1924 Road Tripping – Part II: Through Santa Fe and further west

We continue with the second of three letters from Miss Edith Bordner of New Philadelphia, OH, from her automobile trip across America in the summer of 1924.
[Letter 1]
[Letter 3]

This was the first letter I came across and it completely captivated me. In part, because my good friend, Glenn, and I made nearly this same trip back in the summer of 1989. We started from Kansas City, heading west across Kansas and into Colorado before camping near the Garden of the Gods. From there it was on to Santa Fe for another few nights of camping and then on across I-40 to Flagstaff, later into Needles, California where it was so hot we had to stay in a Motel 6 for the night just to cool off.

Anyway, that’s a different story. Back to Miss Bordner’s narrative.

The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, Ohio) Tue, Aug 19, 1924


Following is a letter written to the Daily Times by Miss Edith Bordner who is touring the west:

“We wrote you last from Colorado Springs June 29th. From there we went south to Pueblo, where we took the Santa Fe Trail. Encountering a heavy sand storm we stopped at Trinidad over night.

“Next morning it was raining as we started over Raton Mt. Pass, 7000 feet high. As we neared the summit we passed through a cloud and waited there until it floated by beneath us.

“We visited Santa Fe, N.M. and vicinity – “the most wonderful 50 mile square in America,” where are to be found a greater variety of scenic beauty and grandeur, more historical land marks, more archaeological sights, that were the haunts of man a thousand or more years ago more quaint and imposing ruins, more Indian towns and terraced pueblos, more Spanish plazas with the customs and crafts of centuries ago, than anywhere else in the United States.

“A priest showed us through the oldest church in America [San Miguel Mission, still standing just off the Santa Fe Plaza] and allowed us to tap the bell cast in Spain in 1365 of gold, silver and brass.

“The Palace of the Governors, built 300 years ago, is now the museum of N.M. Here Lew Wallace, while governor, wrote the concluding chapters of “Ben Hur.”

“We were much interested in the Indians and their villages. Mrs. Carnes and I were barred from their church because we wore knickers. Their adobe houses are all made of mud and straw.

“An old squaw threw a club at me when I took a picture of them.

“Leaving N. Mexico, which had very good dirt roads, we found very poor roads in Arizona. We drove a mile in a river bed on a detour. Ninety eight per cent of New Mexico and Arizona is waste land, but they hope through irrigation to make it rich farming country.

“We spent the “Fourth” at Winslow, Ariz., and attended the “rodeo” at the Fair Grounds, given by the cow boys and Navajo Indians. Horse back riding and lassoing were chief events.

“The American Legion gave a dance here and invited the tourists. It was a lovely affair. We danced one dance with a real Navajo Indian, who was a graduate of Cornell University and Superintendent of the schools.

“La Haba Mt. Pass, over which Santa Fe trail took us in Arizona, is 9000 feet high, with a gradual ascent of seven miles and only one and a quarter mile descent with twenty-seven sharp hair-pin curves in that short distance.

“We greatly enjoyed the petrified forest and painted desert, taking over by the U.S. government. From Flagstaff we drove 80 miles off of our road through a dense pine forest to the “Grand Canyon,” which is 8 miles wide, 36 miles long [she’s off by about 225 miles, likely she is only writing about the part closest to Flagstaff and over a mile deep.] It is the grandest thing of its kind in the world and is simply too wonderful for description. We took the rim drive and saw it from all sides. Watched the effects of sun, rain and clouds for two days, which was magnificent.

“We came to the desert at Kingman, Ariz., and after sixty miles of very high and narrow mountain roads after dark, we dropped into Needles, the gateway to California and the hottest place in the world, at 11 o’clock at night. Pioneer mountain drivers were shocked at us driving over this mountain at night.

“Fortunately for us they had a hard rain at Needles that afternoon and the temperature was only 90. It is usually 120 to 130. Next morning at 11 o’clock we started across the Mohave Desert of 300 miles. Forty miles out the temperature was 91 in the shade. About every twenty-five miles through there are small gas stations, where tourists can get refreshments and water. The water is piped from mountains, sometimes 7 to 10 miles and is very warm.

“About six o’clock, after having driving 147 miles, Claude shot a Jack rabbit from the car, so we stopped at a beautiful oasis, where there was a store, swimming pool for tourists, rented a cottage at the foot of a mountain and cooked the rabbit. The sunset and sunrise there was gorgeous. The roads were wide and hard gravel, but good, except about 100 miles of pavement that was rough. We did not suffer with the heat and really enjoyed our trip through. Much to our surprise the desert in some places is quite mountainous.

“Leaving the desert the next day we drove through 68 miles of orange and lemon groves and reached our destination in Monrovia at the P. L. Thompson residence at 7 o’clock p.m. July 9th.

“We were four weeks on the way. Of this we visited eleven days. We had only two half days of rain and mud and two punctures in Arizona on the whole trip.

“Mr. Thompson, formerly a piano dealer in Canton and Cleveland, is a cousin of Mrs. Carnes and owns one of the biggest chicken ranches in California.

“We spent ten days at Monrovia, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Long Beach, Catalina Island and other places of interest, visiting and sight seeing.

“We all love southern California and its wonderful climate. This year has been unusually dry in the coast states, the rainfall being only 9 inches.

“California has very few factories and the occupation is mostly fruit raising. It is a wonderful place for wealthy people. We left Los Angeles July 22 with Mr. Thompson on a trip to Vancouver, B.C., about which I shall write you later.

[Letter 3]


Amateur photographer, cyclist, and beer brewer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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