Do you remember that classic cinematic moment when Dorothy realizes that she is no longer in Kansas? The stark black and white tones of her world have been replaced with vibrant colors and unimagined wonders are all around her with nothing but the ruins of her home as a tangible link to the past.
I suppose most of us experience a similar moment in life, that point in time when with absolute clarity we realize that, somehow, we have stepped from the world of familiarity into one of unnerving freshness. We are not sure if it is an improvement but we do know it is different. 
I am unable to define the exact moment when the realization that the world of familiarity had been replaced with a brave new one overtook me. However, I do know that with the passing of my mother, and a few recent glimpses into my own mortality, there has been a growing hunger to seek tangible remnants from the America I knew as a youth.
This is not to be confused with a passion for the good old days or a longing to be set free from the entanglements of the modern era. It is more like the need for a tether before setting out into the deeper, uncharted waters of the future.
As these thoughts begin to dominate my thoughts it seemed that as road trips were an integral part of my life, perhaps on a road trip I could find that lifeline needed to face the uncertainty of what lies ahead. The proper vehicle for such an important odyssey would be crucial.
Initially, I looked toward a 1931 Ford pick up truck. This would allow me to experience a bit of the world my grandfather knew while seeking remnants off my past.
As the idea began to take tangible shape the vehicle of choice became a late forties or early fifties Nash or Hudson, or perhaps a late fifties Rambler station wagon. Then it came to me, I own the perfect vehicle for this adventure.
Under the fuel injection and electronic ignition the engine that powers our Jeep Cherokee is the same one that powered the Gremlin, the Pacer, and the Rambler. In fact, many internal components are interchangeable.  Here was a time machine encased in the trappings of the modern era, here was a rolling link between the past and present.
Now, I needed a road for this voyage of discovery. Route 66 has to figure into this plan as it has played a starring role in most every aspect of my life this past fifty years.
Here too, the Jeep is the ideal vehicle. To visit the ghosts of my past many of the roads we will need to travel have been washed from the maps by the tide that has transformed the America that I once knew.
In an instant it came to me, US 6 would ideally serve as the road to transport me back to the present. This forgotten cousin of legendary 66 cuts through the heartland and in its obscurity links the past and present.
We could journey east along the path of memories on US 66 where the past as it was collides with the past as we wish it to have been. In Joliet we could turn toward the setting sun on US 6 and follow it across the fruited plain, over the Rockies, and through the desert sands to Bishop, California.
It was here that US 6 was truncated in the 1960s. We could then follow its now renamed appendage, highway 395, to Bakersfield, follow 54 to Barstow, and make the rest of the journey on legendary Route 66.
If I am to find the America I knew, if I were to find the tangible links from my past that are needed for my moorings, they would be found on such a trip. I wonder if …



With my nose now near the point of full recovery it is time to hit the promotional trail. To that end my dearest friend and I will be on the road to Prescott again this Monday for an interview on AM Arizona.

The topic of discussion will be the international fascination with Route 66, new projects, the release of my next book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, and adventures on the road less traveled. As always it should be interesting as well as stimulating conversation.
An ancient and ailing cat, and a promise to  treasure hunt with the granddaughter on Sunday afternoon, prohibit making it a weekend of adventure with dinner and an evening at the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott. So, dark and early Monday morning we will leave the cat in the care of a sitter and roll east on US 66 to the point where that legendary highway is truncated by I-40 at the Crookton Road exit west of Ashork, forgo the luxury of the Williamson Valley Road, and follow highway 89 into Prescott.
The return trip is a bit less certain or structured and is dependant on the possible visit with my wife’s great uncle Orvin in Prescott Valley and the weather. He turns 98 this month and epitomizes a breed of man I admire greatly, the type of man this country sorely needs but just doesn’t seem to produce anymore.
In all of the years I have been privileged to know this man, he has always had a smile and never had a complaint to utter, unless of course you were crazy enough to bring up the topic of national direction. However, even these were pretty well tempered even when seasoned with a salty crowd and a touch of the Wild Turkey.
He has weathered the storms of life for most of a century and it shows. Working to help support a large family of siblings early in life, overcoming polio that was supposed to have left him crippled, and enlisting in the United States Army and serving as an infantry man from France to Germany during World War II.
He supported his family by working on road construction crews throughout the southwest and with his ranch in the Verde River Valley. His partner through thick and thick was his wife that he lost a couple of years ago.
As a simple man who was quick to offer assistance to those in need, and who did not believe the world or the government owed him anything but an opportunity, he stands in glaring contrast to the society of dependant victims we seem to have become today. I look forward to another visit as inspiration is something that can always be used.
If we do visit, and the snow isn’t flying and the back roads have not been turned to pudding, we will roll over Mingus Mountain into the ghost city of Jeorme, and then wander the old Perkinsville Road, forty plus miles of dust or mud dependant on season, into Williams. This drive is best made in the summer but any opportunity to cruise through almost pristine Arizona back country and enjoy the scenic wonders of the Verde River country should not be missed.

Plan B would be to take the road through Drake, just to the north of Chino Valley, and catch the Perkinsville Road for the drive into Williams. In the months of summer this rates as a top drive but winter can be a bit dicey as elevations near 8,000 feet and the road is often pretty soft.
In either case, I owe my dearest friend a belated Valentine’s dinner and in Williams are some of our favorite restaurants; Jessica’s, the Pine Country Restaurant, and Old Smoky’s to name a few.
If time allows we might also wander into Flagstaff as I hear Bookman’s has reopened after the roof collapse during last winters heavy snows. This little gem tops our list for best general book store. If you know of a better one, please let me know.
It will be another whirlwind adventure, but as always, I am quite sure it will be another memory maker. After all, how can you go wrong with family visits, a road trip that includes Route 66 and the Arizona back country, time spent with my dearest friend, and the stalwart Jeep as our trusty steed?


Living the life of the vagabond without a care or worry may sound good or look pretty in the moving pictures but so does Oz and the stuff we are sold every election cycle. However, when the fantasy meets the reality it is sort of like what happens to your cardboard house in an Arizona monsoon.
For reasons that escape me now and that must have made sense then, there was a time when I decided to try my hand at living free and easy in the land of opportunity. To that end I divested myself of motorized transportation, thinned out my worldy goods so that all I owned fit in a good sized pack, and had a friend drop me at the intersection of I-40 and US 93 south of Kingman at about sunrise on a beautiful summer morning.
By around 10:00, as the temperature was nearing the century mark, doubts about my plan began to seep into my mind. When it hit noon those doubts were full fledged concerns about any semblance of common sense in what I was doing. At around 4:00 when I had made the decision to begin the long walk back to town and shelve this adventure under ideas not to try a second time, an old man stopped his battered, rusty, smoking Subaru Brat, and asked if I needed a ride.
As his huge black lab dominated the front seat, I got the jump seats in the rear. But this was of little concern as my doubts vanished with the warm desert breeze that whipped around my face as the driver piloted his wreck toward the little mining burg of Bagdad!
Surely my master plan had received the blessings of God for my destination was Bagdad and my little sisters house. How else could one explain getting a ride to a town in the middle of nowhere where the welcome to Bagdad sign shared space with another that announced the highway ended in fifty feet?
I stayed with my sister for two days, turned down an offer to get me an interview at the mine from my brother in law, accepted a ride to the junction on a motorcycle, and with conviction in my heart that I had chosen the right path for an adventuresome summer, stuck out my thumb in the hopes of getting a ride to Yarnell, Skull Valley, or even better yet, Prescott. My pack had barely touched the ground when an old Ford stopped, pleasantries were exchanged with the old cowboys, and I climbed in the back amongst the tack and straw for the trip to Prescott.
All went rather well for about five short miles. Then the old Ford began to shudder to a stop before turning into the dusty parking lot at the little bar in Hillside.
Well, it was a hot and dusty day so surely a cold one couldn’t hurt even though it wasn’t quite noon. One led to two and two led to home made burritos and another round of beers. You know the rest. At around 4:00 it was becoming quite obvious even in my foggy state that this ride was over.
So, I stumbled out to the highway, stuck out my thumb, and waited under a blazing sun that made my head pound. As the sun began sinking behind the rocky hills in an explosion of various shades of reds, yellows and oranges, I decided that perhaps it would be best to walk it off and cover some ground. After all, I knew a rancher in the area that might put me up and give me a couple of days work and I was quite sure his place couldn’t be more that 15 or 20 miles down the road.
What I tripped over in the dark will never be known. What I do know is that nothing wakes you up and chases away the cobwebs in the brain like going backside over tea kettle down a mountain, through the gravel and thickets, in the dark, and having a huge barrel cactus break your fall.
As it turned out, the distance to the road was only a dozen feet or so even though at the time it felt like I had fallen into the Grand Canyon. After extricating myself from the cactus that was now festooned with bits of my shirt and hide, I sat on a rock to evaluate the situation.
To date, this was the stupidest thing I had done but with the luxury of hindsight, I now know there were better stunts to come in the years ahead. 
Some were good enough to have folks question my sanity. From the perspective of late middle age (if I live to be 106), most of these were enough to convince me youth is something that is survived only by the grace of God because it sure isn’t accomplished through swift thinking.
From my vantage point on that rock I began to take stock of my situation. Nothing seemed broken but my hat was missing, as were my glasses, and a patch of skin on the side of my head.
I dug through my pack, found my spare glasses, located my hat, found my other glasses, and climbed back up to the road. So there I sat with my torn shirt, ripped jeans, skinned knees and elbows, with blood trickling into my eye and the growing sense that by morning I was going to ache most everywhere.
So, I again set off into the night under a dazzling sea of stars upon which wisps of clouds floated. In the glow of the lighter my pocket watch showed one in the morning when I decided to hunker down in a sandy spot below the road about half way up the grade to Skull Valley. 
It was a pleasant evening and, almost as soon as I found a comfortable spot to lean against my pack, exhaustion swept me into a deep sleep. My little touch of heaven was a short lived venture as a crack of thunder, a blinding bolt of lightning that turned a yucca into a smoldering crater on the other side of the road, and wind whipped rain violently jerked me back to reality.
The vagabond life was less than a week old but I was already beginning to tire of the grand adventure. If I had known that the adventure would continue for another couple of weeks or that I would wind up at the Rainbow Gathering for misplaced hippies or that I would be robbed and tossed out into the desert near Lordsburg or that I would …
All of that, however, is a story for another day.