When I told my friend, Nancy, I was going to visit Dateland, she said to be sure to have a DateShake.
She caught me by surprise. She lives in Ireland, so how did she know about the Dateshake. Nancy explained that when she traveled from San Diego to Scottsdale, Arizona, they had to go through Dateland and always made sure to stop and enjoy their famous Dateshake.
I bet she didn’t know those couple of Date palm trees acres, growing next to the Dateland Travel center, are only used for dateshakes.
Bernie and Chris cool off under a date palm tree. The few acres of dates are harvested and processed to produce dateshakes.
The Dateland librarian shared that information. The tiny community’s library is located in the Dateland Elementary School.
However, I am getting ahead of myself.
My trip to Dateland produced a lot more historical data than I imagined.
Today, Friday the ninth of March was the perfect time to travel to Dateland. It was only sixty-two degrees when we left our Surprise, Arizona home at eight-thirty in the morning. This time of year, it shouldn’t get warmer than the low seventies. It is much better than one hundred and twenty the southern part of Arizona experiences in the summer.
A stagecoach journey, a Petroglyph site, a solar farm, a train, a Japanese internment camp, a military training base, and of course a dateshake awaits me.
Researching Dateland, I found some interesting information about the Butterfield stage route. Dateland was just a watering spot in the two thousand eight hundred miles stagecoach journey.
Jay W. Sharp provides an exciting adventure in his The Passenger Experience published in DesertUSA “The Stagecoach in 1860’s” (https://www.desertusa.com/desert-activity/stagecoach-service.html). I encourage reading it.
My journey will be from home in Surprise, AZ to Dateland. I will travel in comfort over smooth paved roads of Interstate 10, south on US Route 85 and west on Interstate 8 until I reach Dateland. The entire trip is almost two hours and covers 115 miles.
Let’s compare that with travel on the Butterfield Stage line. Before starting out:
“Butterfield warned his passengers at the outset of a trip with a poster that said:
YOU WILL BE TRAVELING THROUGH
INDIAN COUNTRY AND THE SAFETY
OF YOUR PERSON CANNOT BE
VOUCHSAFED BY ANYONE BUT GOD.
Passengers and crew readied their weapons at the slightest sign of Indians, especially in the Mescalero Apache country of West Texas and the Chiricahua Apache regions in Southern New Mexico and Arizona.”
My trip was only 115 miles. The stagecoach trip was extremely uncomfortable 400 miles. It would take about a week under these following conditions:
“The passengers rode three abreast, squeezed into back and middle rows, both facing forward, and into a forward row, facing rearward. The facing passengers in the forward and middle rows had to ride with their knees dovetailed. All the passengers rode with baggage on their laps and mail pouches beneath their feet. They traveled relentlessly, day and night, with no more than brief moments at way stations for often poor food and no rest. They suffered, not from brief dust and snow storms, but from continual heat and choking dust in the summer and intense cold and occasional snow in the winter.”
And when the stagecoach crossed the sandy desert, the passengers had to get out of the coach and walk.
“A Kinnear Express stagecoach operating from Tombstone to Bisbee in the 1880s. This thoroughbrace stagecoach used thick leather straps to support the body of the carriage and serve as shock absorbing springs.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stagecoach)
What about today’s’ adventure seekers?
“Today it is a favorite for hikers. “Butterfield Stage Route is a 25.5 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Gila Bend, Arizona and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.” (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/butterfield-stage-route) As one hiker shared, “This route is mostly flat two track road, but, it’s historical value far exceeds the scenery or 4x4ing. Butterfield State Route runs thru terrain where I grew up in Texas. This is one of the few sections with potential public access by 4×4.”
My entire journey was on fairly level desert landscape composed of sand, scruffy grass, and sagebrush. I spotted this sign, and didn’t pay too much attention to the number 11.
Before long I was committed to traveling on the narrow two-lane road. Bernie, Chris, and I had an interesting eleven-mile journey on a winding road with plenty of rolling dips and rises. We finally arrived at this sign.
This site has a Bureau of Land Management campground next door. No facilities, meaning you dry camp or ‘boondock’ and there is no water, dump station or electricity available.
The ancient Hohokam people once lived and farmed during the Pioneer Period (AD 350- AD 500). This site has a collection of hundreds of ancient petroglyphs.
When we returned to the main route, we experienced a time warp.
Thrust from the ancient past, I saw mirror flashes next to the road. Solar power is operating within twenty-five miles of the ancient petroglyphs.
A solar farm.
This solar farm is located near Gila Bend, Arizona and is huge, covering almost two thousand acres. It generates enough electricity to power seventy-thousand homes. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solana_Generating_Station)
Dateland, Arizona has a similar sized solar farm
Continuing to Dateland, we passed powerful three-diesel engine locomotives, pulling a half-mile length of container cars at fifty-mile-per-hour.
It is a familiar sight throughout the wide stretch of the southwest desert.
“Take the next exit to the right. Turn left at the end of the road. At three hundred feet you have reached your destination.”
We have arrived at Dateland. More specifically, we are at the Dateland Travel Center.
Three hundred feet south is the famed Dateland Date Palm grove.
The actual town of Dateland doesn’t exist. The site was only a watering spot for the Butterfield Stage route. Sometime in the 1920’s, it became Dateland.
“During World War II, Dateland was home to the Dateland Air Force Auxiliary Field. It’s last known military use was in 1957.”
The thin brown strip was the original stage route, and the railroad track is the original route currently used today.
and B-29 planes were used for gunnery training. Dadeland site was chosen because water was available and close to Yuma Gunnery Range.
During the war, Dadeland became home to many thousands of military personnel and their families. After the war, Yuma and other cities with better employment opportunities, caused most people to leave.
An American hero
“Ira Hamilton Hayes (January 12, 1923 – January 24, 1955) was a Pima Native American and a United States Marine who was one of the six flag raisers immortalized in the iconic photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima during World War II.”
The picture is Ira Hayes practicing a parachute jump during his training cycle.
and our national tragedy
That’s my statement. Given the time and circumstances, it could be considered emotional reaction when being at war with Japan.
An unfortunate, but true American historical fact…more than one hundred thousand Japanese Americans were interned in the United States during World War II. Sixty-two percent were United States citizens.
Ruins of the buildings in the Gila River War Relocation Center of Camp Butte.
Today’s trip revealed much Arizona history. From our ancient past, through our pioneering United State expansion using stagecoach travel. Arizona played a small, but important piece of our military involvement in World War II.
Arizona’s mild climate is a wonderful environment to tap Solar’s energy.
I finished my date shake. Bernie and Chris had to be satisfied with water.