The Route 66 exhibit at the Beale Street Brews & Gallery and Friday evening sock hop attracted a sizable crowd ensuring a repeat performance next year. Surprisingly, in spite of television interviews, countless book signings, and even serving as a company representative in court proceedings on various Indian reservations I was a bit apprehensive about the exhibit. Perhaps it was a form of sympathy pains as this was my wife’s first time in the spotlight as many of the photos were her handiwork. Saturday morning was a self induced pressure cooker as I was concerned about meeting the 12:30 appointment at the Power House Visitor Center for the book signing. To summarize, the signing was an absolute bust, largely the result of miscommunication and a string of errors.
Rather than cry over spilled milk we stuck it out for two hours and signed copies of Backroads of Arizona, the only book they had available. In addition to selling a dozen or so books I was finally able to meet face to face with Jim Conkle, an almost supernatural, tireless force in the promotion of Route 66.
Then we stepped out into the warm Arizona sunshine and took in the spectacle of the 22ND annual Route 66 Fun Run, the longest continuously held commemorative event on the highway. I do not have the final tally for participants but have no doubt in terms of crowds and sheer diversity of vehicles on display this was the best yet.
Station wagons with period correct travel trailers and colorful hot rods, military vehicles and even a a vintage Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, antique cars and motorcycles, were merely the tip of the iceberg. More than four blocks of historic Route 66 and several blocks of Beale Street were transformed into a garish, gleaming chrome showcase of automotive history. I have always been amazed by the wide array of vehicles the Fun Run attracts but this year was truly amazing. There was a beautiful 1934 Chevrolet convertible coupe from Vermont and a nice 1950 Olds sedan from Alberta.
Within a stroll of mere blocks we saw a row of early Triumph motorcycles and an ultra rare Franklin Airman, a 1950 Pontiac convertible and a Corvair powered Ultravan motor home, one of less than six hundred produced. It was mind boggling. There was a hatchback “Spirit of America” bicentennial Nova hatchback and a Studebaker Avanti, “Smart cars” and Viper’s, a 1929 Chevrolet truck and an early ’70s Datsun sedan. A Jeep Wagoner converted into a stunning exercises of mechanical engineering – six wheel drive and four wheel steering and a Ford retractable hardtop.
In years past the Fun Run was often dominated by one segment or another of the hobby. One year the rodders would prevail and the next year the purists. This year there was a delightful balance, a virtual cornucopia of all things automotive.
Jeepster’s were parked next to low riders and show room new De Soto’s shadowed a 10Th anniversary edition “Z” car. Recreated hot rods from the ’50’s stood in stark contrast to high dollar mod rods with Cadillac Northstar drive trains. Battered, unrestored drivers from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s basked in the sun while trailer queen Packard’s hung back in the shadows.
The display of automotive history was amazing but the atmosphere even more so. The smell of kettle corn, the laughter of children, pierced refugees from the skate park listened in rapt attention as a granpa gave a lesson in starting a T model Ford, and tourist speaking a dozen languages fawned over the vehicles, the food and the crowds.
What a day! What an event! The fun didn’t end with the beautiful Arizona sunset. Cruising Route 66 was an opportunity to experience real time travel. Loud Harley’s waited at the light next to an Edsel, a Model A chugging up the hill being passed by a big Buick convertible of similar vintage and vintage neon glowing on the horizon.
Mark your calendar for the first weekend in May, 2010. If you enjoy the adventure of the road trip, are fascinated with automobiles in every shape size and color, and are enamored with Route 66 the Route 66 Fun Run is not an event to be missed.