Friday, October 23rd, 2009
It’s impossible to drive all of the original Route 66, since some of it is under the interstate, some of it is impassable, and some of it just no longer exists. Also, there are many different alignments of the Route, so you sometimes have to choose which version to drive. I have to say that it’s been so tempting to take some of the rougher, more isolated stretches that aren’t part of the main tour (“Dirt 66” as it’s referred to in my guide) – especially since I have a Jeep, and could navigate through some parts that I wouldn’t if I had a car! Alas, the trailer won’t take it and I just don’t have the time to unhitch and rehitch and all of that… I made an exception the other day though, for the Painted Desert Trading Post.
I need to stop here and sing the praises of David Wickline. David is the creator of “Images of 66” (volumes 1 and 2), which is like a visual encyclopedia of Route 66. There are pictures of most noteworthy things you’ll see along Route 66 in his books, as well as some historical notes. His books are quite comprehensive and have been invaluable during this journey, to help me plan what I want to see/shoot, and also to explain what it is I’m looking at in many cases. Truly, if you ever drive Route 66, be sure you buy at least his first volume, as well as the can’t-do-without Jerry McClanahan’s EZ 66 Guide for Travelers.
So using David’s books, I could look it up when my friend and fellow photographer/Route 66 lover Ben Willmore
told me I really should go see the old Painted Desert Trading Post. He said I should unhitch the trailer at the exit and drive in with the Jeep. The place looked really cool and very isolated – and according to Images of 66, it is a highly sought-after building for professional photographers doing the Route. How could I not go in??
Unhitching and rehitching was a pain, and I was concerned about leaving the triangle out there all by its lonesome right next to the interstate… no telling who might come along and take interest in the little thing. And I gotta tell ya, I almost somersault the Jeep the first time I brake after unhitching! I don’t realize how much harder I have to brake with the trailer on until I brake without it – yikes!
But it was worth it, it was a fantastic side trip. I found myself thinking that I really want to do this trip again someday, with a four wheel drive vehicle like this, but without a trailer and with more flexibility in how I do the route. (The time lapse thing I am doing sort of dictates that I do the whole Route, as religiously as possible, and all in daylight hours. Not easy for a night owl such as myself.)
Ben had given me great directions, but once I got out there I was unsure, since 1) he uses miles, I use kilometers, and 2) there was more than one left turn off the main dirt road. Fortunately cell phones exist, so I called him for clarification as I bumped along the washboard road. What he could remember did help reassure me I was on the right path, and I did find it (thanks, Ben!). What an awesome location. It has been tagged a bit with graffiti, but not to a terrible extent – presumably because of its isolation. I hope people coming out here respect this site and leave it as is (take only pictures, leave only footprints, etc.).
According to David Wickline, the Painted Desert Trading Post was opened in 1940 by Joy Nevin and Dotch Windsor (Windsor, yay!), and was later abandoned in 1956. Beyond the building is Dead River Bridge, which was also part of the old Route 66 back in this time period. The most interesting thing about the bridge is the empty shells of old cars that were used along the edge of the wash to control erosion. There is no water here now, but at one point there clearly was (and may still be, during flash floods I suppose). The bridge is heavily tagged on its underside pillars, but its top surface is relatively pristine, with a “Route 66” shield stenciled on the end.
My mother probably wouldn’t have appreciated seeing me drive out to the middle of the desert on a dirt road by myself like this… nor would Peggy Burner… it’s all good, moms! I was never that far from the interstate, and I had lots of water and food in the Jeep!
Can’t wait to develop the infrared shots from this location…