The past couple of days have been a blur of research, reading, snow storms and related issues, computer problems at the office, time with the grand kids, work on the Route 66 encyclopedia, and, in my spare time, finalizing arrangements for the big international Route 66 festival in Amarillo in June. It seems the only thing there wasn’t time for was blog postings.
For a wide array of reasons we are really getting excited about Amarillo in June. It will be our first participation in one of these annual shindigs, there are lots of old friends to see, it will be an opportunity to put faces with names, and it will allow for a face to face thank you to some of the people who have been so helpful in the transformation of ideas into books.
Then there is the little matter of this being the first time one of my books will make its debut with such fanfare. The publisher has put a rush on the final product to ensure Ghost Towns of Route 66 will be ready for its moment in the spotlight.
I know gasoline prices will put a damper on a lot of vacation plans but if it all possible we hope you will be able to attend. The link above for the festival will take you to a website with all of the particulars including information about the host hotel.
As you may have guessed by now, books are an important part of my life for at least the last half century or so. They have provided solace, perspective, encouragement, and direction over the years. They have also led to some very interesting adventures.
Long ago during my “John Wayne” period I met a few cowboys from the remote village of Supai. We developed a bit of a friendship and in spite of numerous invitations, I never made the journey into the canyon wonderlands of the Havasupai people.
That all changed when I discovered the book, Life in a Narrow Place Stephen Hirst. Hirst spent a number of months living with the people of the blue green water (the loose translation of the word Havasupai) and wrote of his experiences and the tragic choices this tribe has had to make.
A number of the children he wrote about were the men I knew. That inspired my first adventure into the land of narrow places.
Since that first adventure I have returned on numerous occasions. On the last trip into the canyon I took my dearest friend and we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with friends as well as the adventure of lifetime, or at least the adventure of the month.
Now that was an adventure! A winter horseback ride, broken cinch, a blizzard, good food, good friends, a sixty mile drive on unplowed roads in a car with a broken window, and a helicopter ride into blinding snow were just a few of the highlights. This truly is a story for another day.
I was working on the ranch in the Mimbres River Valley when I discovered the chronicles of James McKenna in a book entitled, Black Range Tales. For months I packed a copy of this in the truck or saddle bags as I sought the places from the frontier era in New Mexico he spoke of.
The book added depth and context to the live I was living and the landscapes I was living it in. It also led to a few memorable outings such as the episode when we were forced to back down the escarpment of Cooks Peak – with a dead truck, and no power steering, and on a road so narrow we removed the towing mirrors and to exit on the passenger side required climbing into the back of the truck first. This too is a story for another day.
It was Emily Post’s By Motor to the Golden Gate that first introduced me to La Bajada Hill. This series of switchbacks on the road from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, Route 66 until the early 1930s, was dreaded by motorists, at least that is what I had been led to believe.
In this book I discovered that this was all a matter of perspective. When she made the drive in 1915, it was the best part of the road between Las Vegas and Albuquerque. When I drove it in a Rambler station wagon, and left my muffler behind, the impression was that the road was in need of improvement.
It was a box of vintage True West that first sent me seeking the lost treasure of the COD mine, first introduced me to the frontier era lawman Commodore Perry Owens, and that played a key role in my decision to try my lunch as a cowboy. I am quite glad to say that under the stewardship of Bob “Boze” Bell, the magazine is alive and well, and is still inspiring me. served as a valuable resource when writing Ghost Towns of the Southwest.
Books are more than just a great way to while away a winters evening. They are also a great way to fill those empty places in the head with useless bits of knowledge, a few things that will be useful at the most unexpected times, and amazing inspirations for some grand adventures.