Friday, May 4, 2018

Paul J. Erickson Memorial Highway

Paul J. Erickson
The Paul J. Erickson Memorial Highway is only a mere 18 miles of asphalt along storied Belt Creek Country, Montana.  But as travelers roll along those eighteen miles, The Paul J. Erickson Memorial Highway reminds them of The Life & Legacy of a Man Devoted to Family, Community and Fellow Fire Fighters. Paul J. Erickson's Memorial Highway is also implicitly forever bonded with Vince Kirol and Darcy Dengel.

Paul J. Erickson was a Classic Montana Man, born and bred in Belt.  From the very "git go," his ambition was to be an EMT and a Fire Fighter and to some day fly in the sky to help people survive in the rural Heart Of Montana.

Paul J Erickson became the youngest person in Montana ever to become EMT at the age of 15.

Paul J. Erickson succeeded in everything he did and served as a Role Model and a Life Example to all who knew him.  Allocades still flow forth attesting to his Wonderful Life.

Paul J. Erickson's exemplary Life was cut short February 6, 2007 along with Vince Kirol and Darcy Dengel, but his Life & Legacy remain and carry on.  The Paul J. Erickson Memorial Highway is unique on US 89 from Mexico to Canada.  The 18-mile stretch of asphalt serves not only to bring once again alive the memory of a Man who stood Forever Tall among his peers in Belt and Great Falls, Montana, but is also "Dedicated to Montana's First Responders who proudly risk their lives to serve, comfort, and protect."

THE PAUL J. ERICKSON MEMORIAL HIGHWAY is 17.97 miles in  length on Hwy US 89 between Milepost 53.5 and Milepost 71.47 (Begin Junction Hwy 427 and ending at junction with Hwy 200 near Armington Junction). The north end is at:  47.348889 -110.896667 The south end is at: 47.14174  -110.82329

Below is a two minute dash cam video of driving a portion of the south end of the Paul J. Erickson Memorial Highway.  If the embedded video won't load, use this link:


Paul J. Erickson's obituary:

For an internal MDT memo regarding designation of The Paul J. Erickson Memorial Highway, see:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Small Left Large Mark

A very small memorial pays tribute to The Small Legacy as "Father of Arizona Highways."  That's right, Charles Churchill (C.C.) Small was so highly regarded during his 13 years with the Arizona State Highway Department, his peers bestowed the honor of that special title upon the engineer.

The C.C. Small Memorial is located on the Yarnell Hill Overlook along old US 89.  Very little is known of Engineer Small.  The only information we could find comes from Page 58 of the 2004 ADOT publication entitled, "Good Roads Everywhere, A History of Road Building in Arizona."  

"The creation of the Arizona state highway system can be credited to often nameless staff members, but two highway department employees stand out for their contributions. One was Charles Churchill (C.C.) Small, a civil engineer who had begun his career as a railroad location engineer in Massachusetts. At the time, there were few professionals trained in the new science of highway construction, and many highway engineers came from the railroads. He joined the State Engineer’s Office in 1919 as chief location engineer. When Small joined the department, the state boasted about 1,000 miles of highways, most in the two roads established as Territorial Highways in 1909. During the 13 years Small worked for the department, the state highway mileage doubled, and he oversaw several major construction projects including the building of the third state highway, which is the route that became U.S. Highway 66. Small also directed the modernization of the old Territorial Highway from Phoenix to Duncan (later U.S. Highway 70), and the route from Nogales to Flagstaff over Yarnell Hill (later designated U.S. Highway 89). After Small had been named chief deputy state engineer, he initiated the construction of the final section of U.S. Highway 60 from Globe to Show Low, including the bridge over the daunting Salt River Canyon. A junior member of his staff remembered Small as “the guy who ran the place. State engineers came and went [but] he was the one who had the say.” On a treacherous stretch of U.S. Highway 89 between Wickenburg and Prescott, a monument on the slopes of Yarnell Hill reads, “In memory of Charles Churchill Small, member, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1872-1932, Father of Arizona Highways” (Gray 1995a:3)."

For more location information and additional photos see: 


Monday, February 19, 2018

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway

In 1972 Congress dedicated a 24,000-acre parcel of land as John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway to recognize his generosity and foresight. Congress also named the highway from the south boundary of Grand Teton to West Thumb in Yellowstone in honor of Rockefeller.
 The graphic above shows the key location of the JDR Jr. memorial Parkway.
 John D. Rockefeller is shown here on Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park with his wife Abbey.  To tell the story of how John D. Rockefeller singlehandedly created Grand Teton National Park would take a book.  Indeed, there are books written about that very topic!  Let's put it this way--John D. ruled The Three R's.  He was Rich, Ruthless and Righteous.  And he needed to be all three in order to pull off one of the long-running ruse that acquired the land which became Grand Teton National Park.  One of these days we will try to tell a short version of that story. It's amazing.
In the very center of the group above, Laurance S. Rockefeller and his wife, Mary, are shown with their feet on the centerline at the dedication of the memorial parkway in honor of his father.  Laurance himself would go on to make a historic donation when he gifted the Rockefeller's Family Ranch to the Grand Teton National Park as special preserve.  Laurance said at the dedication: "Father's greatest gift was not his generous donation of land, but rather his vision that people could live in harmony with nature."

Indeed, a Memorial Parkway is the very least that the US government could do to honor John D. Rockefeller.  It's highly unlikely there will ever be anybody like him again.  His contributions to the National Park Service will remain forever epic and timeless.

Tom Mix Memorial

The Tom Mix Memorial 17 miles south of Florence, Arizona, is quite likely both the first and the oldest US 89 roadside monument honoring a deceased celebrity. Due to Mix's worldwide popularity, it was inevitable that a memorial would be erected in 1947 near the spot where he died in a one-car crash on October 12, 1940.

"Tom Mix embodied a kind of can-do American optimism that fit the mood of a dynamic new 20th century America.   By the end of the 1930’s Mix ‘The King of The Cowboys’ had become a living legend with 291 movies, his own comic book, a radio variety show, and a circus. He rode around in a custom yellow supercharged Cord coupe with his TM brand molded into the tire tread so he could leave his mark all over Hollywood." (1)

Mix's happy-go-lucky, full-speed-ahead lifestyle may have contributed to his demise. "...As he roared up old US 89 in his yellow Cord roadster, he completely missed the detour signs that warned of construction up ahead. A flash flood had washed out part of the road and a crew was working on repairing the damage. According to the men on the scene, Mix never even slowed down. He hit his brakes at the last second, but it did little good. Traveling at 80 miles per hour, Mix's car flew through the barriers, dove into a wash and flipped. The convertible came to rest on its side." (2)
Click for photo source.
Mix’s Cord 812 Phaeton was damaged but not beyond repair. Bob H. White of Scottsdale bought the car in 2010 and since has won awards at top car shows after a full restoration. Mix had customized the vehicle with hand-tooled leather fender guards, an accelerator pedal fitted for his boot heel and a steering-wheel holster for his Smith & Wesson revolver. White, who published “The Tom Mix Cord: Saga of a Western Film Star’s Classic Motorcar,” has said the super-charged Cord could top 100 miles per hour, and Mix was known to drive fast.  “It wasn’t the first car Mix crashed, but it was the last,” White said. (3) & (4)
ADOT photo by PIO Peter Corbett
 The Pinal County Historical Society designed and built the Tom Mix Memorial.On Dec. 5, 1947, a crowd of more than 300 gathered at a spot just a couple of hundred yards north of the crash site.  The stone monument was dedicated to Mix. Gene Autry and Ed Echols spoke at the ceremony, and tears flowed freely as Autry’s rendition of “Empty Saddles in the Old Corral” drifted out across the quiet desert.   The memorial remains a popular roadside attraction at Milepost 116 on what's now Arizona State  Route 79, also known as the Pinal Pioneer Parkway. The Pinal County Historical Society Museum maintains an informative Tom Mix interpretive display. (5)
In the movies, Mix’s blaze-faced wonder horse, Tony, would prance his way through bad guys’ bullets, leap huge chasms and gallop to a maiden’s rescue time after time. Then, when Tom and the beautiful rancher’s daughter would lean in for a film-ending kiss, Tony would either nudge Tom toward the girl, or swipe his white hat and spoil the moment. Tony was the first horse to be a real movie star. He was the ultimate hero’s steed when Champion and Trigger were still in ponytails. Two years to the day after Tom Mix’s death, Tony the Wonder Horse died at the remarkable age of 37. (5)

The ordinarily dry wash in which Tom Mix perished was at some point renamed in his honor. The map graphic below shows the location of the Tom Mix Memorial (red push pin) in relationship to many other well known Arizona communities.
Additional information resource:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ivan Doig Memorial Highway

A 21-mile stretch of US 89 flanking Dupuyer, Montana,  was designated in 2016 as the "Ivan Doig Memorial Highway." Acclaimed author Doig (1939-2015) wrote 17 books, many of which expressed the essence of  "US 89 Country" in that dramatic zone where the Great Plains meet the stunning Rocky Mountain Front. 

Ivan Doig was born along US 89 in White Sulfur Springs, Montana, before spending formative years of his early life in Dupuyer and vicinity.  He has been called "One of the great American voices, full of grace, abounding in humanity, easeful in narration, hypnotic in pace, grand in range," by Australian writer Thomas Keneally.

The two blue push pins on the map above show the extent of the "Ivan Doig Memorial Highway. The Dupuyer Community Club and the Montana Department of Transportation have worked together to establish the memorial on U.S. Highway 89. The designation stretches from the intersection of U.S. 89 with Montana Highway 219 near Pendroy, where the Doig family lived on the Jensen place, to the intersection with Montana Highway 44 near Valier, where Doig graduated high school in 1957. Click here for the interactive Google Map:

On Ivan Doig's birthday June 27th, 2016, about 50 area residents and visitors gathered in Dupuyer to dedicate the designation of the Ivan Doig Memorial Highway on US 89.  Inspired by the success of the 2016 event, local organizers invited the public to another birthday party on June 27th, 2017, to dedicate the a sheepherder's monument to Ivan Doig.  More than 100 people attended in 2017 including nine members of Doig's Valier High School Class of 1957 - their 60th class year reunion.

Since 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of This House of Sky, Dupuyer organizers are planning another birthday party in 2018 to commemorate that milestone.

Readers of Doig’s National Book Award nominee, “This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind,” will recall his description, “The western skyline before us was filled high with a steel-blue army of mountains, drawn in battalions of peaks and reefs and gorges and crags as far along the entire rim of the earth as could be seen.” Drivers will travel this landscape at Dupuyer as they ride on the designated Ivan Doig Memorial stretch of U.S. Highway 89.

For an account of the dedication see:
For a Mick McClary video of a portion of the dedication see:

The effort to create a monument began in 2015 and was sponsored by the Dupuyer Community Club as well as other generous donors. Built by Virgil Peterson (center in photo) the masonry represents a sheepherder’s monument, a rock cairn built by a sheepherder in the quiet, often lonely, days of tending sheep.  Sheep were taken to far away pastures for summer grazing, often watched over and moved by a single person throughout the season, living in a small sheepwagon.

“But a sheepwagon always existed alone, remote as a drifting brig on the grass ocean. It was built for one man to bide through the narrow months in, and that single life only: in the mountain dawn or dusk, yellowed light from the kerosene lamp at a herder's wagon showed like one frail star fallen into the timber,” taken from Ivan Doig’s book “From This House Of Sky."
The Dupuyer Community Club committee of Rita Christiaens, Vicki Beck, Ali Newkirk and Mary Tonkovich is dedicated to perpetuating and celebrating The Life & Times & Work of Ivan Doig.  The Dupuyer Cache (shown above) is owned and operated by Ali Newkirk.  Mary is in charge of the book section, a part-time worker, full time supporter.  The business has now become a "must see" for US 89 Heritage Tourists passing through Ivan Doig Country along The Rocky Mountain Front.

Here are a couple of other links regarding Ivan Doig: