Note: The path of the National Old Trails Road was shifted to the Santa Fe-Grand Canyon-Needles National Highway through Flagstaff, Kingman, Needles and Barstow during the national NOTR convention in Kansas City, April 29, 1913. ― SV
Since the Automobile Club began its campaign for marking the National Old Trails road eastward from Los Angeles, up through the time the project was in a formative period and following the actual undertaking of the work it has had considerable to say about this enterprise and its own connection with it.
In the present issue the Automobile Club is content to sit back and merely convey the opinions of others concerning the route and the sign posting work that the Automobile Club and the National Old Trails Road Association are doing.
First we will quote Mr. M. J. Riordan, of Flagstaff, Arizona, who has covered the course of the National Old Trails Road from Santa Fe westward many times and who knows the beauty of the section through which the route passes by reason of long residence and travel in the West. Mr. Riordan speaks:
“The highwayman (if I may use this word in the good sense which it originally bore, and to which the good roads movement is, I hope, going to restore it) from New York and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Illinois and Nebraska, when he motors to Arizona, will want to see the point where Coronado camped with his gentlemen’s exploring party at Bernalillo, in New Mexico; he will want to cross the very stretches of country that the first detail of European civilization traversed on its way to the Grand Canyon in 1541; he will want to see the site of the first Capital of Arizona, at Navajo Springs; the great Chalcedony Park, with its treasures of rainbow color imprisoned in the forest turned to stone, near Adamana; he will want to travel for some distance, at least, the old Star Route trail; he will want to visit the Hopi villages, the scene to this day of the most remarkable religious rite, in the form of the Snake Dance, known on this continent; he will want to see the marvelous colors of the Painted Desert, of which Van Dyke tells so beautifully, and which Sauerwein, Lungren, Farny, Akin, and Rollins have painted so touchingly; he will want to see the banks of colored clays by the shores of the Little Colorado River, when the moonlight sleeps upon them more sweetly than it slept upon the bank at Belmont; he will want to see the tremendous chasm at Meteor, where what was practically a miniature other world collided with this world with the result of leaving a scar six hundred feet in depth and more than a mile in diameter upon the face of our desert; he will want to see the great gash that cleaves the rock for a depth of over two hundred feet and for a distance of many miles at Canyon Diablo; he will want to see the remarkable prehistoric ruins in Walnut Canyon just south of Flagstaff; he will want to see the Cave Dwellings, the oldest form of human habitation known on this continent, lying just east of Flagstaff; he will want to see Sunset Mountain, the most delicately colored piece of natural scenery on the face of the earth, with the rose of the sun on its summit and the gloom of the clouds on its slopes; he will want to see from the summit of the San Francisco Peaks the greatest group of extinct volcanoes in any part of the world; he will want to travel the same route Lieutenant Ives, with his historic party, traveled in 1857-58, when he made his trip up the Colorado River; he will want to travel to the Grand Canyon, that ‘thought of God on earth expressed,’ and the greatest of His thoughts in respect of natural scenery; he will want to travel in the footsteps of Fray Garces, who in 1776 was wandering along the banks of this very Canyon while the Liberty Bells were ringing in Philadelphia; he will want to pass under the shadows of Bill Williams Mountain in the ways of Lieutenant Wheelerʼs expeditions west of the one-hundredth meridian.
“All these and more will these highwaymen of the East and these highwaymen of the West, who will go down to Arizona in their cars, want to cast their eyes upon and see, before they enter into the promised land of Southern California. For these travelers, visions of alfalfa, and prunes, and lemons, and oranges, and green fields, and fat pastures, and contented cattle, and waving ostrich plumes, will be no attraction as against the fascination of the historic and scenic interests that lie along the thirty-fifth parallel in Northern Arizona. The fatness of the land will lie before them in the Salt River Valley and in the glowing fields of California. Here they will revel in the romantic story of the beginnings of American history, and will rejoice in the scenery made without hands and without plows, and which those who will may harvest.”
Next we introduce to you Mr. R. A. Woodall of Chicago. Mr. Woodall is the representative of the Blue Book Publishing Company, the largest automobile route and map service concern in the United States. Mr. Woodall has traversed all of the middle western states and most of the eastern states charting roads and securing map data for his company. His first trip to California was made by automobile from Raton, New Mexico, over the National Old Trails Road. Here is what he says of the route and the Club signs upon it:
“The road was great. Unbelievably good for a route that extends mile after mile through a country where there are no signs of human habitation and where the evidences of the road builder’s activity is the only indication that one is not a pioneer in an uninhabited country. Why, with our population in the East, if we possessed the good roads spirit in an equal degree with you westerners and were willing to spend the money on our roads in the same proportion to our wealth and population that you do, we could build such highways that you couldn’t induce our residents to ever leave them. I thought I knew what the good roads spirit was before, but I didn’t.
“As to the Automobile Club’s sign system on this National Old Trails Route it is the most complete and finished work that I have ever seen. We traveled westward from Raton and struck the Club’s construction car near Albuquerque. Before reaching it we had been compelled to make many inquiries as there are numerous divergent roads and we found that our maps were not sufficient guides in themselves. When we saw a big, white truck that looked like a circus van with the name of the Automobile Club of Southern California emblazoned on its sides we hailed it with great good cheer, for we figured that now we would receive some authentic information that would enable us to cover the rest of the road into Los Angeles with little difficulty.When we spoke to the road crew, and, pencil in hand, prepared to take copious notes, we were told that all that was necessary for us to do was to follow the Club’s signs and we couldn’t lose our way. That was literally true. We were not held up a single moment by lack of knowledge of the route. Instead of too few signs there are more than enough. Just as an instance of how complete this service is, I remember an incident that occurred one evening when we were a considerable distance from a town and had determined to camp along the road for the night. The necessary thing in camping out there on the desert is to find water and while we were discussing the matter we came upon an Automobile Club sign that solved our problem for us. It pointed the way to an admirable camping ground, with the information that water and wood were there available. That’s what I call ‘real sign work’.”
We thank Mr. Woodall for those kind words and we appreciate them all the more as coming from a man who has had extensive touring experience and knows the difficulty of automobile travel in sparsely populated sections of the country. Mr. Woodall, of course, made the side trip from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, following the Club’s signs to El Tovar hotel and returning to the main highway at Williams with the Club’s signs as his guide. He didn’t try to describe the Grand Canyon. He just said it was tremendous and then he paid a very wonderful compliment to our Southern California country. He said that in his opinion the most inspiring incident of the trip, after the Canyon, was the view west from the summit of Cajon Pass.
“We were traveling for hours over the grey, desert roads with the mountains in front of us through which we knew we must pass and expecting the same sort of a country beyond them. Finally we reached a sign marked “Summit.” We began the descent and then rounding a turn we beheld a panorama that took our breath. Green fields stretching as far as we could see, groves of trees, orchards, all green, a mighty pleasing contrast to the unwatered land through which we had come. That view alone was worth the trip.”
Mr. Woodall predicts an automobile invasion of Southern California over the National Old Trails Road next year that will do wonders for the West by opening the eyes of the Easterner to the resources and the undeveloped possibilities of southwestern United States and he says further that he believes one of the most important factors in bringing these motorists west is the publicity that has been given to the National Old Trails route by the Club’s sign work upon it.