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ROUTE 666 in a 67 Olds Cutlass PDF Print E-mail
Written by Magnus King
Monday, 07 February 2011 12:06

ROUTE 666 in a 67 Olds Cutlass

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Writing and photography copyright Double Dragon One Owner Collector Car Ltd. Brochure image copyright GM.

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THE CAR

Nantucket Blue 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass Town Sedan built Dec 20, 1966, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. 330-2bbl-250 hp, two speed auto, 2.78:1 axle.

route 666 67 cutlass dash st wheel

To read a history of the Cutlass and check out its MPG look in the GAS LOGS subsection of the TRAVEL STORIES drop down menu. This car is also the star of the travel story Desert Olds which also appears in this TRAVEL STORIES section.

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THE TRIP

After completing a 14,000 mile road trip most people would be content to stay put.

Not me.

Constant motion and new adventures on a daily basis set my expectations high. A stagnant existence of rent and menial work under oppressive black tunnel rain skies of winter Vancouver, B.C. greeted me upon my return from the Desert Olds trip.

In theory stationary life allows you to build up resources. Stillness provides time to assimilate all the experiences built up during travel.

All I was assimilating was exhaustion from weeks of grey gloom hammering away at my energy reserves. Desert sun would revive me.

The Ridge Theatre

This trip down Highway 666 started in an old repertory theater in Vancouver, BC named The Ridge. The old building housing the movie theater also includes the bowling alley seen in the Dennis Hopper film, Out Of The Blue. The Ridge lobby crowd was pressing in on us after a film let out. I began telling one of the adventures from my Desert Olds trip to my date Karla,

"In New Orleans, Martin and I hung out at the youth hostel in the morning. We'd recruit tourists who paid us to see alligators in the Jean Lafitte park. Most of the people staying at the hostel didn't do anything during their stay in New Orleans. They rode the streetcar, maybe saw part of the Quarter and went drinking on Bourbon Street a few nights and that was it. They didn't have cars to go anywhere. We drove them across the Mississippi River to see plantation houses and into the swamps for way less than any official tour guide would charge."

Karla smiled,

"Did you guarantee an alligator sighting?"

"Yep. And we always got one. That park is literally teeming with them."

I felt a tap on my back,

"I can vouch for the reliability of the alligator tours!"

Standing behind me was Anthony, one of the British guys who had not only taken our tour last summer but was the inspiration behind the tours. Neither Martin or I had more than a vague notion of the swamps until Anthony had proposed exploring them.

And here he was.

Somehow he was in Vancouver,  BC in the same movie lobby as me.

This is the sort of coincidence that happens to me regularly. We both laughed and shook hands. Anthony was amazed,

"What are the chances that we would be in the same spot in a different country, all these months and miles later? If I hadn't overheard your story I would have walked right past without noticing..."

I took this as a sign of destiny,

"This means we should go on a road trip right away!"

Anthony nodded in agreement jumping on the idea,

"Yes. That could be fun! I was planning on flying back to England this month, but I don't have any pressing reasons to return right away. I could extend my stay a few months."

A few days later I had convinced one of my girlfriends, Lana to accompany us. Next, my bashed up 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass needed some convincing of its own. An accident back in Las Vegas on the Desert Olds trip resulted in broken engine mounts and a mashed up exhaust system. Low funds induced me to drive the Cutlass another 10,000 miles in that condition.

Now I had money. Time to replace the engine mounts and exhaust hangers. After throwing in a tune up there wasn't enough cash to replace the beat up tires. Tires down South are much cheaper than in Vancouver, BC so the tires were deferred till later.

DAY ONE------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vancouver, BC/ Blaine, Everett, Seattle, Mercer Island, Cle Elum, Pasco, WA/ Umitilla, Pendleton, LaGrande, H. Reynolds rest area, OR

We picked up Anthony and his tent and backpacks and hit the road. British Columbia Highway 99 widens into Interstate 5 after you cross into Blaine, Washington.

Everett rest stop

We were the last people to pull up to the Visitor area in Everett, Washington as the elderly man in charge was rolling up the flag. We left with some free maps and a strange notion about the couple running the rest stop.

"Think about it. They are the last people to talk to travelers destined to die in a car accident. Back in the days of Old Route 66 and other two lane blacktops, proprietors of small cafes or gas stations probably saw quite a number of people just before their last second on earth. Now most travel is on Interstates instead of narrow highways and cars are safer, so it probably doesn't happen as much. But it stands to reason that gas station and visitor center people are the last person on earth many people see. As if they are gatekeepers of eternity."

My mind wandered to all sorts of Twilight Zone type scenarios as we cruised into Seattle around 5 pm. To our right a gaudy mint condition 1975 Trans Am puttering in the slow lane with a shrivelled old lady hunched behind the wheel straining to see above the dashboard prompted all sorts of theories as to how it came to pass that she ended up in that car. Lana asserted,

"She bought it when she retired as some kind of protest against getting old. Retirees don't drive much. That's why it's in such good shape for such an old car. And now that she's truly old she is hanging onto it as a resistance to death."

Mercer Island

Once we hit Seattle, Interstate 90 going East took us into a three lane tunnel to Mercer Island. I'd been here prior during the Desert Olds trip. The second tunnel expelled us on the road to Snoqualmie Mountain Range. As we entered the mountainous country, Lana lamented the fact that her friend Ellen had hemmed and hawed for a few days before dropping out of the trip,

"Too bad Ellen wasn't spontaneous."

Our hastily conceived plan was to shoot down through Nevada to join up with Route 666 and follow the length of 666 down to Mexico. None of us had thought of the fact that it was still winter and our route climbed through mountains all the way. Mountains are cold and snowy in winter. So much for getting sun! It was good that none of us did any real research or planning. If we had actually looked into things carefully we would have avoided the route through the mountains and would have missed out on a lot.

Signs announced that this was "Chain Up Country". Cars parked over at the extended paved shoulder were installing chains on the tires. We didn't have chains and kept on going. As we climbed the mountains snow appeared with stumps of trees poking up through ice surfacing the water alongside the road.

Indian John Hill rest area

Up in the cold air of Indian John Hill rest area I noticed a sign for John Wayne trail. We were in the city of Cle Elum, Washington. Very fat people slowly worked their way out of their vehicles and painfully hobbled to the bathrooms. At least all that fat was insulating them from the cold.

The Appleseed Restaurant had an IQ Tester game at the entrance with the bubblegum dispenser. Anthony had to take the challenge, and I tried to beat his score but the test soon became tedious. After dinner I hit the can. Some bathroom stall weird graffiti announced,

"Wazu Show Hard".

Maybe someone out there reading this knows what the hell that means!

When I came out, Lana and Anthony were trying another game. This one was the lifeline game which predicted your life span presumably based on your pulse rate. Hold the handles and a sequence of lights extended downwards. The longer the string of lights the longer your 'life line'. Each of us managed to beat the average. Lana scored lowest of the three of us for stress. She attributed it to her daily Yoga.

Once back on the road we stopped to savor the view of Gillsburg Mountain Viewpoint. Quickly it became too dark to see the panorama of the mountains as we carried on into the night. We passed a military base perched atop the mountains then wound down off the mountaintop into Saleb. There was a natural gas smell hanging in the air like a fart.

As we entered Zillah the stench of cow dung was powerful.  As we kept moving the next smell was a smoky forest fire. Lana commented,

"So much for the fresh air of the great outdoors- it's either farts or fires."

On another mountaintop we passed radio towers and power lines. Mainly the Cutlass just seemed to be constantly climbing as Anthony observed,

"Is there a top to this mountain? We seem to have been climbing forever."

The heater produced plenty of hot air for the fan to push through the car. The mountains were frigid. The road ran through tunnel like grooves created by the snow banks on either side.

In the darkness we followed an endless looping off ramp that was supposed to be taking us to Richland. We drove pointlessly in the pitch black looking for a town that never appeared.

"They should make signs that make sense! Here we are 15 or 20 miles out of our way and we don't even know what road we're on. There are no signs! Where the hell are we? The town is missing and we're on empty."

Anthony dryly intoned,

"Excuse me; we seem to have lost our town..."

Pasco cowboys

Much backtracking swearing and cursing brought us to the town of Pasco, Washington. Gas was only $1.07 per gallon. A big beat to hell pickup truck filled with whooping cowboy guys smashing bottles was parked at one of the pumps. They were letting off steam in this barren place where probably nothing happens unless you stir things up. Looking around I noted,

"A whole lot of emptiness filled with old pickups."

Cruising through town we passed the Franklin Bank and a sign for Richland which set me off,

"It's a lie! Four miles to Richland, my ass! Don't believe the incompetent fools that put up these stupid signs..."

As the town unwound through the window we spotted RV City, Trailertown and a drive in theater. We rumbled south down Highway 395 which is also known as the Levi Clark Trail. The highway carried us up over a big bridge.

The part of the road that looked like an off ramp turned out to be the actual highway while the part that went straight on seemingly as a continuation of the highway turned out to be a ramp leading us off the main road into the pitch blackness and somewhere called Columbia Park at the end of the world. The road was winding and had small wooden retainers dotting the edges. On our left were trees and a lake. We took a tunnel under the bridge we just crossed to wind up at some beat to shit old hotel.

"I can't figure out how to get back where we came from without backtracking all the way."

This town seemed to have the life torn out of it. Nothing but generic meaningless names popped up along main street...  7-11, Blockbuster Video... RV and Mini Storage. A church in a round building that looks like the face of a pig. No other cars. Heavy duty construction equipment to the left of the road. We groped about in the dark finally getting to Highway 395 and back on track.

Rollercoaster bridge to Oregon

On 395 our headlights caught flashes of rocks, grass and emptiness along the highway. After descending a steep hill we were once more climbing up a huge bridge like a spider's web, girders flashing in our lights. Red flashing lights on the top of the steel beams then back down the rollercoaster again.

A sign informed us that we had just entered Oregon.

We rode Interstate 84 past Umitilla Army depot and took the exit at Pendleton for the Blue Mountain College but all the gas stations were dark and closed. Pendleton, "World's Round Up City" was dark sprawling and spooky in the night. We cruised quietly past an ornate baroque looking building labeled 'psychiatric center'. We got back on the highway trekking up a huge mountain pass after clearing the Umitilla Indian reserve and Emigrant Park.

At the top of the mountain the lights of oncoming cars strobed through the gaps in between the posts for the guard rails. Coming down the mountain into LaGrande, Oregon the air smells like fresh pine needles. We crashed out at the H. Reynolds rest area.

DAY TWO ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

H. Reynolds rest area, Wolf Creek, Baker City, Huntington, Farewell Bend, OR

Waking up in the light we discovered that our car was surrounded by mountains and snow. It was cold last night but we hadn't been aware of the arctic looking surroundings we were in. A truck that alternately passed us or fell behind cat and mouse all night was in the rest stop as well.

Back on the road lower elevations made the cold seem a little less intense than up in the mountains but it was still chilly as we passed streams and marshes on the way into Wolf Creek.

As we pulled out to pass a big truck it spit gravel into our windshield which pissed me off. A sign popped up announcing that we were at the 45th parallel halfway between the equator and the north pole. We passed a tractor herding cows down the road. The highway wasn't seeing too much use obviously!

Baker City

In Baker City the vista was completely flat with big mountains visible far in the distance. The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center welcomed visitors. We navigated over potholes as we passed a factory, a lake and an abandoned Smith cement factory on the river. This was the Snake River area. Along the Union Pacific Railway some shacks elevated on stilts seemed poised to drop off the side of a cliff. A truck slowly chugged along pulling a house on a trailer.

At 51,449 miles we entered Huntington. 3 miles further along a sign informed us we were in MST at Farewell Bend State Park. Another 20 minutes further we passed a correctional institute. The car climbed mountains to a plateau where Stanton Blind Prison was maintained by a small town along the highway. The space was wide open with mountains ringing the area. Some farms and houses with satellite dishes dotted the highway.

We were in Ontario, Central Oregon. River Valley College. We gassed at a truck plaza. Star of the American Road. The truckers all had knives on their belts with big buckles or attached to chains, mustaches, cowboy boots and tattoos. Inside country music played. Cassette tapes of country music and 1970s hits were remainedered out in a bin for sale $4.99. A pickup truck at gas pumps warranted a picture. The Star of the American Road license plate was completely beat up and crushed from use.  We passed through a town with a sewer smell like an outhouse permeating the air. We kept an eye out for huge holes in the road.

Idaho

At 51, 481 miles we entered Idaho. The Idaho cop cars have a racing stripe and the outline of the shape of the State in gold on the doors. We passed through Caldwell which had a big stack of junk cars piled up and Grumpy's Auto Sales, a double ping pong ball style church, and plenty of horse trailers. Hydro Magic Fun and Games amusement park was a maze of tubes. A gigantic sugar factory loomed over everything. We passed through Nampa City

Black Cat Road

We drove on Black Cat Road in Meredith, Idaho. It was 61 degrees F and 6 miles to Boise. A Navaho truck that had been pacing us along the roads pulled out ahead of us on the onramp. The truck was from Denver, Colorado.

The Black Creek Rest Area had shiny polished steel above the sinks serving as mirrors. Time released water in sinks further prevented any vandals from messing with this bathroom. On Black Creek Tuma road Anthony was nicknamed "The Cornerman". After miles and miles of flatness we entered a valley that was like a gigantic bowl. The road was layered over with washboards and dotted with potholes. Cows in clumps of 4 or 5 huddling in ovals chomping on food. We passed through cement tunnels and came upon billboards for Jackpot which was in another State entirely (Nevada). We learned that Jackpot had 4 casinos, 600 hotel rooms, golf, hunting, fishing and RV parks.

A big hill carried us into Paradise Valley where things slowlyl changed to sagebrush and rocky terrain with rusty farm equipment scattered about. We drove under a rusty railway bridge. The scraggly grass was a grey-ish khaki color.

In Bliss grain elevators loomed alongside railway tracks. Huge silos and farms passed by but no gas station. They had no offramp bringing us to the gas station and I got impatient. We continued the hunt for gas with 1/8th of a tank left. Lana got nervous because I was still cruising at 70 mph with 20 miles to the next gas stop.

"Don't you think you should slow to 60 mph so we can make it there? We're out in the middle of nowhere here. There's no other cars."

Squiggly Sinclair in Jerome

I was confident of our mileage and carried on. We made it to Jerome pulling into town behind a slow moving tractor truck. Lana spotted a Sinclair gas station sign with the little dinosaur mascot and a real life cow standing beside it. The sign said: "Closed".

Lana yelled,

"I told you!"

She protested at the sign,

"Why are you closed?"

We continued through town. Barratt Auto Sales and Service passed by. No gas. Then a strange thing somehow the guy running the line painter on the highway had screwed up and the center lines were squiggly and wild. The universe was distorting away. We ate in the car at the Sinclair station. Yogurt, salsa, chips and a poppy seed muffin. The abandoned Sinclair station was filled up with old washing machines and refrigerators. A 1950s Chevy hot rod painted green and white with mags went screaming past. I couldn't get a picture as my camera was in the car and Lana had the keys. I was locked out of the car.

Snake River

We carried on south on Highway 93 into a big valley leading to Twin Falls. We drove over the Snake River on the Perrine Memorial Bridge. I.V. Perrine was the father of the Twin Falls track. Mrs. Perrine dedicated the bridge Oct 1, 1927. A Shakespeare quote: "How excellent is the giant stream". He made the desert blossom.

Highway 34 took us to Shoshone. Anthony had no luck in the big box store where we picked up batteries and a cooler. Horseshoe clubs and other weird knick knacks filled the aisles. Anthony lamented,

"It was very big and filled with nonsense."

A $5.00 meal at Skipper's included fish and baked potato. I was a bit dizzy from stopping having become accustomed again to the humming road vibe of movement. My eyes were a bit red from watching the road and my hands a touch shaky from minimal sleep.

At 8 pm it was very dark and I couldn't make out the faint faded painted lines under the mucky dusty layer over Highway 193. The original Cat People soundtrack was playing while we plunged into the eerie blackness on the old 2 lane highway. At the exact moment the soundtrack finished, we had to apply the brakes for cars ahead of us, slowing by 20 mph as a caravan of cars made their way to the Nevada border at the speed limit. We were really flying out there in the dark emptiness.

Jackpot, Nevada

We put on The Stooges Funhouse album. Iggy's final croon faded out at the end "Dirt" as we entered Jackpot, Nevada. Blazing neon lights blasted our eyes as the highway cut through the casinos. 93 Casino, Barton's Club went by with cactus patches... Horseshu, Cactus Pete's, then a General Store and Saloon. Dining: The Star. Another casino: 4 Jacks. Inside cowboy boot guys with cowboy hats sauntered about. I spotted a hot girl in fringe jacket, cowboy boots, and cords. Lana didn't notice the eye contact. The Saloon was an old west movie type of building with the built up fake façade. The had a brass rail and served drinks but also sold booze by the case. The bathroom had the double swinging old west doors.

At the gas station the attendant dashed over,

"I really love your car! I had a '66 Olds with electric everything in it! These cars ride so smooth."

"Was yours a Cutlass, too?"

"Nope. A full size. It had a Chevy 454 put in it."

I liked the names of the streets as we cruised through Jackpot: Dice Road, 21 Drive... at the outskirts a billboard said:

"Hope you enjoyed our Slotspitality."

Just outside of town a sign informed us that we were back into PST. The road climbed a huge hill then cut through the heart of a mountain. A big cloud of dust or fog crossed our path then dissipated. There was nothing behind it just pitch black like a dark ocean ready to swallow us up. Our headlights reflecting back off the highway markers barely cut a few feet into the deep darkness beyond. The gurgling rumble of the Cutlass engine was a reassuring familiar soundtrack out here in the black night.

In Novaks I checked a tire. Our headlights reflected off snowbanks so high that they created a tunnel that we were driving through. The speed limit dropped to 35 mph. Signs warned "Rough Road" and "Loose Gravel". Potholes were bolstered by actual sections of road that were completely gone. We hit bumps as layers of patches upon patches undulated up and down over the remnants of the highway.

Wells, Nevada

Suddenly we were sailing down smooth freshly paved highway coming off the mountain. Lights at the bottom of the mountain carried up to us from Wells, Nevada. We pulled up to the 4 Way Casino and Ranch House. We gassed up and stayed in the car to eat dinner at the Little Stinker Gasoline station which had a skunk mascot on its sign. The windy and freezing weather shook the car. We cruised through town: Star Hotel, Sharon Motel, Shellcrest, Best Western, Luther's Saloon, El Rancho Hotel, Wagon Wheel Motel... everything was dark and shut down. No lights. Wells Laundromat, The Nevada Dusty Sage Theatre... Victory Motel was followed by the generic "Standard Motel".

Angel Lake

I navigated up the road to Angel Lake. "Road isn't maintained in winter. Enter at your own risk." Melting snowdrifts slanted across the road almost covering it completely in parts. A ghostly spooky feeling prevailed as frozen shards of sage brush were caught in our headlights poking up through snow. We ascended the dark winding road towards the top of the hill. At higher elevations the snow became heavier. Eventually the road was completely blocked off with 1 1/2 feet of snow. Our lights revealed a barren landscape surrounding us. I angled the car well off the road creating straight tracks through the snow keeping the wheels straight so we could easily get out again. A big snow drift behind the car blocked out the freezing winds. Miles below the flicker of a few lights from Wells were barely visible.

DAY THREE------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In daylight we could see how close we made it to Angel Lake. It looked like we were parked on a glacier up here. A barbwire fence poked up above the snowline. Bits of sage brush poked through snow here and there where wind blew hard over the ground. Huge jagged mountains off in the distance to our right with arctic white peaks were much bigger than the nearby mountain. It had a big W on top of the mountain overlooking the tiny blip of Wells down below. W for Wells...

It was overcast as we came down a mountain pass on the primitive gravel road with rocks bashing the car and smaller rocks splattering the underbody steadily. It was 35 degrees F in the valley and all signs of snow were gone in Wells. We chatted to Daryl who worked for the power company. He was a hunter, taxidermist who also did wildlife art. He directed us to the Burger Bar for information on Metropolis which was a ghost town. The woman inside mentioned that the Metropolis church was transplanted to Main Street on Wells. Most of the buildings in Wells were "Ghost Buildings" built using bricks from the ghost town of Metropolis.

We passed an old shack with a sign "Elko County Maintenance Building". We carried on past old fence posts, dirt roads and remains of an old railway bridge. On our right old cars and trucks were whipped by the wind. A farm was re-using an old Pacific Union boxcar as a house. We continued on towards Metropolis past marshes filling with water from melting glaciers up on the nearby mountain tops. An old school bus and some shacks and buildings looked like the remnants of some old commune that dried up long ago. A bird flew across our path skimming the surface of the highway before swooping back up to perch on a railway tie. Railways and cattle guards marked the end of one property and start of the next. Anthony found an old "moon" chrome hubcap. Beer bottles lined the edges of the highway. Cows, shacks, marsh and shot up signs rolled past. Cow pies and horse dumps decorated the roadway. An old 1957 Chevy sat in a field.

Signs for Metropolis alternated with sheep crossing signs. The rough washboarded road was at one point named Ruth Road. A chipmunk boldly crossed ahead of us. Miles of nothing stretched out in all directions. The road was mushy and soft in parts. Some Native Indian guys came racing up in a big old truck. They set us on the right course for Metropolis. We passed a shot out sign that you could barely make out the outline of a cow on. Drowned Road looking for railway tracks. A silver 1990s GMC pickup came up from a nearby ranch. Bill and Norman informed me that the guy who inherited Metropolis when his mom died was just filling it in with garbage.

We drove into town on an old dirt road and got back on the potholed blacktop which was rippled like waves. Back in Wells we passed the Rio Motel and Allison Motel. "The Great Basin Highway" carried us out of town with mist shrouded mountains to our right. The 2 lane highway went straight as the eye could see to the horizon. There was no sidewalk or shoulder, just a 15 foot deep drop off on either side. The highway was likely built up so high above the terrain to avoid getting flooded out. Wide open desert and wasteland stretched away in all directions. It felt like we were driving on a bridge with all the sage brush 15 feet below us. When the sage brush was tinged green I imagined that the vista below us was the open sea and we were on a bridge over an open ocean. The hills were big waves cresting in the distance.

It seemed doubtful any of the traffic going the other direction was obeying the 55 mph limit. The cars flashed by with vip vip vanishing acts. The trucks coming the other way passed by with a thunder storming crashing boom. On our side of the road things were slow moving. A pickup truck provided an escort for a green gold tractor moseying along. The road was fairly rough so I didn't mind giving the Cutlass a break from the pounding it was getting at 55 mph.

Shredded tire carcasses shone in the sun by the road side. A strong wind whipped across the plains. A big black shadow covered the highway in the distance. Big storm clouds to our left were moving our way. As we drove into the storm a semi truck stopped to pick up three hitch hikers in army fatigues who seemed to be limping and crawling to the truck. Anthony mused that they looked like prison escapees. The crossing sign, White Pine County Line was where the storm hit full force. Our wipers were on double speed with the black clouds one inch off the ground hammering us. In Lagees Stage Stop Cafe we pulled into their muddy lot. It used to be Chuck and Bessie Stagestop. We were at the "T" intersection of the highways. The grey sky continued to pelt us with rain. A stripped down landscape with a shack and remnants of a basketball hoop. Abandoned pickup trucks lined the backyard area. Mag wheeled cars were parked up front. A propane tank lay on it's side near a phone booth. Shifting my gaze outwards into the desolate

 

 


 

END OF 666 CUTLASS STORY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 25 July 2021 16:04 )