Touring the Old West

Touring the Old West

Touring the Old West

Touring the Old West


Touring the Old West is a practical guide to what is left of the western frontier and a page-turning history for those wo can't hit the trail. In this "love letter to half of America," Kent Ruth takes the reader through twenty-one states, pointing out legendary and little-known attractions on and off the main highways.

Ruth directs today's explorer to famous old trails and landmarks, crumbling cemeteries, and original rail lines to Indian encampments and military forts (some of them restored and catering to history buffs). The tour is dotted with old-time fur trading posts, boom-and-bust mining camps, sleepy ghost towns, and near-ghosts with hotels still standing. Photographs and a state-by-state index identify authentic highlights for anybody's "out West" tour.


We weren't being morbid about it: it was time to eat, that's all. and in southeastern Utah (as well as in other lonely corners of the West), when it's time to eat and you see a roadside café, it rarely pays to be fussy. the next establishment--not likely to be significantly different in size, service, or general decor anyway-- may well be another hour or two down the road.

On this particular day, however, and at this particular truck stop, we confess that our physical hunger pangs were reinforced by a certain emotional titillation. Crescent Junction's café, as well as the T configuration of highways that spawned it, were familiar to us from previous trips. and for this reason we had followed recent news reports with more than usual interest.

A woman motorist and her daughter apparently had stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. and he, presumably, had murdered them, tossing their bodies onto the desert and fleeing in their car. a day or two later (maybe three, the details escape me now), police had spotted the car and given chase. At Crescent Junction, where U.S. 160 joins U.S. 50, the story ended as quickly as it had begun. the stolen car had skidded to a halt and, as police converged on it, the driver had shot himself to death.

"Yes," the waitress said softly, in answer to our inevitable question. "Over there. I heard the noise, looked up in time to see it." We talked a bit longer about the tragedy, the senselessness of it, then fell silent.

"I guess the worst thing is what it's doing to all of us," she said finally, her voice sad, almost plaintive. "Out here, you know, we've always prided ourselves on never passing a person in need. and now we're afraid not to. Even the truck drivers. It just isn't right."

Her words, and her tone--as if noting the passing of a family friend--tell much about her. They tell even more about the West she referred to as "out here. . . ."

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