Broken Crown Picture of the Week

It takes a lot of space to jam a four-lane freeway through a mountain pass. If you have a horse-drawn wagon, you can squeeze through some tight spots, but with a Peterbilt 579—not so much. You have a couple of options to get that extra width—cut back the mountains or raise the road over them. A more practical approach is to do a little of each. Cut into the hills some and use that fill to raise the road—like how we build today’s modern highways.

The reason I bothered with this engineering exercise is that there are segments of the old Union Pass two-lane road that you can still explore, but they’re maybe 50 feet below the current grade. The more extensive section is on the west side of the Black Mountains crest, which we’ll talk about next week. On the east side, less than a mile of Old SR 68 remains. It’s behind an unlocked ADOT gate meant to keep livestock off of the highway, so be sure to close it after you. The road-gate is the public access to the old Richardson Homestead—a one-family ghost town.

The Richardsons were a family of five who settled the homestead in 1897. When they claimed the 160 acres, it had spring water, enough flat land for an orchard, vegetable garden, and a horse barn left behind by Union Troops stationed there to protect travelers from hostile Indian tribes. In summer, they made the journey from Los Angeles in a covered wagon pulled by a pair of horses.

They moved after John’s doctor told him to “go live in the desert.” I didn’t find a reference to John’s ailments, but that was a standard remedy for tuberculosis back then. The clear desert air undoubtedly helped him because John and his wife, Victoria, built a two-story home, root-cellar, planted trees, and raised livestock using only their sweat and simple hand tools. After establishing their home, Mohave County paid them a monthly allowance to maintain—what was then known as Beal’s Wagon Road—three miles in each direction. For thirty-eight years, they welcomed weary travelers with fresh fruits, preserves, vegetables, cold water, and a place to spend a night.

Victoria succumbed to cancer in 1935—four years after their fiftieth wedding anniversary. John followed five years later. Today they rest side by side in Kingman’s Mountain View Cemetery on Stockton Hill Road.

If you can call middle-aged adults kids, they managed the ranch and changed to keep up with the times. They added guest cabins, a small store, and a gas station. The family enterprise lasted until 1984. We, like our parents before us, didn’t have time to stop at some old place along the road. We had places to go. Shortly after that, the last of the family gave up the land, and the BLM took back ownership.

I remember the Richardson Homestead as a shady oasis on the drive between Kingman and Bullhead City. We would do the long climb from the river, and soon after cresting the hill, tall trees shaded the old road. The collection of rock-wall buildings and weathered metal roofs were always a  blur as we sped past. I vividly recall one early morning return trip. I remember the time because of the golden light. After we passed the old gas station, we saw real-live cowboys on horses driving cattle down the hill on the roadside. My companion and I laughed out loud because we had never seen working cowboys in Arizona—just the plastic ones that hang out in Scottsdale.

Broken Crown - A crown of tuff rests on a layer of basalt in Union Pass.
Broken Crown – A crown of tuff rests on a layer of basalt in Union Pass.

When I pulled over and stopped Archie to shoot this week’s picture, it was beside the homestead. Before I ran across four lanes of traffic (it was very early sun-up and no one was on the road yet), I looked over the guardrail at the remaining ruins and blew them off. I wasn’t out house hunting. Instead, I opted to focus on rocks (pun intended). This large outcrop of tuff on top of a basalt layer was just the ticket. I call this image, Broken Crown because of the fresh rock-fall and truck-sized boulders on the right. But, now that I know about the Richardson family, I want to return soon and wander among the remaining ruins with my camera.

You can see a larger version of Broken Crown on its Web Page by clicking here. Please come back next for our final image in this series and the story that goes with it.

Until next time — jw

Victoria – British Columbia

It was our last day in Canada, so how could we not visit British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria? Of course that means taking the ferry from Vancouver and a bus ride downtown. The cost of a walk-on ferry ride is $16.50 (Canadian) each way, and an all day bus pass is $5.00 (Canadian), so the trip wasn’t expensive. Riding the bus, however, doesn’t allow you time to dawdle and take pictures, and when I have to take public transit, Weird Al Yankovic’s, Another One Rides the Bus constantly runs through my brain.

Since we had limited time to spend in Victoria, I asked her majesty what she most wanted to do. Unequivocally, she answered that she’d like to have lunch at the Empress Hotel. “That’s where the Queen stays when she visits, and so I should appear there too.” She offered to buy, so why not.

Queen Anne and Empress Hotel
Anne’s overwhelming desire, was to have lunch at the Empress Hotel. Since it’s where royalty stays, she felt obligated to follow tradition.

When the bus dumped us off at the inner harbor, I thought to myself, “Wow! This is the closest I’m going to get to Monaco.”  Like the famous principality, the inner harbor is rectangular, with the Legislature building on the left flank, some other grand buildings on the right flank, and the Empress Hotel commanding the center two blocks.

The harbor is full of yachts of all sizes, and is very busy with water taxis, float planes, and the Ferries from Washington. Adding to the festival are street artists performing for coins in a hat. There was even a man crocheting a scarf with a hat out for donations. That was a new one for me.

Anne Picks Out Our New Fishing Dingy
After her delusions on the hotel veranda, we went boat shopping, and Anne picked out this one.

If there isn’t enough activity there to keep your attention, fisherman’s wharf is a few blocks in one direction, while Chinatown a few in the other. Food? It seemed that every other store front was a restaurant. I did a search on and in Victoria, there are over eight hundred restaurants to choose from.

As for lunch, we had an excellent experience on the Empress’s front veranda. I am so going to steal that recipe for a simple grilled chicken sandwich, with a side of dill seasoned French fries. The down side was that I had to keep dragging Anne back to our table, because she kept trying to wave to the passing crowd from the head of the stairs. If you want to eat at the Empress, let me warn you, the bill comes in a white envelope. Class, real class.

Harbor Seals at Fisherman's Wharf
One of the entertaining things to do at Fisherman’s Wharf is to watch people feed cut up mackerel to the harbor seals.

After our two-hour lunch, we walked around the harbor and strolled down to fisherman’s wharf before calling it a day and catching the bus back to Swartz Bay (and another gets on . . . ) to catch a ferry back to Vancouver. To top off an already great day, there wasn’t any traffic on the drive back to the RV Park . . . perfect.

Ferry and Mt. Rainier
There are lots of ferries to see when crossing to the BC islands. This happened to be going by Mt. Rainier as we cleared a small island.