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Road Trips and Other Matters


The Road and Route 66

Once, as I was entering the small Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona, I stumbled upon this old Air Stream trailer on the eastern edge of town. At first, I thought it was abandoned. But, as I started making pictures I realized two things. It wasn’t abandoned. And, it was functioning as an artist studio. Those square objects in the window are actually canvases in various states of completion. The artist wasn’t there or I would have asked to see his or her work. And, step inside.

Seligman. And me. The little town is a touchstone to my own history. When we were young, our parents liked to go to the Southwest. Often, they didn’t have enough time for a really leisurely road trip, so we’d leave after normal work hours on a Friday, drive all night and stop in Seligman. That became a day long rest stop because you could explore from there.

In those days, the little town wasn’t the tourist attraction it is today. Most buildings were abandoned and boarded up. There was a little motel and a restaurant called the Copper Kettle. My memory is not that great. I know this because it is still there today, some fifty years later. It was marginal then, and it is marginal today. Vegetables were, and are, an unknown to them. The best they could do was either glazed carrots or creamed spinach. From a can. But, they served great country breakfasts. They still do. Go there for breakfast. Go to another town for lunch.

Today, as small as it is — you can see all of it in about five minutes if you are in a hurry — the town is booming. It seems to be the depository for all things Route 66 in that general region. Old cars. Old signs. Old gas pumps. If you like the kind of rolling junk iron cars you can find in Cuba, you can find them in Seligman. Without the humidity. If you like road food like burned hamburgers, cheap hot dogs and soggy french fries — yep — you can find it in Seligman. If you are trying to photograph Route 66, like I was at the time, you can probably do most of it in Seligman and just tell your client you drove 1,200 or 1,500 miles.

I didn’t do that. I’m kind of OCD about that stuff.

The picture. Well you know. More of my playing around. The Air Stream is actually in really good shape. Even its tires were properly inflated, which is one of the first things to go in the dry desert heat.

One more thing. I usually do these kind of road trips in the spring or fall. The light is better and it’s not so hot. But, for the full Route 66 experience I suggest you do it in the dead of summer. When, even with an air-conditioned car, you stick to the seats.

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