Route 66 in the News
Mojave Towns Named Alphabetically
Part 7 of an ongoing series
Fenner is a small town in the Mojave Desert which is located on the Old Route 66. That is, it was expelled from the current Mother Road by virtue of a highway re-alignment, in the same way the town of Goffs, which we recently visited in this series, was evicted.
Approaching Fenner, one is greeted by 20-foot letters spelling GAS. And the letters are not the only enormous thing about the fuel. The gas at Fenner is so expensive that management has placed a sign on the front door of the store asking patrons to not harass the employees about that fact, even jokingly. Of course, such a sign only encourages barbs to be exchanged, but all in good humor.
A small picnic area with a pond, statues and cement benches invites patrons to linger and visit the store which features a variety of desert, UFO and Route 66 memorabilia. Fast food and home-cooked dishes are served in the store's dining area which is graced with a large fish tank. And, of course, customers usually run first to the clean rest rooms.
On this section of the Mother Road, railroad water stations and towns were named in alphabetical order, and Fenner sits in the middle: Amboy, Bristol, Cadiz, Danby, Essex, Fenner, Goffs, Homer, Ibis and Java are the string of towns testament to this fact.
Traveling west from Fenner on Route 66 the next stop is Essex. Once a bustling town, it historically offered tourists a choice of cafes, markets and all-important garages with on-duty mechanics. Despite these amenities, the town was best known as a place where you could get a free drink. So scarce was water in the desert, the restaurants charged for drinking and radiator water. To the rescue was the Auto Club of Southern California which established a free drinking fountain built to resemble an old-fashioned wishing well. Sitting just yards off the highway, the fountain remains intact today, albeit a bit cockeyed and out of order! You can view it and take photos today while traversing in an air conditioned modern automobile.
In times past, travelers were not so fortunate. Near the fountain remnants of the old store and garages remain in a ghost town strewn with old tires.
It was some 20 miles from Essex that Jack Mitchell discovered a unique limestone cavern in the Providence Mountains. It was his desire that the public would visit his find and enjoy a tour of the cave and the magnificent view of the valley from his hand-built home. To that end, he single-handedly carved a road out of the desert floor from his abode to the town of Essex.
The story of Mitchell caverns is a fascinating one which I will cover later in this series.
Notable along the highway in the area is the graffiti. Not the painted blight which plagues many modern cities today, but graffiti perhaps better described as "rock art." Along the road hundreds of names and messages fashioned from rocks, bottles and cans may be seen. Probably one day a few teens spelled out their names in such fashion and later travelers followed suit by pulling over and adding their two cents! This same phenomenon has cropped up along the road in the form of "shoe trees" or "boxer shorts trees" on which the items flutter in the desert wind, prompting passersby to pull over and take photographs.
~Claudia Heller, PasadenaStarNews.com