Even though the morning felt warmer than the evening before, there was that vague hint in the air that changes were coming. By mid morning the winds were beginning to howl, the far horizon began to darken, and now, as I eat lunch and watch the cloud shadows dance across the face of the Cerbat Mountains from my office, there can be little doubt the weatherman got this one right. A winter storm is on the way.
There is just something majestic about storms in the desert. I have survived hurricanes and endured tornado watches, experienced bone numbing blizzards and basted in my own juices under a sweltering sun in the Mississippi River Delta, but nothing instills awe and reverence as do storms in the deserts.
Still, even with all of their violence, I prefer summer storms. As a kid winter and I were never very good friends even though there were opportunities to ice fish, ice skate, sled down snow covered hillsides, snowmobile through the forest, build forts of snow, and have snow ball fights.
The passing of years has only alienated my affections for winter even though I still contemplate an Alaskan adventure when the longing for the independent spirit of the southwest that has now passed becomes difficult to contemplate. Still, the reality is that I have lived in this desert land so long that I often start looking for the long johns if the temperature drops below eighty degrees.
Well, it is shaping to be another interesting weekend. We have a Route 66 photo shoot on Saturday after work. There will be some lively discussion with Stive Rider. Then there is the continuing work on the encyclopedia and the Sunday dinner with my son and his family that is the highlight of the week, and another opportunity for my dearest friend to try out her culinary imagination.
Stay warm, stay dry, and remember, this is the season to dream of road trips yet to come.
Okay. I take a small package to the post office, the clerk weighs it, informs me of the cost, I pay, accept my receipt and leave, foolishly assuming the package is well on it way. It was, to my house.
The package mailed on Monday was in my mail box last night. It was returned as a result of postage due in the amount of fourteen cents.
Cort, your package is in the mail. Again.
I am diligently racing the clock to beat the December deadline and exhaustion is rearing its ugly head. A day job plus five hours per night on the encyclopedia is taking its toll but I do have to admit, it is the most enjoyable work possible.
Now, lets talk enthusiasm. I am very excited about this new book and am eager to see it made available. I almost feel as though a time capsule has been created, a feeling greatly enhanced by the contributions of Steve Rider, Joe Sonderman, Mike Ward, and a few other fans of the legendary Route 66.
For several weeks I have hinted of something special looming on the horizon. I am still not at liberty to discuss the particulars but after meeting with Josh Noble, the tourism director here in Kingman, this morning we moved one step closer to making this project a reality. Stay tuned for details as they become available.
We have been blessed with a pretty spectacular fall here in northwestern Arizona this year. Still, this old desert rat has lived here long enough to know that when it stays nice this long, and this late into the season, the change will come quite fast.
On Sunday when my dearest friend and I climbed high into the Cerbat Mountains (I forgot to post pictures!) it was a pretty nice seventy degree day by the time we returned. This morning there was a hint of chill in the air on the walk to work and now I have learned we are to expect snow and sub freezing temperatures by the weekend.
Well, a dusting of snow might give the weekend photo assignment a bit of a snap. The desert and snow presents a pretty stark contrast.
It is only the first week of the month but in typical fashion, at least for us, it is shaping up to a busy time. There is the deadline for the book, the aforementioned project, the day job, Thanksgiving, my sons wedding, negotiation for the next book contract, two magazine articles to write, and in my spare time, a small list of needed home repairs that includes installing the baseboard in the office where I installed a floor three years ago.
The schedule for December looks a bit light. Of course I still have three weeks to fix that!
Alton Evening Telegraph – dateline – Edwardsville – August 25 – “Stolen early Thursday morning by burglars who broke into a service station adjoining Rut’s Corner tavern at Litchfield, Montgomery County, a 300 pound steel safe was recovered later in the day on a farm east of here … ” It would seem the burglars were rewarded a meager $45.00 for their efforts but as they also stole $700 worth of liquor, I am quite sure they were able to alleviate a bit of their sorrows.
This is a sample of the odd little tid bits uncovered in my quest for information during the research for the forthcoming encyclopedia. More often than not, they had little relevance to the overall project but when viewed in the larger context presented an interesting serious of pictures about life along Route 66 during its “glory days.”
Most were tragic in nature – car wrecks, floods, fires, and the occasional shoot out. Others were quite comedic in nature.
As an example, in the early summer of 1948 a gentleman by the name of Bell, a coroner by trade, was motoring west along the old double six when he suddenly came upon a wreck, a roll over so recent the dust still hung in the air.
As he scrambled to down the embankment he could see legs sticking from the overturned car. As it turned out the battered driver was in surprisingly good condition but had remained in the car in a valiant effort to catch the gas from his full tank in what ever container that could be found.
My goal in the writing of this book was to add depth as well as context to the modern Route 66 experience. I did not intend to further elevate this old highway in continuing rise to stardom.
In retrospect, that has been one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Even though it is just a highway it is not the typical highway. It seems to have a life of its own.
It appeared on the stage of history as part of the newly created U.S. highway system in late 1926. It knitted a series of historic trails and roadways connecting a metropolis on the shores of Lake Michigan with a metropolis on the shores of the Pacific Ocean into a single highway signed with two sixes.
Shortly after its inception, it became the road of desperation for those seeking a new life in the land of perpetual sunshine named California. As a result, it was forever intertwined with the memories, both good as well as bad, of several generations.
The dust of the Great Depression still hung in the air when the clouds of war transformed this highway into a vital artery for the arsenal of democracy. Boys who had never been much further from home than the end of the fence line were now traveling along Route 66 to Kingman and McLean, to Essex and Albuquerque and memories were made for a new generation.
Often overlooked in the Route 66 story is the affect the highway had on Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese peoples during these years. There were POW camps in McLean, Essex, California, and countless other places along the highway. The Santa Anita Race Track in California along Route 66 served as an internment camp for Japanese citizens and Chinese pilots were trained at the Kingman Army Airfield.
The 1950s were a time of prosperity and of optimism. Like a chameleon the old road adapted to the changing times and became a neon lit sideshow with never ending attractions – a string of “Indian” trading posts and reptile ranches, wigwam shaped motels and sombrero topped diners lined the highway from end to end.
By the 1960s the pace of the nation had changed and as the destination became more important than the journey, the neon grew dark and the old road was quickly relegated to the realm of historical footnote like the Santa Fe Trail or the Lincoln Highway. By the early 1980s the individuality of a highway christened the Main Street of America in 1927 had given way to a high speed roadway of generic sterility where it was possible to drive coast to coast and see nothing.
That should have been the end of the story. But at some point along the way this simple highway transcended its original purpose to join the ranks of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill as a larger than life American legend. Now, almost a century later the myth has become the reality and the highway has become America’s longest attraction with travelers from every corner of the earth seeking its charms.
My association with this iconic American highway spans nearly a half century and yet every time I drive it there is a renewed sense of excitement, of eager anticipation, and of invigorating adventure. Judging by the visitors from the Netherlands and Germany, from New York and Australia, from Japan and Florida, that one encounters in small cafes, in museums, and at vintage motels all along this highway, I am not alone in my fascination for this ribbon of cracked and broken asphalt that spans the heartland of the nation, and that links the past with the present and future.
Yes, the old road is alive and well and shows no sign of waning in popularity. I am just glad to have had the opportunity to create a time capsule to preserve its first 85 years of history.
This posting will also be a bit brief. Before launching into the tale of how my weekend went, a somewhat dry little tale unless you lean toward the voyeuristic side of life, I had best let you know the latest issue of 66 The Mother Road is now available on line.
The weekend was spent in that strange world between full speed ahead and stop. After work on Saturday my son and I picked a new old table, a gift from a friend whose father recently passed away, and then my dearest friend and I took advantage of the delightful fall weather with a short hike along the Beale Springs loop trail.
The remainder of the afternoon, and most of the evening, were spent evaluating the stunning images supplied by collectors Steve Rider, Joe Sonderman, and Mike Ward, as well as those acquired on our various trips along Route 66 this past couple of years that will make this book a true time capsule. This aspect of the project fueled my excitement about what I hope will be a valuable asset to the Route 66 community.
With that said there are still a couple of holes that need to be filled. Does anyone have information about the Hilltop Restaurant located east of Kingman on El Travatore Hill, the origins of the Beacon Hill Motel in Missouri, or the demise of the Meteor Crater Observatory?
The publisher has set a tentative date for release as October 2012. Now in my way of thinking that fits quite nicely with the Cuba Fest celebration so that might be the ideal venue for the books debut.
For good reason Sunday is often my favorite day of the week. This past Sunday started with a bit of a devotional, correspondence, and a hearty breakfast followed by a long hike into the Cerbat Mountains with my dearest friend. Pictures are forthcoming.
Then it was back to the grind stone as the deadline for the encyclopedia is December 1. After pouring over the text in search of errors, and tweaking things a bit with information obtained on the excursion to Chicago, my son and his family arrived for dinner.
Monday, my official day off, was consumed with a few issues at the office, chasing the next book contract, work on the encyclopedia, a shopping excursion, more correspondence, chasing approval for two magazine features, and a bit of “light reading” from a new book, Crimes & Misdeeds: Headlines from Arizona’s Past. Interesting stuff to say the least – lesbian love triangles and a torrid love affair with a leading businessman in Phoenix that ends with murder, a badly bungled attempt at train robbery, a kidnapping hoax, the murder of a woman’s husband and her kidnapping, as well as torture, that leads to a lynching, and a running, literally, gun battle between a leading doctor and famous attorney. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these sordid stories is that they took place between 1909 and 1935!
Even though I manage to keep busy, and even though there are more than a few projects simmering on the back burner – completion of the office remodel, the long overdue floor installation in the living room, the kitchen remodel, work on the Dodge, and a few other items – I really don’t do the stop at the end of a book project very well. That is the primary reason for the antsy quest for another project.
Oh, one more item. Don’t forget about the big wing ding to celebrate the anniversay of Route 66 in Needles coming up in just over a week. For more information contact Linda at 928-768-3855.
As the schedule is quite tight today, and possibly through the weekend, we have an abbreviated post today. When the dust clears I have a number of things to share and as a result may be a bit long winded. For those who know me, that should not come as much of a surprise.
First, a little something from the west coast. Historian and author Scott Piotrowski has been hosting a series of very interesting, or so I have been told, walking tours of Route 66 in Los Angeles County. In reading his blog, where you will find details about the walks, and his guide book to Route 66 in the metro area my curiosity has been aroused and we hope to take on of his tours soon.
Bob “Boze” Bell of True West magazine, and a fellow Kingmanite, posted some very nice words about the new book in his blog yesterday. Here is the link.
After reading this, and his lament about the lack of cafes in little towns, I sent him a note offering to drive if he would buy the pie. I know the individuality and charm of the small town cafe has largely been swept away by Subway, McDonalds, and Jack in the Box, but all along Route 66, the last bastion of mom and pop enterprise, they are thriving.
If you doubt my words I have three suggestions – Palms Grill Cafe in Atlanta, Illinois, Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois, and the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas. Of course I could add a few dozen others to this list such as Joe & Aggies in Holbrook or Emma Jeans in Victorville but you get the idea.
America is not all box stores and sterile, generic blandness. You just have to take the time to look for it. Or you can drive Route 66.
If you are in the area of Arcadia, Oklahoma this Saturday it might be a good idea to stop by Pop’s. Three legendary names associated with the resurgent interest in Route 66 – Jerry McClanahan, Jim Ross, and Shellee Graham – will be unveiling their latest book, Route 66 Sightings, a colorful tome featuring some of the best work by these artists as well as some very interesting stories.
As a final item of the day, I have a question. Who is planning on attending the International Route 66 Festival in Victorville next year?