If my schedule is tight, I generally don’t attend small local car shows. More often than not they are dominated by a sea of conformity masquerading as artistic expressions of individuality – various incarnations of the ’57 Chevy, vintage coupes with chopped tops and Chevrolet V8 engines under the hood, vintage Ford’s with chrome wheels and Chevy V8 engines under the hood, rare automobiles transformed into little more than vintage Ford’s or Chevies with Chevy V8 engines under the hood.
However, as this particular show was literally taking place in front of my office door, I saw no harm in checking out what was on display. Much to my surprise there was true individuality on display. Adding a new dimension to the term “custom” was a cut down mid ’50’s Willys wagon with an eight wheel drive, eight wheel steering configuration. To move the unusual creature long distances, the owner had created a custom hauler from a 1941 Chevy C.O.E. This vehicle was another manifestation of his creative genius.
Representing hot rodding circa 1955, there was a chop top 1952 Mercury sedan with hand painted flames. Interestingly enough the car had been modified almost a half century ago, still sported a flat head engine until this past summer (something that will be replaced this summer), and the current owner, looking all the part of a cast member of a James Dean movie, couldn’t have been over 25. Normally a retractable hardtop Ford would have grabbed my attention. But it was overshadowed by a 1933 Dodge coupe preserved in an arrested state of decay, and a 1955 Hudson Hornet driven in from Las Vegas.
For those who insist on modifying old cars to make them drivable or practical, I suggest you avoid talking to the owner of this Hudson if you see him at a car show. Last year he drove the car, without trouble, at or above highway speeds, to Spokane in Washington for a Hudson gathering. As the weather was superb, he continued to Canada and returned to Las Vegas via British Columbia. Of course he can also tell you stories of the recent trip to San Diego. Or the trip to San Francisco.
The 1933 Dodge is a local car that is a regular driver. Bone stock and outfitted with period details the car is as it would have appeared on a used car lot in about 1940; faded paint, a few dings, dented hubcaps, stained headliner. This is a car I could really get into. Perhaps my only modification would be to update the transmission to an overdrive system from about 1936. That would allow cruising at modern speeds without a great deal of strain on the engine. I suppose the lesson to be learned in all of this is that pleasant surprises are around us, if we just take the time to look.
For this weeks edition of the travel and book tips, I have something a bit different. As we will be on the road to Prescott, and then Jerome, Flagstaff, and Williams, tomorrow I thought you might be interested in a few of our favorite stops along the way.
Williamson Valley Road
Two days of rain in Kingman, which translates into snow from Peach Springs east means we will have to give up on plans for the Williamson Valley Road, a scenic and pleasant back country drive of about forty miles that also serves as a short cut of sorts. In addition to loping off about twenty miles from the trip it spares us the pain of having to brave the gauntlet of morning commuter traffic from suburbia. During the months of summer, if it hasn’t been raining, I highly recommend this drive. It can be done in an automobile with caution but ground clearance will alleviate a few worries. Pack a picnic lunch and bring a camera. This is a rare glimpse into fast vanishing Arizona that is also a window into the state as it was when I first began my explorations here some forty years ago. And as it will be between ten and twenty degrees in the high country in the morning, it also means we will most likely have to take I-40 rather than Route 66 in a effort to avoid icy or snow covered roads. Of course we can rectify that on the return trip by picking up old 66 at the Crookton Road exit just west of Ashfork. The primary reason for this winter adventure is a live interview on AM Arizona in the morning. As this will be our third appearance on the program there is eager anticipation for the spirited discussion about the fascination with ghost townshttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760332215&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr, Route 66http://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=ifr, the books written on these subjects, and the latest project, a Route 66 encyclopedia. Then it will be off to lunch at the Peacock Room in the historic Hassayampa Inn. Often when business takes us to Prescott we use it as an excuse for an overnight stay at this charming time capsule lifted from the 1920s in the cities historic district but budget constraints, an ailing and elderly cat that will need a sitter, and other obligations such as promises made to our granddaughter make it an impossibility on this trip. Next, I will stop by Barnes & Noble at the mall to sign books as a favor to the manager. A formal signing for Ghost Towns of Route 66 is being scheduled for latter in the summer.
Hassayampa Inn lobby
Then its a family visit and a winter odyssey over Mingus Mountain into the ghost city of Jerome. The destination will be the mining museum as an introduction and a plug for Ghost Towns of the Southwest. Jerome is quite a treat. Yes, it has become touristified but that has prevented it from being erased from the map and besides, the views looking east toward the Verde River country and the red rock spires that embrace Sedona are spectacles never to be forgotten. Snow will most likely be an issue on the grades over Mingus Mountain. Snow frosted the red rock country should also make for great photo ops.
Backroads near Williams during the summer are great adventure.
All of the rain and snow means we will also have to skip the planned trip to Williams over the old Perkinsville Road. There was a time when little thought was given to braving forty plus miles of pudding before tackling summits near 8,000 feet in the midst of a winter storm with a two wheel drive truck that was older than I am but with age comes a bit of wisdom. So, instead we will brave the bizarre world of Sedona nestled in its scenic red rock wonderland and savor the beauty of Oak Creek Canyon on the drive to Flagstaff. Here too I expect a few issues with snow but as this is a main highway it should be fine by mid to late afternoon. In Flagstaff, as another favor, we will stop http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B004FTK8XQ&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrby the Barnes & Noble to sign books and to discuss a summer signing for the new book. However, our primary goal will be Bookmans, recently reopened after last winters record snows collapsed the roof. Bookmans is more than a mere book store, it is the stuff of dreams. Used books and magazines from the past century, phonograph albums, tapes, video games, coffee and wing backed chairs for relaxing hours of reading are just a part of the charm. On my shopping list is the book by A.L. Westgard, Tales of a Pathfinder. The book can be ordered through Amazon.com but I would like to see an original copy is available first. I have excerpts from the books as well as a few articles he wrote during the teens. They have proved to be a valuable resource in working on the Route 66 encyclopedia. Westgard is a fascinating and surprisingly obscure figure. His pioneering http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0000C7BMW&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrexploits in regards to mapping feasible automobile roads in the southwest and midwest during the early teens is nothing short of astounding. In about 1910 these back country adventures amounted to something like 10,000 miles! His Trail to Sunset highway started at the same intersection as Route 66 would in 1926, and the section between Santa Fe and Yuma was initially selected as the course for the National Old Trails Highway. He was also instrumental in pioneering the use of trucks on the primitive roads. In this regard his work became a primary source of information for the planning of the epic cross country military convoy of 1919 along the Lincoln Highway detailed in the excellent book, American Road. Thanks to Joe Sonderman, I have a list of historic motels that we hope to photograph for the new book. Likewise with Williams. Chances are this will take us to a point well past dark so that means braving the http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0738580295&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrsubfreezing temps for some shots of neon reflected in the snow. If you are not familiar with Joe’s books or his astounding collection check out his website where signed copies are available, or pick up a copy of one of his books released by Arcadia Publishing. If you have the faintest interest in early highway history I can promise you will soon be buying all of his work. The gracious use of his collection for illustrations in the Route 66 encyclopedia is something I am most grateful for. My idea is to present historic and current shots of select properties. As I owe my dearest friend a belated Valentine’s Day dinner, we will attempt to ward off the chill at The Pine Country Restaurant before rolling west into the frosty darkness and onto Route 66. One of the stops on my list is the Hackberry General Store as I want to photograph it at night. To say the very least, it should be a very full but rewarding day.