The billboards for this classic highway stop have so far survived, but only just. The paint is fading fast and whole sections of plywood are beginning to fall away. An addendum explains the reason why: the "Now Open" has been stenciled over to read "Now Closed."
It's one of the saddest losses of Americana in recent history, a perfect example of the quirky and unique roadside attraction giving way to progress. The oversize icons, two 25-foot arrows, are no longer enough to pique a motorist's interest, so they and the truck stop they once advertised have fallen by the wayside. Twin Arrows Trading Post, the "Best Little Stop on I-40" is receding into the timeline.
The giant arrows that brought the trading post its notoriety are easily recognized by any Route 66 aficionado. They've graced the covers of travel books and still appear as a current attraction on some Historic Route 66 maps. Video montages memorializing the legendary highway invariably flash a glimpse or two of the towering projectiles. They are a Mother Road landmark.
According to Bob Moore's Route 66: Spirit of the Mother Road, the roadside stop was originally called the Canyon Padre Trading Post, named for the gorge that cuts to the west. The date it came into being, though, is hard to pin down. The cafe attached to the east end of the main structure is a model of the prefabricated Valentine diner sold in the early 1950s, but that could have been added on at any time.
Without a good deal more research, the best determination I can make is that the business was established after 1946, as Jack Rittenhouse made no mention of it in his classic A Guide Book to Highway 66, a thorough, stop-by-stop handbook published that year.
In any case, the waypoint didn't garner real attention until its moniker was changed to Twin Arrows, a play on the name of neighboring town Two Guns. Combined with the simple addition of slanted utility poles, cleverly trimmed with matching feathers and arrowheads, the change was enough to establish the site as a true roadside attraction.
Unfortunately, like with so many Route 66 businesses, the construction of the interstate through the area in the 1970s spelled doom. Despite having Exit 219 designated specifically in its name, the gas station/cafe/gift shop soon began to fail. It reportedly changed hands a number of times, reopening for the last time in 1995, before finally closing down for good. When the property was relinquished to the state, a "No Trespassing" sign sounded the death knell.
Jersey barriers now cordon off the property, blocking truckers who, for a time, used the space to catch some Z's. The windows and doors are almost all boarded up and the asphalt is slowly being turned to gravel by the determination of unstoppable weeds. The station's two pricing signs remain, although one has been stripped of its digits. The other, out of reach, is frozen at $1.36 a gallon.
The most disappointing sight is the rapid demise of the arrows themselves. They held out until around the year 2000 when the harsh desert finally broke their resolve. Since then, they've been decaying piece by piece. Feathers lost their siding. Arrowheads disintegrated into frames. Unless someone intervenes, they'll soon be nothing but Twin Chopsticks.