My wife and I live near a famous stretch of Rt. 66, Central Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Starting out from our home city we wanted to visit some of the iconic places left on this road and travel all the way to the California border. Once underway we stopped often to reflect on our national past! So here we are sharing the sights and some of the history on another one of our epic journeys with the help of our good friends at Topaz!
Getting Our Kicks on Route 66
This storied route is, to this day, one of the most famous roads in U.S. history. It had many names, the Will Rogers Highway, Main Street of America and the Mother Road. It was one of the original highways within the U. S Highway system and was established on November 11, 1926 with road signs erected the following year. Starting in Chicago, Illinois it passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, California covering a total of 2,448 miles. Who can forget it being memorialized in popular culture by both the hit song “Get your Kicks on RT 66” and the Route 66 Television show from the 60’s?
It was bypassed by the Interstate Highway System and replaced by it in 1985, but it served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The road supported the economies of the communities through which it passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the highway system. It underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime. “Historic Rt 66” is returning to some maps. Many of the states I mentioned have adopted significant bypassed sections of the former US 66 into their state road networks. It is many of these roads that we traveled on this trip!
The Land of Enchantment’s stretch of the Mother Road provides today’s Route 66 traveler with a variety of landscapes and sights from beautiful mountain ranges, to sandstone mesas, desert sagebrush, ponderosa pines and ghost towns. Along this vintage pavement you can also see ancient pueblo cities, both open and abandoned motels, lots of neon signs, and an eclectic mix of ancient and contemporary cultures.
The first photo is from the Ghost Town of Cuervo just off of Interstate 40 which was cut in half when the new Interstate highway was built! This old farm house photo was done in Black and White Effects with a custom White Chocolate preset. The next photo of the old motels’ neon signs on Central Avenue is a multi layer composite done with Glow and Remask. I am very sad to say that the Desert Sands Motel burned down in 2016 and was never rebuilt. We drove past The Laguna Pueblo overlooking I-40 which stands in the shadow of Mount Taylor. The name Laguna is Spanish (meaning “small lake”) and derives its name from the lake located on their reservation. The real name of the tribe is Kawaik. The population of the tribe exceeds 7,000 enrolled members, making it the largest Keresan-speaking tribe. The white Mission San José de la Laguna was erected by the Spanish at the old pueblo and finished around July 4, 1699.
Rt 66 still serves communities that the freeway avoids. We traveled the last and longest remaining stretch of the Mother Road in Arizona stopping at many historic and interesting places and towns on the way to California!
Hackberry almost became a ghost town and at one point artist Bob Waldmire, the owner of the Hackberry General Store from 1992-1998, was a resident. Members of the Grigg family have lived in in this town since the 1890s. Hackberry cemetery has seven generations of Grigg family members buried there. We stopped by this famous store and just had so much fun wandering around and seeing all kinds of neat relics from the Old Days! I really like to experiment with different programs to render my photographs in many artistic ways. The first photo was done with Clarity (I did add the clouds with ReMask!). I also chose to use selective coloring, which I have featured in past blogs on some of these photographs as it is another of my favorite techniques. By using Remask, Clarity and custom Black and White Effects Filters you can see what I mean. It works very well on these types of subjects.
Tip: Working in duplicate Layers and using one for each Topaz Program allows you to adjust the opacity of each Topaz preset to get just the desired result you are looking for! Simplify and Impression are wonderful for creating unique memories of the places you visit as evidenced in these two interesting photographs. Oh, and a little Detail at 65% at Opacity does not hurt either on the last photograph!
Route 66 starts the climb up the Gold Hill Grade of the famous Sitgreaves Pass towards Oatman, Arizona.
A reborn old gas station, now a museum, stands as a testament to days gone by at the entrance to this canyon. Many traveled this famous stretch of Rt. 66. There were many stories and day-to-day dramas long ago. Cool Springs was the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the animated movie “Cars”!
My good friend, fellow Photographer and Topaz user, Rhonda Spidell writes:
“Floyd Spidell was my grandfather and he owned and maintained Cool Springs. Cool Springs gas station was a beacon to weary travelers as they headed West to make a new life for themselves after the Dust Bowl days. Cool Springs still stands twenty miles West of Kingman and at the start of Sitgreaves Pass, one of the most treacherous sections of old Route 66. Floyd transformed Cool Springs into a tourist camp with gas, supplies, repairs as well as serving what was known as the best fried chicken on Route 66. He raised his own chickens right there on the property. My favorite memory of visiting Grandfather at Cool Springs was when he let the three grandkids reach into the old metal cooler and grab our favorite soda pops. My favorite was Nehi Grape Soda”
The first two photos of Cool Springs and Sitgreaves pass were taken on our recent trip and enhanced with Clarity. I want to thank Rhonda for providing these other historic photographs, including Floyd and her dad, Everett Spidell at Cool Springs in 1942 doing some remodeling. The black and white photographs are of the pass, including one from an “old” car rally a few years ago and Cool Springs Circa the 1920’s. She also did a marvelous job using Clarity on her photograph with the Chevy Belair in it!
Oatman is an authentic western ghost town and mining camp located on the longest stretch, 167 continuous miles, of Historic Route 66. It is complete with historic buildings, museums and unique gift shops nestled into the surrounding scenic towering mountains. The town is visited by the roaming wild burros, who come into town each day and walk the streets looking for a handout by the tourists. They are the descendants of the burros that worked for the miners. Tourists can buy feed for them, but are cautioned to take care when feeding them. While very tame they are wild! There are many historic old buildings left in town. We stopped in the Oatman Hotel and had ice cream and just wandered around enjoying the history!
On to the California border!
Between Oatman and the California state Line, the original alignment is now known as Oatman Road. The newer alignment, via Yucca is now I-40. The older alignment passes through the Black Mountains complete with numerous hairpin turns. This area is desert! Here you see a fine example of just how deserted these landscapes are with the help of Clarity! Oh, to be back in the early days with a convertible with the top down would have been a blast and certainly full of many “KICKS”!
Thanks to you all for sharing this continuing and wonderful journey with us. Many thanks to all my good friends at Topaz labs for their outstanding software and support!
More adventures to follow! Be sure to see Gary’s past adventures.
As always please checkout all the work of all the other fine Artists on the Topaz Labs Website!
Photos All Rights Reserved
About Gary Lamott
Gary Lamott has been a photographer for over forty years, starting with black and white film and now working exclusively with digital. He is a member of many Art Associations and groups, including being a former contributing Member of the Artist Advisory Committee of Main Street Art in Newfields, NH, a Board Member Emeritus of the Seacoast Artist Association in Exeter, NH, an award winning juried artist of the Plymouth, Mass Guild for the Arts, a member of the New Mexico Art League and the Albuquerque Photographers Gallery, as well as a member of several photo groups.
He is an Affiliate and regular contributor to Topaz Labs Software. He has developed blogs, educational tutorials and content for Topaz products and has been featured in their software promotions, product pages and galleries since October of 2013. His photo “Island In the Sky” was featured in the Topaz Labs February 2014 promotion in Photoshop User Magazine.
He participated in NH Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter’s Art On Loan Program, including having a photo on display in her Washington, DC office.
As part of their photographic quest and after traveling more than 40,000 miles over the last 30 years, especially in the Four Corner States, he and his wife fulfilled their long-time goal of moving from New Hampshire to live in the exquisite light of New Mexico’s high deserts and mountains.
“My vision is to create original images that represent the spirit of the places that we travel to. I think of Photography as an art form. I use both my cameras and today’s software to create my images, which provide endless possibilities for unique photographs. When taking photos I feel the Artist’s vision is the most important aspect of all.”