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Keep the Show on the Road!

Westbound On The Old Spanish Trail

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We are in Deming, New Mexico this evening, and will head west in the morning on the Old Spanish Trail. Any advice on what to see along the way?

 

For anyone following our earlier east bound trip, on Route 66, photos are posted in the album under the name Winter on Route 66. The threat of snow in Northern New Mexico and Northern Arizona dictated a southern route back, and how better than on the Old Spanish Trail.

 

My 1921 Automobile Blue Book notes a bank on the right at Pine and Gold Streets in Deming. The bank building still exists and is a beautiful structure, now occupied by the Deming Community Art Gallery. If it isn’t raining in the morning, I’ll try to get a photo for the American road Forum Gallery.

 

I also tossed my 1913 Arizona Good roads Illustrated Road Maps and Tour Book (a 1987 reproduction, shucks) in the suitcase, and will use it as well.

 

We will Keep the Show on the Road, and thanks for the prior advice on Route 66 under that heading.

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I haven't seen any of this east of Tombstone but Jeff (Is his last name really Tucson?) has and gives some good guidance here. Poke around his excellent site and you'll find good info on AZ & CA, too.

 

If your route includes Bisbee, check out the Shady Dell. It's a "motel" using old trailers. I've wanted to stay there ever since I heard about it but have yet to actually do it.

 

Any clues on the specific route you have in mind?

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I haven't seen any of this east of Tombstone but Jeff (Is his last name really Tucson?) has and gives some good guidance here. Poke around his excellent site and you'll find good info on AZ & CA, too.

 

If your route includes Bisbee, check out the Shady Dell. It's a "motel" using old trailers. I've wanted to stay there ever since I heard about it but have yet to actually do it.

 

Any clues on the specific route you have in mind?

 

Thanks for the reply. BTY, you are right about snow and garden hoses in Northern Arizona!

 

I haven’t been down into Bisbee, so I think I will go Deming, Lordsburg, down SR80, to Rodeo, Douglas, and into Bisbee. It looks like the old road went through Tombstone, then through Fairbank and then into Vail by a route that doesn’t show on my state level map.

 

We will stop in Tucson to see friends, and visit one of my old alma maters, the University of Arizona. After that, I am vague.

 

I’ll look at your suggested link.

 

Thanks again!

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Looking forward to your impressions of Bisbee since it's on my to do list.

 

I've only been to Tombstone once but it was during the annual Clanton Family Rendezvous, a time when the popular but increasingly questioned idea that the Earps were the good guys in a certain gunfight gets less support than usual. A fun visit. Sounds like you may be pretty familiar with this area so know that Tombstone is almost 100% amusement park - not Six Flags roller coaster amusement park but Disneyland fantasy amusement park. Practically the whole town seems to make its living off of three dead guys.

 

In that area, Old Spanish Trail kind of means US-80 and if you're thinking of following that route you might want to keep your eyes open for a copy of Eric Finley's Phoenix to San Diego Traveler's Guide. And, in addition to Jeff's (Is his middle name really In?) previously mentioned site, you might find DriveTheOst useful.

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Looking forward to your impressions of Bisbee since it's on my to do list.

 

I've only been to Tombstone once but it was during the annual Clanton Family Rendezvous, a time when the popular but increasingly questioned idea that the Earps were the good guys in a certain gunfight gets less support than usual. A fun visit. Sounds like you may be pretty familiar with this area so know that Tombstone is almost 100% amusement park - not Six Flags roller coaster amusement park but Disneyland fantasy amusement park. Practically the whole town seems to make its living off of three dead guys.

 

In that area, Old Spanish Trail kind of means US-80 and if you're thinking of following that route you might want to keep your eyes open for a copy of Eric Finley's Phoenix to San Diego Traveler's Guide. And, in addition to Jeff's (Is his middle name really In?) previously mentioned site, you might find DriveTheOst useful.

 

Thanks for the lead to Jeff’s site. He had the other link you mention, so I copied both to my hard drive so I can follow their directions. Both are great sources and deserve praise for their excellent efforts.

 

It has been 30 years since I was in Tombstone, and the Shoot Out in the OK Corral was the big story even then. It is interesting that the lengthy description of Tombstone in the 1913 Arizona Road Maps and Tour Book has no mention of the event, or any of the participants. Ah, the old west comes alive!

 

The 1913 book has photos of old hotels (not old then) that I will keep my eye out for. I’m pretty sure that Douglas or Bisbee will have some surviving examples. Also, both sites you recommended mention an abandoned Texaco Station outside Deming I will look for.

 

I don’t have the time to drive many of the abandoned sections of the National Old Trails on this visit, nor am I encouraged to do so in the current rain storm. None the less, they look worth another visit.

 

I noticed in the last few issues of American Road that there is a section on the Old Spanish Trail now. Bravo! Based on the relatively unchanged human landscape outside the isolated towns in southern Arizona and New Mexico, I expect this to be a fertile hunting ground for old (and younger) roadies. I’m looking forward to seeing what has been suggested!!!

 

I now really regret not packing some of my old maps and guides. Hobbs or even the later Gosha guides of the area would have been extremely helpful. Happily Sheila, Rose of the Road, enjoyed the trip and wants to come back. Ole Bo, Malamute Wonder Dog, exhausts himself looking out the back window of our sedan. I suppose people in passing cars think we have the ugliest kid ever.

 

You have been really helpful! Thanks again for helping Keep the Show on the Road!

Edited by Keep the Show on the Road!

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After leaving Deming westbound , we flew along on the interstate with what appeared to be the old road just off to the right (north). It ran straight and true, and at each cross wash, dipped down like a roller coaster, a typical thing on old two lane roads. I recall as a kid urging Dad to maintain speed on roads like that so we could get the sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach! If you remember those dips you will also recall that coming out of the dip the road was black with crankcase oil jettisoned off cars by the force.

 

We pulled into Lordsburg for a look. Loardsburg is definitely worth a stop. The old route takes you to the old downtown laid out facing the railroad track. It is now called Motel Drive but in its Old Spanish Trail days its name was Railroad Avenue, for obvious reasons.

 

The famed Hidalgo Hotel, built in 1928, stands out with its tower at the east end of the old business district. The corner where the pickup is parked in the photo was a Texaco station in the 1950’s.

LORDSBURG HIDALGO HOTEL & TEXACO STATION

(Non members must click link to view the image)

LordsburgHidalgoAR.jpg

1950’s postcards show a vibrant thoroughfare with businesses on both sides of the road, but the construction of Interstate 10 bypassed the city and cut off its downton US 80 tourist traffic.

 

The real treat of the day was old US 80 (now state route 80) and the Old Spanish Trail south to Douglas and Bisbee. The vistas were absolutely breathtaking, and unexpected. The mountains loomed ahead and unique rounded rock formations crowded up nearer the road. This is also mining country, and one enterprising mine company has created a little western false front attraction and offers mine tours.

 

We stopped in the Old Spanish Trail town of Rodeo and attempted to match the present buildings with the photos in the 1913 Arizona Tour Book. We had some luck and enjoyed a long conversation with two women in the Community Art Gallery which occupied what had once been a saloon. They seemed pleased to share that the building had once housed a brothel.

 

We walked down to the combination grocery, video rental, and restaurant and had lunch at one of the four tables. Some terrific photos of the town and store with 1920 autos in front grace the walls, and a map of old US 80 is displayed as well.

 

Of course the locals gathered there for lunch, and the Mayor had his own table, complete with sign “The Mayor’s in”. The big news in town was that someone was building 30 new houses. It looked to me like that would more than double the size of Rodeo. Some of the locals were a little doubtful that the houses would sell but one of the sub contractors commented that 5 had already sold.

 

Across from the grocery/ was the foundation of the railroad station shown in the 1913 Arizona Tour Book. As late as 1952 the Southern Pacific’s Golden State Limited passed this way, but now the tracks and the station are gone.

 

We drove along old 80 which parallels the railroad bed for many miles. The old rail stations that were landmarks for the early day driver are gone. Not so at Douglas, which is a bustling border town, complete with its old railroad stations.

 

We would include on our must see list the Gadsden Hotel in downtown Douglas. The interior is impressive, authentic and well maintained, and about as close to a 1930’s feel as you can get. The lobby has the old fashioned wooden phone booths and an elevator with a real live elevator operator, who takes your floor number as you step on. The window mural at the head of the marble stairs that lead to the mezzanine is beautiful, and the stuffed cougar at its base is an interesting reminder of earlier times. (Gallery photo to follow.)

 

The exterior is attractive and was undergoing some repainting and renovations which spoiled the picture but bids well for the hotel.

 

We followed old 80 and the Old Spanish Trail to Bisbee. Coming into town on the old road (the new road bypasses the town) you pass a deep open pit mine and on the hillside opposite there is what appears to be an abandoned reducing or processing facility.

 

The narrow main street snakes through a canyon barely wide enough to accommodate the roadbed and the business on either side. The town’s residences are piled practically on top of each other up the steep sides of the canyon.

 

The former business houses along the street are occupied by tourist oriented establishments today, but maintain much of the charm and appearance of earlier days. Along the old road, an early day garage is evident with its characteristic wide door, and the post office occupies an impressive building visible in the 1913 photos. I will post pictures in the gallery.

 

We are in Needles this evening, after a stay in Tucson and Gila Bend along old 80. We will pick up Route 66 in the AM headed toward Barstow via Goff, Amboy, Bagdad, etc.

 

The report on the remainder of old 80 and Needles will have to wait until tomorrow.

 

I’m on a dial up connection tonight, so photos will have to wait also.

 

Keeping the Show on the Road!

Edited by Keep the Show on the Road!

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Wow! Bisbee to Needles in a single message. Looking forward to your pictures. Especially the Gadsden Hotel. I had not heard of it before but, after your description and a visit to their website ( http://www.hotelgadsden.com/ ), it's on the list. Also hoping you've got a shot or two of the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend.

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Wow! Bisbee to Needles in a single message. Looking forward to your pictures. Especially the Gadsden Hotel. I had not heard of it before but, after your description and a visit to their website ( http://www.hotelgadsden.com/ ), it's on the list. Also hoping you've got a shot or two of the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend.

 

Right......., I drive fast!

 

We left Bisbee and climbed up Mule Pass with a little snow falling. We intended to spend the night in Tombstone, but there was no room at the inn for Ole Bo, Malamute Wonder Dog so we ended up in Tucson at a whore house. Seriously.

 

We stayed at a nice motel (I’ll spare the name) costing over $115 for a room. Next door and on the floor above a full scale brothel was operating. Tucson brags about its “old west” feeling but we hardly expected this! The three girls and their madem were very courteous, and we didn’t really figure out what the deal was until late that night! It added a “special” touch to our stay in Tucson! In the morning the girls petted Bo goodbye, but Sheila, Rose of the Road, wouldn’t let them pet me goodbye.

 

The next day we stayed on the freeway all the way to Gila Bend. Gila Bend is on Old 80 and brags that the population is 1700 and 5 old crabs!

 

We stopped at the Space Age Lodge for dinner. (Denny, I’m sorry I didn’t get photos.) The motel / restaurant was built in the 1960’s with a space age theme by a fellow associated in a business way with NASA. They even had satellites on the roof! The place was remodeled in 1996, and it lost the satellites, but retains a lot of its former glitz.

 

The most interesting landmark in Gila Bend was the Stout Hotel, complete with its old neon sign advertising it had Steam Heat. Stout’s was built in 1927 and must have been an important stop on the old highway. Photos will be posted in the gallery ASAP.

 

From Gila Bend northward, old 80 runs to the west of the more modern highway. About 23 miles north of Gila Bend and along old 80 is the 1920’s Gillespie Dam. It was the biggest privately financed irrigation project in the United States, but a flood in 1993 breached the dam. The fantastic 1927 Gillespie Bridge crosses the Gila River here. You don’t find many six span steel truss bridges anywhere else, do you? This one is a beauty!

 

Before irrigation projects drained the river, you could float from here all the way to Yuma. Now you would need a sand buggy most of the way!

 

We followed old 80 past Arlington then picked up the old road that took us northwest to Salome. Rose of the Road wanted to visit Quartzite and its flea markets / outdoor bazaars, so we detoured down US 60 to the desert RV capital of the world. The bazaar was fun and we have never seen so many RV’s in one place. They are parked everywhere, not just in RV Parks, but all over the desert.

 

The drive on to Needles through Parker was uneventful. We would have looked Parker over more closely but there was a crowd in town for a race and the highways and byways were clogged with folks, making sight seeing impossible.

 

Needles turned out to be a great overnight stop. The 66 Motel greeted us on the way into town and we “discovered” the El Graces Hotel, one of the Harvey Hotels of old. You can’t help but be awed by what was built to accommodate the rail tourist of the 1920 and 1930’s. These places were palaces. It makes our modern overnight stays in motels seem like stops in the back woods. Even in its abandoned and neglected condition, the Graces is impressive. I hope the people of Needles and Arizona manage to restore the place.

 

We are on to Route 66 through Goffs and Amboy n the morning.

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Thanks Mr. Show for the great road report and DennyG for all the info to him. Makes me want to get out from behind the computer and into the car. Did you make it to the Shady Dell and a meal at the diner? I'm hoping it's still doing well...when we were there a few years ago the owners seemed tired and ready to sell.

 

Kris

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Thanks Mr. Show for the great road report and DennyG for all the info to him. Makes me want to get out from behind the computer and into the car. Did you make it to the Shady Dell and a meal at the diner? I'm hoping it's still doing well...when we were there a few years ago the owners seemed tired and ready to sell.

 

Kris

 

Curses!! DennyG told me about the Shady Dell but I forgot it was near Bisbee, so we missed it. We wouldn’t have been able to spend the night with a 130 pound Malamute, but I would have loved to sample Dot’s Diner.

 

Judging by their website things look healthy, but I can’t give you a first hand report. Thanks for the posting and I will do better next time I’m near Bisbee.

 

Just trying to Keep the Show on the Road,

Dave

Edited by Keep the Show on the Road!

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