This was such an unexpected adventure!
I knew I was happy to help out with the Holbrook Route 66 festivities, and was invited to do this amazing trip called the "Relics Tour" in conjunction.
I think I was hoping for more history of the Park, and when I realized what a truly devoted following the road had, it got even more exciting!
Our guide on the bus was Petrified Jack, the ranger I met just before I left. He is the perfect icon of a ranger and represents the park in THE BEST possible way. He is tall and wise and funny but somewhat stern. No doubt from his former life as a teacher. He reminds me a LOT of Mom's husband Thomas!
So, before we all got on the bus in Adamana, he asked us all to relate our connection to the road. Of course I had a few. 1. a MAJOR crush on George Maharas growing up from the tv show, 2. the boyfriend has a 62 red 'vette and 3. my recent 66 years on 66 adventure, which if you missed in the blog, keep scrolling down to day 18 in the park.
We had a great bus driver and two of the park folk, Jake who I knew from the first round whose job was pretty much taking great photos and getting people excited about coming here, and Bill the park Archaeologist! Between Bill and Jack, no question went unanswered!
So, on the bus we go to the first few stops, which were on private lands and all told interesting tales of entrepreneurial adventures, heartbreak, the growth and development of transportation in the US and some pretty strong armed tactics that created both the freeway and National Park system of today!
I am posting from cell photos as the camera reader was forgotten this trip. Good pix may follow, but the tale is here to tell.
First photo from Painted Desert Point Trading Post.
It was pretty early in the day and the views north and south were actually pretty spectacular. The narrow area from which you could view both the White Mountains and Painted Desert did make it a great spot. It had been there on the main travel route across the country beginning with the Whipple expedition (I was writing notes on a bus, so forgive me if I got them askew) in the early 1800's then experiments with wagons and camels, a stage-line route from Defiance to Prescott to the first major "road" the Old Trails Highway which preceded 66 which came in 1926! Or that is what I seem to have written in the margins of what initially looked like a boring little hand-out that turned into a PHENOMENAL wealth of info, supported by the tales of Jack and Bill. This trading post that was a shell station on 66 suffered mental illness, murder potential illicit booze and gambling! But now is just a pile of debris.
I doesn't look like much, but two dips in the horizon show the old stage route as we stopped at Rocky's Old Stage Station. Also a scene of power struggles and state vs private owner.
We got to see a beacon (well a footprint of it) that was part of the Air Mail route! Why did it take so long to get letters when it was much faster navigation? Because until beacons, planes had no way to see their route at night! This system of lights every 10 miles helped speed up communication. They were disbanded for the war because of how CLEAR the routes to major population areas worked and could be used by Japan. And then they made radar so that helped!
We bused back to our cars and drove into the Visitor Center Parking Lot for a foot tour of the roadbed in the park.
Bill was great at explaining how HISTORICAL archaeology was as vital as ancient in telling the tale of this amazingly important strip of land that was the route for centuries for anyone going east and west.
We found some choice stuff and he gave us perspective on how carefully we all should think of "trash"
In the middle of nowhere, we found the parts of the foundation of the Painted Desert Tower.
So... I will attempt at this point to explain how it took from Teddy Roosevelt declaring the area a National Monument in 1906, one of TR's first areas under the NATIONAL ANTIQUITIES ACT (somewhat relevant even today....) to not actually becoming a Park until 1962 by LBJ. It was about the entrepreneurs. The area was checker-boarded with individuals going from Arizona Land Leases, to Homestead and even Railroad land, sold off to pay for the rails! In order to consolidate the area to give to the public, they had to have the properties donated, or purchased or in some way acquired by the park. Piece by piece in some very sneaky ways .. like if a roadside attraction was happily making money and had no intention of divesting, they would move the road...sneaky people, these Park folks! The spot we saw was a very popular tourist haunt with a tower and great view (and possibly some stronger drink than Route 66 Soda Pops) (which they now sell in the PDI!) It sort of seems heartless to demolish a funky cute old tourist attraction (signs say "BURIED FOREST") but lets be real. Were it running it would be upgraded and modernized anyway and the charm we lost would STILL be gone.
From there it was a much longer than advertised jaunt to the bus. I mark it up to a lack of distraction... TOO hot already, a long walk to and equally long walk out without even broken pop bottles to slow us down. One of our number tripped on the flat highway! I know exactly how it happened! After a long trek among the scruffy, unforgiving, not flat brush, looking at every footfall for a secure spot, the flat road, and then the small but SEEMINGLY DAUNTING dip on the other side pushed the last bit of energy, and BOOM, a toe drags and she is down. With the opportunity to give up the fight, she literally sat and could not move.
It was an intricate dance of areas of influence and who and how to take care of her. Finally we drove her in the cool bus to meet paramedics at the park entry who assessed her well enough to continue the tour... BUT NO MORE HIKING!
We picked up where we were headed and had lunch at PDI they gave us all big fat sandwiches and an apple (to stay healthy)
Inside the Harvey Girls were showing off the crockery from the various venues. REALLY interesting.
And along with my sandwich, we got a scoop of the ice ream downstairs!
ON the road again and was feeling smug that I had found that patch of road (the day BEFORE my 66 trip) and realized we were heading there.
WOW. This was just fun. HORRIBLE road, bouncing the whole way, grass growning between the paths! THIS was not for a Corvette with the top down, it was for an off-road vehicle..or a wagon train?!
First stop was the flattened Lion Farm. Owner was angered by a little diversion station (no fee, just looked like an entry) that sent folks OFF Route 66 proper into the wonders of the park, so she kept a captive mountain lion, a pronghorn and an eagle, to attract visitors. When the park got the land they REALLY flattened it. Burned it, dug a trench and buried what was left. We went picking in the residue.
THEN it got cool.
We were allowed to go on to Navajo land with their permission to see two HOLY GRAILS of 66 fans! The Dead Wash Bridge and (drum roll) PAINTED DESERT TRADING POST. I admit I was not aware of these, but the bus was literally twittering (or what ever the masculine equivalent was) and the road was so horrible it was just like a fun ride!
Dead Wash was a stark and amazing place littered with rusted car carcasses!
From above Ranger Jack and the tough lady who took the spill watched us try to get back up from the crumbling sides littered with corpses of cars I had never seen the likes of. All old and very red with rust...
It was way out in the middle of nowhere. It bounced us like a washboard in a full size school bus and it was soooo much fun... finally we got to the thing they were all waiting for....
The Trading Post was a seriously sad echo of its old glory.
Here is the snapshot from the good old days
We swarmed it, under the careful supervision of our guys in flat wide hats:
Here is the new AiR taking photos on her iPad!
I have a head FILLED with info and my neighbor and I commemorated it with footprints next to the painted road across the street from the Trading Post.
TRULY exhausted and have a busier (let's hope not) day tomorrow in the square in Holbrook.