Category Archives: Southwest

A Lost Nevada City

It’s a little more than 62 miles from Las Vegas to Overton, so I wanted to make sure that the trip was worth it.  There were 2 gentlemen working in the new visitors’ booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center.   The 1st had never heard of the Lost City Museum, which is in Overton, and the 2nd man was silent, probably because he didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the older gentleman he was working with.  As soon as the man who had never been to Lost City was distracted by another traveler, however, the younger man motioned me closer and whispered ,”The Lost City is really worth visiting.”

He was right.  The Lost City Museum proved to be both worthwhile and unusual.   The name refers to a Puebloan culture, people who lived in the area about a thousand years ago but are pretty much unknown.   Archaeologists have determined that they were the first permanent residents of what is now Nevada.  But who they were  is largely unknown.  Too much time has passed.  Artifacts not recognized by the untrained were damaged.  Mormon pioneers built atop the pueblo site.  A road was cut through it.  By 1940 many sites were under Lake Meade.  Scientists have figured that this lost city’s residents were basketmakers and builders of a pueblo that extended for 30 miles.    They were already living there 15 centuries ago, had a dynamic culture by A.D. 1000, experienced drought and abandoned the pueblo around the middle of the 12th century.

The Lost City Museum, a Nevada State facility, is comprehensive and not the kind of place I can explore in a short visit.  There was too much to absorb. A WPA project, the Lost City Museum has been around since 1934 and is unusual in that an actual archaeological dig was incorporated into the exhibits.  There are examples on display of stuff found in the area from many eras and many tribes.  There were beautiful baskets, reconstructed pottery examples, exhibits about the Mormons, info about mining, etc.  The displays ranged from updated to traditional, but it was obvious that this place is well curated and cared for.

One of my favorite areas was about Katsinas, which were represented by a number of well-dressed Hopi dolls like the fella with red ears.    Katsinas were spirit beings who guided and taught people.  They lived on mountain peaks, descended to be among humans during the winter solstice, and stayed with them until  late July.

Both of the films available were worth watching.  I enjoyed observing native Americans repairing outdoor pueblo examples.   The Lost City Museum is a 5 Compass attraction that’s exactly where it needs to be.

Hank

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Victorville

Excluding towns that have been absorbed into large, nearby cities, there are only 19 stand-alone metropoli in the United States with populations over 100,000 that Ruth and I haven’t visited.   Last year we made it to Chattanooga, TN, Columbia, SC, and Charlotte, NC.  On our 3rd adventure of 2018, we made it to Victorville, CA.

Victorville is north of San Bernardino in the Victor Valley just past Cajon Pass.  Those driving north to it on I-15, which cuts diagonally through Victorville, have some fine views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  In 1860 Victorville had a population of 10.  Growth occurred shortly after that because a telegraph station named after railroad pioneer Jacob Victor located there.  Victor’s big lifetime achievement was bringing this nation’s 2nd transcontinental railroad to the West Coast.  The California Southern Railway was part of the Santa Fe system.  In 1885 Victor drove the first train engine through Cajon Pass linking San Bernardino to Barstow, which is 34 miles north of Victorville.  Victorville is on the edge of the Mojave Desert.   By the year 2000 Victorville had a population of 64,000.  Today it exceeds 122,000.

Some crazy people live in Victorville and commute to jobs in the Los Angeles area.   I talked to a very nice woman who lives in Hesperia, which is just south of Victorville.   She told me that her husband drives to his job near LAX every day.  She starts waking him up for his long commute at 3 am.  I have no good photos of Victorville because it’s 95% shopping centers and new neighborhoods strung along I-15, and the old part of town is the dilapidated home of about 3,000.

Surprisingly, 13 movies have been at least partially shot in Victorville.  One in the Fast and Furious series was filmed there as was Grand Theft Auto.   The script for Citizen Kane was written there.   Cowboy star Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans were both born in Victorville, and there used to be a museum devoted to their careers here but it moved to Branson before closing permanently.  There’s still a small tribute to them in the California Route 66 Museum on D Street in the old part of town, where Ruth & I learned that most of 66’s foreign visitors now come from Brazil.  Why?

 

Hank


Bravo Show Low

It rare that I like a town shortly after arriving in it for the first time, but that happened in Show Low.   Ruth and I went there because we had not explored that part of Arizona and I was used to reading raves about its community museum.

Show Low has an elevation of 6,347 feet, making it a cool getaway for parched desert dwellers.  The White Mountains that cause this altitude contain more than 30 lakes.   Fool Hollow and Show Low lakes are either in or near town and magnets for fishing fans and campers.

Show Low’s setting is superior.   The town spreads out as it grows to showcase its glorious Ponderosa Pines.   Some of its literature boasts that this is the largest stand of these trees in the world, and that was probably true until forest fires altered the landscape.

Show Low is on the eastern edge of the Mogollon Rim, which I had to relearn how to pronounce–mag ee on.   Some say “muggy own”.  A local citizen told me that Mogollon is the lowest level of the Colorado Plateau.   A natural feature of Arizona, Mogollon’s volcanic uplift gives this state some heat-relieving high country in summer and 2 major ski resorts in winter, one of them called Sunrise, which is 42 miles southwest of Show Low.

July is Show Low’s biggest tourist month with about 40,000 outsiders showing up.   July is especially popular because of this town’s huge and often unique 4th of July parade.  Check out its 2016 Freedomfest entry form on showlowaz.gov and the parade’s YouTube awesomeness.

Show Low has a pleasant appearance.   One of the fastest growing cities in the Southwest, its population has increased 40% since this century began. Mormons were its first settlers in the 19th century.  Although it was established in 1870, it wasn’t incorporated until 1953.  Today it has all the amenities of a much larger town like a Walmart Supercenter and WME Show Low 5, a cineplex that boasts, “All Stadium, All Rocker-Loveseat, All Digital Sound”.   It may be up-to-date, but Show Low’s main street is still Deuce of Clubs.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about its unconventional yet small-town-normal Historical Society Museum where Ruth & I experienced a warm welcome and spent far more time than we planned.    How often does one get to experience a thunder gourd?

Hank

 


Route 66 Interest Continues

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In our travels across the Southwest, it has been impossible to ignore the many attractions that cater to those who are exploring The Mother Road, old Route 66.  It stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica until the new Interstate System began to replace it, and this part of the country has remained especially loyal to it.   However, there are museums devoted to it in every state it passed through except Kansas.  My favorite is in Clinton, Oklahoma.

This coming November is Route 66’s 90th anniversary, and there is some resurgence of interest along its 2,400 miles.  For the first time, this summer I met young Americans traveling along it and devoted to learning about it. There is even some revivalism going on, like the restoration of Boots Court in Carthage, Missouri.   The National Park Service maintains a Route 66 Corridor Restoration Program that has recently been extended until 2019.  Tour companies in places like Australia and Germany offer popular excursions.  A couple of years ago Ruth and I shared The Original Route 66 Gift Shop in Seligman, Arizona, with a busload of Asian tourists who were buying everything in sight.  It was early winter.

This summer Ruth & I weren’t especially looking for but found unanticipated Route 66 attractions in New Mexico and Texas.  My personal favorite was the Conoco Tower in Shamrock, Texas.   The original building built in 1936 had art deco details and offered bright neon.  Recently restored with an expanded visitor center and gift shop, a Tesla Supercharger Station, a continued art deco look, and a tribute to Bill Mack, the still active Midnight Cowboy/radio personality who grew up in Shamrock, this is a must-see attraction for those passing through Shamrock.   The Disney animated film Cars featured Ramon’s, a body art garage.  The U-Drop Inn in Shamrock was its inspiration.

dsc05742 About 20 miles west of Shamrock in McLean, Texas, is the unique, seasonal Devil’s Rope Museum devoted mostly to barbed wire.  However, it also showcases Route 66 in a middling tribute.  Also in McLean is the 1st Phillips 66 Station in Texas.  It has been restored to its circa 1929 glory.  It was a service station for over 50 years before becoming just a small town Route 66 landmark.

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Albuquerque, New Mexico, has to be the city on Route 66 with the most surviving structures.  Route 66 followed Albuquerque’s Central Avenue through this city, passing Old Town.  It continued through downtown and eastward toward Tucumcari, which has 2 or 3 minor route-related attractions.   By 1955 Albuquerque had 99 motels along Route 66.  Few remain.  However, we saw a 66-era diner, some signs that celebrated The Mother Road like the one at the top of this blog, etc.

And now there’s The Singing Road on old Route 66 south of the Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque.  A sign announces its presence near Tijeras.  If a driver slows to exactly 45 mph and steers atop the rumble strip with the car windows slightly down, all in the vehicle will hear “America the Beautiful”.  It’s fun.  You have the National Geographic to thank for this almost unique attraction.  There’s another singing road in Lancaster, California.   There you have to drive 55 mph to hear the “William Tell Overture”, also known as the Lone Ranger’s theme song,  I have not been to Lancaster.  I expect to hear about a singing road franchise operation soon.

Hank

 


Fall in Love with Art at Shemer

 

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I had to visit Shemer twice to understand it.  The first time I was delighted by my conversation with Board Member Goldthwaite H. Dorr III and a particular Shemer Art Center show called New Art Arizona.  I took no notes.  After the 2nd visit, I received some explanatory information from Executive Director Shonna James.  She emphasized what makes her art center special–the gift shop, an outdoor sculpture garden, rotating group and solo-artist exhibits, classes, workshops, lectures, and frequent community events.  She summarized it as “truly a home for the arts”.   I’d call it a “do-it-yourself art experience”.

The Shemer is at 5005 East Camelback Road in Phoenix.  It’s in the very first home built in the Arcadia neighborhood.  After 3 families lived in it, this home became a neighborhood art center after Martha Evvard Shemer bought it and donated it to the City of Phoenix.  Her intent was to preserve its historic value and create a lively community center. Budget cuts almost resulted in Shemer closing in 2010, but civic-minded citizens took over operations and it’s now thriving.  Visitors like me enjoy regularly changing exhibits by talented Arizona artists.  Above is well-named “Zing” by Travis Rice, a scholarship award winner. There is no permanent collection by artists with familiar names.  Locals get involved in classes led by professional artists, students from many high schools contribute to their own annual art exhibition, awards are given, sculpture competitions occur, kids show up for projects like “Yay oh Yay–Duct Tape Day!!”, etc.

Its building is part of the fun.  The beautifully restored dwelling that will be 100 years old in 3 years is in Santa Fe Mission style.  This means adobe walls, lots of cool rooms for art and its creation, and quietly landscaped grounds often alive with sculptures from Arizona artists.   Because the Shemer’s eclectic creations from artists at all levels of development are both traditional and nontraditional, everyone will find something to admire and want to take home.  Every city should have a Shemer.

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Hank