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American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!


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Posts posted by mga707



    It looks like the Cutoff might be drivable/ridable up to the Dugway gate. Did you do that?


    If you've seen "UFO Hunters" on History you'll know that even going up to and lingering a bit at the Dugway boundary fence will get you plenty of unwanted attention from the "cammo dude" security folks!

  2. I'll admit, when I saw the Grand Canyon in 2006 (the only time), I just wasn't impressed. Seriously. The first time I saw it, sure, I was awestruck. But after about five minutes, it was just a big hole in the ground. I'm not sure what that says about me.


    In my defense, the trip was incredibly strange. It was a crosscountry, Route 66 trip that my girlfriend at the time and I had been planning for about a year. Two weeks before we left, she broke up with me, leaving for another guy.


    We decided that it would still be okay to make the 7000ish mile trip.


    We were wrong. Sort of. I mean, we did get a crosscountry trek out of it.


    I've visited the South Rim three times (four if you count the first time, when I was two!), and the North Rim twice. And then there was my previously-mentioned 2003 trek to the remote and wild "Northwest Rim" at the Toroweap Overlook. That was definitely impressive!

    I do enjoy the less-visited (and higher) North Rim more, but I still like the sometimes-overcrowded South Rim as well. I love the old lodges like the El Tovar and Bright Angel, much as I've loved the historic lodges at other 'signature' parks like Yellowstone and Glacier.

    I do think that the circumstances of your visit have probably put a damper on your enjoyment of it.

    And then there's my older brother: On our family's first Canyon visit in 1960 (the one when I was two), my then 8-year-old brother, according to family lore, took one look over the railing and stated "OK, we've seen it, let's go home now!"


    Big Water used to be called by another name and was featured in Edward Abbey's book Monkey Wrench Gang.


    Glen Canyon City. Like nearby Page, AZ, Big Water/Glen Canyon City owes it's existence to the late 1950's construction of Glen Canyon Dam, which formed Lake Powell. Prior to the dam's construction, US89 did not even exist it this location. The current 89A (alternate) was the original 89, which crosses the Colorado River at Navajo Bridge by Lee's Ferry and continues westward to Fredonia AZ and Kanab UT along the lower edge of the Vermillion Cliffs.

    Big Water is also the closest community to the old Mormon settlement, now ghost town, of Paria. It's some miles down a bumpy dirt road off of 89 west of Big Water, but is a neat place if you like ghost towns. What makes it even more interesting, or confusing, is that the actual Paria townsite is on the opposite side of the Paria River from a 'fake' ghost town that was constructed in the 1970s for a western movie--I think "The Outlaw Josey Wales".

    Hope I'm not boring you, but I just happen to know some of this stuff! :)


    Thanks for the further info on the Big Water residents--I did not know that!


    I was planning on taking Old Route 6 & 50 through western Utah and came across the town of EskDale. Residents are followers of the Aaronic Order, which is kind of a spin off of LDS (though they don't practice plural marriage). I've always been interested in intentional communities (even lived on one for a bit). This one has a bunch of fun old photos. One caught my eye:


    In the older pics, they appear to be wearing the FLDS style dress, but in the more modern pics, they look like normal folks.


    I guess I digressed from talking about highways a bit. :)


    On US 89 just west of Lake Powell--the first place one hits in Utah after crossing the AZ/UT line--is a tiny community called Big Water. I noticed the large houses and women/girls in the old-fashioned dresses there as well, so I guess it is another place where polygamy is common.

    But the interesting thing about Big Water is that there is a visitor center there that has the most amazing locally dug dinosaur and other prehistoric animal fossils in it. Is actually the second time I've found big museum quality fossils in tiny little town museums. The other is in the equally tiny town of Ekalaka, Montana, way down in the southeast corner of the state. They have a duck-billed dinosaur skeleton that could be at home in the American Museum of Natural History!

    I guess it helps that both places are located in areas where fossils can be easily found just sticking out of the ground, especially in places like cliff faces and stream beds where the rock has eroded away.

  5. Thanks!


    So the California Trail that we were on (or near) was the same one used by the Donners? Neat. I've been a huge Oregon Trail fan for years, but haven't had a lot of time to check out original alignments (aside from a few in Idaho and near Walla Walla). Most markers and signs just say that the Oregon Trail was "somewhere near here," which is pretty useless to an obsessive roadie. :)


    I dug out my NPS California Trail (California National Historic Trail, to be precise) map to answer your question. While visiting Scotts Bluff National Monument (NE) a few years back, I grabbed all of the National Historic Trail maps that they had there: California, Oregon, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express. All four passed by the bluff.

    Anyway, from what I remember of my Donner Party history, I don't think that they passed through the section of trail that you followed, or were even in what is now Idaho at all. After the California Gold Rush started in earnest in 1850, the California Trail became rather braided-looking, as various scouts and guides blazed new 'cut-off' routes, some of dubious safety or value, in order to get the travelers across the mountains and Great Basin via shorter and supposedly faster routes. While the main California Trail branched off from the Oregon Trail by the Snake River in southern Idaho, near where I-86 branches off from I-84, the Donners, IIRC, took the so-called "Hastings Cutoff" which left the main trail much farther east, near South Pass in SW Wyoming, and continued through the Wasatch Range, around the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, and then crossed the vast, waterless Great Salt Lake Desert before rejoining the main trail near Elko NV. It roughly paralleled the present I-80 route. The dangers of this cutoff route are obvious just from looking at the map, and I believe the hard-luck Donner Party lost people, livestock, and wagons crossing the desert. But, they realized that they had to cross the Sierra Nevada before the first snows and they were in a hurry. Needless to say, their bad luck continued.


    Oh, I definitely recommend doing the abandoned RR bed in a high clearance AWD. But when in a pinch, apparently a Toyota Yaris will do. Next time, it'll be on my Vespa (with a LOT of extra gas).


    The Grand Canyon trip sounds like something I will end up doing. And visiting Colorado City/Hilldale is actually on my list of things to do. I've become kind of obsessed with the FLDS lately (in a research sort of way, I mean - one gal is enough for me, thanks).


    If you want to really feel like an outsider, turn off of the main highway (AZ389/UT59) and go into the town(s). You will be watched! On my last trip through there, going from St. George to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we stopped at a gas station/convenience store for a snack, with a bit of trepidation. But once we saw the young female clerk's clothing and demeanor (not to mention her tattoos) we knew she was definitely not one of the locals!

  6. Great, as always!

    Yes, the California Trail branched off of the main Oregon Trail and headed W/SW to the gold strike area of Northern California. The infamous Donner party was on said trail when they were snowed in in the Sierra Nevada (due to leaving too late in the spring and a disastrous 'short cut' in Nevada).

    I visited Golden Spike NHS back in '99 and also recall the abandoned rail bed/primitive road headed westward from the site. Decided that a rented Grand Prix was not the proper vehicle for such a road trip and did not explore it!

    The mud puddle story reminds me of exploring the remote but beautiful Tuweep/Toroweap portion of Grand Canyon National Park in the summer of '03. Access is from either Fredonia or Colorado City AZ (yes, that infamous polygamist settlement) and requires at least an hour of pure wilderness dirt road driving from either starting point. The end result is worth it: No crowds (ever), no guard fences at the edge of the canyon, and a totally different aspect of the canyon than at either of the more visited rim areas.

    Many, many mud puddles were either splashed through or driven around on the trip in and out, but I had foreseen such road conditions and had rented an AWD Mitsu Outlander for the trip at the LAS airport, so no problems going through the mud. Alamo in Vegas got the car back with plenty of dried mud on it, though!

    The picture with the ATV zooming by you on the long, straight dirt track looks so much like many of the "Area 51" pictures that one sees that are shot from the edge of the restricted area. Any strange sights in the sky? ;)

  7. I would like to visit Minuteman Missile NHS to compare the technology to what is on display out here (near Tucson) at Pima Air and Space Museum's Titan Missile Museum, which I have visited numerous times, including just last evening! I always find it fascinating, and I grew up here in here 60s/70s, when we were without doubt a first-strike Soviet target site (as were Wichita and Little Rock) due to the Titan sites that ringed Tucson and the other two cities from 1963 until 1984/86.

    As far as scenic Black Hills roads, I loved the road with the 'pigtail bridges' (corkscrew-type bridges that pass over/under themselves), but I think that they are on the Needles Highway that the original poster mentioned.

  8. I think the other boxed letters are Sampson Trails.




    Keep the Show on the Road!


    Duh! Now I get it--all of the boxed letters are Sampson Trails, not just the "A" that is used as an example.


    The old AZ map and the early 66/Santa Fe Trail map and guide are great--thanks!

    The style of the latter map reminds me so much of early airline schedules of similar or slightly later vintage, of which I have a small collection (I have hundreds of schedules, but only a small percentage are prewar--the oldest from 1930). They're so much fun to read and examine, just as this map and travel guide is.

  9. Wow--that is quite a map. Don't think I've seen one of that vintage before, just a year after the establishment of the first US highways. Exactly two years ago today I was driving from Boise to Craters of the Moon, and then onwards to Idaho Falls and eventually to Grand Teton, arriving well after darkness fell. What an easy day's drive today, and what a difficult, multi-day journey it was in 1927!

    Just curious: Are the other boxed letter symbols other marked trails? I would assume that many of those were still around even after the advent of numbered state and federal routes.

  10. I also bought jellied gas in little pea green cans used to cook. Cabella's had nothing on real Army surplus stores!




    Keep the Show on the Road!


    Cooking with napalm! Love it--must've "smelled like victory", to sort of quote Robert Duvall... B)

  11. You are 100% correct. Here is a link I found that describes the beast.


    "Record" Player


    It seems you had very few choices as to music. Of course this was before FM was popular, so maybe it had some value. But it sure looks like someone pushed the concept beyond the capability of the technology, like the 1917 car "telephone."


    Thanks for this piece of auto history!!




    Keep the Show on the Road!


    What! No Elvis? Bill Haley? Little Richard? Not even any white-bread Pat Boone? Then I saw that the system was developed by CBS/Columbia, so obviously the selections were limited to Columbia artists. And in 1955-56, Columbia was definitely not out there signing up rock'n'roll or rhythm and blues artists (thanks to Mitch Miller, among other things). But again, I digress...

    Back to the 1917 'car phone': I wonder if any of these actually sold? They sound a whole lot like an early military field radio, which was developed at the tail end of WWI (circa 1917), but was certainly not very 'mobile'.

    Even the WWII field radios, which are familiar to anyone who's ever seen a WWII movie, were still pretty big and clunky. Those poor radio operators who had to hump those things across Europe and the Pacific needed strong backs!

  12. Jim,


    Wow! I have a couple of my 45's from those days. Now I just need to find a Chrysler to play them! :lol:




    Keep the Show on the Road!


    If I recall the details correctly, Chrysler's "Highway Hi-Fi" would not play just any 45 or LP. One had to purchase special discs that were quite thick and heavy and played at a low speed (16 RPM?), much like old Muzak commercial recordings did (Remember them? Back in the '70s I worked at a supermarket that still had an old Muzak record player setup.). The tonearm pressure must have been immense to keep those discs from skipping as the vehicle went over bumps!

    Oh, and I believe the option was available in any Chrysler, De Soto, Dodge, or, yes, even a low-end Plymouth! Not many folks sprang for it though, as it obviously didn't catch on.

  13. Neat shot! No airport there in 1917. IND is one of the best airports in the US, IMHO, but I digress...

    Looking at my Indy city map, I'm wondering if the bridge is a railroad bridge. Even today there is a RR line crossing Washington (US40) that branches off of the main line (northern boundary of IND, just south of and parallel to Washington) in just about that area just east of what was Bridgeport.

  14. All true! I think, by the way, that the Bajada Hill is now a bike and hiking route. Is that true?


    I do not know, but would love to check it out if/when I'm in the ABQ area again.


    Your comment about the route no longer on the Oregon map is right on. I have taken the road between Wasco and the John day, and it is in good graded condition. But there is no possible auto crossing of the John Day except in late Fall, and I'm not sure they will even allow fording it these days. You might run over a rafter! (Now there's a headline in the making!)


    The '09-'11 Oregon highway map I just received in my travel info packet does show the road as crossing the river, returning to a paved state as it approaches Wasco, so I assumed that at some point in time a bridge had been built at the former ferry crossing. I guess the map is incorrect?

  15. Since the discovery of the 1910 Oregon Tour Book a week ago I have been anxious to put it to use. I plan to launch the North Central Oregon Expedition at the first sign of good weather.


    I have posted the original maps and directions for the expedition below. They make fun reading, and point the way to several sites that may still be identifiable. One that interests me is the reference to a 32% pitch on Franklin Hill. I don't suppose it was long, but can you imagine driving a 1910 automobile up a 32% grade? :o Franklin Hill shows on my Delorme Topo maps, so I will explore the area via Google Earth, and on the ground.


    The 32% grade reminds me of a passage I read some time ago in a reproduction of a similar-vintage New Mexico "auto trails" book: At that time the auto route between Albuquerque and Santa Fe (which would become part of the original 66 alignment a decade or so later, and today is paralleled by I-25) had a steep grade known as "Bajada Hill". The guide book advised motorists with autos that relied on gravity-feed fuel systems (no fuel pump) to turn their vehicle around at the base of the hill and BACK up the hill so as to avoid fuel starvation!


    Your Tour Book pages are certainly fascination reading! As luck has it, the Oregon travel info that I ordered for my upcoming August trip to the Portland area (Columbia River Historic Highway here I come!) arrived in yesterday's mail, so I compared the route shown in your 1910 book to the present day. McDonald (John Day Ferry) is not even shown at all on the current official Oregon highway map, and the part of the route from Olex to the John Day crossing is even today still a gravel road. Interesting!

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