Monday, February 8, 2016

The Old Plank Road

Although they may look like it, these photos were not taken in the Sahara Desert. We were skirting the Mexico/U.S. border on our way to Yuma, Arizona. This 40 mile stretch of paradise is called either the Imperial Sand Dunes, or Los Algodones Sand Dunes. As if that isn't harsh enough, they are sitting in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. I'm not complaining though. After all, we have nice roads to get us through here.

 Like this one...

Even with the wind blowing sand hard enough to take your paint off. I'm still not complaining. We could be driving on...


Oh yes, now that road would be some smooth driving... NOT! 

Although there was a crummy road going through the desert, until 1914 there wasn't any way to get through these dunes. That is the year a seven mile wooden plank road was laid out across the worst of the dunes. It was a constant battle to keep it from being buried by the shifting sands. The road was used until 1927, when it was replaced by a paved road. Imagine just you and your Model T Ford crawling your way across the desert. Oh yeah, it's about 112 degrees, and you don't have air conditioning.  Now that would be an adventure!   NOT! People really were made of tougher stuff back then. 

Unfortunately, this is the last surviving bit of the old plank road. 



  1. Not to mention how bumpy it would be. Like driving on a washboard.

  2. You find some interesting places--I've not spent much time in the southern deserts out West.

  3. Wow! That's really cool. I love the pictures. I can picture the Model T going through this desert and on that plank?! Crazy! Yes, a different stock for sure. ;) The 3rd picture reminds me of my time in Saudi Arabia - driving across the desert to get to a town for shopping. And sometimes, you had to stop for camels passing. Have a nice day! =) S.

  4. I'm made from melting stuff - even on a modern highway with all the mod-cons of an up-to-date car. (And the distance shot of the new road is extraordinary. Gives it a real context.

    New blog -

  5. These look very much like the Sand Hills in est Texas where I grew up! Great captures as always, Pat!! And, thanks as always, for sharing with us!! I hope you have a great new week!! Enjoy!!

  6. As you were describing the paint being blown off your car, I was thinking how much fun that road must be on a motorcycle. An old wooden road, wow. A boardwalk for cars, but no ocean view to be found.

  7. Very interesting Pat, but I wouldn't want to be lost out there!

  8. That old plank road has seen better days!!!

  9. I think we've seen parts of that plank road at some time or other; can you even imagine that slow trip in that heat, no air conditioning...what an adventure.

  10. That's impressive. There are a handful of log roads across some of the mountain passes in Colorado, but they've mostly disappeared by now.

  11. I can't imagine traveling via a plank road. What if your car broke down? Pretty cool though!

  12. I drove that road in 2012, and my pickup with camper damn near got blown off the road. I don't remember seeing the plank road though.
    When the road system started being built in the late 1700's, up in the now New England states, they used planks there also. This was when it was thought that canals was the way to go for transportation.
    Nice pics, Pat.

  13. Quite an interesting old road. I had no idea anyone built plank roads in the desert. You do get out to some faraway places!

  14. Hello Patrick - just today I discovered that your last comments came into my blog spam folder - sorry, I guess I have to check it more often! I did get the 2 ones of today.
    So, did you participate in the scavenger hunt in the city?
    Wow, for this terrain in your post one needs a jeep! I don't know what's worse extremely cold or extremely hot. Am proud to say that we are getting more used to the cold her - we had our air-conditioning on with 65 degr. F. !

  15. Having spent my entire adult life in the green and blossoming Midwest I will ill prepared for my first trip across Arizona. We drove through Yuma when we moved my husband from California to Missouri. In some ways I enjoyed the sights but I just don't know if I could live there full time.

    I do so enjoy visiting your blog even though I seldom comment. Thank you for not following my example. Your comments on my humble scribbles makes my day.

  16. that first desert picture is really exotic, Pat

  17. Hello, the plank road does look bumpy. Amazing landscapes and photos. I can not imagine driving the old cars without air conditioning. Enjoy your day and the week ahead!

  18. It's hard to believe that this is the U.S. Someday, I will visit this area. So I'm glad there are good roads! Thanks for taking the time out of your latest road trip for blog visits. And all your comments. The dude abides. Love it.

  19. It always amazes me when I see those unbelievably long stretches of tar road Pat, and in such good condition.. we have them here too, like across the Nullabor, quite an endeavor even in these times. Where you are at the moment, Mexico way, does it ever get really cold there? We are in the third month of summer and having typically hot spells for this time.

  20. Pat, you always inspire me to get on the road and see something different even it isn't far away from my home.

    You found very interesting places. At first look they are not something attractive but when you look closely something touches you. Impressed by the last surviving old plank road! Tried to imagine what kind of people were working on it. Probably incredibly strong mentally and physically.

    Very best wishes to you.

  21. It is an interesting place for sure, but I won't test my tires out on those :)

    I am currently visiting my sister in Santa Barbara, I can't get over the fact that people are in their shorts and tank tops in February! Grrrr..something is unfair about this :(

  22. I have driven on many kinds of road, but NEVER on a plank road! But I see the point in a desert

  23. Alex J. Cavanaugh - I assume they were in better shape when new, but they probably started deteriorating shortly after.

    sage - There are so many interesting, odd and downright peculiar places out there.

    Sandy - Thanks Sandy! They tried camels out there quite a while ago, but for some reason it didn't catch on. You have a nice day also.

    Esther Montgomery - I guess I'm not very melty. I live right on the coast (where it is much cooler of course), but I've always been drawn to the desert.

    Sylvia - Thanks so much Sylvia! I appreciate it. You also have a great week.

  24. Wayne - Doesn't seem like a good ride to me. Certainly no ocean view here. Although the Sea of Cortez is only about 70 miles away, and the Salton Sea is about 30.

    Brian - Thanks Brian! I agree with you.

    William Kendall - It sure is William. Desolate, but still beautiful.

    The Chieftess - It sure has! I'm not thinking it was very nice even when new.

    Sallie (FullTime-Life) - I agree! I do remember when you had to use Route 66 or I-40. Better than the plank road, but we didn't have any A/C. Remember the canvas water bags people had hanging on their grills?

  25. Al - Log roads! I've yet to see one of those yet.

    mshatch - I can't either. It seems like it would vibrate out your fillings. Breaking down? Now that would be a disaster.

    Should Fish More - I don't think there is a road sign that mentions it. I maybe wrong, but I have a tiny bit of a memory involving a canal, that had a plank road next to it. I could be wrong though. Thanks Mike!

    Robin Andrea - It sure is. I try to spend as much time as possible in those "faraway places."

    jeannettestgermain - We did participate. It was just our family. It's not the kind where you try to gather items, it's more like you document that you found some structure or art piece, or maybe a view. You use clues to find them. It was fun. I don't know either which is worse (too cold, or too hot). A/C at 65? That is not too bad. Sometimes my wife says she is burning up at temps lower than that. She is sweating and says she is burning up, while I have to wear a jacket in the house.

  26. Kranky Granny - I understand why you feel that way. It is BRUTALLY hot there during the summer months. I could live there full time, but my wife says we aren't moving. Thanks for following. I appreciate it.

    DEZMOND - Thanks Dez!

    eileeninmd - Thanks Eileen! It does look bumpy. You have a nice week also.

    Sharon Wagner - Yep, it is pretty rustic in places. The comments are my pleasure Sharon.

  27. PerthDailyPhoto - Yep, only in the wilderness can they makes roads that straight. It's hard to stay alert on them sometimes. During the winter months it can get freezing cold at night in this. We are in our third month of winter and also having hot spells.

    Kaya - Thanks Kaya! Nice of you to say that. I totally agree about the people. They were amazingly strong and resilient.

    ICY BC - Oh yeah, those would be some tire killers. That is funny, my sister also lives in Santa Barbara! We pretty much wear shorts all year here.

    visualnorway - That is probably a good thing to avoid. I hope I never have to either.

  28. The old plank road is interesting. Would need a lot of tires, I think, to travel on it.

  29. It does look like a hot hot desert!I think I would melt there. But I don't travel so that is why your blog is so great for me to read and see your photos!

  30. Now that would test the best modern 4WD - I wonder what it was really like back in the day!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  31. It's fascinating to think about the conditions people used to travel under. Today;s speed-loving society would be soooo frustrated!

  32. Wow, just wow. That DOES look like the Sahara!

  33. No---can't say that I'd EVER enjoy riding or driving on that old unpaved desert road. YIPES.... I would even be a little scared driving through the desert on a 'good' road... They always warn people to make sure their vehicles are in good shape... BUT--it is pretty to look at...


  34. How gorgeous! You find the most amazing places.

  35. That's some serious tough going. Yes, we've all become too complacent and whiny, forgetting where we came from. Who knows, maybe one day we'll be back to that type of thing.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  36. How fascinating. We do take our concrete highways for granted, don't we? I love the state of that wood - soon nature will reclaim it completely.

  37. Wonderful post! I'm so glad that you explained the history of this place. I can only imagine trying to drive on that plank road.

  38. M Pax - It was probably in good shape when they started on it, but things deteriorate in a hurry. Very interesting, I agree.

    Nora - Believe me it gets deadly hot there. I'm glad you like this stuff, I pledge to do your melting for you...

    Stewart M - I'm sure that it was brutal. Most 4WD vehicles would stand a chance in that deep sand. That is why this area is a mecca for dune buggies!

    EG CameraGirl - Yep, they were a whole lot tougher than we are today.

  39. Al Penwasser - It kind of felt like the Sahara also.

    Betsy Adams - You are right! As many times as people are warned about the desert, some of them die every year.

    ladyfi - Thanks so much!

    Anthony J. Langford - After the Zombie Apocalypse?
    My pleasure Anthony...

    Mandy Southgate - Yep, just like nature will reclaim everything...

    James - Thanks James! I glad you enjoyed it.

  40. o, dear, is that the remains of a road? Not even good for a horse.

    Nice to see though!

  41. This wooden road across the dunes is min boggling. How in the world did they keep the blowing sand off of it. I have been to the national park in Colorado, and those dunes are something that I cannot imaging building a road thru. I am so glad that this little bit remains. I wonder why the gov’t has not put it on the National Register of Historic Places.

  42. You really do travel to some interesting and deserted places, Pat! It certainly is very desolate out there.

  43. NatureFootstep - I know! I'm sure it was much smoother when new, but new doesn't last long in the desert.

    genie - I think they had work teams on horseback constantly trying to keep it all together. I believe that it is on the National Register.

  44. Plank road?? Wow, that's a little crazy.

    I could never live in a place that hot. I would die in 2 seconds. Utah is the most desert I could ever do.

  45. Baby Sister - It is a bit crazy! Yeah, I guess the country there is a bit inhospitable. Thanks for all the comments Amanda.


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