ILX Drive to Chloride, Arizona
Odometer (Legend): 528,074
Odometer (ILX): 61,446
Distance: 440 Miles Round-Trip
To me, the word itself carries a vibe of toxicity, harshness, and abrasion. The rusty pots and pans that were hanging along the fence at the entrance to town thus provided a curious, yet fitting, welcome to a community that resembles 1913 a lot more than it does 2013. Join me on a drive to the oldest continuously-inhabited mining settlement in the great state of Arizona: Chloride.
I could drive the Highway 93 corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas with my eyes closed – that’s how familiar I am with that 292-mile stretch of road. In the hundreds of times I’ve passed the turnoff for “Chloride,” though, I never let my curiosity get the best of me and actually checked it out. That is, until last Saturday when I was on my way home from the Thanksgiving holiday in Utah. “Today’s the day,” I thought to myself as I hit the brakes in the ILX and made my way to the left hand turn lane. “I’ve gotta see what this place is all about.”
For each of the 4 miles that I rolled eastward on Route 125, I journeyed deeper and deeper into the past. I ended up in the year 1864, when Chloride was bustling with commerce and was home to 2,500 people who rushed to settle there in search of silver, gold, lead, and zinc deposits in the Cerbat Mountains. My ‘ILX stagecoach’ kicked up a few billowing dust clouds in the sections of two-lane, winding road that had experienced flooding recently. I drove in search of the various attractions advertised on a crude wooden sign alongside the road. It promised “Old Buildings.” What more enticement did I need?
Approaching town limits, I passed a cattle guard at the west end of town and saw a small sign that said CEMETERY alongside the road. I downshifted the ILX to 2nd gear and slowed to 15 mph in the 25 mph zone because there was simply too much scenery to soak in. All around me were relics of the past, homes that stood half-boarded up like they were one step away from being good for nothing more than firewood.
A gas station on the north side of Route 125 had antique pumps out front that have been dry for decades. As I neared the intersection of 2nd Street & Tennessee Avenue, I saw that life did exist in Chloride. Two bearded men were smoking in front of a tavern and gave me a stare-down as I slowly rolled past them. I might as well have been driving a spaceship because that’s how much of an outsider I felt. If it was possible to “tiptoe” in a vehicle, that’s what I felt like doing. I didn’t want to call any attention to myself as I explored this fascinating little town.
My first stop was the Mineshaft Market & General Store. One step inside the front door and I quickly recognized why the sign out front said, “Pack Rat’s Porch.” This place was chock full of… well… stuff. Basic food items lined one wall while the rest of the shelves were filled with trinkets, leather goods, and souvenirs. I used the restroom at the back of the store, then went into an adjacent room with a sign “Arizona Tourist Information.” That tourist information, as it turns out, was a room fitting for the TV show Hoarders. Miscellaneous brochures and pamphlets were scattered around haphazardly as if a tornado had just rolled through the room.
I took a driving tour to explore a few square blocks of Chloride, envisioning what the place might have been like 150 years ago. Still most of the roads are unpaved. “Payroll Avenue” was one of those streets. I wonder if anyone actually ever struck it rich in Chloride? If they did, I certainly imagine they would have since moved elsewhere. I pulled over and got out of the car when I saw a woman who’d walked up to the post office to retrieve her mail. “How long have you lived here?” I asked. “Four years,” she said, “But my boyfriend’s been here 20.”
She confirmed that the few hundred people who still live in Chloride do work primarily in the mining industry. The town attracts a few tourists a year for its St. Patty’s Day parade and an “Old Miner’s Day” parade each June, complete with a gunfight at high noon. The town’s two restaurants and two bars are usually filled to capacity during those seasonal festivities. Perhaps I’ll go back for the “all town yard sale,” held each May and October when residents display their wares on their front lawns in hopes of finding the right buyers.
I thanked the woman for the information, saddled back up in my ILX, and headed westward on Route 125 into the sunset, glad that I had stopped in this quaint little town but also glad to get back to the reality of 2013. Hope you enjoyed experiencing it with me. Below are the photos that I captured during my visit.
A fence lined with pots & pans greet visitors arriving from the west.
It truly felt like I was time traveling as I got closer to the business district.
On the outskirts of town, a May 1976 time capsule created by the students of the Chloride School awaits its unveil at a future unspecified date.
I don’t think this service station had the 91 octane fuel I would have needed. Luckily I had a half tank of gas.
Below (building at left) is the post office which has been in continuous operation since 1873.
The Chloride Baptist church (established 1891) has Sunday School services at 10:00 a.m. This was the only church building I saw within town limits during my drive through.
This “pedestrian-only” ghost town street looked like a Western movie set. It reminded me of my visit to Old Tucson Studios.
The center of commerce: Mineshaft Market. The Pack Rat’s Porch invites visitors to “Come Sit a Spell.” It’s easy to tell that the pace of life in Chloride is moving in slow motion.
I parked the ILX and took a peek inside to see what kind of wares I could find.
The sign at hanging on the wall at right reads, “Arizona Tourist Information.” Good luck finding it in this disastrous room.
When’s the last time you used a pay phone?
A small building (it stood no taller than my height) had a sign out front that said “Gnome Retirement Home.”
Finally, heading back to civilization in the real world and happy to set foot back in 2013.
Thanks to my friend Paul for capturing some pictures of the sporty looking ILX at the Phoenix Auto Show this past weekend.
On Monday, my ILX received an “A13” service from Acura of Tempe, Arizona. It included:
- Oil change (0W20 synthetic): $46.70
- Tire rotation: $20.00
- Manual transmission service: $69.95
- “Shop supplies”: $8.28
- Total invoice with tax: $150.92
Current maintenance summary since new (click to enlarge):
Back on the road I go, riding into the sunset until the next episode!