The Loneliest Road in the US was Lonelier in 7,000 BCE… Petroglyphs of Grime’s Point

I took this photo while standing at Grime’s Point Archeological Area just off Highway 50 about five miles east of Fallon, Nevada on an earlier trip. The terraces above the basalt boulders were cut into the side of the ridge by the ancient Pleistocene Lake Lahontan as it rose and fell. Had I been here 10,000 years ago I would have been under 700 feet of water. Traveling over today’s Highway 50 route would have required a submarine.
Turning around from where I was standing was more basalt and a view of Highway 50. A pickup pulling a trailer makes its way over ‘The Loneliest Road in America.” Looking across the valley you can see ranges fading into the distance that are part of the Basin and Range complex of Nevada, which is part of the Great Basin of the Western US.
Had you arrived on the scene much later, say around 5,000 BCE or 7,000 years ago, you would have discovered that Lake Lahontan was much shallower as glaciers receded to the north and warmer temperatures prevailed. The area would have been marshy and filled with abundant wildlife. Ancient peoples had arrived on the scene and were pecking away at the rocks, creating some of the earliest petroglyphs in Nevada and North America. Grime’s Point features these petroglyphs. A copy of one of the petroglyphs is on the left.
The pit and groove petroglyphs here are among the oldest petroglyphs found in Nevada.
As to what they mean is anyone’s guess. One thought is that they were used in hunting rituals by shaman to assure success.
This basalt boulder was covered with pit petroglyphs. Ancient peoples and later Native Americans would use rocks to peck away the desert varnish that covers rocks to show the lighter rocks underneath. One way of measuring the age of petroglyphs is to see how much desert varnish has since re-covered the rock petroglyphs. The color of these pit and groove petroglyphs has returned to the original varnish color. Translate old.
In contrast, this is a much more recent petroglyph, probably carved in the last 500 years. To me, it appears to be a big horn sheep. But then again…
Most of the petroglyphs fall somewhere in age between the ‘sheep’ petroglyph above and the pit and groove style of petroglyphs. I like the almost-polished look of this basalt boulder. If you look carefully, you can see petroglyphs stretching down and out on both sides of the rock. Following are several examples of the petroglyphs I found wandering around among the boulders. It’s like a treasure hunt. Fun.
I’ll conclude with a final view of the landscape at Grime’s Point Archeological Area. Remains of what may have been a rock fence used to drive deer and antelope to the dinner table is found up near the top of the ridge.

BLOG-A-BOOK TUESDAY: Join me on the first 100-mile backpack trek I ever organized. Leading 61 people aged 11-71 across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, I was lucky to escape with my life and career in tact.

TRAVEL BLOG THURSDAY: Peggy and I continue our Back Roads of America Series by stopping off at another petroglyph site along The Loneliest Road in America: The Hickison Petroglyph Area. This time we will be featuring some out-of-this-world rocks and, uh, puberty rites.

The Loneliest Road in America: Highway 50 across Nevada… The Backroads’ Series

Today marks the beginning of my Backroad Series where I will feature highways that Peggy and I traveled over this past summer on our 8,000 mile journey around the US in our small RV.

Almost every photo I took while driving across Nevada emphasized Highway 50’s claim to being the loneliest road in America. This is desert country where mountain ranges are inevitably followed by basins. The desert is courtesy of a rain shadow created by the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The basins and ranges are courtesy of plate tectonics.

In 1986, Life Magazine declared that the section of Highway 50 that stretches across the Nevada desert was The Loneliest Road in America. It wasn’t meant as a compliment. It was more like, “Why would anyone in their right mind choose to drive this road?” But Nevadans saw it differently. They knew an opportunity when they saw it. After all, the state got its kick-start when silver and gold were discovered in abundance. And then it built Las Vegas. 

Who wouldn’t want to drive The Loneliest Road in America, the folks in Carson City, Nevada’s capitol, reasoned? Adventuresome souls would immediately add it to their bucket list! Signs were made and publicity was cranked out. Maybe the road wouldn’t be so lonely…

Signs declaring Highway 50 across Nevada to be ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ were created for publicity and photo ops.

It worked for me. I’ve driven the highway three times since. My last time was this past summer when Peggy and I went out in search of backroads across America. Highway 50 definitely qualifies— and it is still one of the loneliest roads in America.  It wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time in the 60’s, that’s the 1860s, it served as the premier route for people making their way West. The Overland Stage Coach Company, the Pony Express, and the country’s first national telegraph all made use of it. In 1913 it became part of the Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental road.

I know a bit about the road. I was raised in the small town of Diamond Springs, which is located in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, three miles from Placerville, AKA Hangtown. If you walked out my front door and hiked a block east on Highway 49 past Fitzgerald’s house and the jungle-like graveyard that backed up to our property, you came to Missouri Flat Road. Turning left there took you to Highway 50, a mere mile away. My brother Marshall and I often made that hike in the summer when we were on our way to one of our favorite swimming holes, the 20-foot-deep Tub on Weber Creek. 

I was vaguely aware at the time that if you climbed on the road and drove east for a long time, you could reach the Atlantic Ocean. I also knew about the Pony Express connection. The parents of one of my close friends in Diamond Springs owned a small café in a historic building that had once served as a Pony Express stop. That was about it except for the annual Wagon Train that made its way from Lake Tahoe to Placerville on Highway 50 to celebrate the ‘good old days.’ The town would close Main Street to traffic and everyone would party. As I remember, the men would grow beards for the event, have fast-draw contests, and get drunk. Luckily, their six shooters were filled with blanks. 

Later, when I was in college, I had a laundry route in the summer that ran from Placerville up to South Lake Tahoe over Highway 50. The beautiful 120-mile round trip across the mountains paid for my college education. That section of Highway 50 was far from lonely, however. On Fridays and Saturdays, it could resemble a parking lot as people made their way up from the Bay Area and Sacramento to play at Lake Tahoe and gamble.

To avoid the possibility of the crowded highway this past summer, Peggy and I climbed on Interstate 80 in Sacramento and zoomed over the Sierras through Reno to the small town of Fernley, where we left the freeway behind and drove southeast to pick up 50 as it passed through Fallon, Nevada. That’s where lonely begins. (BTW: Had we gone north from Fernley for 60 miles, we would have ended up in the Black Rock Desert, the site where Burning Man takes place.)

I am going to do three posts on Highway 50 through Nevada. Later, I will do a couple of posts on 50 in West Virginia and Ohio as part of my backroad series. I took the photos in this post between Fallon and the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area in the center of the state.

Once you leave Fallon, Highway 50 seems to go on forever. Except for a few towns (three), ranches, and mining operations, the population drops close to zero.
Twenty miles outside of Fallon, first time drivers of Highway 50 are surprised to come on Sand Mountain, a large sand dune that is two miles long and 600 feet high. Locals say it ‘sings’ to you. The sand came from ancient (and very large) Lake Lahonton, a product of the glacial age. It dried up 9,000 years ago as the climate grew warmer and glaciers retreated north.
While many people think of the desert as desolate, I’ve always found it to have its own unique type of beauty. This is sagebrush country!
Mountains climb up to over 10,000 feet along Highway 50 through Nevada. Passes range between 6,000 and 7,500 feet.
I like the contrast here between the blue sky, dark mountains and buff colored desert floor. The geologist Clarence Dutton described the narrow parallel mountain ranges that define the topography of the Basin and Range like an “army of caterpillars marching toward Mexico.”

About half way between Fallon and Austin, Nevada, we came upon a small, historical marker site that featured the Overland Stagecoach, the Pony Express and America’s first cross country telegraph. All three were inspired by the North’s need to maintain communication with the West during the Civil War. Both the Pony Express and the Overland Stage Company had stations here. Three illustrations (early photos?) at the site captured our attention.

The Pony Express ran its historic route from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California— a distance of 1966 miles— in ten days. Each rider would normally cover between 75 and 100 miles at top speed. Stations along the way had saddled horses ready to go when the rider arrived. It took approximately two minutes to make the change. While the Pony Express has reached legendary status, its run, so to speak, was a short 18 months from April of 1860 to October of 1861 when the transcontinental telegraph was created.
The Civil War and the need for rapid communication between the East and West inspired Congress to push and pay for the building of the telegraph. The creation of the Pony Express was seen as a stopgap effort while it was being built. My dad worked as a lineman in the 30s. His job was to climb up poles like these as power lines were stretched across Northern California and Oregon.
The Overland Stage Company began its run over the route at about the same time the telegraph was completed. Serving as the primary mode of passenger transport between Missouri and California, it had originally operated a more southern route. The coming of the Civil War forced it to move north to the central Nevada route. A young Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) would use it to get to Nevada. When the transcontinental railroad across America was completed in 1969, the route was discontinued.

Rumor is that a Pony Express horse kicked over a rock that showed silver and the rush was on. Whether this is true or not, the presence of silver led to a silver rush and suddenly the town of Fallon was born. Soon it boasted a population of over 10,000 and even had a castle! Now it is best described as sleepy and historic.

When we drove through Austin, major work was being done on the road and it wasn’t conducive to stopping, but I did snap a few photos.The barely visible sign on the building says Stage Coach Inn.
Another photo of downtown. I was aiming my camera a bit high to avoid all of the roadwork. One of several churches built in Fallon during the heyday of silver mining looms in the background.
Austin’s best known landmark is Stoke’s Castle. It was built by an eccentric millionaire from the eastern US who only occupied it for a few months during the silver rush. While small in terms of what we think of as castles, it reminds me of the castles built between Scotland and England for protection against raiding (and possibly as a base for raiding) in the 13th and 14th Centuries. Some of my ancestors reportedly came from the region. I suspect that they were outlaws.
We wrapped up our first day of backroad travel by climbing up Highway 50 into the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest and over Hickison pass. We were pleased to see green! Next Thursday I will feature the Hickison Petroglyph area as well as the Grime’s petroglyph site that served as bookends for our first day of travel.

NEXT POST: On Tuesday, I will feature the second part of my introduction to the book I am blogging, “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me.” I answer the question about why I would undertake a 700 mile plus backpacking journey down the PCT at 75. Will a plea of insanity work?

The 1908 Great Auto Race from NYC to Paris: Part 4… San Francisco to Paris

When George Schuster arrived in Valdez, Alaska for the next phase of the 1908 Great Auto Race, he quickly arranged to borrow a horse and sleigh to check out the beginning of the route. You are looking at it.

It was George Schuster’s turn to drive as the Thomas Flyer was loaded onto a freighter to be shipped to Valdez, Alaska. The race committee had envisioned the racers making their way from Valdez across Alaska following dog sled trails and frozen ice covered rivers to Nome where they would cross the frozen Bering Strait into Siberia. There was a slight problem. The race committee had made its decision while sitting in Paris without a clue about what driving across Alaska in March would entail! Or whether the Bering Strait would be frozen. None of them had ever been to the remote Territory that America had bought from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. All they knew was it looked good on a map. Who needs roads?

The Flyer had a substantial lead when it left San Francisco— the three remaining competitors were several states behind still making their way across America. Schuster intended to maintain that lead. He arrived in Valdez with the whole population out to greet him. The Flyer was the first car to make it to the town and most residents had never seen one.

The whole town turned out to greet George Schuster and his team when the Thomas Flyer arrived in Valdez, including a brass band, seen on the right.

George wasted little time basking in the glow of his new role as driver. He immediately borrowed a horse and sled to check out the beginning of the route. He found it was impossible and concluded that the only way the vehicles could get across Alaska would be if the cars were taken apart and shipped by dog sled. The Great Auto Race would have been turned into an early day Iditarod, which in itself, is an undertaking of massive proportions— even in modern times.

Having lived in Alaska for three years, I was a fan of the 1000 mile Iditarod. When Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the race in 1985, I drove her around Anchorage following her victory to make various media appearances. Here I am with Libby. I picked her up at the airport where she was just returning from having done a Vogue Magazine photo shoot. She regaled me with tales of the race, and her dogs.

Once again the route was changed. Return to the lower 48, the race committee told Schuster, and ship to Japan on a freighter and then on another one to Vladivostok, Russia. Which he did. The next day, the Flyer team and Flyer were on a boat heading south from Alaska. His challenge when he arrived in Seattle was that the other three cars were now ahead of him on their way to Asia.

The third, and final, 1908 Great Auto Race route from NYC to Paris.
The Thomas Flyer makes its way across Japan.

The Race Committee decided to award Schuster with an extra 15 days for his lost time in checking out Alaska. The Italian Zust and the French Dion would have to beat him to Paris by two weeks to win the race. The Protos would have to beat him by a month! Lieutenant Koeppen’s car had broken down in Utah and he had shipped it to the West Coast via rail and on to Vladivostok for repairs. Unlike Goddard, he had asked permission. And there was some confusion over the rules. Instead of disqualifying him, the race committee chose to penalize him an extra 15 days for the rail trip and for skipping Japan.

The four competitors met up in Vladivostok where they were confronted by Russian officials who advised them to take the Trans-Siberian Railway to Europe. They would be “met on the road by Chinese brigands, Manchurian tigers, fever, plague, pestilence, famine—to say nothing of the mud after three months of rain, mosquitoes as big as locusts and other similar delights,” the Russians warned. It seems that the owners of the De Dion-Bouton company took them at their word. Or maybe the race appeared unwinnable or too expensive. Whatever the reason, the De Deon was withdrawn. Now there were three competitors: The American Thomas Flyer, the Italian Zust and the German Protos.

The racers apparently avoided the brigands, tigers, fever, plague, pestilence, and famine, but there was plenty of mud— they kept getting stuck. And, I imagine, encountered the locust-sized mosquitoes when they were digging out.

Thomas Flyer next to a Trans-Siberian locomotive.
Flyer stuck in the mud. One of many times.
The Flyer team rescuing the Protos from the mud. Koeppen broke out the champaign afterward to celebrate the good sportsmanship of the Americans.

When they reached Europe, they were finally rewarded with a decent road system. The race became a down-to-the-wire sprint between the Americans and the Germans. The Italian Zust was still in Siberia, likely stuck in the mud, some 3,000 miles behind. ER Thomas sent Schuster a telegraph urging him to turn the driving over to Monty Roberts, the race car driver who had driven the Flyer from NYC to Wyoming. “This made me so mad I could have eaten nails,” Schuster would later write. His response at the time would have been more colorful. After everything that he had been through with the Flyer in Siberia, his tense no-thank-you reply to Thomas was that he would be driving the car across the finish line. Period. Which he did.

The Protos had arrived four days earlier. Given the 30 day penalty, it was still 26 days behind the Flyer, however— a fact that really irritated the Kaiser. The Americans rolled into Paris on the evening of July 30 to crowds shouting, “Vive le car Americain!”  There was one last challenge. The lights on the Flyer had gone out and Schuster was driving after dark. A policeman stopped the car and threatened to arrest him on the spot. A quick-thinking Parisian threw his bicycle with a light onto the car. The policeman relented and Schuster drove on to the finish line. And fame. He’d even be invited to meet with Teddy Roosevelt on his return.

A large crowd was on hand in Paris to greet the Thomas Flyer team when they arrived in Paris and crossed the finish line.

The win had a significant impact on America. For one, it showed that American automobiles could match the best coming out of Europe at the time. The successful drive across America also proved that the car could become a serious form of transportation, something other than a rich man’s toy. And finally, it created a demand for better roads in America. Asphalt was invented in 1910, and the Lincoln Highway, Americas first cross-country road, was started in 1912.

Schuster was promised a life-long job with the E.R. Thomas company for his role. Unfortunately, the company went out of business in 1912. (Schuster would live on to 99.) When the company went belly up, the Flyer was sold and more or less disappeared. It was granted a second life in 1963 when Bill Harrah of the gaming empire tracked it down for his classic car collection and returned it to its pre-race condition. He even brought Schuster out to verify that it was the Flyer that the won the race. (Schuster recognized some of the on-road repairs he had made.) The Flyer became part of the donation that the Harrah family made to the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. It was there that I found the vehicle and was inspired to do this series.

A young George Schuster.
Schuster at 92 driving the Flyer that Bill Harrah had brought back to life.
A slight aside. This photo of Bill Harrah’s home at Lake Tahoe in 1963 was part of a display on him at the National Automobile Museum. I recognized it immediately. While he was working on the Flyer, I was delivering cleaning to the stars that stayed at his home when they were performing at his casino. I don’t remember hearing about the Flyer at that time but I do remember Liza Minelli bouncing down the stairs in her baby doll pajamas to answer the door. What 20 year old wouldn’t. She was 17 at the time.
A final view of the Thomas Flyer in the National Automobile Museum to wrap up this series.

The 1908 Great Race from NYC to Paris: Part 3… Way Out West

My posts are few and far between. Part of the reason is the times. There is just too much happening now between the pandemic, the fires, and the election. As noted before, these are scary times, more scary than any other time in my 77 years. The other is that I love research and the Great Race has me fascinated. Just when I think I have exhausted my resources I find another article or more photos. This time it was 350 photos of the race stored in the Henry Ford Museum, a virtual treasure trove. Most of the photos in today’s post are from the museum.

Leaving Nebraska, the flat terrain and rolling hills of the Great Plains gave way to the mountain, deserts and distant vistas of the West while the roads became little more than dirt paths.

As the participants rolled out of Nebraska, they experienced their first real taste of the ‘Wild West.’ The unending farmlands of the Midwest gave way to the drier, open lands and vast vistas of Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. The terrain also changed. The flat and rolling plains the automobilists had been driving through across the Great Plains turned to towering mountains and deserts. The Rockies, the Great Basin and Death Valley lay ahead. Towns and cities became farther apart. People fewer. The already poor roads the racers had been following became little more than tracks in the dirt.

When there weren’t any roads or railroad tracks to follow, participants in the Great Race were left with following emigrant trails.

The animals also got wilder and bigger. The Zust team claimed they were surrounded by a pack of 50 or so wolves that circled their car yipping with anticipation on a dark and stormy night in Wyoming. Blowing the horn and using the spotlight didn’t discourage the hungry predators. They kept circling closer. It was only when the team broke out their rifles and shot several that the wolves decided that they hadn’t been invited to dinner. Local townspeople gathered up the hides the next day and sold them for the bounty paid by the government. The wolves’ taste for an occasional cow would lead to their eventual eradication in the West.

Not everyone made it to the Rockies. Baron Godard, who had driven another car from Peking to Paris in 1907, met his match in Iowa. Between being bogged down in mud and snow, getting lost, and having serious car problems, he decided to ease his journey west by loading his Moto-Bloc onto a train and shipping it to the coast. “San Francisco, here I come!” It broke the rules.

Baron Godard, in the Moto-Bloc in Paris before leaving for the US and the Great Race, shakes hands with well-wishers. Since the Baron had come in second the year before in a race between Peking and Paris, he had high hopes for his NYC to Paris race. They ended in Iowa. An early movie is being filmed here.

A photographer caught the Baron loading the Moto-Bloc onto the rail car. “Quit the race, sell the car, and return home,” the manufacturer telegraphed him. The French, who had started with three entries, were down to one. The greater glory of France now depended on G. Bourcier de St. Chaffray driving the French De Dion-Bouton— which is quite a mouthful to say.

The De Dion-Bouton leaves the Puteaux, France factory outfitted for the Great Race. I believe G. Bourcier de St. Chaffray is driving and Hans Hansen is his passenger. Hans would join the Thomas Flyer team after a hot argument with G. Bourcier that almost came to a Western shootout! Their fast draw was thwarted, however, by the fact the pistols were buried deep under all of the gear.
Monty Roberts, the driver of the Flyer, and Hans Hansen share a laugh.

The Thomas Flyer team had other ideas about who would win the glory. When they reached Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Flyer was a week ahead of its nearest competitor, the Zust. The De Dion was in third. And the Protos fourth. Given the quality of the vehicle, Monty Robert’s driving ability, and George Schuster’s mechanical talent— not to mention sheer determination— the team had been ahead for most of the race. It was a position they had every intention of keeping. The car was about to lose its driver, however. Monty had other race commitments back east and in Europe. He hoped to rejoin the team when it entered Europe to drive over better roads and, I imagine, harvest the fame of crossing the finish line first. E. Linn Mathewson, a Thomson Flyer car dealer, took over the driving from Cheyenne to Ogden, Utah. Harold Brinker, an auto racer out of Denver, drove the car into San Francisco. Schuster would take over then. 

The Thompson Flyer receives a grand welcome in Cheyenne.
E. Linn Mathewson steering the Thomas Flyer. I think that’s a “What have I gotten myself into?” look.
Linn Mathewson shaking hands with his replacement, Harold Brinker, in Ogden, Utah.

Getting into the spirit of the West, George bought a Colt six-shooter pistol before leaving Cheyenne. Who knew what lurked out in the wilds of Wyoming? Wolves or outlaws, perhaps? Best to be prepared.

There would be snow drifts to push the Flyer through…
Brush and mud to conquer…
Ice covered rivers to cross with hopes of not ending up on the bottom…
And high passes to climb over.
It’s no surprise that the teams would need a drink when they reached a town!

Peggy and I had followed the route of the race in Nebraska from Grand Island to North Platte where we spent the night at Buffalo Bill’s ranch as the Flyer had in 1908. We then continued to follow the route to Ogallala where we detoured to follow the Oregon Trail, which early pioneers had used in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. (Posts coming.) I was eager to check out the route that ancestors on both sides of my family had travelled looking for a better life— either by farming in the Northwest or striking it rich in California. So, we missed Cheyenne. We rejoined the race route for a brief time, however, between Rock Springs and Fort Bridger, Wyoming, when the Oregon Trail dipped south.

The Thomas Flyer parked in front of Buffalo Bill’s home on the North Platte River.
Crowds were out to greet the Thomas Flyer’s arrival in Green River, Wyoming. People were still hurrying over to welcome the team. Note the prominent rock in the background…
Peggy and I took its photo when we briefly rejoined the route between Rock Springs and Fort Bridger.
Driving over the railroad ties in Utah, the Flyer was in for a bumpy ride. Another problem was that the railroad spikes tore up the tires.

Ely, Nevada was the next point where our summer road trip crossed paths with the race route. We passed through the town on our way east when we were following Highway 50, the “Loneliest Road in America.” (Another post.) Ely feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. And it is. It would have felt much more so in 1908. The Flyer had made its way south from Wendover, Utah following what is now Highway 93 (more or less) to Ely and then continued southwest across the Nevada desert following today’s Highway 6 (more or less) to Tonopah.

The Flyer team used railroad ties and brute force to get across the Western Pacific railroad in Nevada. They appear to be lifting the Flyer to get it onto the borrowed ties.
And here, they use logs to get the car out of Nevada mud. Peggy and I know from our years of attending Burning Man in the Nevada’s Black Rock Desert that there isn’t a heck of a lot of rain in Nevada, but when it does rain, the mud is no joke. The 24/7 event comes to a grinding halt.
And, as always, the car attracted attention wherever it was. This photo is taken in Cerry Creek, a small town north of Ely.

Along the way, it passed by what would become Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway. Think UFOs.  I’ve been interested in flying saucers ever since I saw one in 1969.  The participants in the Great Race didn’t report seeing any, however. Darn. (As an aside, I found it interesting that both the Pentagon and Japan’s military have set up task forces in the past couple of months to track UFOs. A little Twilight Zone music might be appropriate here.) But back to the race. 

Gate to top secret Area 51 in southern Nevada.
Peggy and I drove down the Extraterrestrial Highway and visited Area 51. We weren’t invited in. But then we weren’t arrested for taking photos either. (Post here on our visit.)

It was in Tonopah and the town of Goldfield 27 miles to the south that we first learned of the Great Race. In fact, we’ve driven the route followed by the Flyer from Tonopah south through Goldfield, the now ghost town of Rhyolite, and across Death Valley many times. I’ve actually ridden my bicycle over most of the route the race followed through Death Valley and on to Bakersfield, California.

I kicked this series off with a photograph of a mural depicting the arrival of the Flyer in Tonopah. The scene was looking south. Note the Mizpah Hotel.
It still stands.

When the Flyer was late in arriving in Tonopah, several residents drove out the road to see if there was a problem. They found the Flyer broken down and Schuster sleeping in a bunkhouse. (Another version of the story has him walking toward Tonopah.) He was roused out, given a ride to town, borrowed parts from a Thomas Flyer owned by a local doctor, fixed the car, and arrived to a jubilant welcome. Pretty much the whole town greeted the team.

The Flyer was attempting to cross this quicksand filled creek on the Warms Springs Ranch when it got into trouble outside of Tonopah.
This building still stands on the Ranch.

Cowboys and miners shooting their pistols into the air welcomed them to Goldfield. It was a cast of characters. There is still a cast of characters living there! (And a speed trap.) Crossing Death Valley, the Flyer had to put on balloon tires to get through the deep sand. Stovepipe Wells offered its only water. 

This would have been a view the team had as they left Tonopah for Goldfield.
The Flyer was almost buried by the crowd that gathered in Goldfield.
The Thomas Flyer passed through the Town of Ryolite just before entering Death Valley. Today it is a ghost town.
We took this photo of sand dunes in Death Valley from Stovepipe Wells. There was no lack of sand for the Flyer to negotiate through. I was glad for the paved highways when I rode my bike across the Valley.

The Thompson Flyer rolled into San Francisco on March 24th, the first car to travel across America in the winter. The team was given a hero’s welcome. Factories blew their whistles and cars honked their horns.  Its nearest competitor, the Zust, was still 700 miles away. The first phase of the race was over for the Flyer. Schuster was now to become the driver. He was eager to get to Alaska for the next phase of the race.

Market Street in San Francisco was packed for the arrival of the Thomas Flyer.

NEXT POST: Schuster travels to Valdez, Alaska to check out the next section of the race and the route is once again changed. Cars will be shipped to Japan and then on to Vladivostok, Russia where their next challenge will be crossing Mongolia and Siberia.

The 1908 Great Automobile Race from New York to Paris: Part II… Through Nebraska

The race had barely started when the automobiles were caught in a blizzard that dumped 2-3 feet of snow on the roadway. In this photo, the Thomas Flyer breaks trail for the other racers. In the beginning, the various racers took turns leading.

I ended my first post on the 1908 Great Race from New York City to Paris with the six competitors zooming down Broadway on their way out of New York City as a crowd of 250,000 roared them on. Their original route had already been changed by the organizers. Instead of driving half way across the US and then up though Canada to the Bering Strait, they would work their way across the nation and then take a boat up to Valdez where they would continue the Alaska portion of the race over dog sled trails and ice-covered rivers.

But first they had to get across the US starting in winter, no small task considering no one had ever accomplished it. Roads would be rough to non-existent. There were no maps or gas stations, or asphalt— it had yet to be invented. In some areas the drivers would be forced to drive over railroad tracks, a guaranteed bumpy ride! Remember the ads when automobile manufacturers would show how good the shocks on their cars were by driving down railroad tracks with an egg balanced on a spoon? You would have to fast forward to the 60s and 70s for that level of suspension.

Problems began immediately. The one-cylinder, small French Sizaire-Naudin dropped out of the race on the first day at mile 96 with a broken differential. The remaining five vehicles soon found themselves plowing through two feet or more of snow in a blizzard. Except in cities, no handy-dandy horse drawn snow plows were around to clear roads. George Schuster, the mechanic for the Thomas Flyer, walked ahead of his vehicle poking a stick into the snow to measure its depth. Or maybe he was looking for the road!

The Thomas Flyer fights to get out of a snow drift.

The slow progress came to a dead halt in Dismal Hollow outside of Auburn, New York. The name alone suggests a horror-story-level disaster. The cars became hopelessly bogged down as night approached. Fortunately, horses hired by the Italian Zust team came to the rescue of the automobilists, as they were known then, and pulled them out.

The Italian Zust. Clothing suggests just how cold it was.

At first, the teams worked together, taking turns at leading. That didn’t last long. It was a race, after all. You can imagine how the Americans, or the Germans or the Italians reacted when the driver of the French de Dion, St. Chaffray, ordered them, “When you wish to go ahead to a city, you ask me.” Right.  

The Europeans were soon complaining that the Americans had unfair advantages. When the Thomas Flyer had a problem, dozen of patriotic volunteers jumped in to eagerly help out for free. When the European cars hit a glitch, they had to pay. “They even charge us to sleep on the ground,” one of the drivers whined. A more legitimate complaint in terms of the race outcome was that the railroad and trolley companies favored the Flyer in allowing track usage. Out West, the Union Pacific even scheduled the Flyer to use its tracks like it would a train.

When roads were impassable or non-existent, the racers often resorted to using train tracks. The rules were that the riders couldn’t actually ride on the rails. They had to bump their way over the railroad ties.
Trolley lines sometimes substituted for railroads in the cities.

My sense is that the great advantage the Flyer had was George Schuster, however. For one, he had the ability to fix any problem the car had. Each night he would tune the engine and work on whatever else was needed to get the car ready for the next day. The competition complained to the race committee that Schuster had rebuilt the whole car. Possibly. But the complaint was rejected. One of the nightly chores that all of the car mechanics performed was draining the radiator so it wouldn’t freeze. Anti-freeze had been developed but it was used in making bombs, not protecting cars on cold nights

Schuster’s support in keeping the vehicle operating went far beyond his mechanical abilities, however. If someone had to walk 10 miles in a freezing weather to get gas or a part, he did it. If the car needed rescuing from a snow drift or was stuck in a gully, he figured out how to free it. He was dedicated to doing whatever it took to keep the Flyer running.

I suspect a fair amount of money exchanged hands when the racers reached Chicago. Many felt that the cars would be lucky to get out of New York and even E.R. Thomas, the manufacturer of the Flyer, never expected his vehicle would get beyond the Windy City. T. Walter Williams, the New York Times reporter assigned to the Thomas Flyer, bailed out when the cars arrived in Chicago. “It’s insanity” he proclaimed. And it was. But all five cars made it to Chicago and continued on. Snow continued to plague the drivers as they made their way across the Midwest. And when they finally got through the snow, they were faced with hub-deep mud. Lots of it. Tensions soared.

When the De Dion got stuck in a snowbank and Hans Hendricks Hansen, who claimed he had piloted a Viking Ship to the North Pole solo, couldn’t get it out, St. Chaffray exploded. The men decided a duel was in order and went scrambling to find their pistols. Fortunately, they were buried deep in the gear and St. Chaffray had time to decide that it would be better to fire Hansen than to kill him— or be killed by him. Hansen joined the Thomas Flyer, pledged allegiance to the American flag it flew, and swore that he could walk to Paris faster than St. Chaffray could drive there.

Our recent 8,000-mile journey around the US was bound to cross the route of the Great Race. It happened in Nebraska as we followed US 30 along the South Platte River. The racers had been following what would become Highway 30 through Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. We joined the highway in Kearny and followed it on to North Platte where we stayed at Buffalo Bill’s ranch. Signs along the road proudly proclaimed it had been part of the Oregon Trail and the Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental highway. Before that, it had served as a major path for Native Americans and mountain men. When the route had passed through Omaha on entering Nebraska, the Flyer team met Buffalo Bill who had invited them to stay at his ranch on the North Platte.

I took this photo of US 30 on Peggy’s and my recent trip around the country. Take away the pavement and add a foot of mud, it might look similar to what the 1908 racers found in making their way across Nebraska.
Whenever the racers came to a major town, the citizens would be out to greet them in force. This is Grand Island Nebraska. Only four of the cars made it this far.
A high school student eager to shoot an action shot caught this photo of the race in the small town of Gibson, Nebraska. He even got a wave!
Buffalo Bill invited the racers to stay at his home in North Platte. Pretty fancy digs for a buffalo hunter! The house was being repainted when Peggy and I visited it.
Buffalo Bill’s barn, Scout’s Rest, would have been standing as well when the racers came through in 1908. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The barn is packed full of memorabilia from Buffalo Bill’s road show which traveled the world featuring cowboys and Indians and personalities like Annie Oakley. This poster promoted his show in Australia. Note the fancy rope work! I got so excited…
… That I lassoed myself a filly! Boy did she put up a fight!
I’ll conclude today’s post with a photo of the Flyer making its way through hub-deep mud. Some fun!

NEXT POST: On to the West Coast and up to Alaska…

The Greatest Auto Race Ever… NYC to Paris in 1908: Part 1

A mural in Tonopah, Nevada that features the town’s welcome of the Thomas Flyer, America’s entry in the New York City to Paris Automobile Race of 1908.

Peggy and I are now back at home in Oregon after our ten week 8,000 mile road trip around the US in our small RV. It was weird out there in the Age of Coronavirus— but interesting. As much as possible, we stayed off of freeways and traveled by backroads, many of them significant to America’s history. One such road we followed was a portion of US 30 across Nebraska following the South Platte River. The route was once a path for Native Americans and mountain men. Later, it became a section of the Oregon Trail that pioneers and gold seekers followed in the mid-1800s on their way west in search of wealth or a new life. In 1913, it became part of America’s first transcontinental road, the Lincoln Highway.

I was excited to learn that it was also a section of route that the 1908 Great Automobile Race from New York City to Paris followed through Nebraska. I had first developed an interest in the race when I learned about it in the remote Nevada towns of Tonopah and Goldfield where it had been the biggest thing to happen to them since the discovery of gold. My interest was peaked considerably last summer when I found America’s original entry, the Thomas Flyer, in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Since then I have read several articles on the race and discovered a treasure trove of photos from the Library of Congress. It’s a story that has been told many times but is worth retelling, which I will do over my next 3-4 posts. I figure it will serve as a kick-off for my posts on our road trip!

America’s entry in the Great Automobile Race from NYC to Paris in 1908, the Thomas Flyer, is on display at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

It was cold and windy in New York City on Lincoln’s Birthday, February 12, 1908. The quarter of a million people lined up along Broadway were bundled up in their warmest clothes as they waited anxiously for the starter’s gun that would kick off a 22,000-mile (35,405 kilometer) race over land and sea from New York to Paris. It was a challenge involving men and autos that had never been undertaken before— and still goes unmatched.

An estimated 250, 000 people (and their autos) were lined up along Broadway to watch the beginning of the Great Race.

The route, as planned, would take drivers across the US, through Canada into Alaska, across the Bering Strait, over Siberia and then through Russia and Europe to Paris. By starting in February, the organizers hoped that the rivers and dog sled trails in Alaska as well as the Bering Strait would still be frozen so the racers could use them as roads.

The original route as shown in a December 1, 1907 New York Time’s article. It would change substantially as the reality of driving through Alaska in winter or spring became apparent.

The New York Times and the Paris newspaper Le Matin were sponsoring the race. The winner was to receive a 1400-pound trophy (not quite something for your mantle), and undying fame. Thirteen cars had been entered but only six made it to the starting line: three from France, one from Germany, one from Italy and one from the US. The US had come close to not having an entry at all. The pioneers of America’s nascent automobile industry didn’t think the race was doable. Or possibly they didn’t want to compete against the better-known European car makers and risk defeat. I suspect the latter.

The ER Thomas Motor company out of Buffalo, NY came to the rescue a week before the event.  It diverted a deluxe $4,000 Thomas Flyer that was meant to be sold in Boston. It was a stock, 60-horsepower touring car. Modifications were minimal. Three extra gas tanks were added to give the Flyer a capacity of 125 gallons. There would be no convenient gas stations along the way. You went to a hardware store, filled a bucket up from a metal barrel and poured it into your tank— if you could find gas.

An ad for the original stock ER Thomas Flyer. BTW, the $4,000 would translate into over $100,000 in today’s dollars.
The Thomas Flyer at the beginning of the race with its extra boards and ‘wagon train’ top. Monty Roberts is behind the wheel. The vehicles lacked windshields since the glass was considered dangerous if it broke, a likely occurrence.

Holes were cut in the floorboards to allow heat from the engine to provide some warmth. Long boards were attached to the side to aid in getting the car out of snow and mud. A covered wagon-like top had been jury-rigged to fit over the top and provide protection from snow, hail and rain. It was soon abandoned— full speed ahead and damn the weather!  The Flyer, like all of the other vehicles was loaded down with chains, ropes, spare parts and tools. Each vehicle would travel with its own mechanic.

Thomas called his lead mechanic and road tester, George Schuster, the day before the race and asked him to go along. George knew how to handle adversity. He had been raised in a family with 21 kids. More to the point, he could fix almost anything on the spot, an early day Macgyver. Still, it’s hard to fathom being asked to participate in such an epic event less than 24-hours before it starts. It takes me that long to prepare for a weekend get-a-way!

Here’s how I imagine the phone call going:

“Um, Hi George, this is ER, can you spare a moment?”

“Sure Boss, what’s up?”

“I know this is short notice but could you show up in New York City tomorrow morning and go along on this 22,000-mile automobile race between New York and Paris? It shouldn’t take much more than six months but it’s going to be a tough trip. No one has ever driven across the US in winter. Heck, only 12 people have driven across it in summer. Who knows what the conditions will be like in Alaska and Siberia? You might want to carry a gun. One thing is for sure, there aren’t many paved roads and, in some areas, there won’t be any roads at all— or maps. You may have to drive down the railroad tracks or follow pioneer trails. I expect there will be lots of breakdowns for you to fix. We’ve even scheduled from eight p.m. to midnight each night for you to work on the Flyer and get it ready for the next day. It starts at five. Oh, and one more thing, I’ve asked Monty Roberts to drive. You know Monty, he’s something of a media hound and will take all of the credit but I am sure he will appreciate your ability to keep the car running. My love to your wife and kids. See you tomorrow.”

The European entries included a De Dion, Moto-Bloc, and Sizaire-Naudin from France. Germany was represented by a Protos and Italy by a Zust. If these names sound unfamiliar to you, it’s because none of them are around today, nor have they been for decades. Their builders had only been in the automobile business for a few years and horses were still considered a more reliable means of travel. The cars were assembled the old-fashioned way, by hand, piece by piece. Henry Ford had yet to invent the assembly line. 

Considerable national pride was involved in the race. For example, 600 workers had been pulled together to work on the German Protos under the encouragement of Kaiser Wilhelm II. There was nothing stock about the vehicle. The Kaiser wanted to win for the greater glory of Germany and to promote German industry. I read in one account that Teddy Roosevelt, who was President at the time, also pressured American automobile manufacturers to participate. It’s hard to imagine a race starting in New York and crossing the country without US participation. Given Roosevelt’s personality, he probably would have been ‘biting at the bit’ to drive had he not been President.

The German Protos with its driver Han Koeppen lined up for the start of the race.

As you might imagine, an international cast of characters and adventurers had assembled to drive and maintain the vehicles. I’ve already introduced Roberts who was in it for the fame. But he was also one of the few Americans who had actually trained for the 13-year-old sport of auto racing. The driver of the French Moto-Bloc, Charles Godard, had participated in the similar but considerably shorter Peking to Paris race the year before. It had been the first time he had ever driven a car. The driver of the German Protos seemed a bit more prosaic to me. Hans Koeppen was an aristocratic lieutenant in the German Army who hoped his participation would bag him a promotion to captain.

The Zust.

Antonio Scarfoglio, a 21-year-old Italian poet and journalist, was part of the Zust team. His father, a prominent Italian newspaper editor, had refused to let him go until Antonio had threatened to take a motorboat across the Atlantic, a much more dangerous adventure. The driver of the French De Dion, G. Bourcier de St. Chaffray, knew a bit about just how dangerous. He had once organized a motorboat race from Marseille to Algiers where every boat sank. The captain of his team, the Norwegian Hans Hendrick, had been more successful at sea. His claim to fame was having piloted a Viking boat to the North Pole. Solo. 

The vehicles were lined up and ready to go!

The drivers were lined up and eager to go at 11:00 AM. George B. McClellan Jr., son of the prominent Civil War general and then mayor of NYC had been given the honor of starting the race. But he was late. The Mayor was rarely on time. At 11:15, Colgate Hoyt, a railroad financier, grabbed the gold-plated gun and shot it into the air. The race was on!

And the racers were off down Broadway!
I’ll close with a final photo of the Thomas Flyer on display at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

NEXT POST: The race across America.

While Dodging Covid 19, Harleys, Hurricanes, Derechos, and 130 Degree F Heat— Why Not Visit Massacre Rocks?

Peggy and I are wrapping up our travels around the US. This post features the hazards of our road trip and Massacre Rocks State Park along the Oregon Trail in Idaho.

We were greeted by this ferocious beast at Massacre Rocks SP. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I have been on numerous road trips over the years, a quarter of million miles worth according to the odometers on our two small RVs. But nothing can match how strange this summer has been. Let me start by noting our 8,000 mile journey has taken us through 18 states (plus the Navajo Nation) that have had the not-so-coveted designation of being Covid-19 hot spots. I start each morning by feeling my forehead and breathing a sigh of relief when it is cool. If I were you, I wouldn’t come within 600 feet of us. Or 6 miles. Screw the 6-foot rule. When we get home we are going to self-quarantine for 6 months. Or at least 6 days.

Peggy demonstrates just about the right amount of distance to stay away from us after our journey through 18 states noted for their Covid-19! She is standing out on a floating pier on the Snake River, enjoying the beauty of the area.

There were some potential Covid-19 hotspots we have avoided, however. Peggy and I crossed off South Dakota even though we wanted to visit the Bad Lands and I would have found the motorcycle rally in Sturgis interesting. It’s kind of a Biker’s Burning Man. Hanging out with 250,000 Harley fanatics who were reluctant to wear masks and liked to party in crowded bars didn’t seem particularly wise, however.

The Brothers of Morte (death), wearing leather jackets with an image of a skull with a candle burning out zoomed around us on their bikes heading for Sturgis. The message somehow seemed appropriate for the huge gathering during a highly contagious pandemic.

But Covid-19 has been only one of several potential disasters out here on the road this summer. For example, it’s 108° F outside now. That’s miserable, and it can be dangerous. But what if we were in Death Valley? It’s a go-to place for Peggy and me. We’ve been there many times. Earlier this week, it saw a whopping 130 degrees F (54.5 C)! It was the hottest place on earth at the time and was recorded as one of the four top temperatures ever documented. I put on my Death Valley hat in honor of the occasion. Why whine about 108?

Here I am with my Death Valley hat on in front of a large granite rock that dominated our camp site at Massacre Rocks State Park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Lightning storms and forest fires come with the excessive heat and are once again devastating the West. Two years ago I was dodging fires as I backpacked 750 miles down the PCT. They’re back with a vengeance now, roaring through Northern California and causing deadly fire tornadoes. I’m ever so glad I am not out on the trail. Fires are much easier to dodge in Quivera the Van than on foot. And we have air-conditioning.

Peggy and I noted this sign as we drove up to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon. We spotted a wild grass fire in the distance.

But how about dodging hurricanes? In mid-July, our kids rented a lovely house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina to celebrate Peggy’s 70th Birthday. It was the primary reason for our road trip and a fun way to bring our families together and make up for the family trip on the Rhine River Peggy had planned. Europe won’t let us near the continent.

Our grandkids were a little surprised, however, to see their 77 year old grandfather and 70 year old grandmother risking their necks out body surfing and riding boogie boards with them. “Older” people aren’t supposed to behave that way. It was the crowded beach that worried me, however. That and the dark clouds that hung on the horizon. A week later the Outer Banks had to be evacuated due to the threat from Hurricane Isaias. We dodged the bullet by a week.

The waves were fun and the beach was gorgeous on the Outer Banks but the crowds with their potential coronavirus and the dark clouds with their threat of severe weather were worrisome.

That was minor in comparison to the derecho that roared across Iowa. On August 8th, Peggy and I had driven across the state, laughing about how corn was the scenery. I’d stopped taking photos after 20 pictures. We were camping just across the border that night when a thunderstorm came through that rocked our van and lit up the night sky. We thought of it as entertainment without a clue about the massive storm that was brewing. When we pulled out in the morning, clear skies graced our road west. On the 10th, we were at Buffalo Bill’s Ranch enjoying a beautiful day on the North Platte when the derecho ripped across Iowa and wiped out 40% of the state’s corn crop.

I took this peaceful photo featuring a silo and corn two days before the derecho had devastated 40% of Iowa’s corn crop.
We were unaware of the derecho in Iowa as we wiled away the day at the Buffalo Bill Ranch on the North Platte River. Our only worry was the big bull nearby. (The horses were miniatures but the bull was still the biggest one I have ever seen!)

While dodging all of these potentials disasters, why visit a place known as Massacre Rocks? The answer is simple. How could we not? Peggy and I had been following the Oregon Trail since we left Nebraska and Massacre Rocks State Park on the Snake River in Idaho is a noted location along the way. As the name suggest, it is symbolic of one of the challenges faced by the pioneers, attacks by hostile natives. I suspect we would be hostile too if a stranger rode into town and wanted to steal our property.

The name is something of a misnomer, since the attacks on wagon trains took place a few miles away. The pioneers were not happy with all of the large rocks in the area, however. They provided an ideal place to organize and ambush or to shoot arrows from behind. Peggy and I, on the other hand, were not worried about anyone shooting arrows at us and found the rocks and the river quite beautiful. I think you will agree…

Peggy and I pulled into the park and checked out the river. We met the cottontail featured above and hiked out onto the small pier. These gorgeous cliffs were along the way.
Peggy captured this photo of the cliff as we walked down and the following three photos from the pier.
A different look at the cliff. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking down the river from the pier. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A view across the river. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

While Peggy stayed in camp captured by a book she was reading, I went for a hike the next morning. Following are several photos I took.

Early morning view from the floating pier.
Downriver view across a field of sage.
And another view featuring silver sage.
Like sage, telegraph weeds and their bright flowers are a common plant of the West.
This member of the sunflower family got its name because it grew in abundance along the disturbed ground created by building the first telegraph lines across America.
I was treated to a different view hiking up the river. Cattail reflections seemed impressionistic.
True to its name, the park was filled with impressive rocks.
I took advantage of Apple Photo to create this old-fashioned look.
Another upriver view.
A number of impressive rocks were also found away from the river.

That evening Peggy joined me as I repeated the walk I had done in the morning.

Peggy caught this interesting view of one of two islands in river at the park.
I took a side view that emphasized the cattails.
A cap rock made of lava dominated the heights on the opposite side of the river.
A close up. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The setting sun bathed the Snake River in light…
And, for my final photo, provided a soft look for the opposite side of the river.

NEXT POST: The Great 1908 Auto Race from New York to Paris.

Adios Arches… Hello Road Trip

I had originally intended to conclude my series on Arches National Park with photos of several of the more famous arches. But when Peggy and I were driving out, the late afternoon sun created photo-ops I just couldn’t resist. As Peggy drove, I snapped away.

Beneath Scotts Bluff, Nebraska: We are camped at the base of a towering bluff that once stood as a major landmark to pioneers traveling west in wagon trains. My great, great grandmother would have passed this way and stared up at it in awe with the welcome knowledge that she had left the Great Plains behind. And, indeed, we too are breathing a huge sigh of relief, glad to be back in our much loved west. The bluff was named after an employee of a fur trading company who had the misfortune to die not far from where we are camped. He likely would have been glad to live on and leave the bluff with someone else’s name. I, for one, prefer the Native American name, Me-a-pa-te, which translates ‘hill that is hard to go around.’

As I work on this post, Scotts Bluff looms in the near distance. This notable landmark once served to guide wagon trains on their way across America.

It has been an interesting couple of weeks as we have made our way west from Virginia. This past week we kept ahead of a major storm that whipped through the Midwest with winds up to 100 MPH. We also avoided numerous motorcyclists— most with a similar look and without helmets— as they dashed around us on their way to Sturgis, South Dakota and whatever fate awaited them.

One of many groups of motorcyclists that zipped past us on their way to Sturgis and a possible confrontation with Coronavirus. Those unfortunate enough to come in contact with the disease would carry it home.

Yesterday was particularly interesting. We started our day at Buffalo Bill’s historic ranch camped out on the North Platte River and then hopped on one of America’s most historic backroads, US 30, otherwise know as the Lincoln Highway. It was America’s first cross-country road. But that’s only a small part of its history. For thousands of years it served as a major route for Native Americans. In the 1850s it was part of the Oregon Trail. Pony Express riders used it on their two year ride to glory and the nation’s first transcontinental railroad was built beside it. In 1908 it became part of the greatest road trip/road race ever, the New York to Paris Road Race, which will be the subject of my next blog.

A view from our campsite on the North Fork of Platte River. Buffalo Bill’s historic home is less than a mile away.

But today, it’s time to say goodby to Arches National Park.

One of the many late afternoon views we had as we drove out of Arches National Park. I’ll share a few and let the photos speak for themselves.
A final view. Goodby Arches. Hello road trip.

NEXT POST: What better place to start posts from our present journey around the US than what I consider to be one of the greatest road trip/races of all-time: The 1908 race around the world from New York to Paris. I’ve been meaning to do this blog ever since I came across the winner of the race at the National Auto Museum this time last summer. It’s epic!

The Arches of Arches… Finally!

While every arch in Arches National Park shares a ‘see through look’, each arch is unique in the space created and in the surrounding rocks. One of my favorites is Turret Arch, shown here in a photo by Peggy.

“But where are the arches?” my brother-in-law John asked Peggy about my series on Arches National Park. “There is more to Arches than arches,” Peggy had responded. John readily agreed but there was still a plaintive ‘where are the arches’ tone to his voice. This post is for you, John— and for all of our other followers who have been wondering about how anyone could do a series on Arches National Park without arches.

They aren’t hard to find. There are over 2000 in the park, the highest concentration of any place in the world. Of course you would need a month to find them all plus put in a lot of miles hiking. We only had a day and the 100 degree F heat (37.7 C) discouraged much roaming in the time we had. Not to worry. The road plus a little walking took us to some of the most famous in the Park. So without further ado, I’ll start with the arch I featured at the top of the post, Turret Arch, named for its resemblance to turrets on castles.

This was my view of Turret Arch. The turret rises above the arch on the left.
This shot facing the arch provides a view of a smaller arch forming to the left. The dad and child seen through the arch give perspective. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Here, Peggy captures the yin and the yang of the smaller arch.
We were fortunate that impressive clouds added depth and interest to our photos.
I couldn’t resist using the arch as a dark frame for the clouds.

A walk up to the Turret Arch easily includes two of the Park’s other Arches, North and South Windows.

This is the view of North and South Window Arches from Turret Arch. I won’t hold it against you if you see two eyes and a large nose instead of windows. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I took a close up.
A view of the South Window Arch with the nose looking a lot more like a massive rock!
The North Window Arch is more popular with an easy trail leading right to it from the parking lot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
This photo by Peggy gives an idea of how massive the arch is. Note the person enjoying the shade! Also, check out the large crack, a reminder that these arches do come tumbling down.
My shot looking up shows how thick the arch is. You can see the beginning of the crack.
Which Peggy caught.
We both had fun using the clouds as a backdrop. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
My contribution.
And finally, I thought a black and white rendition of the North Window Arch would be interesting.
The famous Double Arch is just down the hill from the Windows and Turret Arches. New arches can be seen forming on the right.
You have undoubtedly seen photos of this Arch even if you haven’t visited the Park. Or perhaps you caught it at the beginning of the Indiana Jones’ movie “The Last Crusade.”
While we have hiked down to and around the Double Arch in the past, I took this photo from our air-conditioned van!

No trip to Arches is complete without a trip to see the Delicate Arch, which many consider to be the National Park’s most scenic arch. Rather than make the gentle three mile round trip at 3 P.M. when we were both hot and tired, we took an alternative one mile trip straight up a steep slope for an overlook. Hmmm.

Peggy’s telephoto worked best for capturing Delicate Arch.
I’ll conclude my post today with this shot of a towering cumulous cloud and tiny people making their way to the arch. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: As we drove out of Arches, I took several photos from our van that will serve as a closure to this series.

Rocks, Trees, Early Inhabitants, and Towering Clouds… More of Arches NP

I am going to start at the end of the main road in Arches NP today. This is the trailhead to the Devil’s Garden.

Purcellville, Virginia— outside of Washington DC: We are at our daughter’s home where she lives with her husband, Clay and her kids, Ethan and Cody. They are renting an old home that was built in 1880. The main house next door once was part of the Underground Railway for slaves escaping from the South. I’ll do a post on the houses later.

Our visit to Arches National Park today takes us back to the end of the paved road and the beginning of the Devil’s Garden trail. We hiked a way on the trail but the 100 (37.7C) degree heat encouraged us to make it a short. We then doubled back where we checked out the historic Wolfe ranch and some interesting Ute petroglyphs.

Like so much of Arches, impressive rock monuments filled the area.
I was particularly impressed with this pinnacle.
And took a close up.
Gathering clouds added to the area’s scenic beauty.
And called for a black and white photo.
As always, I was drawn to trees. The red rocks provided a contrasting backdrop for this one we found along the Devil’s Garden Trail.
The sky provided the backdrop for this tree near the Wolfe Creek Ranch.
The rock foreground and the splash of green caught my attention here.
Here, it was the La Salle Mountains looming in the distance.
Wolfe Ranch provided a perspective on how the early pioneers in the area lived. This home was built in 1898 and occupied by his family for a decade. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
This old corral was part of the Wolfe Ranch.
The Ute Indians occupied the area before the Europeans made their way into the area. They were quick to adapt to the horses that escaped from the early Spanish. These petroglyphs reflect the Utes hunting Big Horn Sheep with their dogs. The rock art would have been carved sometime after 1650 CE. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Water was and is the lifeblood of the desert Southwest. This small creek would have provided water for both the Utes and the Wolfes.
I’ll conclude today with a final photo of storm clouds gathering over Arches. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: The arches of Arches!