Abandoned America: Painted Desert Trading Post

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Painted Desert Trading Post sits on an abandoned stretch of Route 66 in the Arizona desert. I was just crazy enough to drive to it.

I drove past the sign warning that the road is unmaintained. A mile or two into the desert on this dirt track I came to Route 66: here, it hasn’t seen use or maintenance in decades, the asphalt crumbling to pieces, making me worry for my tires. Pressing on, I followed Route 66 for a couple more miles, very slowly, very gently, and eventually, there was my prize, the abandoned white building.

Even when the Post was in operation, there was no electrical or telephone service out here. Gasoline was dispensed from gravity pumps, and appliances ran on wind power. The story goes like this: In the early 1940s, Dotch and Alberta Windsor opened the Painted Desert Trading Post on a deserted stretch of Route 66. Near nothing, it was a favorite stop for travelers, selling souvenirs, food, drink, and gasoline, until the Interstate bypassed the site in the late ’50s.

The Windsors split up around 1950, and Dotch married Joy Nevin. The two continued running the Trading Post until it closed. A street in nearby Holbrook is named after Joy Nevin.

The shell of the building is tagged with graffiti from visitors with no souls, but, as of 2009, is still standing. No relics from the past can be found inside. It’s nice to find such a remote site, but the downside is that there’s no one to stop the vandals. You have to be a real bastard to spray-paint “Route 66” on a building like this.