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American Roads: Site Map > Auto Trails > Auto Trail Articles > Touring Topics article November 1914 p8

Crooks and Turns of Phoenix Course

Authentic Data on the Route Covered by the Contestants in the 1914 Desert Classic

By HARRY LOCKE, Field Engineer

― from Touring Topics, November 1914, page 8-10.


This year’s Los Angeles-Phoenix race is over an entirely new route from those used in the past six years. The road selected measures 696 miles and is longer by 132 miles than via San Diego and Yuma. Three days instead of two will be consumed for the event. The advantages are the lack of heavy sand and generally better road conditions through the sparsely settled districts of San Bernardino County, California, and western Arizona. However, storms are far more likely to occur at this season along the northern route in the higher elevations of Arizona than on the southern routes and should rains or snow be encountered the running time will be materially reduced from previous records. With fair weather the winning car should average 31 miles per hour, equalling the time made by Olin Davis in the Locomobile last year.
The start is at 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, November 9th, at Eastlake Park, four miles from Broadway and Seventh Street. From here fine macadam and concrete roads with long straightaways will permit great time being made through El Monte, Pomona, Ontario, Upland, Cucamonga and into San Bernardino, the first checking station. This distance is 59 miles and will undoubtedly be made by some cars in less than one hour, even though there is one almost impassable stretch where state highway work is in progress which is avoided by the touring public by detouring via Etiwanda.
So it will be early morning when the mighty, port-holed motors will roar through the main streets of San Bernardino, awakening the city to the fact that the great “Desert Classic” road race is on. Should it rain on this November morn, the 9th, the awakening will be deferred somewhat as the pavements from Los Angeles will be slippery and the drivers cautious.
From San Bernardino the road follows the Santa Fe railroad very closely to Ash Fork and Phoenix.
There will be a dash on a seven and one-half mile oiled straightaway for place in the narrow defile up Cajon Pass, where for twelve miles the road is in a narrow canyon with continuous heavy up-grades and sharp, dangerous turns with few opportunities for passing. When the summit is gained the country opens up into a great plain of yucca with a good road on to Hesperia and Victorville. Two miles more and the Mojave River is crossed by bridge and light sand conditions prevail to Barstow. This checking point, a distance of 137 miles from the start, will be reached in less than four hours. Here most cars will be replenished with oil, gas and water supplies sufficient to complete the first day’s run.
The 167 mile stretch between Barstow and Needles will require about six busy hours. Desert conditions are found here but have been nearly eliminated by a very good road across the cinder and lava beds and by contouring grades in the hilly sections. This entire distance is gravel and light sand. There are no heavy sand stretches on the entire course that heat an engine when bucking them.
Daggett, Ludlow, Danby, Goffs and the Santa Fe water tank stations, one at least of which is almost constantly in sight, lend a sense of security while traveling this section and rob it of the dangerous features attributed to deserts. There are, however, sufficient hazards here to be encountered which if not met properly will spell disaster to any machine. Sharp turns, cross washes, ruts, rolling grades with an occasional ditch between them, all of which are negotiated without special notice while touring, present a very different aspect at racing speed.
Needles, the first night control, has excellent accomodations for the weary drivers and mechanics who are so fortunate as to get that far. Leaving Needles at 5:30 the morning of the 10th, two minutes apart in the order of arrival the night previous and not by numerical order as at the start, new road conditions are met for seventeen miles to the Colorado River crossing. The roadway is graded and good but replete with grades and sharp turns, winding among the low, flat hills that border the river.
The Santa Fe Railroad bridge crossing the Colorado is at Topock, twelve miles by rail down the river from Needles, and is now planked for auto travel. The railroad company will suspend traffic at that point for a time and give the racers the right of way. After crossing the river the cars will be on Arizona soil and will leave the main road, which follows the rail road via Yucca to Kingman, and takes an almost direct north route to Gold Road, a distance of thirty miles. There is a stretch of fine, heavy sand for five miles on leaving Topock but this has been oiled and rolled. Several sand hills have been planked so the going will be really good. For nearly all this distance, Boundary Cone, a high rocky point at the edge of the Ute Mountains, stands out prominently as a landmark for it is around the base of this point that the road leads.
As the mountains are approached the road becomes very crooked and rolling grades are encountered. These conditions are magnified in passing through the great mining camps of Oatman and Gold Road, where the grades are 28 per cent in places and continue for several miles. This road is carved out of solid rock along the side of a great mountain to reach the summit and has few passing points.
The twenty-five miles to Kingman and back to the Santa Fe tracks is mostly in a great valley nearly level and over good roads. Leaving Kingman there will be some great speed shown for the new highway is completed in several places and the intervening stretches are level and good. This condition exists for thirty miles and then the mountains are entered with their grades, winding roads through canyons, washes and an occasional ford or rough and rocky place. Such are the general conditions from Hackberry, past the Truxton Canyon Indian school, through Peach Springs, Nelson and Seligman to Ash Fork Junction, a distance of 88 miles. The old road up Nelson Canyon, which is always rocky and rough and crosses and re-crosses under the railroad, is avoided by taking the new graveled road leading south from Nelson and increases the distance only four miles.
There are a number of nearly level valleys between the mountain ranges that will permit relaxation for the drivers’ strained eyes and muscles. The racers do not enter Ash Fork but at a point four miles out the Prescott road is intersected and followed south. This 60 miles to Prescott is good and has but one mountain pass with easy grades. For the most part the road is in the valley and open country.
Prescott, nestling among great mountains, a mile above sea level, is the second night control and from Needles the cars will have traveled 250 miles and gained nearly a mile in elevation. It will take about nine hours to cover the distance and in all probability the race will be practically won on this second day’s run.
Prescott also has excellent accommodations for those who survive the grind of the two days’ racing. It will be fully nine o’clock on November 11th before the cars are sent away on the home stretch of 144 miles and the drivers and mechanicians will be refreshed by the mountain breezes and their long rest among the pine covered mountains. They should finish in five and one-half hours from Prescott.
Again leaving at intervals of two minutes in the order of arrival the racers immediately take to the mountains over a winding road among pines and pinons with almost continuous sharp turns and grades for seven miles to the summit. Then a descent with similar conditions for four miles. The wonderful panoramas through this range will not be noticed by the racers for this day eyes will be fastened on the road, to run off the outer edge of which, means, in many places, a fall of hundreds of feet. When Skull Valley, 18 miles from Prescott, is reached the greater mountain ranges have been passed and it is an alternating road through valleys and among hills on to Kirkland, Hillside, Congress Junction and Wickenburg over good roads.
There is a double road from Wickenburg to Hot Springs Junction. The Tub Springs route is nineteen miles and the Garden of Allah route sixteen and one-half miles long. On the latter it is necessary to ford the Hassayampa River and local weather conditions will govern which of these two routes is preferable. Neither is very good.
The rocky and hilly country found near Hot Springs Junction furnishes the last of the grades. The country opens into an immense, flat valley with a good road winding through the mesquite for 27 miles and then straightaway 17 miles through Peoria, Glendale, Alhambra and to the finish at the Arizona State Fair grounds in Phoenix.
It will be seen that nearly every conceivable road condition exists on this route in fair weather and that if storms occur many additional obstacles will be encountered. Racing automobiles for practically seven hundred miles under such conditions contains the greatest element of luck imaginable. The greatest pilots with high powered cars are likely to become disabled when far from help by accidents that could be remedied in a moment in a repair shop, and the small light cars with unheard of drivers may ramble along with fortune favoring them and take places among the prize winners.
But luck alone cannot win such an event. Days and weeks of preparation, equipping for the particular conditions to be met, and then three days of consistent driving with both brain and muscle entitle the winners to every credit for their achievement.
In mapping this route again in October, 1914, the remarkable changes between Barstow, Needles and Ash Fork rendered it almost unrecognizable when compared with previous trips of a like character less than two years ago. Fine surveyed, graded roads, surfaced in many places and with bridges and drains, have superseded the old lines of least resistance which were well nigh impassable. And the work of improvement and betterment is steadily going on.
If another Los Angeles-Phoenix race is run over this course it will find the roads several miles per hour faster than now.

The selection of the National Old Trails Road between Los Angeles and Ash Fork, Arizona, as a part of the route for the 1914 Los Angeles-Phoenix race, will carry the contestants through a portion of the territory of the Automobile Club of Southern California that has not heretofore had opportunity to witness this contest. The course of prior years has passed through San Diego or has led through Mecca and by way of the Salton Sea over the route of the Ocean to-Ocean Highway.
The officials in charge of the race who are representatives of the Western Automobile Association and the Maricopa Automobile Club are solely responsible for the adoption of the new course despite the unfounded and unfortunate rumor that the Automobile Club of Southern California was instrumental in having the race diverted from the two more southerly routes. As a matter of absolute fact, neither the Automobile Club nor any of its representatives were consulted concerning the race course and would not have stated a preference for any one of the routes, had they been consulted. The Automobile Club has no interest whatever in automobile speed contests other than as individual motorists interested in all activities pertaining to motor cars. Its sole connection with racing events is through its contest committee which represents the American Automobile Association in this territory and which makes the Club the final local arbiter in the interpretation of the American Automobile Association rules when contests are held under sanction of that organization.
The reasons for choosing the route this year are not known to the officers of the Automobile Club and the fact that the course followed is part of a highway which the Automobile Club is at present signposting is only a coincidence. The Club did not know that this route was selected or even considered except as it derived its knowledge from the daily press and it had absolutely no more voice in the selection of the course than it had in the declaration of war between France and Germany.
The list of cars entered and the drivers are given below:








T. J. Beaudet and M. M. Conners



Louis Chevrolet



E. P. Schnact



Olin Davis



Barney Oldfield and George Hill



D. Anderson and C. Yeager



William Carlson



Louis Nikrent



F. S. Wing and Lester Parish



J. Greenwood and A. Kincaid



W. H. Foulke and Jimmy Hahn



W. E.Taylor and A. L. Rex



W. H. Snow and Bob Kendall



Ellis Brothers


De Dietrich

P. C. Sprague



Jack Burns



H. J. Pink and Thomas Eley



W. W. Bramlett



R. Lawrence and D. Durant



C. M. DuBois and J. Caminetti

Date of Race—November 9, 10, 11.

Start on El Monte road at Los Angeles City Limits, about one mile beyond Eastlake Park. First car sent away at five o’clock on morning of the 9th—remainder at two-minute intervals.
Route of Course—Los Angeles via Foothill Boulevard, to San Bernardino; Cajon Pass to Victorville; National Old Trails Road to Needles (first night control).; Needles to Kingman, Seligman, Ash Fork and Prescott (second night control); Prescott to Wickenburg, to Phoenix, finish.
Total number of starters—Twenty. Total Length of Course—696 miles.
Total Purse—$6750. 1st Prize, $2750; 2nd, $2000; 3rd, $1500; 4th, $500.



Copyright © S. Varner 2006