|Paxson Lodge in June 2013 - only the cafe is open|
We drove the Richardson highway as far south as Sourdough this past week, and I was saddened by the state of most of the small commercial lodges and gas stations along the way. There is nothing left of the Richardson Roadhouse now except an old log garage. The Summit Lake lodge burned down years ago and has never been replaced. Paxson Lodge is in deteriorating condition—the gas pumps aren’t working and only the café is open. Meiers Lake gas station and café are closed. Sourdough Roadhouse is still open, but the owner told me that this summer will probably be their last. If they can’t sell the roadhouse—well, who knows.
It seems that the only locations that are making it are ones like Rika’s Roadhouse or Sullivan’s Roadhouse that have been saved by federal, state or local government agencies; or ones that have found a niche market, like the Lodge at Black Rapids. All the rest seem to be succumbing to the double whammy of improvements to the Richardson Highway and increasing vehicle fuel efficiency that make it unnecessary and inconvenient to stop.
It’s a shame. There used to be scores of little Mom and Pop operations along the highway during its early days, but as the years have lengthened they have gradually disappeared. All these little wide spots in the road—the places that made travel along the highway possible—the places that for many residents made life along rural parts of the highway possible--are fading away, along with the lifestyle and history they represent.