Chapter #103: The Four Corners States - Part 1 - December 15, 2008

Jack Kerouac's novel, "On The Road" original Signet paperback cover, which inspired my Arizona Highways tour - Click for larger image. (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

The Magic Gate - Part 1

Four Corners Region

Arizona Highways - Colorado Sunsets

In ’65, I was seventeen.  That spring, after perusing an issue of Arizona Highways Magazine, my father asked if I would accompany him on a road trip to the Four Corners states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.  I jumped at the chance.
In August 1965, we departed Los Angeles in our 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 XL, 2-door, hardtop.  The only equipment lacking on our Ford was an overflow tank for the superheated coolant that spewed past the radiator at each stopping point in the desert.
Early on, while traveling to summer camp, I had seen parts of the Mojave Desert from a school bus window.  My other desert experience consisted of viewing Walt Disney’s 1953 film, “The Living Desert”.  After viewing Disney’s documentary, I abandoned my belief that all deserts were inhospitable places, better left to the likes of the Twenty Mule Team from Borax.
NeedlesMobil Oil Service Station, Needles, CA, at dusk - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
Over forty years ago, as our trip progressed, new sections of Interstate Highway rapidly replaced or bypassed The Mother Road, Old Route 66.  Whether it was on Old-66 or new I-40, my first taste of desert heat was in Needles, California.  There, an outdoor thermometer read 117 degrees.  To me, the town “Needles” and the word “needless” had a lot in common.
From Needles, both Route 66 and I-40 crossed the Colorado River, and then ran north towards Kingman, Arizona.  Ironically, Old-66 took the shorter, if steeper route.  In contrast, I-40 ran east for many miles before turning north.  The road from Kingman to $3.99 Regular fuel price at Mobil, Needles, AZ (Oct. 2008) - Click for larger image. (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Flagstaff, Arizona was like a 150-mile slow-motion roller coaster ride.  From Needles, our overall elevation gain was almost 7000 feet.  In the same spirit that their ancestors joined the Saints in the old Utah Territory or explored the African savannah, contemporary Europeans seek the open spaces of the Southwest.  Studies indicate that humans, regardless of their origin, choose open grasslands and wide vistas over any other idealized environment.  In my memory, Flagstaff consisted of nothing more than one grade crossing and a nearby railroad station.  Since then, Flagstaff has transformed itself into a major city, now utilizing Winslow, Arizona, sixty miles to the east as its more affordable suburb.James McGillis, the author, at The Great Reflector, Mojave National Preserve, CA - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
Four Corners
Remembering our 1965 trip engenders in me nostalgia for a bygone era.  Interestingly, people from outside the U.S. seem to share that nostalgia.  In particular, the British, Dutch, Germans and Scandinavians arrive here by the thousands each summer.  Often, they rent motor homes, bent on rediscovering
In 1965, the combined population of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah was about seven million.  New Mexico then topped Utah by sixty thousand.  Today, the Four Corners has a population of almost eighteen million.  Utah now outpaces New Mexico by seven hundred thousand.  Suffice to say the Four Corners supports eleven million more people today than in 1965.
Old Santa Fe Railroad passenger station, Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com“Flag”, as the locals call it, etched a visual imprint on my mind.  I can still see what I call the Magic Gate, where South Beaver Street crossed the main line of the Santa Fe Railroad.  In my memory, Flagstaff consisted of nothing more than one grade crossing and a nearby railroad station.  Since then, Flagstaff has transformed itself into a major city, now utilizing Winslow, Arizona, sixty miles to the east as its more affordable suburb. South of there, at Snowflake, lived World Citizen, Kathy Hemenway.
From Flag, we headed east on Santa Fe Avenue, better known as Old-66, only to discover that the Mother RoadWhere Mother Road (Old-66) and railroad meet - An image of The Magic Gate, Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for preview of things to come. (http://jamesmcgillis.com) was being replaced by I-40.  From Flagstaff, the Santa Fe rail line took the most direct route east, turning only when necessary to follow the easiest grade.  Likewise, Old-66 and I-40 share almost identical routes, closely following the tracks.  The result is that the same Petrified Forest, Native American trading posts and historic motels that we saw in 1965 still lie adjacent to the current highway.
Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy, reviving an image of classical beauty, Flagstaff, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)At Gallup, New Mexico we drove east on Old-66 towards downtown.  Featuring substantial brick buildings, it was a regional center for trade and tourism.  Traveling down that same road today reveals a scene little changed since 1965.  All along I-40, older towns have remained in place, with new construction occurred at either end of town. 
From Gallup, we drove north on Old U.S. Highway 666.  With the Devil’s popularity in contemporary American culture, the moniker “Highway 666” tempted many.  Not withstanding the risk of “going to hell” for stealing highway signs, travelers made illegal souvenirs of Old-666 markers.  In 2003, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah gave up the fight, changing the road’s designation to the benign but meaningless “U.S. Highway 491”.  Ironically, new highway signposts often have “Old Highway 666” signs attached just below their new Highway 491 signs.
Sunset over the Lower Animas River Valley, near Durango, CO - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Each afternoon, for the duration of our trip we experienced the gift of rainfall, either in the form of desert thunderstorms or mountain showers.  In the late 1960s, American pilots returning from Vietnam to airbases in the Southwest recognized a similarity to the pattern of rain they had seen in Southeast Asia.  “Monsoon”, a word with Dutch, Portuguese and Arabic origins thus made its way into our weather lexicon.  
Since its establishment in the 1880s, Durango, Colorado has nestled itself into the narrows of the Upper Animas River Valley.  On our 1965 visit, the town had not yet expanded beyond its original borders.  Today, a regional shopping center featuring Wal-Mart and Home Depot greets travelers arriving from Aztec, New Mexico in the south. 
Inside th lobby of the historic Strater Hotel, Durango, Colorado - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Durango is a year-round tourist destination.  To the chagrin of prospective homeowners, cash-buyers swooped in during the early 2000s.  Durango’s high prices now send the budget-minded to nearby Bayfield or Mancos.  During a recent visit to Canyon De Chelly, Arizona, we spoke with a Native American artist, selling his works there.  Each week, he commuted two hundred and forty miles, to work on construction jobs in Durango. 
Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy at "The Office" bar inside the historic Strater Hotel, Durango, Colorado - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During the 1960s, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was in transition.  Construction gangs upgraded the gravel roadbed and then laid heavier rails.  Those improvements support the larger, more powerful locomotives seen on the rail line today.  As old as they appear, the current engines represent relatively modern designs, when compared to the originals.  The upgraded railroad helped carry the cities of Durango and Silverton through their transition from a mining, farming and ranching economy into today’s recreation and tourist-based economy.
With Durango’s gentrification came new residents who did not appreciate steam locomotives in nearby barns, puffing coal smoke into the night air.  A recent Durango Herald letter to the editor asked that the locomotivesThe color of coal smoke - Narrow Gauge Durango & Silverton Railroad Locomotive No. 481. The steam engine is "pulling the grade" over hand-laid tracks in the Upper Animas Valley, near Durango, Colorado - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) extinguish their fireboxes each night, so that nearby residents could sleep in peace and clean air.  Old wags pointed out that one could not restart a locomotive each day as if it were a diesel engine.  The general sentiment in the community was, “if you do not like coal smoke, move elsewhere”.
Read Part 2 of this five-part story about the Four Corner States.
Email James McGillis
Email James McGillis

By James McGillis at 03:03 PM | Travel | Link

Blog Search

 →  Recent Posts

Snow in Death Valley National Park
The Colorado River's Demise - 2023
The Four Corners Region - Part 5
The Four Corners Region - Part 4
The Four Corners Region - Part 3
The Four Corners Region - Part 2
The Four Corners Region - Part 1
Mammoth Lakes, Summer 2020
Morro Bay, CA - Fire Season 2020
Camping at Panamint Springs, Part 2
Camping at Panamint Springs, Part 1
Camping at Mojave Preserve in 2020
Death Valley Winter Camping 2019
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 5
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 4
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 3
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 2
Edward Abbey & Friends at UNM Ch. 1
Planned Desecration of The Book Cliffs
Thompson Springs, Utah - History
Visit Historic Thompson Springs, Utah
Santa Susana Field Lab Contamination
Classmate Bob Lovejoy (1948 - 2018)
Titus Canyon and Titanothere Canyon
2018 - Is The Future a Mirage?
Return of the Moab Burro Crane
Moab - Desert Rocks Festival 2011
Moab, UT - Negro Bill Canyon Remains
Yosemite High Country Devastation
Furnace Creek - Death Valley, Calif.
Zabriskie Point - Death Valley, Calif.
Crescent Junction, Utah - New History
NTSB Final Report Omits Critical Data
Winter Camping in the Mojave Desert
2017 - Burbank Rose Parade Float
Sarah Thomas - World Record Swim
A Family Visit to Kaua'i, Hawaii in 1988
2016 - Cow Springs, AZ Trading Post
Metrolink - Meager Track Maintenance
'16 Beverly Hills Concours d'Elegance
It's Time to Audit Metrolink Operations
Ventura County - Deadly Rail Collision
Ventura County, CA - Rail Safety 2016
Metrolink Ignores Mismatched Brakes
Agencies Ignore Rail Safety Issues
Nevada - Vote Now to Bring Back Solar
Ventura County Rail Deaths Scandal
Google Pop Car- Rail Safety Plan
BNSF Locomotives on Metrolink Trains
2015 - Time to Phase Out Lake Powell
Navajo Power Plant Heat Island Effect
Of Mudflats and Methane Volcanoes
Metrolink Anti-Derailment Blade Failure
Metrolink to Spend $338 Million
The Glenn Steele Memorial Overpass
5th & Rice - A Deadly Railroad Crossing
The One, the Only - Plush Kokopelli
Metrolink Train Crash, A Personal Story
Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 2
Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 1
Deadly Crude Oil Trains Coming Soon
Metrolink Oxnard Train Collision Report
2015 Rare California Rain Barrels Help
So. California Lakes Soon to Disappear
C.Proietto - Cattolica, Cafe Eden Roco
Hollywood: "Violence is the New Sex"
2014 Spanish Valley Vineyards
Durango & Silverton Railroad Story
Is it Too Late to Save Moab, Utah?
BLM & SITLA - URLEA Subterfuge
Moab Pile to be "Moab Pit" - 2029
Moab in Springtime - May 2014
Old Mesquite, NV - Gone For Good
I-15 North - Mojave Desert Tour
Grand Co. Plans to Desecrate Site
Moab - County Plans Fail the Test
2014 - Quantum Leap in ATM Theft
Moab Kiley - Peaceful BLM Protest
Stop The BLM-SITLA Land Swap
Utah Recreational Land Exchange
Burro Cranes - A Complete History
Moab Burro at Seven Mile Canyon
Brightsource Solar's Flawed Design
Trend - Horsepower Mitigation Fees
Moab Rim Campark Sold in 2014
Durango, CO - Engine #478 - 1965
Durango, CO - Engine #476 - 1965
Red Lake Trading Post, Tonalea, AZ
Deconstruction at Cow Springs, AZ
Cow Springs, Navajo Art - 2013
Navajo/Hopi, New Energy Dilemma
Peabody Coal Stripmine Disappears
An Arizona River Dies in the Desert
Black Mesa Coal - Water & Power
2013 - The Great Western Drought
Homolovi State Park, AZ - No Ruins
C.Proietto Paints at Lago Maggiore
American Bison Herd Threatened
I-40, Twin Arrows - Both Old & New
Simi Valley Brush Fire - Air Power
I-40: Highway Tax Dollars At Work
Kristi Frazier - World Citizen Award
Sierra Nevada, CA - 2013 Drought
Desolation Canyon Wilderness Area
The Holbrook Basin Potash Project
Moab - Revisit Seven Mile Canyon
Moab - Greater Canyonlands N.M.
Thomas Kinkade - Yosemite Valley
C.Proietto Paints Lugano, Gandria
Paso Robles, CA - Wine Adventure
Colorado River Dine & Unwind Moab
Kodiak 100 --> Moab Charter Flight
The True Cost of Mineral Extraction
Moab Truck - 1950 Chevy 3100
Disappearance --> Reemergence
Edward Abbey - His Spirit Returns
Edward Abbey - Monkey Wrenching
Edward Abbey - Lake Powell 1965
Edward Abbey - Desert Solitaire 65
A New Message From AAMikael
C.Proietto Paints Bad Kreuznach
New Jersey - The New Atlantis?
Moab - A Rare Beech B-45 (T-34A)
Howell Mountain, CA - Winemaking
Oakville, CA - Robt. Mondavi Wines
Crescent Junction, UT - in 1955
Craig Childs - Apocalyptic Planet
Mammoth Lakes, CA - 1st. Snowfall
Mesquite, NV - A Disappearing Act
The Mystery of Hovenweep Road
Moab Airport - Canyonlands Field
Moab, UT - Save Ken's Lake Puddle
Jeeps & Downtown Abbey in Moab
Moab Valley vs. Spanish Valley, UT
Moab, Utah - Go Behind the Rocks
Moab Adventure Xstream Race '12
Face on Mars - Is it John Lennon?
C.Proietto - Paints The Dolomites
Moab Tower - The Wireless Story
Brendel, Utah - A History Mystery
C.Proietto - New Mystery Painting
Tsunami Risks Up in Crescent Bays
"Moab Native" Potash Comments
C.Proietto - And The Glory of Rome
L.A. to Australia, by 34-ft. Sailboat
Interstate I-70 East through Utah
Mesquite, NV - Opportunity Lost?
Las Vegas, NV "Drive-by" - I-15N
Ivanpah Valley, CA - Mega-Solar
Pearblossom Hwy. - Palmdale Road
C.Proietto - Venice Sunset, Sunrise
24-Hours of Moab 2012 to Happen
C.Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist
AOL & Yahoo Mail Getting Hacked
ATM Retail Technology - New & Old
C.Proietto - Solving An Art Mystery
Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood - To The Sign & Beyond
Hollywood - Legendary Paul Pink's
Kokopelli Credit Union - New ATM
#1 Google Ranking & How to Get It
C.Proietto - Two New Oil Paintings
LACoFD Truck 8 at Hollywood Bowl
I-405 Golden Crane Air Hazard
Beware: Hoax/Scam Phishing Sites
A Quantum Leap in Super PAC $$$
I-405 Mulholland Bridge Update
Moab Skydiving Video - May 2011
Tonopah Desert, AZ Thunderstorm
Anticline Overlook - Ancient Spirit
ATM Bank Robbery Now Easier Still
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Chaco Canyon - Kin Klizhin Sunset
Chaco Canyon - Kin Klizhin Ruin
Chaco Canyon, Spirit of Lizard Man
Chaco Canyon, NM - Campground
White Mesa, Utah - Uranium Mill
Hidden Costs in Biofuels Revealed
Arches National Park Threatened
Moab Rail - The U. P. Potash Local
Toxic Purple Dust Covers Moab, UT
U.S. Highway 191 in Moab, Utah
Kindle Fire Tablet vs. Nook Tablet
Ken's Lake 2011 Update, Moab, UT
24-Minutes of Moab Kids Bike Race
24-Hrs. of Moab, The Final Sunset?
24-Hours of Moab 2011 Race Start
24-Hrs. of Moab Race Live Webcam
The Long Run - Eagles Tribute Band
Petrified Forest, Going, Going, Gone
Nuclear Dust Storm Hits Moab, UT
Moab Rainbow - August 1, 2011
C.Proietto - The Man From Amalfi
I-405 UCLA Rampage - 11/22/66
Moab Rim RV Campark - 2011
C.Proietto Paints the Amalfi Coast
C.Proietto - Modern Impressionist
I-405 Mulholland Drive Bridge
Moab Pile - Countdown to Disaster
Wigwam Village - Holbrook, AZ
Kathy Hemenway - World Citizen
Desert View Mobil - Needles, CA
Mojave Desert Transit in May 2011
Colorado River Basin At Risk - Ch.4
Holbrook, AZ Water Crisis - Ch. 3
Holbrook Basin, AZ Potash - Ch. 2
Little Colorado River Basin - Ch. 1
Port Orford, Oregon - Tsunami
Hope for Atlantis - Chapter 4
Future of Atlantis - Chapter 3
The New Atlantis - Chapter 2
Atlantis, Myth or Fact? - Chapter 1
Kevin Rutherford - Freightliner RV
WindSong - Ericson 35 Sailboat
Moab Pile - The Mill Tailings Train
Moab Pile - Here Comes the Flood
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Race
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - The Start
24-Hours of Moab 2010 - Pre-Race
Moab, Utah - Winter Snowstorms
Happy New Decade - 2011
Save Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah 2010
UPS Air - Moab, Utah Style
Crescent Junction & Brendel, Utah
Green River to Floy, Utah - Video
Moab Ranch - The Movie & Webcam
An Oregon Cascades Range Sunset
The Port at Port Orford, Oregon
Simi Valley, CA Two Live Webcams
Two New MoabLive.com Webcams
Ave. of the Giants, Humboldt, CA
Port Orford, OR - Of Bears & Deer
Goodbye Arizona - We'll Miss You.
Port Orford, OR - A Forest Home
Sun, Moon and the Chakras of Gaia
2010 Super Bowl Advertising
Navajo National Monument Sunset
California Redwoods Elk Herd
A New Decade - The 2010's Begin
Moab - Could Floods Happen Here?
Spanish Valley, UT - Wine & Water
24 Hours of Moab Race - 2009
CA - Rainforest or Dustbowl?
Edward Abbey House, Moab, UT
Kayenta, AZ to Blanding, Utah
U.S. Highway 89 N. to Navajoland
Quartzsite - Black Canyon City, AZ
Simi Valley, CA to Quartzsite, AZ
Phoenix, Moab, The Grand Canyon
Colorado River - A New Challenge
Moab, Utah - The Shafer Trail
2009 - Moab Live Webcam Update
Moab, Utah - Potash Road, Part 2
Moab, Utah - Potash Road, Part 1
SITLA Deal Threatens Uintah Basin
Moab Wildfire Near Pack Creek, UT
Moab Ranch - Plasma Flow Event
Mill Creek Canyon Hike - Part Two
Mill Creek Canyon Hike - Part One
Memorial Day 2009, Burbank, CA
A Happy Ending for the Moab Pile?
The Old Spanish Trail - New Again
Mesquite, Nevada - Boom or Bust
Larry L. Maxam - An American Hero
Winter Camping in the Desert 2009
Theory of Everything - Part Four
Theory of Everything - Part Three
Theory of Everything - Part Two
Theory of Everything - Part One
Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah
Access New Energy Now - 2008
The Four Corners States - Part 5
The Four Corners States - Part 4
The Four Corners States - Part 3
The Four Corners States - Part 2
The Four Corners States - Part 1
BC Buckaroos in Panama
Elton John T-shirt, Now Available
Arches National Park Threatened
BC Buckaroos Are Heading South
San Francisco, A New Energy City?
Seven Mile Canyon, Craig Childs
Matheson Wetlands Fire, Moab, UT
24-Hours of Moab Bike Race Finish
24-Hours at Moab Bike Race, Start
New York - The New Atlantis
Translate to Any Language Now
Marina del Rey, Summer Weekend
Seattle Shines in the Summertime
Oregon Battles With Itself - 2008
The Motor Yacht, Princess Mariana
Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park
The Mojave National Preserve, CA
Navajo National Monument, AZ
La Sal Mountains Loop Road, UT
The Moab Rim, Above and Below
Colorado Riverway Recreation, UT
Hovenweep - Twin Towers Standing
Aztec, New Mexico - Ancient Ruins
Kin Klizhin Ruin at Chaco Canyon
The Spirit of Pueblo Bonito, NM
Chaco Canyon, NM Sand and Rain
Homolovi Ruins State Park, AZ
ATM Bank Robbery Made Easy
Outstanding World Citizens, Fiji
Planning an Archetype Party
Sir Elton John - The Lost Concert
Start Writing Your Own Blog
My Unification Theory - 2008
Frito-Lay Beach-Trash Explosion
The Great Attractor, Revealed
Vibrational Thought & String Theory
The Long Run - Eagles Tribute Band
2006 Midterm Elections, Revisited
The Lost Murals of Denis O'Connor
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 10
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 9
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 8
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 7
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 6
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 5
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 4
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 3
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 2
Fiji Islands Paradise 2001 - Part 1
Save Natewa Bay, Fiji Islands
The Fiji Islands - Paradise Lost?
Face on Mars
How Water Helped Make The West
Yahoo! - Fighting Its Last Battle?
Helium Gas, Neither Earth nor Mars
Megatrend vs. Meganiche - 2007
German Hydrogen Bomb Ready
Passing The $100,000 Bill
Google Wins - Microsoft Withdraws
A.Word.A.Day, You Ought to Know
San Fernando Valley Winemaking
Divine Inspiration, Or Nearly So
Japanese Win The Space Race
2007 eCommerce - Made Easy
Discovering The Great Reflector
Navajo National Monument, Arizona
Moab, Utah Memories - 2007
Fall Color, Silverton, Colorado
Autumn Equinox in the Rockies
Hasta la Vista, Taos, New Mexico
Megatrends 2010 - The Book
The Quantum Leap, New Mexico
Chaco Canyon Memories 2007
Flame-Out in Phoenix, Arizona
Annals of Homeland Security '07
Quartzsite, AZ - RV Camping
The Quantum Leap Celebration
Welcome to my new weblog 2007!

Colorado River
Current Events
Fine Art
Moab, Utah
Mojave Desert
Personal Articles
Railroad Safety
South Pacific

‹‹ May 2024 ››
Wk M T W T F S S
18 1 2 3 4 5
19 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
20 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
21 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
22 27 28 29 30 31    

Please visit our other sites in the MoabLive network.


© 2007 JamesMcGillis.com - All rights reserved. | Contact Me | Privacy Policy | Sitemap | RSS | Atom | Admin | Design: Nicholas Savalas | Author | Publisher | Top