Unless you've a first-timer going through the desert, the two-lane drive on Highway-93 from Las Vegas to Phoenix is the epitome of tedium. Highlighted by continuous flat, brown nothingness and punctuated by the occasional eye-sore, called Joshua trees, even the impressive saguaros (giant cacti) lose their oomph after seeing the millionth one.
Like any desert, you don't want to have an automotive break-down out there. That is why the little mirage-like towns along the way act as an oasis in the wilderness. On that road, the border from Nevada is identified by Hoover Dam. Yes, you should stop and check-out this testimony to American ingenuity. It's a true modern engineering marvel that proved that necessity (the Great Depression) can be the mother of invention. But unless you are a total geek who absolutely MUST experience the quintessence of dullness... you can miss the tour...trust me...you can appreciate enough of it by parking, finding the visitor center, scenic over-looks and gift shop.HOOVER DAM. DEFINITELY GO IF YOU'RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD...BUT REMEMBER, THIS PHOTO IS 80% OF ITS ALLURE !!
Once in Arizona, the first stop is Kingman. If you are a city-boy (person) like me, you'll notice that this is a lonely dot in the middle of nowhere. However, after you pass through you'll soon realize that it is a megalopolis compared to the other places out there. When I look back, the towns seemed to get smaller as you roll into Wickenburg, Wittman, Baghdad and Wikieup. (If you read my novel, a crowning moment in Dennis' detour to Vegas occurs at the filling station/Greyhound Depot/post office in Wikieup). However, Wikieup was not the smallest town on 93 !
The uninhabited ghost town of Santa Claus had one building (that I could see) , a closed-up Christmas shop. Before I started this investigative report, I guessed that they must have relied too heavily on a booming mail-order business or on bored-to-tears travelers to come in. But Santa Claus or Santa Claus Acres as some people called it, did have a hey-day...okay, a short hey-day but a hey-day nevertheless.
Inspired by a realtor trying to attract buyers to her local land parcels, the idea of a North Pole, Santa's workshop and Christmas theme resort came to be. Established in 1937 and spear-headed by the Santa Claus Inn (originally called the Kit Carson Guest House), the town became a full-fledged tourist destination by 1942. It boasted a year-round Santa Claus on duty and a replica toy factory operated by elves, (I am uncertain if these were actual elves, cheap foreign knock-offs or the mechanical kind). Also, for a small fee, (mainly around the holidays) people from around the world would mail their cards and gifts there so that they could be re-mailed with a Santa Claus Arizona postmark.DECAYED AND VANDALIZED, THERE'S NOT MUCH LEFT OF THE SANTA CLAUS LAND OFFICE.
The realtor's vision never materialized and the town began declining by 1949. For a while the Christmas shop remained but eventually closed. By the mid-70's Santa Claus was officially removed from all new maps by the state of Arizona. So what I saw in 1984 was a single dilapidated building that had laid idle for years. Apparently there were other buildings that I didn't see because the land office and post office among others, didn't close until 1995.
These days, without Santa Claus as it's anchor, the gem of Mohave County has become the tiny hamlet of Chloride Arizona. From Santa Claus (the signs are still there), travel along Hermit Drive until you pass the slightly more scintillating berg of Grasshopper Junction. Then a mere jackalope's throw further, its on to Chloride, where you'll find the metal statues of a tourist mecca called, "The Junk Art Chloride."
THE "JUNK ART OF CHLORIDE," WHY DON'T YOU GO AND TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT ON YOUR BLOG !