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|Looking westward on the road to Kingman at Sitgreaves Pass. The Summit ice cream was once located in the flat spot on the left. 6-02|
Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves. Route 66 rises to a peak of 3,550 feet between Kingman and Oatman as it breaches the Black Mountains. The pass through that mountain range was named for Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves. With a small crew of topographers, artists and naturalists and a 50 infantryman escort, he left the Zuni Pueblo in northwest New Mexico in 1851. His instructions, prompted by the possibility of a war with the Mormon settlements in Utah, were to explore the Zuni and Colorado rivers and evaluate their navigability. About a decade later, the pass was the site of a massacre of emigrants by Hualpai and Mohave Indians.
Backing up the mountain. When Route 66 came into existence on November 11, 1926, not all cars could speed up the mountain through the pass. The most widely sold vehicle of the time was Ford's Model T which was produced from 1909 to 1927. The Model T, like other vehicles of the era, lacked a pump to bring the gasoline from the gas tank to the engine. Gravity was quite adequate to bring the fuel to the engine unless the tank was low and the vehicle was traveling up an incline. The solution to this problem was to back up the steep and winding mountain road. Visitors heading east on Route 66 can view a Model T at the garage beside the general store in Hackberry.
Enterprise on the mountain. A wide spot on the Oatman side of the peak and to the south mark an old business site and a fine viewpoint. On the Kingman side and to the north (pictured above) another wide spot was the location of The Summit ice cream store. The only thing remaining from the store are a few iron railings.
Shaffer Fish Bowl Spring. Less than a mile east of the pass the alert motorist will spot a flight of 35 stone steps rising above the hill-ward side of the roadway. At the top of the flight is one of the more unusual mostly natural, albeit small, features of old Route 66. Just a few hundred feet from the highest point of this section of Route 66, natural spring seeps out of a clump of rocks overlooking the highway.
Many years ago someone--most likely named Shaffer--fashioned a basin about the size of a bath tub out of stones in the area and a little mortar. Two books that we used to guide us along the road mentioned the fish bowl but noted the lack of fish. When we were there, two small goldfish were happily darting around in the fish bowl. While Shaffer Fish Bowl Spring might be overlooked by the motorist, there was evidence on the steps that it was not overlooked by wild burros in the area.
A prospector sets up camp. Ed Edgerton was the last of the old time prospectors in Mojave County. He set up camp along Route 66 (20.9 miles west of Kingman; 3.1 miles east of Sitgreaves Pass), and eventually began catering to the motorists with the Kactus Kafe, a gas station, and cabins.
Ed's Camp is not hard to find. On the rocky side of the hill directly across Route 66 from the camp, large white letters spelling "ED'S CAMP" remain. There are a few homes in the area, and someone appears to have taken up residence behind the old camp facilities.
Cool Springs Camp. Cool Springs Camp gave early westward bound Route 66 motorists a welcome break before they tackled the treacherous winding ascent through the Black Mountains. Built in the 1926, its amenities included a cafe, garage, a Mobil Oil gas station and tourist cabins.
As with the other businesses catering to Route 66 motorists along the original alignment east of Kingman, the tourist bubble burst when the road's alignment was changed in 1952. Cool Springs was converted to a poultry operation called "The Chicken Ranch." After a fire, that enterprise was also abandoned.
From ruin to reconstruction to fiery explosion. Time and vandals took their toll. The walls remaining after the fire toppled. About the only feature visible to the motorist passing along old Route 66 were the two posts supporting the gas station's portico. As Cool Springs was well along the path of turning to rubble, it experienced a rebirth and destruction Hollywood style.
In the 1992 movie, Universal Soldier, Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is an American soldier murdered in Vietnam by his deranged commanding officer, Sgt. Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). Luc is reanimated by the U.S. Army to fight again as a super warrior. When his memory returns, Luc deserts and heads across the desert southwest with Scott in hot pursuit. The film crew recreated an old time desert service station around the Cool Springs ruins. In true action film style, the station meets a explosive fiery end as the antagonists battle it out. Cool Springs was not the only community to experience Universal Soldier mayhem. Other locations used for the feature film included Ashfork, Cottonwood, Prescott, Grand Canyon, Kingman, Hoover Dam, Boulder City and Los Angeles.
Restoration begins! Chicago real estate agent Ned Leuchtner and his wife Michelle purchased the Cool Springs Camp in 2002. They began a slow reconstruction project and planned to eventually locate to the desert. By 2004, there was again a recognizable building that could have housed a service station and cafe with the promise of more coming.