Your Kicks" How to Search Route 66
Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff
trails and byways since before its conception have been under
going progressive changes that although seemingly for the better
have left bits and pieces of it's history behind. From Indian
footpaths crossing the Appachian Mountains to the pioneers traveling
the Spanish Trail our forefathers have forged constantly westward
towards the Pacific Ocean. Along the way the settlers and explorers
would stop to rest and eventually stay to establish communities.
It was William
Wolfskill in an expedition in 1830 that pioneered the opening
of the ancient Spanish Trail as a major route for the western
migration between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Later in the 1860's
men like John Brown improved sections of the trail and charged
a toll. The word "turnpike" came into use in the 1870's.
Eventually the trails became obsolete and were replaced by the
major highways we know today. Along each stage of newly developed
road systems new communities sprang up and old ones either died
or became familiar only to those that lived there. Many of these
forgotten towns and villages are tiny time capsules of historical
information and the source of many treasure hunting sites.
winter months for me are spent mostly in the desert areas as it's
a time when I can most tolerate the heat or lack of it. Sometimes
I put my Toyota Forerunner through its paces looking for traces
of the old Spanish Trail and camp remnants, while other times
like today I just get out there and explore the highways.
In the trunk
was my Whites Spectrum, a number 2 shovel, a sifting screen and
a bag of miscellaneous tools. Basically I was prepared for any
on or near road experience in the realm of treasure hunting. I
had my rock pick, bottle prod, gold pan, and gloves. You just
Sometimes you just want to get out there and drive. I gassed up
my '58 Impala, plugged in my portable CD player, stuck in a Buddy
Holly CD, and headed down Route 66 chewing a stick of Black Jack.
It was to be a day filled with nostalgia.
This shell of a building
on Route 66 gave up a number of coins.
Route 66 to
some called the "Mother Road," was started in the late
1920's. It ran from Los Angeles to Chicago some 2,000 miles. It
passed through towns like St. Louis, Joplin, Oklahoma City, Flagstaff,
and Barstow just to name a few.
roads dust bowl refugees traveled west searching for a better
life and many a G. I. fresh out from World War II sought out a
new beginning for their young families along that great stretch
of black pavement. In the early 60's parents vacationed in the
west and kids like me stared out the windows of the back seat
and marveled at the wide open spaces. Each town seemed to hold
a small adventure for me, one that lasted only long enough for
pop to fill up the gas tank or to get a bite to eat in a small
cafe. Friendly waitresses and helpful station attendants abounded
at each stop all eager to point out a local site of interest to
the traveler. What memories! "Clean your window sir?"
"Did you get your S& H Greenstamps Maam?" Those
pump jockeys of the past are now legends that the youth of today
would look at like aliens from Mars.
So here I
was traveling over a small stretch of Route 66 outside Victorville
making notes on the small scratch pad I always take with me and
enjoying the fantastically blue skies above the ever changing
horizon. In my note pad I jot down sites that I can't always get
to that particular day or places of interest I want to explore
or research later. The list starts quite simply with the address
of a Victorian house surrounded by two vacant lots. Permission
to search will have to be obtained first from the owners a process
that can be done later. Then farther down the road is a park complete
with a few of America's unfortunate homeless. The park lawn runs
from the street right up to the railroad right of way. A large
slab tells me a station was here at one time. I list the location
in my book and move on.
Pump jockeys from gas stations
like this one on historic Route 66 are legendary.
As I head
down the highway listening to Holly's, "That'll Be The Day"
every bend in the road holds a possible treasure site. Old houses,
abandoned motels, souvenir stands, and gas stations lined up along
the desolate reaches of road. It's a trip of mixed emotions. Memories
flood in of the old and good times only to be crushed by the sight
of an old motel complete with a teepee shaped neon sign, converted
into the permanent living quarters of families over run with kids
covered in filth. This particular part of my trip was sad and
rundown. New superhighways definitely took their toll on this
area west of Victorville. Occasionally an owner has taken pride
in their icon of American history and tried to restore and preserve
his property for the travelers of Route 66. Other stretches of
this "Mother Highway" have played to the emotions and
memories of travelers by rebuilding complete sections of towns
and way stops. New souvenir shops have opened in some of the unlikeliest
buildings but are surviving thanks to a new breed of American
explorer. The Route 66 explorer now has a magazine to peruse that
is published quarterly along with stores carrying exclusive route
66 memorabilia and the like.
Behind the station was a picnic
area which provided the author with some small treasures.
miles more or less of treasure sites and only six free hours this
day to search I decided to stop at an abandoned gas station. A
covered roof near the pumps provided cover from the heat and rain
for the weary traveler. It also covered the entrance to the area
that housed the soft drinks and snacks and the way back to the
windowed luncheon section out back. A picnic area was set up behind
the station. Off to the right were the detached restrooms and
100 feet or so beyond that was a barn of sorts for doing repairs.
On the left of the station were out buildings that possibly were
rented by the night.
my Spectrum, plugged in my headphones, and headed for the entrance
way. Almost immediately my detector sounded and after pinpointing
my target I tried carefully to dig it out. The sun baked ground
was hard as pavement. After considerable effort, three inches
down, was a 1936 D Indian Head Nickel. I couldn't think right
that second if the three legged buffalo was on the 1936 D or the
1937 D. I flipped it over and, well, I guess the year didn't matter
right now because the buffalo had four legs. After an hour of
tough digging I headed back to the picnic area. The ground was
much softer here and in just a minute I dug out a boy scout neckerchief
holder, three mercury dimes and a handful of wheat pennies. Before
I headed out I found 27 wheat pennies, 8 nickels, 6 silver dimes,
and 9 quarters the best being a 1927 S. Also dug up was a metal
Tootsie Toy car, a costume jewelry broach, and half of a hard
plastic soldier, undoubtedly a casualty of some small boys imaginary
up the highway and near a place called Point Of Rocks I saw the
glare of broken glass of the side of the road. I backtracked to
a dirt road and followed it into where I saw the glass reflections.
Sure enough I found an old dump. Not as old as I would have liked
though. It dated roughly back to the 1940's and though the dump
had been gone though before I still managed to find two Coke bottles
and a real nice Dr. Pepper.
Hey it had
been a fun day on Route 66. I found a number of new leads to follow
up, got in some metal detecting, and had a real nice drive, listening
to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. The ambiance was just right,
and as I headed back to Los Angeles reading imaginary Burma Shave
signs a 1960 Corvette flew by on the other side with two guys
in it that looked amazingly like Tod and Buz.
D. and Kathryn L. Thompson, Pioneer Of The Mojave, Desert Knolls
66 Magazine, Paul Taylor Publisher and Managing Editor, Spring
personal experiences January 1996.