Twin Arrows is an abandoned gas station in Northern Arizona that is one of the most easily identifiable landmarks along Historic Route 66. The giant arrows, crumbling buildings and high desert views make for a great opportunity.
29 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona along Route 40 is exit 219. Exit 219 doesn’t dump you into some small Arizona town or into the sprawling Navajo reservation that spans most of northeast Arizona. Exit 219 exists for the exclusive purpose of bringing travelers to the Twin Arrows Trading Post.
The name might not immediately gel with younger Lomographers but once you see a few shots of the massive re-purposed utility poles thrust into the ground at an angle it clicks. This gas station is one of those iconic pit-stops along old Route 66. If analogue photography is a defiant response to the overly slick and pasteurized world of digital photography than Twin Arrows is the throwback reminder of the infinite superiority of the American road trip to air travel.
When you step out of your car and over the Jersey barrier at Twin Arrows you’ll first be surprised that this place is some kind of beacon or hummingbird feeder for analogue photographers. There were at least four other photographers prowling the site while I was there. Each of us reveled in the historic architecture, shattered windows and piles of industrial refuse. The richly varied textures allowed me to pull some wonderful shots out of Kodak BW400CN with my Holga 135.
The bright colors of the giant arrows themselves and the extensive and beautiful graffiti allowed me to get some great mileage out of my Fuji Instax 210. On an overcast day with a gray sky the fallen interstate signs and all of the old brash colors really popped!
The place itself seems like a lament for what American culture has lost and what it has the potential to find. Between the ambitious appearance of the original architecture and a sign advertising unleaded gas for $1.36 we have stern reminders of the visually interchangeable modern pit stop with constantly escalating fuel prices.
But we also have what Twin Arrows represents. It’s starting to be covered with a wide variety of rich and visually complex stencil art and lush images slapped on sides of the abandoned structure with wheat paste. The asphalt is crumbling under foot and the gas pumps no longer offer anything except for the intriguing opportunity to shoot the high desert through an empty, stripped pump. This beautiful old gas station has become a place to appreciate, decorate and record it’s own existence. Screw the lament. It turned out pretty well.