COBWEB CORNERS: The early automobile tourists
By Mel McFarland
Now that we are settling into June, and July is just around the corner, a summer tale seems right.
It was about 100 years ago that this area started getting big influxes of summer visitors. That's when cars first started to be used for vacations. Travel was different then. Colorado City and Manitou were among the last stops for tourists on their way from the East and the South before they hit the mountains. Many stayed weeks at a time, some at mom-and-pop-owned motels, others in campgrounds. Rambling through the tourist camps, you could hear all sorts of stories about traveling conditions along the way.
Down near Fountain Creek was a very large campground with all sorts of rigs from all over. Up until as late as 1940 you might even see what resembled gypsy caravans, some with horse-drawn wagons fixed up much like modern motor homes.
Those that found their way here back then were really out for a challenge. Our roads were not much to speak of until about 1928 or '29. Many roads were barely maintained, much less marked with signs. You could buy guide books telling you how to get here. They might tell you to follow a railroad track until you reached a certain farm house, or a tree or rock! Streams and rivers were another problem. The normal way to get across was most likely a ferry boat, not a bridge. Even down along the Arkansas, the roads usually traveled were on the north or south side of the river, not crossing back and forth.
The main problem, not counting road conditions and water, was finding tires and gasoline. The drivers also had to be adept at making their own car repairs. There were no big truck stops and only a few junkyards along the way!
Once the cars and roads got more reliable, being a tourist was a whole lot less of an adventure. With motor homes and interstate highways, the mom-and-pop motels have faded away, but you can still find them, even here!