Vol. VII, No. 2, Fall 1993 / Winter 1994

A Trip on Old-Very Old-Route 66

by John T. Woodruff

The promotion of highways, particularly one over two thousand miles in length, entails much work and some hardship. In the summer of 1928, an important association meeting was called at Flagstaff, Arizona. It was necessary for me to go there. So on a Saturday morning I started from Springfield with my son Tom, then fifteen, who was driver of our Pierce-Arrow roadster. Oklahoma City was our objective overnight.

We tarried on the way at Joplin, Vinita, and Tulsa, and arrived at the Oklahoma capitol about dusk. We expected to make Amarillo, four hundred miles, by Sunday night. Thence to Flagstaff on Monday for the meeting the next day, leaving Oklahoma City at sunrise. Before reaching Clinton, a hundred-mile journey, rain set in--not a gentle rain but a generous downpour. The further we went, the heavier the rainfall.

We reached Groom, Texas with great difficulty at five o'clock, forty miles short of our objective. There we learned that highway 66 was under repair, heavily flooded and impassable. The advice was that we must detour to Panhandle, forty miles north, and then thirty miles west into Amarillo.

We took the detour at once and proceeded with all possible speed, which was slowed down to not exceeding six miles per hour, due to muddy conditions worse than I had ever experienced. Night came on and with it continued rain. Soon we found ourselves behind a large sedan heavily loaded, less able to combat the mud than our own car. There was no chance to pass so we slowed down and followed.

In a little while the sedan sent went into a ditch. We tried to render assistance, but the effort was futile. We did journey on and after a few miles we went down with no hope of getting back on the road, though we tried heroically to do so.

We were cold, wet, hungry, but there we stayed until dawn. Even then, casting about we found no means of relief. But at daylight we saw about a mile ahead the top of a windmill. We concluded there must be habitation, so Tom took to the muddy road toward it. About an hour later he brought back a farmer with two small ponies harnessed, the man riding one, Tom the other, with a heavy chain on the withers of the larger pony.

With difficulty the car was pulled back on the road, but the mud was too deep for it to go forward on its own power. I engaged the farmer to pull us into Panhandle, fifteen miles distant. We arrived there around 11 o'clock. Then we headed to Amarillo, but did not arrive there until after four.

The day was lost, but we hoped we might drive on a paved highway leading west from Amarillo and reach Tucumcary during the night. We hurried on, and at the New Mexico line halted to find out, if we could, the road conditions on west.

Fortunately along came a man out of New Mexico, and we inquired of him as to the condition of the road he had traversed. His answer was, "My God man, if it's not a matter of life and death don't tackle it." He then described the struggle he had encountered during the day. It was as bad or worse than what we had experienced.

At that we turned around and went back to Amarillo. Tom remained there and I took a night train for Flagstaff arriving in time for the meeting Tuesday morning. It proved successful in that we had fine representation from California, Judge George Stevenson heading the delegation. We also had a goodly number from Arizona and a larger number from New Mexico.

Muddy Road.


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