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 oversized 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 gone 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. One can usually catch a glimpse of the towering projectiles in video montages about the legendary highway. They are a Mother Road landmark.
According to Bob Moore’s “Route 66: Spirit of the Mother Road,” it was originally called the Canyon Padre Trading Post, named for the gorge that cuts nearby.
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 prefabricated Valentine diner, the model of which was sold in the early 1950s, but it’s hard to say whether the trading post predated the diner or, even if they were established together, whether the diner was purchased years after its manufacture. Either way, the business was almost certainly 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.
Regardless, 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 polls, 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 impending doom. Despite having Exit 219 designated 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 for Twin Arrows.
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 persistent 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 up 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. In time, they’ll be nothing but Twin Chopsticks unless someone intervenes.