decision to turn east rather than west at Antares Point, one that required little thought. So, I rolled east on a Route 66 the nation no longer needed or wanted in a truck long ago discarded as junk with no destination, no goal, and no schedule. The Swiss folks at the X-Bar-1 in Hackberry had offered me a job, as had Mrs. Robinson at the old Crozier Canyon Ranch, an oasis in Crozier Canyon on the original alignment of Route 66. I was more in the market for something new and fresh, someplace where no one knew me. Reality has a way of intruding into dreams, even obscure ones. This one lasted all the way to Seligman and a stop at the Black Cat. I didn’t know it at the time, but the dream was even shorter than that as the beginning of the end started with a stop at the Frontier Cafe in Truxton.
Ma was a church going women but not in the good sense of the word. Hers was the superficial kind that does more harm than good and that is often used to hide a multitude of sins. It was of the hollow facade kind that the rebellion generation of the 1960s took down with a passionate vengeance. Dad was the flip side of the coin. He wasn’t an atheist but put more stock in his abilities than in God to lend him a hand if the going got tough. Ma was a sickly women, especially if it served her purpose at the time. Dad was never sick and if he was, you would never know it. The same with injuries but the bleeding usually made that one tough for him to hide. Ma was tough as nails but did her best to hide it with a very thin veneer of frailty. Dad had a heart of gold but kept it buried under a hide of leather lest someone see him as a softie. It took me most of thirty years to sort all of this out and another ten or so to learn I did not have to worry about ever becoming my mom and that regardless of how hard I tried, filling dad’s shoes or living up to his expectations was an impossibility. This road to discovery was a long one filled with a multitude of odd and tragic detours, some scenic wonders, and long dusty stretches bordered with vast emptiness. I was a sickly kid, the proverbial 98 pound weakling. In spite of dad’s best efforts to toughen me up, I preferred long contemplative walks, shady and quiet places to read a book, and the library. In one of my literary adventures, I learned that legendary tough guy Teddy Roosevelt was a sickly kid but he had pulled out of it with the rigorous life of ranching on the western frontier. So, shortly after leaving home, the decision was made to give it a try, to follow in Teddy’s footsteps. In the process, I learned that dad with his leaving me to find my own way home with a load of hay on an ancient Studebaker truck and other “school of hard knocks” tutoring had toughened me far more than I realized. I kicked off the John Wayne period of my life by responding to an odd advertisement in the Kingman Daily Miner that gave little information about the job itself but provided long, detailed instructions on how to find the Cedar Springs Ranch where interested applicants could go for an interview. So, bright and early one morning, I stopped at the Hobb’s Truck Stop, a portion of which serves as my office today, topped off the tank in my ’42 Chevy truck, topped me off with a large breakfast, and rolled east on Route 66 to Antares Point Road. A restaurant and gas station housed in a towering “A” frame structure stood at the corner. It is still there today but the addition of a giant Easter Island styled head, and closure of the restaurant, gives the place the feeling that cultures and epochs have collided here, something that seems to sum up most of Route 66 today. I rolled north on Pierce Ferry Road streaming a trail of dust accompanied by the cacophony of rattling fenders, creaking cab, and doors void of weatherstripping rubbing metal on metal.. As per directions, I turned east at the high tension power lines and followed a rutted trail that ran parallel to them for several miles before turning north to cross a deeply sanded wash. From this pint the rutted trail became little more than a cow path around rocks, between bushes, across washes, and over hills. Doubt and thirst were foremost in my mind when I turned into the narrow canyon, saw the out of place glistening Airstream trailers, the massive pile of building material, and what appeared to be a big sheet metal warehouse. This was Cedar Springs Ranch. So, I stepped from the truck, shook hands with the owner, Bruno, a barrel shaped immigrant from northern Italy that was rapidly approaching an age when most people consider retirement, and got the job. Apparently, my interview and application was simply showing up as no one else had, even though the advertisement had ran in the paper for a week. Pretty much everything I owned (an old military sea bag) was in the truck. Always be prepared, a lesson learned from my brief flirtation with the life of a Boy Scout. If you aren’t sure where your going, take everything you own in case you decide to stay when you get there, lesson learned from dad. Bruno pointed to the second trailer, told me to stow my gear, and then pointed to the kitchen I had mistaken for a warehouse. “See you inside”, he said with a thick accent. As it turned out Cedar Springs Ranch was to be the fulfillment of a life long dream spawned by watching American westerns in Italy. The road from the sparking of that dream to the point where we stood in a narrow canyon looking across the wide Hualapai Valley slit by a thin sliver of silver that was Route 66 glimmering in the sun was, I later learned, a fascinating one. Along the way there was a job as interpreter for the German army in World War II that masked resistance activities, capture by the Russians after escaping from the Germans in Poland, escaping from the Russians and making his way to Switzerland, learning to become a pastry chef, immigrating to America, and opening his own restaurant in Los Angeles. All of this was made a bit easier as he was a man with a dream that was fluent in five languages. So, there we stood. A squat little Italian, a scrawny American kid unsure of what he was doing and most everything else, and Bruno’s wife who seemed to be a perfect candidate if there was ever a movie made about Heidi’s later years. The rest of the crew consisted of two Mexican kids that spoke little English and that may or may not have been citizens, an ancient old cowboy that stood well over six foot tall and that was so thin he could hide behind a flag pole, and a beat up looking older fellow that gave the impression he was here because it was the perfect hideout. Cedar Springs Ranch consisted of the trailers, the kitchen with a generator, most of a barn with two cows and a couple of horses, lots of building materials and equipment, lots of books on how to use the equipment, and some very lofty ideas. In exchange for $250.00 per month, plus room and board, I was to assist in fencing the full section Bruno owned, the completion of the generator shed, milk the cows, fetch materials from Valentine as they were delivered, help build farrowing houses and pens for the hogs, help with completion of the barn, and what ever projects Bruno could dream up. We would have Sunday off and could accompany Bruno to church in Truxton. We would also work three weeks and then have four days off. In the year or so that I stayed on with Cedar Springs Ranch, I found endless opportunity to apply lessons learned, to learn new skills, and to develop a deep friendship for one the most interesting men I have ever known. That friendship, more than my love for the job, was the source of my sorrow when this chapter closed after Bruno died unexpectedly. After Bruno died, I stayed on to help his wife clean up and sell the property. Then, just as I had arrived, I tossed my sea bag into the truck, drove down the mountain, and hit Route 66 at its intersection with Anatares Point Road. This time there was a bit more confidence and a bit more wisdom but that didn’t stop from heading east into the unknown instead of west to Kingman and a security of sorts. That, however, is a story for another day.