STARTING THE NEW YEAR WITH A ROAD TRIP TO AMBOY

For at least a dozen years or so my dearest friend and I have kicked off the new year with a day trip into the desert where we can meditate on the year and years that have passed, the year ahead, savor some of God’s finest handiwork, and simply enjoy each others company over a picnic lunch. More often than not, time and budget constraints have resulted in short excursions out to Red Lake, a beautiful dry lake north of Kingman, long walks along the extensive trail system in the Cerbat foothills, or a trek to one of the ghost towns in the nearby mountains.

For two years we discussed something a little more grandiose and adventuresome, climbing Amboy Crater near Amboy, California along Route 66. As a cold that seemed impossible to beat hung on through the last week of December, it looked as though we were going to have to postpone that quest once again.
Surprisingly, we awoke Monday feeling like a couple of kids who had won a trip to Disneyland. So, while my dearest friend gathered the gear, I topped off the tank on the Jeep, and stopped at Safeway for a few last minute items.
By 8:00, we were off on a 276 mile adventure that included Route 66, and some truly spectacular desert landscapes filled with empty. Exactly what we needed to end one year, and launch another.
As we saddled up there was just enough of a chill to require a sweater. By the time we made Needles, we had shed the sweater, and by the time the dusty Jeep pulled into the parking lot at the crater, I had rolled up my sleeves and was contemplating the abandonment of the long john shirt.
I won’t provide the tragic details but long ago a valuable lesson was learned the hard way. If you are planning a one day adventure into the desert, even on a paved road, plan for two. If you don’t need the water, or extra food, you just might find someone who does.

So, for this little jaunt I had a case of water in the Jeep, and in the pack, ten bottles as well as a can of kippers, a thermos filled with two cups of lintel soup, crackers, nuts, and some dried fruit.
The hike to the crater is a relatively easy one, with the exception of the last couple of hundred yards into the crater, and then the final climb to the rim that looms 250 feet above the vast lava and cinder field that surrounds it. The distance is just over one mile to the crater, roughly one mile around the rim, and a return on the same trail for a total of about 3.5 miles.
The well marked trail courses through fine sand, volcanic cinder, and slabs of rippled lava as it gently climbs toward the cone that dominates the horizon. Along the way are a few pleasant shaded benches.
Still, this is not a hike to made in the months of summer. I am quite sure the temperature exceeded eighty degrees during our adventure, about thirty or forty degrees cooler than what can be expected during the months of summer.
This is desert pure and simple. At the nearby town of Bagdad, the railroad documented an “unofficial” record of 747 days without measurable precipitation in the years bracketing 1912.
Even on a short hike such as this, be prepared. The desert can be very unforgiving of mistakes or stupidity.

Now, with that said, I would rate this as a “must stop” on a Route 66 tour, even if you just pull into the paved parking lot and view the crater from the shaded observation deck or to savor the solitude while sipping a cold drink at one of the shaded tables. In fact, if I were to compose a list of great places for stretching the legs along Route 66, this little jaunt would rate up there with the Chain of Rocks Bridge and Memory Lane near Lexington, Illinois.
As we were in no hurry, and as we love to bask in the desert solitude, we spent a leisurely hour hiking into the crater, and another twenty minutes or so climbing to the rim. For our efforts we were rewarded with million dollar views of vast desert plains and snow covered peaks on the horizon to serve as a backdrop for our lunch. 

The return trek was rather anticlimactic, with the exception of the steep descent from the bowl to the valley floor down a slope composed largely of loose cinders. It wasn’t a death defying stunt but it did provide an opportunity for a definite quickening of the pulse. 
To celebrate the conquering of Amboy Crater, we stopped in Amboy for a bottle of  ice cold Coca Cola. I was a bit saddened by the apparent lack of progress in adding some polish to this tarnished gem but this was tempered just a bit with the time capsule feel of that ice cold bottle in my hand, and using the bottle opener on a chain at the counter.
A Route 66 road trip. An invigorating hike. Awe inspiring landscapes. And sharing all of this with a very dear friend. Now this is the way to jump start a new year!

ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE

On a more personal note, I would like to say thank you to each and everyone who provided the bright spots that made the trying and tumultuous 2011 a year like not other. The list of to whom we owe a special thanks is a lengthy one that includes Wolfgang Werz, Dries and Marion Bessels, Dale and Kristi Anne Butel, Joe Sonderman, Rich Dinkella, the Mueller’s, “Croc” Lile, Jerry McClanahan, Jane Reed, Connie Echols, Josh Noble, and Ramona and Bob Lehman. 

A Route 66 time capsule in Kingman, Arizona


With the exception of final edit, photo selection, and the writing of captions, the Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas is finished. As the primary goal for this project was to craft a time capsule representing the 85 year history of Route 66, the people behind its crafting and transformation into an icon, and that highways origins, I made the very difficult decison to break with tradition and as a result, this book will not feature the work of Kerrick James.
The photographic artistry of Kerrick served as a key element in the success and superb reviews received for previous titles such as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, Backroads of Arizona, and Route 66 Backroads. In Ghost Towns of Route 66, my wife and I supplied a few of the illustrations but it was Kerrick that ensured the vitality of the book.
It should noted that Kerrick and I do have a few joint projects simmering on the front burner. One of these is a feature, or series of features profiling Route 66 for Arizona Highways.
A primary reason for this departure was the very generous contributions made by collectors Joe Sonderman, who is also an accomplished author, Mark Ward, and Steve Rider. These historic images will account for about 90% of the illustrations with the remaining 10% being supplied by my wife and I. 

An example of the historic images to be used as
illustrations in the Route 66 encyclopedia. This
photo is from the Joe Sonderman collection.


As I envision my work to be a foundational element for the promotion of the highway, the people who keep its unique culture alive, and their businesses, we are planning to coincide the premier for this book with Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri on October 20th. Ambitious plans are in the works to follow this with a year long promotional tour that includes appearances at several major Route 66 events, a serious of articles for various publications detailing this tour that I hope will be made in a 1951 or 1952 Hudson Hornet, and a wide array of appearances at schools with the goal of sparking an interest in history.
Tied to this are plans to introduce the wonders of Route 66 to a wider audience, and to, hopefully, spark an American enthusiasm for the highway, its history, and its importance that will equal that expressed by European, Australian, and Japanese visitors. With that as the goal, I am crafting a few features that will present the old highway as the ideal venue for vintage automobiles.
I finished the first of these features for Old Cars Weekly a few weeks ago. The scheduled date for publication is unknown at this time.
This takes me back to a reoccurring theme. Another project I am quite excited about, and that I am very honoroed to be associated with is the development of a photographic exhibit entitled Route 66 in Mohave County for the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman.
At this time plans call for it to be complete by July of this year. However, it will be displayed in segments until that date with the first segment scheduled for completion in February.
As the title states, this posting is a bit of a personal note. With that said, I have one more observation to share.
After traveling the highway in October, and making every effort to see it as though it was our first trip, I am quite convinced that the best is yet to come on Route 66, and that 2012 could be an amazing year. The interest and fascination with the iconic old highway seems to be increasing instead of leveling or waning.
More communities are awakening to the economic potential in developing attributes of their association with the highway. Resultant of this, Route 66 is being transformed into more than America’s longest attraction, it is also becoming its longest time capsule and a template for the resurgence of mom and pop enterprise.

2012, DAWN OF A NEW ERA ON ROUTE 66

It is the dawn of a new year and, possibly, a new era on Route 66. Please, let me explain what I envision and then, perhaps, together we can unleash the Phoenix from the glowing embers that is the resurgent interest in America’s most famous highway.
With the exception of Mr. Knudesn’s National Historic Route 66 Federation, the various organizations and publications created in the past two decades to promote and preserve Route 66 have met with limited degrees of success. The reasons for this are as varied as the landscapes through which this highway passes.
Some were initiated with good intentions but lacked the resources to make the vision a reality. Others were blatant, self serving attempts to profit from the resurgent interest in the highway and as a result stifled honest efforts to create a unified, linear Route 66 community that mirrored the one created by the U.S. Highway 66 Association launched in February of 1927.
Now, more than ever, the Route 66 community needs that unified voice, an organization that stitches together the wide array of individual and state association efforts into a cohesive element. So, here is a summary of what I propose. Please, feel free to provide your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.
1) This organization would not supplant or intrude into the affairs of existent state associations, city promotional efforts, or organizations such as the National Historic Route 66 Federation. Instead, it would serve to coordinate efforts between these various entities.
2) This organization would consist of an eight member board, one representative from each state, and a director. Preferably the state representative would be appointed by the Route 66 association in each state.
3) As examples of how this organization would benefit the Route 66 community, and serve as unifying element –
a) maintain a list of speakers, authors, and artists to expedite the organizational efforts of city or state associations to create events –
b) in a manner similar to that of Tripadvisor, allow travelers to provide reviews of dining and lodging establishments, as well as museums, attractions, and events. Complaints would be forwarded directly to the owners or managers of properties and their response would also be published –
c) the organization could serve as the information clearing house for film crews, tour companies etc. seeking information about the highway, planing a trip on the highway, looking for site specific information, contact information, etc. –
d) assist organizations in the promotion of events through press releases, the publication of articles written about the event for appropriate publications, etc. –
4) The organization could create a much needed electronic archive of historic photographs, post cards, maps, etc.
5) The organization could assist in the design of programs for dissemination through schools and universities. In addition, it could provide contact information for speakers to present these programs.
6) The organization could provide key distributors of information, such as Route 66 News, with press releases for events, updates on artists and authors, reports with accompanying photographs and other pertinent information.
7) Funding for the organization, including a salary or travel reimbursement for board members and the director, would be derived through membership dues, and state tourism monies.
8) As incentive for businesses to join, the association would publish a yearly directory of member businesses with an overall rating derived from traveler reviews. These businesses would be asked to provide organization members a 10% discount on services which would serve as individual incentive for membership.
Okay, thoughts, ideas, suggestions?

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM ROUTE 66

The post today will be a bit shorter than usual as I am still fighting a miserable cold and there are a multitude of loose ends to tie up before our annual New Years road trip. But to make up for this I promise lots of exciting news. So, lets get started.
The latest issue of 66 The Mother Road, a free, full color electronic magazine is now available. If the latest issue is a hint of what we can expect from the publishers, John and Judy Springs, in 2012, it will be a very exciting year indeed.
The next item of note pertains to the latest book from Joe Sonderman, Route 66 in Oklahoma. All of Joe’s books are welcome additions to the library and this one continues that tradition.
Joe partnered with Jim Ross, one third of the Three Musketeers of Route 66 in Oklahoma, for this work. So, you not only have treasures from Joe’s vast collection of vintage postcards and photographs, as well as his extensive knowledge of the subject, you have some of Jim’s as well.
If you have an hour or two to spare you can stroll down memory lane from Chicago to Santa Monica on Joe’s website. You may also order signed copies of his books through this site as well.
On June 7th, Tucumcari will be the place to be. Wheels on 66, a part of the New Mexico Route 66 Motor Tour celebration kicks off its first year in grand style.
The last item of the day is does not fit our time of good news. In fact, it is the flip side of the coin.
Roy Dunton, a prominent businessmen in Kingman whose association with Route 66 includes working at his uncles shop in Goldroad during the 1930s, transforming the Kimo Cafe into Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, and operating the Chevrolet, Ford, and Edsel franchises in Kingman along Route 66, had his home burglarized over the holidays. Missing is a very rare commemorative Body by Fischer coach and figurines, one of 6,000 produced.
The family is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the item. I will post pictures as soon as possible but if you have any information the family may be contacted at 928-279-4629 and the police department number is 928-753-2191.

AND THEN I SAW THE PACER

On more than one occasion it has been noted that in my head I am still 20 but the reality often intrudes on the illusion. I am quite sure there are other individuals that suffer a similar disconnect between the perception of age and the reality.
It is not always a physical shortcoming that kicks the illusion of youth to the curb. A few years ago I was writing a feature on the unique Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, California for Cars & Parts when a pristine AMC Pacer brought me up short.
Standing before me was a bulbous blue and chrome manifestation of my true age. I had worked on these cars when they were late model trade ins, and now they were museum exhibits!

San Fidel, New Mexico – Geezerville

In recent years this line of thinking has become more prevalent, another sign that Gezzerville is my next stop. I am quite sure this is caused by something more than advancing age, creaking joints, and ear hair.
To a large degree I believe it is the speed with which the world is changing that may play a large role in this. After all, if I take but a moment to stop, to think, and to look around me, there is very little evidence of the world I once knew.
Perhaps this is also a reason I have such a fascination with Route 66 and the empty places. It might also explain my quest to travel that road in a vehicle older than I am.
Simply consider the technology behind this blog post compared to what it was when I sold my first feature article in 1990. That article was written on a 1948 Underwood manual typewriter using paper, and carbon paper. The photographs were taken with a 25 year old, 35 mm camera.
The article, with photos, was sent first class mail and it took four weeks to receive a response, via first class mail, and an additional two weeks for receipt of my check. Phone calls weren’t really an option, as I was not home during the day and did not having an answering machine. However, I did have a rotary dial phone.
You may ask, just how old are you? Well, I remember with clarity my dad paying .19 per gallon for gasoline on a trip through Mississippi and the first time gasoline was paid for with money from my pocket, it was .29 per gallon.
In late 1964 my dad purchased a year end close out Ford Fairlane. He asked about the availability of air conditioning as his plans were to move from Michigan to Arizona in the next 18 months. After numerous phone calls, the dealer informed dad that he could not find a vehicle so equipped but he could order one and have it in about four weeks.
On one of our trips across Kansas in about 1966, we stopped for gas and ended up being investigated by the local police. The suspicious activity was in dad trying to pay for the fuel with a one hundred dollar bill, something not often seen when a tank of gasoline cost less than six dollars.
After driving a wide array of battered old trucks and cars, I made the decision that with the money being earned at the mine a new truck was in order. So, in late 1980, flush with cash, I stepped into the showroom at Busby Chevrolet in Silver City, New Mexico, and purchased a three year old 3/4 ton Chevrolet truck, fully loaded, with camper, for $2,995.00.
This was quite a step up from the first car purchased with my hard earned money – a 1964 Rambler American station wagon for $225.00. And the price paid for that Chevy stands in stark contrast to the $3,000 paid for a ten year old Jeep Cherokee in 2008.
Even the lexicon has changed. As an example, when I was a young man “gay” meant happy, not …
I refuse to resort to “back when I was a kid” or “those were the good old days” even though the current era often has me looking back at the truly cockeyed 1960s and 1970s with wistful romanticism. I still adhere to the adage that when ever you are alive, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
If it were just the popping joints, the thicker glasses, the receding hairline, and the price comparison on getting a set of partials, I might be able to keep the illusion of youth going just a bit longer. However, when combined with the dramatic and sweeping changes of the modern era maintaining that illusion becomes a chore unto itself.