Saturday – October 28th
Slept rather cold in the hut – still raining when we get up about 9:00 a.m. Had some wonderful scenery. Passed thru the Imperial Valley where lots of Egyptian cotton is grown. Very pretty. Passed thru some snow before we hit the valley tho. Got out of the rain about 10 o’clock. Hit Death Valley about noon. Sure has the right name too. Walked, pushed and did most every other way to get thru. Hit the sand storm. Real mts of sand. Camped at Yuma on the Colorado River.
Approximate mileage 143 miles.
The Shepherds Bridge was near El Centro. I was able to match Lloyd’s bridge picture with the ones here. I then was able to find out that the bridge was destroyed in 1976 when Hurricane Kathleen hit Southern California. Looking at the Google Map view of the area you can see the old roadway. It’s interesting to see how the road has been realigned over the years.
To travel between Imperial Valley California and Yuma, Lloyd would have had to travel on the plank road.
The first plank road was built in 1912 and only took 3 weeks to complete. This road looked more like a railroad track with tracks for the auto tires and sand in between. The road was 6 miles long and one lane wide with turnouts every mile. If cars met in the middle, one car would have to back up until it reached a turnout. This road was built to reduce the distance from El Centro California to Yuma.
In 1917 a longer (8 mile) road was completed with turnouts every ½ mile. Maintenance of the road was constant as the shifting sand covered the roads or the wooden planks needed repairs.
The western start of the road began at Grey’s Wells and the Eastern side was at New County Wells. Both had signs that stated
“Caution. This is a one way road with passing sidings. If another car is between you and the next passing sign, pull out and wait. Save delay and danger. Use caution.”
“Caution. Traffic limitation while on plank road, Maximum speed 10 miles per hour by order of the California Highway Commission.”
Turnouts were marked by a tall pole with a tire on the top so that it could be seen from a distance.
Travel on the road could be dangerous. The shifting sands caused many problems but also the dry desert heat, traffic jams, fights, weather could cause delays. It was advised that travelers should take extra blankets, food, water, car supplies in case of emergency. It was not uncommon for a trip to take 2 days. As the road became more heavily traveled, fights broke out when drivers going in the opposite directions refused to backtrack to the nearest turnabout.
There are some excellent articles on the plank road. California Bureau of Land Management, San Diego History Journal, San Diego Auto Museum, DesertUsa, and US Hwy 80.
Sunday – October 29th
Had breakfast and pulled out about 8 o’clock. Got lost just out of Dome on the desert. The roads are very very bad. 10 miles per hour is good time. Hit about 3 houses on our road today. Camping at Sentinel tonight. Nothing here but two houses so we are camping out on the open desert. Have a nice camp fire.
Approximate mileage 90.2 miles.
They were still on the Bankhead Highway, the Old Spanish Trail, and the Lee and Dixie Overland Highways.
Even though this next fact occurred four years after Lloyd traveled thru Arizona, I thought it was interesting. When the numbered highways were implemented in 1926, Arizona adopted a state boundary emblem for its signs that included a swastika superimposed on an Indian arrowhead. It was used in some of the Indian art and symbolized good luck for the traveler. It was removed in the 40s during the war.
Monday – October 30th
The coyotes howled most all night so our rest was disturbed some. Had breakfast and left real early. Pass thru more desert country. Come to an Indian reservation about 35 miles east of Phoenix. See some Indian children washing their heads in a lake. Came thru the Gila Valley which is very beautiful. Stay in Phoenix a few hours. Very pretty place about 35,000 population. Cook supper on the Salt River valley then ride to Superior where we camp in a small room in a bachelors shack. This is a large copper mining town.
Approximate mileage 171 miles.
They were still on the four main highways until just before Superior. At this point all the roads went south to Douglas. They traveled a straighter route to the town of Lordsburg. This route was not named.
I think he meant 35 miles west instead of east. There is an Indian reservation in the Gila Valley. The Gila Bend Indian Reservation was one of three reservations composing the Tohono O’odham Nation and was established in 1859.
The Gillespie Dam was built in 1921 and many drivers crossed the Gila River on the dam’s 2000 ft long concrete apron. The typical water level was between 6 and 18 inches. When the water level was higher, large trucks or boats had to pull the cars across the river. I’m assuming Lloyd went across the river on the apron. A bridge over the river was built in 1926.
Superior was created in the 1800’s as a mining town. It is now a historic town and used in many movies because of its old buildings.
A bachelor’s shack is a one room rustic shack.
Tuesday – October 31st
Had a fine nights rest. Had breakfast and left about 8:30 a.m. Had the most wonderful scenery yet. Passed thru the Devil’s Canyon, which is well named. Had punctures galore, broke rear spring. Unjust fate seemed to be against us. Killed two rabbits, squirrel and a quail so we had fresh meat for supper. Cooked our supper out on the open desert. Then drove to Geronimo where we camped. Cold as mild winter in N.C. Best we make our bed on the sands of the desert.
Approximate mileage 84.2 miles.
They continued on the unnamed route.
The road between Superior and Globe was completed in 1921. It was one of the most difficult highway construction jobs ever done by the Arizona Highway Department. The worst portion of the work consisted of 1 3/4 miles of road blasted through rugged Queens Creek Canyon. It also required the construction of two concrete arch bridges over Devils Canyon and Queen Creak at the mouth of the canyon north of Superior. It was completed in 1921. There was also a tunnel, the Clay Pool Tunnel. I’ve seen dates that it was completed in 1921, 1922 and 1926 but folks I’ve asked said they can’t see how anyone would drive the road without the tunnel. There was a major realignment of the road in 1949 which was now Hwy 60.
Geronimo is a ghost town between Bylas and Fort Thomas. It was named after the Apache warrior, Geronimo and was the original location of Camp Thomas from which the US Cavalry managed Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apaches in 1876. Today only one building remains. The post office closed in 1956.
Pictures from the Devil’s Canyon Area