LOS ANGELES, CAL., FEB. 19, 1915
For some time I have intended to add to my former account of our overland trip a few experiences we had on the last lap of our journey from Phoenix to Los Angeles, but a multitude of things to attend to and an abundance of places to go, and splendid weather to go in, have contrived to postpone my effort. But I shall now start it and hope to get thru promptly. We were marooned in Phoenix for more than ten days by the severest spell of wet weather the country had experienced in the memory of the oldest inhabitants. I was not satisfied with anything to be had in Phoenix, and owing to several local financial disturbances, coupled with the general business depression, there was but little to be had. I could scarcely make up my mind to come to Los Angeles, but as I was assured a place here we decided to make the trip. However, the weather man interposed with his deluge, which utterly soaked the southern part of Arizona and California, washed out railroads and wagon roads, and put all sorts of traffic in a bad condition. It began raining in Phoenix on the evening of Wednesday, December 16th, and kept at it without intermission for eight consecutive days, which I was prone to declare was "going some" for a dry country. Christmas and the day following were bright and clear, and we were calculating how long it would take the roads to dry so we could get out of there, when, on Sunday, it began to rain some more and kept it up all day. In desperation, we finally decided to start anyway, for I wanted to reach here the first of January. Monday and Tuesday we made preparations, buying the necessary outfit for camping, a shovel, block and tackle, to dig and pull out with; and loading our car.
From Phoenix there are two main routes to California that are logged by the Automobile Associations. One of these goes north through Prescott, Ash Fork, Seligman and Kingman, Arizona, and Needles, Hesperia, Barstow, and San Bernardino into Los Angeles. The other is known as the southern route and goes west through Buckeye, Palo Verde, Arlington, Agua Caliente to Yuma, Arizona, and thence to El Centro, "where the trail divides" and one may go northwest through Brawley, Mecca and other towns of the Imperial Valley, and into San Bernardino, or keep due west into San Diego and thence up the coast to Los Angeles.
On account of the mountains one encounters at Prescott and on the north the former route was impossible, for the mountain passes were filled with snow. And the southern route following the Gila river bottom to its junction with the Colorado at Yuma, was reported to be a bog of mud and horribly washed. Only one car, a Buick, had made the trip, taking five days for what is normally an easy two days trip, 206 miles. In fact, large cars with greater speed make it very well in a day.
So, any choice was apt to be a poor one but as you will see, if you read on, our Billiken was with us, and in good working order. I forgot to mention that it was reported that at the miry spots along the route one might engage a team to haul them out for a fee of $25.00. Another example of western graft.
On Wednesday morning we made an early start, stopping down town for breakfast. Mud in the streets was half hub deep and the lack of crossings in the city had seriously hampered foot traffic, as the automobile and teaming traffic had made veritable "lob-lollies" of every street. On this particular morning a heavy fog hung over the city, and it was difficult to see more than 15 feet ahead. We got properly started at 8:25. Our course lay due west of Phoenix for 14 miles, then a mile south and then across the Agua Fria river, a bad ford owing to the rains. But at ten miles out we were advised to turn south a mile and avoid a bad piece of newly constructed road. Up to this point, traffic had been sufficient to keep the mud thin, but the day was quite warm and the roads were drying fast. When we turned south, we entered an area of adobe mud, which for pure stickiness is equal to Illinois or Texas gumbo. And here my troubles began, and the perspiration started. I found good service for my shovel. You may form an idea of how much when I tell you that we arrived there at 11 o'clock and at 4 o'clock we had gone three miles. Many places I would not make ten feet until I would have to get out and shovel mud and remove it from the wheels, where it had balled up until two feet wide. In one place my right wheel slipped down a soft ditch bank and let the differential case drag, and there I spent three-fourths of an hour. But after we passed through this three miles we began to find the sand of the desert, with easy going. A mile farther on we came to the river ford, and there on the opposite bank were four fellows with a Ford car up to the hubs and stuck. I had to wait until they got out. The track had been corduroyed with branches to keep the bed from washing out and one had to follow this closely. When they had pulled out I started across, and got stuck in the hole they made. But with my rope and their assistance I was soon up the bank and on good solid earth. These four fellows were brothers, all from Omaha, Neb., who had come out here and taken a claim and were making quite a nice place of it. They had been to Phoenix on a business trip, having left their car at a store on the east side of the river and taking the train into Phoenix, but as they couldn't get a train back they had to walk the entire 14 miles, and they were quite footsore and weary. We were the first people out of Phoenix in a car.
Just across the river ford mentioned we came to another store, and here we stopped and replenished our water bags. This is an inviolable rule on the desert: Always fill your water bags every opportunity.
We followed these fellows as far as their ranch, which we reached a short while before sundown. Bidding them goodbye we went on a couple of miles, where I saw some mesquite trees and a nice camping spot. We drove off the trail about 20 rods and pitched our first camp. I had put in a strenuous day for me, and bacon and eggs tasted excellent. And such an appetite! We carried a large size folding cot, and were not long in preparing our bed. This mesquite makes excellent fire wood, and we kept our fire going all night. It was a little chilly; but I am sure that you couldn't have slept out on a cot, without a tent, and with only a heavy blanket and lap robe for cover on the 30th of December in Michigan-could you? The wind arose in the night and made it quite chilly by morning. We could hear coyotes howl through the night and I will confess I was a little too nervous to sleep the best.
We got a reasonably early start next morning and drove into Buckeye. Here I filled my engine and water bags and a mile beyond we turned south following a section-line road, which is a very rare thing in that country, occurring only where irrigation has made it habitable. One mile south we turned west, and here was trouble again. For fully a mile ahead was a piece of new road. Before I realized it I was stuck. But my Billiken was right on the job, for a farmer came out with a horse and pulled us into another man's yard, turned us around and out again, and directed us to keep to the desert road. This is sandy, but the rains had packed the sand and made the road good. We followed this desert road until we came to the section lines again, when we turned to enter the town of Palo Verdes, but shortly after the turn we met a man with a team towing a Chalmers Six and his driver into Buckeye. The Chalmers man had stripped his gears the day before in the mud about Palo Verdes. He advised us to camp until it dried out, for he said we couldn't make it. But in the course of our talk the owner of the team directed us how we might keep to the desert road and reach the Hassayampa river ford without going through Palo Verdes. We did so and had no difficulty at all. (Billiken again!)
The "Hassayamp," as it is called out here, is some river. For some stretches in certain places it flows on the surface of its bed, and then in others it reverses the procedure and flows underneath, but in any event the amount of flow is rather negligible. We had no difficulty in fording it in this wet season. I imagine, however, it would be worse in dry weather for then it would be mainly a long stretch of dry sand. It looks more like a huge sand wash, and like most rivers of this country, its bed is wide and flat, with a narrow, shallow stream, trickling in a very crooked manner, somewhere near the center of it.
After fording this river we came to a fork, one sign pointing south to Agua Caliente and Yuma, the other to Ehrensburg. To show the importance of even small places in this country I may say that Ehrensburg is merely a trading post, with not a hundred inhabitants, more than a hundred miles west. But as there was nothing more important between the Hassayampa and there, it received the distinction its station warranted. Also, to show how much one is at the mercy of fate in the selection of roads in this country, I may relate that in Phoenix I had received equal amounts of advice for the northern route through the snow and the southern route through the mud. But at one place I was told about this middle road, which the gentleman said was all sand and impossible to get muddy, directing me to take this right fork at the Hassayampa and go to Vicksburg, then to Parker, Cal., across the Colorado river, thence north to Needles, Cal., where I would connect with the northern route, which here enters the Mojave desert and is good into Los Angeles. But at Buckeye I was warned not to take this road, for it was traveled but little and in event of breakdown I would be apt to be laid up for days before help would come along, and there were no garages on the route at all. This view of the case seemed plausible, so I turned south at the ford and about five miles down came to Arlington, which is a store and post office. Here I replenished my gas, and in the course of conversation regarding the roads, I learned the belief of these gentlemen to be that a man in his right mind would shun the Yuma road and take the other to Ehrensburg. Acting upon their advice, I tried to get to the Ehrensburg road by a cross trail from that place, but only succeeded in getting stuck on a greasewood bush in a sand wash, and there getting lost, so I drove back to the store, after losing another hour. A gentleman in a Ford was going to Phoenix, and kindly offered to take me back to the Hassayampa ford and start me on the right road.
Our first place for water was about 16 miles, a place called Winter's Wells. This is a cowpuncher's camp, consisting of a couple of wells, a cook shack, sleeping shack and corral. The cook was an elderly man, very polite and accommodating, but very lonesome for someone to talk to. We filled up our water bags from a large tank, which is built upon a high platform and filled by means of a windmill. From this tank, water is piped to the cook shack and other places required, which makes it quite "modern" and underneath this tank was a bath tub. It seemed a queer place for that article, but I presume its services were none the less effective, despite the lack of shower, Mosaic tile floors and wells, and the hot water connections.
"... two cars had just passed going to Phoenix. We evidently had missed them while at Arlington, but their tracks for 200 miles afforded us some comfort in assuring us we were on the right trail."
The cook told us two cars had just passed going to Phoenix. We evidently had missed them while at Arlington, but their tracks for 200 miles afforded us some comfort in assuring us we were on the right trail.
From Winter's Wells our next stop was Harrisburg, 40 miles, where we could procure water again. This, too, was merely a cow camp. Beyond this was Vicksburg, about 20 or 25 miles, where we came to the Santa Fe railroad. This country is very desolate and we did not see a sign of human life until we reached the Harrisburg camp, where we met an elderly lady. She told us of a young lady who had come out from Michigan for her health, but had returned. She was just in receipt of a letter from the girl saying she was coming back, and the lady of the ranch voiced the opinion that when you have once lived awhile on the desert you like it well enough to want to stay. I can believe this to be true to a certain extent, from what I have seen, albeit every person we met was so anxious to talk to somebody we could scarcely get away from them. The benefits of life on the desert to health, especially for lung trouble, are almost unbelievable' and I have several times wished that instead of trying to get employment we had camped on the desert all winter. However, one doesn't know those things until he has learned them, and one's hind-sight is usually better than his foresight.
Having replenished our water bags at this camp, we started on. A short way ahead we came to diverging ways, and I was obliged to go over to an adobe house, a short way off the road, which seemed to have some human occupants and which sat somewhat apart from some others that had the appearance of store buildings. An elderly gentleman who greatly resembled a hermit came out with a pair of powerful field glasses to view us. I inquired the way to Vicksburg, to which he directed me, and forthwith launched into a conversation from which I had considerable difficulty in breaking away. The old man appeared to be at least 90 and his eyesight so bad these powerful field glasses were necessary. He had come out there and taken up this claim, proved up on it last spring and now desired to sell for $2500. He had a 20-horse power engine connected to wells from which he pumped sufficient water to irrigate quite a tract, and he said the productiveness of the soil was wonderful. The buildings that resembled stores, had been the former site of Harrisburg, but now deserted and moved over to the railroad, some miles distant. The old man himself was hoary-headed, and his face and hands were bronzed from years of contact with desert sun. It seemed to me a very lonesome place for an old man.
Not far from this place we got stuck on a steep bank on the opposite side of a large sand wash, and I was obliged to get out, tie on my rope and pull while Mrs. Whitaker operated the car. Our steering gear was working bad, owing to the radius rods having become bent, due to hitting some ditches and bumps too hard, and in sand the machine was sometimes apt to go off on a tangent.
At Harrisburg proper we found a typical mining town, consisting of the crudest sort of stores, restaurant and saloon. Owing to the "dry" law which went into effect in Arizona January 1st, this was the last day of grace for the saloon, and at the store where we stopped for provisions, we saw one individual who was making the most of the short while he had left. But for the need of a porch post to maintain an erect posture, and the damage to his articulation caused by the increasing dimensions of his tongue, he might have been mistaken for a human being.
Beyond this a few miles we came to a place where the main travel turned to the right across the railroad, while the other fork seemed but little used. We chose the road across the track, and after winding and climbing about a mountain for considerable distance brought up at a gold mine on the Mountainside where the road ended. The heavy tracks were caused by the teams hauling ore to the railroad. So we had to get back to the fork and take the dim road. This country was quite rocky, and we were unable to see the other automobile tracks, except occasionally when a soft, or dusty, place occurred. We continued driving until we came in sight of Vicksburg station, about a mile away. We discovered a clump of mesquite that provided good camping quarters, so we pitched our second camp here. The elevation was considerable here, and all about us were mountains. About 40 rods to the north of us ran the Santa Fe railroad. We soon had our camp fire going and an excellent supper dissappeared like magic. We were fortunate in having a full moon, which made weird shadows out of the growth on the desert and lent a fantastic element to the setting that was beautiful. Near this point was a large mountain through which the railroad was tunneled. The intense quietness that pervades the desert gets on one's nerves until one gets used to it. During this night all we heard was the rumble of three trains which passed, and coyotes. These latter seemed to be quite far off, in the mountains, except one in the morning while we were packing up, came up quite close. I could not see him as he kept behind the greasewood.
The morning of the 1st (New Years) was cloudy. We drove into Vicksburg, where I expected to get gas, but found there was none in town. When we left Phoenix I had filled an extra five gallon which I carried as a reserve fund. I inquired at a house that evidently was part of the railroad property about water, and a gentleman there obligingly came and unlocked the tank and filled our water bag. There is no well in the town, all water being shipped in by railroad. It is strictly a mining and prospectors' town. There is but one store and it was closed and the proprietor gone for a week. The gentleman who gave me the water directed me to go to Quartzsite and then to the ferry across the Colorado north of Ehrensburg.
The scenery through here is very picturesque. The road is very hard on tires, on account of the rock, but on this entire lap of the trip we had no tire trouble. The road follows a winding course, in and out through the lower levels of a narrow valley, of a very rough and rugged appearance, with but scant signs of vegetation and few evidences of fertility.
We reached Quartzsite about 10 o'clock. This is another mining town as its name would indicate, all this country being very rich in gold ore. Here I purchased gas at 40 cents per gallon and we were soon on our journey again. Several miles before reaching the Colorado river we could see it, and through all this stretch we had extremely heavy sand. At the ferry there is nothing but a shack and the ferry itself. The ferry charge is $3.00. I crossed a larger one on Rock river, near Moline, Ill., for 35 cents. Across the river there were some bad mud holes, but I got stuck in one only.
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| PHOENIX, ARIZONA, Dec. 7, 1914 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, Feb. 19, 1915 | MOLINE, ILLINOIS, May 27, 1915 |
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