Route 66: Ruins and Ghost Towns

This entry is part of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

One of my favorite things about Route 66 is discovering relics of a previous age, America’s answer to ancient ruins.

Sally Sparrow: I love old things. They make me feel sad.
Kathy Nightingale: What’s good about sad?
Sally Sparrow: It’s happy for deep people.“Blink,” episode of Doctor Who, written by Steven Moffat

Route 66 is full of old things, and many of them are falling apart from decades of abandonment. Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite findings. Continue reading

Route 66: Texas

This entry is part 15 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66
decrepit building with empty sign, surrounded by scraggly weeds and utterly forlorn

the Texas Longhorn Motel, or what’s left of it. “The First/Last Motel in Texas.”

Glenrio, as we saw on the eastern border of New Mexico, straddles the state line on an abandoned stretch of road. What shell is left of the Texas Longhorn Motel (“the First/Last Motel in Texas”) sits a few feet over the border, but there will be no guests.

Eastward, we come to Adrian, the geographical midpoint of Route 66 — probably depending on exact alignments, but who really cares to quibble? Adrian has 166 residents, per their sign, and I’m not going to begrudge them their midpoint status.

Midpoint sign for Route 66, Adrian, TXTSunflower Station, western giftshe gift shop and cafe across the street is adjoined by Sunflower Station, another boutique, where you can sign the pickup truck. We didn’t stop or take the time. That probably makes us Fake 66 Cruisers or something. Losers. Continue reading

Route 66: Remote 66

This entry is part 14 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66
the Cuervo Cutoff, two dirt tracks running off into tall grass

East of Santa Rosa, NM

As the Route 66 series continues (and we have 5 states to go!), I thought I’d share a few thematic galleries of photos which might go together well but be lost in a state-centric post.

Today’s theme is the abandoned road. I’ve mentioned that we sought out many alternate alignments or discarded sections of old Route 66. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from those less-traveled segments! Continue reading

Route 66: New Mexico

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

Across the state line into New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment!

The first major city Route 66 reaches heading east is Gallup, immortalized in Bobby Troup’s obligatory Route 66 road song. The city sits close to the Hogback, a “ridge of upwardly tilted sedimentary rock” (The Place Names of New Mexico, by Robert Hixson Julya), and allegedly because of this geological constriction Gallup was a potential bomb target during the Cold War, as a single strike might have taken out railroad, pipeline, wired communications, and Route 66 all at once. Continue reading

Route 66: Arizona, Part 2

This entry is part 12 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

We ran west again from Winslow to pick up Meteor Crater, which was closed the night before and also was closed the last time I’d been through the area. (“Meteor Crater is closed.” Like they roll a mile-wide tarp across it at night, or maybe one of those motorized pool covers.)

sign: Meteor Crater is closed. Opens at 8 am.

A really, really big tarp, I’m telling you.

But I am (as astute readers might have noticed) a bit of a nerd, so we ran back the next morning to arrive just as they were unlocking the doors and presumably rolling up the tarp.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater is the site of the first crater impact to be recognized as such, and where impact science was basically re-invented. It’s an impressive hole in the ground. Best calculations by modern science suppose a 150-foot wide chunk of space rubble came screaming through our hundred miles of atmosphere in just 10 seconds before plowing into a pulverizing a sizable part of Arizona. Fragments scattered up to 7 miles around the site. The crater is three-quarters of a mile wide, and they think parts of a meteor sank as deep as 3,000 feet. Wow. Continue reading

Route 66: Notes From the Mother Road

This entry is part 11 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

I’m behind in updating the actual travelogue for a number of reasons, not least of which is the photo-intensity of this trip, making backups and postings at typical hotel/motel speeds fairly draggy. While many old roadside motels are wonderful and equipped with all the modern conveniences, like the Roadrunner Lodge in Tucumcari, NM, others are not.

(One night I pulled in and asked first about internet access and second about vacancy. The owner/manager promised we would have internet. That turned out to be true only if I sat on the sidewalk outside the office, and even then my photo upload predicted it would finish at 8:16 the following morning.)

But there are a few notes common to all of Route 66 which I can share outside of chronological order. Continue reading

Route 66: Arizona, part 1

This entry is part 10 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66
old filling station, gas at 66 cents

a restored Phillips 66 station

Remember, I’m reporting Route 66 from west to east, which is atypical. (I even found one guide which said running Route 66 from LA to Chicago was “historically wrong.” Like the whole highway was just a 2,400-mile one-way road.)

So here’s Arizona, from sunset to sunrise.

caution traffic sign, BurrosA Dearth of Burros

Oatman is famous for its feral burro population, descended from those escaped from or turned loose by prospectors in the (very rich) mining area. Tourists feed the burros, which wander down the street freely.

We arrived at Oatman early, and we shopped and we had breakfast, and…. Continue reading

Route 66: Amboy and Roy’s Cafe

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

Though I’ve written about Route 66 in California before, I’ve decided to give Amboy, California and Roy’s their own post.

Then

Roy's iconic sign over the decaying cabinsWhen I did this trip with my parents and sister in ’98, we came west through the Mojave Desert in a 113-degree day and stopped, as all do, at Roy’s Cafe.

Roy’s Motel and Cafe has an iconic sign and a desolate setting. When we entered, there were only the two employees and a middle-aged woman customer. We ordered drinks and burgers, and we discovered that the woman had been traveling with her husband and son, and they’d had car trouble in the desert. The two men had decided to go after a necessary car part, and they’d left her at Roy’s while they drove out for it. They were supposed to have returned two hours before.

Now, this story made little sense. If the car could make it to the next auto parts store, why not just go on to it? Why leave her somewhere which required hours of backtracking to collect her again? Continue reading

Route 66: California

This entry is part 8 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

Here’s a bit of Route 66 background, if you’re coming in late. If you’re all caught up, start the journey below!

The Drive

Santa Monica pierMy plan was to drop Mindy at Guide Dogs for the Blind and then take Route 66 back to the Midwest. We started from Los Angeles to run eastward. The actual official end of the road, a couple blocks from the coast, is rather boring, so everyone collaboratively declares Santa Monica Pier to be the figurative end.

Route 66 "End of the Trail" sign on the Santa Monica Pier Continue reading

Route 66: The Mother Road, The Road of Dreams

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the series GDB & Route 66

painted Route 66 icon on cracked pavement into horizonRoute 66 was the first transcontinental highway, opened in 1926. Depending on the year and route you chose to travel, it was somewhere between 2,200 and 2,500 miles to run from Chicago to Los Angeles. It became (in)famous during the migrations from the Dustbowl, when over 200,000 left their failing farms and headed west looking for other work. (Most returned within a few months; some found farm or highway or other work, but generally California wasn’t hospitable to the refugees.)

The coming of the interstate did unkind things to the road towns, many of which depended on serving travelers (shippers, migrants, tourists) for their livelihoods. Route 66 was finally de-certified in 1985, and the road was thought dead.

It wasn’t. Continue reading