Thursday, May 10, 2018

Livingston Depot

The Livingston Rail Depot is one of the finest such depots remaining in America, especially rural America. Few people take a close look at the fine touch architectural details that make this depot so majestic and memorable.  We visited this US 89 monument on May 8 and here are some close ups of the "finer points" of The Livingston Depot.

For a brief history of this Regionally Significant structure, see:

We're finishing up The Drive on US 89 from Mexico to Canada.  We use Twitter when we're traveling:

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Gardiner, Montana

Gardiner, Montana, predates The famous Roosevelt Arch by at least 20 years.  But it's that Arch that has always defined Gardiner since 1903 when Teddy Roosevelt just happened to be camping in the vicinity to dedicate this magnificent masterpiece.
Here's the Long View of Gardiner, Montana.  Yes, it truly IS The Northern Gateway to Yellowstone National Park.  You can easily make a convincing case that Gardiner is THE FIRST and Mostest Gateway to Yellowstone.  It's an iconic Montana town in every way.
What put Gardiner on the map was the Northern Pacific Railroad (NPRR).  Once NPRR built a line to Gardiner and erected a Classic Depot, well, the rest was history.  The NPS back then felt chagrined & challenged that there was no "fitting & suitable" gateway to Yellowstone and that's how and why The Arch can into existence.
Gardiner is in an odd spot.  Technically, the NPS boundary is on the curb line in front of these old cars.  The NPS has cut it some slack over the years.  Old US 89 came onto NPS turf and turned right to go over and under The Arch.
This is The Arch when the "pay station" was just on the other side.  Countless millions of travelers on old US 89 went under The Arch to enter Yellowstone and pay their fee.
This old photo of Gardiner from the 1880's says it all  Rarely was any Old West community constrained by a dividing line.  Well, back in those days, if you messed with the boundary line between private property and Yellowstone National Park, the full force of the US Army would be IN YOUR FACE!

Old US 89 has the unique distinction of being THE PLACE to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service on August 25, 2016.  As chance would have it, we obtained a press pass from "The Post-Register" of Idaho Falls and were there for the full event.  We took 100's of photos and have uploaded them online.  We will post the links soon.  (Montana Governor Steve Bullock is speaking in this picture.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Yarnell Hill

Here's a 1:55 video recorded 03APR18 showing a portion of old US 89 on Yarnell Hill:
Memories of driving Yarnell Hill are burned forever into the minds of motorists and passengers who braved that nefarious five-mile defile back in the days of old US 89.  Ask anyone who experienced Yarnell Hill when it was a white knuckle two-lane adventure and the stories will come pouring forth.

The names are lost of whoever decided to run a road straight up a cliff-faced, boulder-strewn monster of a mountainside.  We know that construction of Yarnell Hill's famous cousin, The White Spar Highway, factored heavily into the Arizona State Highway Department's decision to tackle an almost impossible engineering challenge.  The Yarnell Hill stretch of the  Prescott-Phoenix highway itself was chiseled and shoe-horned onto the rugged slopes alongside aptly named Fool's Gulch in 1925.
Note that Elephant Curve is an actual place name on this older USGS topo map.
 State engineers somehow managed to sidewind 40 curves and create a road from the desert flats to the crest of Yarnell Hill while maintaining a steady six percent grade.  The road gained (or dropped) 1,290 feet in the steepest four mile stretch.

Today's Yarnell Hill highway is a tame kitten compared to the wildcat it once was.  Northbound (climbing) travelers have a wide two lane boulevard that winds gently amid the stark, rock-studded scenery.  Meanwhile, what was once perhaps the most feared hill in Central Arizona has become the southbound (descending) lane.

Even though downhill drivers no longer have to fear hard-charging uphill traffic rip snorting 'round the tight curves, it's still somewhat of a daunting dive down off Yarnell Hill.  Better make sure your brakes are in tip top shape!

One of old Arizona US 89's finest remaining highway artifacts is located on the southbound lane of the mountainside.  It's the Yarnell Hill Overlook and it looks virtually unchanged from when it  was constructed sometime in the 1920's.

 The above old photo shows The Yarnell Hill overlook sometime before November 1933. That's when the C.C. Small "Father of Arizona Highways" Memorial Plaque was placed at the overlook.  Below is how the overlook appeared on April 3, 2018.
C.C. Small's Memorial plaque stood alone on Yarnell Hill until recently.  That's when an Arizona State Park Memorial was created a half mile away to honor The Arizona 19, The Granite Mountain Hot Shots who perished nearby on June 30, 2013.

Here's C.C. Small's July 1925 discussion of how the Prescott-Phoenix Highway route was chosen:

We plan to post numerous photos of our April 3,2018 drive down and up Yarnell Hill soon.

Friday, March 30, 2018


This is  William Lacy Carpenter Sr.'s garage in Wickenburg.  Many thanks  to US 89 Team Life Member
James W. Carpenter for sharing this awesome memento of Family History.  See below for current view.

Wickenburg, Arizona, has no need for an extra helping of history.  Wickenburg's history alone stands tall and strong in the pantheon of iconic Arizona's culture.

Dear US 89 Team Life Member James Carpenter's Grand Dad ran THE  major auto garage in Wickenburg back-in-the-day.  It was right smack dab in what's now the chic core of downtown.

US 89 was the "step child" of  major US highways driving forcefully through the Heart of The Grand Canyon State.  US 89 tagged along for the ride with US 80 from South Tucson and then joined Muy Mas Amigos at Florence Junction and the Four Horsemen of US 60-70-80-89 rode roughshod through Main Street Mesa, the Tempe Apache Curve, Mill Avenue Bridge, Van Buren, Grand Avenue and beyond.  OH, what Glory Hiway Daze those were!

But let's get back to Wickenburg.  US 60-70-89 jammed up onto the WPA's Big Time Bridge across the Hassayampa River (AKA: The Liar's River).  All those conjoined highways went straight into the Heart of Wickenburg.  Two veered left and dived under the railroad.  One went right to destiny.

Wickenburg is a great place today to ponder our Highway Heritage Legacy.  You can stand on the historic bridge that shotgunned traffic right into downtown Wickenburg.  You can catch a glimpse of the lasting remnant of an ancestral auto fueling station and garage.

Wickenburg is rich in history of its own.  It's unlikely anyone there will ever "catch on" to the town's Highway History.  It would make a Good Story if they did and certainly make the town a compelling stop for Highway Heritage Tourists in seek of an authentic connection to the Old Days.
Underneath the historic photo above---IF you look closely, you will see a tell tale diagonal roof section.
Here it is in modern times, photographed on March 24, 2018, during The Drive from Mexico to Canada.

Look at this Great convoluted route of US 89 through Wickenburg!  YES!  It turned a 90 and went right past the Carpenter Garage!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Cameron to Navajo Bridge - 1931

The March 1931 edition of "Arizona Highways" contains a gem of an article about construction of US 89 from Cameron to Navajo Bridge over The Colorado River.  Perhaps even before the bridge was dedicated in June 1929, lobbying began to allocate funds for improvement of US 89 from Flagstaff to the Utah stateline at Fredonia.  It appears that much of this lobbying came more from Utah leaders rather than Arizona interests.  Improvement of US 89 on the Western Navajo Reservation came entirely from federal funds so it may have been easier for politicians to jump start highway improvement there. 

(Editor's Note: The text below was transcribed verbatim from the
online PDF source format into ASCII text and reformatted here.)

The largest highway construction project in Arizona is officially known as Federal Aid Project 604-95B. It consists of grading and drainage of approximately forty miles of U. S. Highway 89 extending northward from Cameron towards Lee's Ferry bridge on the Flagstaff-Fredonia highway. The project lies wholly within the bounderies of the Western N'avajo Indian reservation and consequently is entirely financed by the federal government.  Highway U. S. 89 is destined to become one of the important north to south highways of the west and will give the tourist travel of the NorthWest states access to the wonderland of Arizona. It passes through a country abundant in beautiful scenery and natural wonders, including the Zion Park of Utah, the Kaibab forest of Arizona, the Grand Canyon, Rainbow Lodge, Natural  bridge, the painted desert and petrified forests. On the portion of the highway now building one can find on the broad mesas beautiful, vari-colored petrified woods. In the walls of the deep canyons can be seen the silicified bones and teeth of the pre-historic Dinosaur, Labryinthodonts and Pythosaur, the first lung breathing animals that roamed these regions one hundred and twenty million years ago.

Vivid Hued Sandstones

The road when completed will pass through country formed mostly of a wide variety of sandstones which are themselves traversed by deep canyons scoured out by rainfall runoff. As the minerals in the exposed surfaces oxidize, brilliant colors are produced which form a natural matrix and present a picture-like landscape of beautifully vivid hues. A construction feature, somewhat unique to the project, is that these sandstones, which are suitable for the purpose, largely, replace concrete as a structural material in bridge piers, abutments, foundations and pipe headwalls. The climate of the district is semiarid, making available water supply one of the important points for consideration in construction methods and costs. Fortunately, however, underground or "inter"Strata" flows break through to the surface at irregular intervals along the line of the whole project and furnish adequate supply of water, usually potable and sometimes exceptionally pure. Enormous pieces of petrified trees are seen scattered throughout the vicinity indicating heavy forestration at some earlier period, though at present there is little or no vegetation. Wood for fuel is obtained from the scattering growth of juniper and a fair grade of coal can be had from the government mine near the Indian School at Tuba City.

Heavy Trucking Required

Except where the contour is broken by the canyons already mentioned the topography of the country can hardly be said to be rugged and the slope rises more or less regularly from an elevation of 4200 feet above sea level at the beginning of the project to 5900 feet at Cedar Ridge, the highest point, near the northern end, thence declines to the Colorado River at Lees Ferry. Flagstaff, some 55 miles distant from Cameron, is the closest shipping and supply point so trucking expense becomes one of the major items in the cost of construction. The following quantities of material, which will have to be handled by truck before the job is completed, are worthy of note:

605,000 Ibs. of structural steel.
281,000 Ibs. of reinforcing steel.
7,800 feet of 24", 30", 36", dia. corrugated metal pipe.
30,000 sacks of cement.
Many thousand feet of lumber for forms, .etc.
hay and grain for 100 head of stock and the required supplies
for separate camps, with an aggregate population of several hundred persons.

Portable School House

The contract, one of the longest ever let in one piece by the Department, was awarded last October to Yeater and Davis of El Paso, Texas, who began work at the southern end of the project in November. Their base camp was then established at the end of the first five mile section of the road and now consists of the customary dwelling tents and cabins, boarding houses, commissary, garages and shops. The camp also is the proud possessor of a portable school house, probably the only one of its kind in the state, which can be moved without notice to wherever it is most needed on the project. This building, designed for the comfort and convenience of its occupants, is built of tongue and groove lumber held together with bolts and is equipped with regular school-desks, blackboards and all modern, up-to-date appliances. It has a capacity of twenty pupils and one teacher and is always filled. The contractors built and maintain the building while the county pays the salary of the teacher. Special attention was given to safety in laying out the school grounds and ample space provided to obviate the danger of getting struck by a passing toxi if one should by chance, "Babe Ruth" the ball out of the lot. Altogether the camp gives the impression of a little city in contrast to the vast barren surroundings.

Much of the unskilled labor for the work was recruited from the local Indians who, with their long black hair, moccasined feet and silver jewelry set with turquoise dangling from their ears and around their necks, make a pleasing contrast to the ordinary run of camp laborers. The rest of the camp citizenry is made up of skinners, truck drivers, stone masons, mechanics. together with their families.

For accessibility's sake the engineers' camp was established in a well protected and secluded canyon about a mile to the east of the halfway point of the project at what is known as Willow Springs. This spot, probably due to the high quality of the water and the fact that watering places were few and far between, attracted the early Mormon settlers and became a stopping place for travelers through this country in 1873. The camp consists of a couple of cabins, bunkhouses, mess hall and an engineering office. These buildings were designed and built for their specific purposes in connection with this project, are heated with Tuba City coal and supplied with water through a new gravity pipe line from Willow Springs.

Good Progress Reported

Even though, as already stated, sandstone largely replaces concrete in the construction of the road, there will be some 2900 cubic yards of class "A" concrete used in bridge decks, cappings, etc. This item alone constitutes approximately 16 per cent of the cost of the project. Rubble masonry, while composing over forty-five per cent of the bulk of all structures combined, accounts for about 15.5 per cent of the total cost of the project. The grade itself (cut and fill) 32 per cent; subgrade stabilizer, five per cent; structural excavation, five per cent; structural steel, eight per cent; drainage excavation, rip-rap and corrugated metal pipes, 14 per cent, while the balance of 100 per cent of the cost is made up of such incidentals as clearing and grubbing the right-of-way, placing 8,140 feet of cable guard fence, etc. The total cost of the completed project will amount to about half a million dollars and will require over 400 days in its construction. December 31 is the tentative date of completion. At the end of the four months that the work has already been under way the grade has passed the ten mile point and reached Moencopi Wash, where one of the largest bridges of the project is to be built. Here the contractors have already established a subcamp on the south bank of the stream where a water supply is available. Little interference with the work by inclement weather has yet been experienced and similar weather conditions are anticipated.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Clarkdale Cement Plant

The Clarkdale Cement Plant Story grabs onto a fault, an ancient ocean floor, a 1912 railroad, the politics of power and The Verde Valley to forever reshape  the route of US 89, too. Don Godard, Verde Valley Storyteller Emeritus, described The Clarkdale Cement Plant's origin, evolution and overall folk history on 23FEB18 at the Clemenceau Heritage Museum in Cottonwood, Arizona, not far off of old US 89A.
Godard went to work for the Phoenix Cement Plant on October 25, 1959, just in time to witness the first shipment of cement north to its fateful destination in Glen Canyon at what's now known as Page, Arizona. The Clarkdale Cement Plant was created specifically to produce cement to make concrete to continuously pour into what became Glen Canyon Dam.  The Verde Fault, uplifted The Redwall Limestone into easy surface mining exposure.  W.A. Clark's famous 1912 Clarkdale railroad provided a convenient conduit for coal to fire limestone-cooking kilns.  The  Verde Valley aquifer provided copious water and the young local men jumped at the chance to join the coveted Phoenix Cement Plant payroll. 
Don Godard remembers most everything about his days of working at The Clarkdale Cement Plant,
including the cement truck use of US89A  up & down The Switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon. One truck left the pant every 15 minutes 24/7/365 until Glen Canyon Dam was finished.
The Salt River Pima Maricopa Tribe has invested untold millions of dollars in plant.
From the late 1950's to the mid080's, the plant was infamous for spreading alkaline cement dust onto cars, homes, fences and other personal possessions in Clarkdale.  A bypass highway as constructed to keep the cement dust from spreading farther.

 Don Godarg regaled his audience with stories that only "one who knows" can tell.

Every  speck of cement that went into the concrete that 
created Glen Canyon Dam came from Clarkdale.
A "Haul Road" from Clarkdale to Page was crated for the 24-7-365 transit of the cement trucks.
The so-called "Big Cut" on US 89 between Marble Canyon and Page owes its existence to the need to get cement from Clarkdale to Page as efficiently and quickly as possible.
The first shipments of cement from Clarkdadle undoubtedly went to pour the Glen Canyon Bridge deck.  The first pour of actual concrete into Glen Canyon Dam itself didn't take place until June 16, 1960.