From most every perspective Route 66 is unique in the annuals of American roadways that over the years have included the National Road, the Sauk Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the Oregon Trail. It is a decommissioned US highway, fragmented and broken with the remnants that remain bearing signage that designates the segments as county or state highways. Still, from Chicago to Santa Monica it is known as Route 66.It is a highway littered with ghostly vestiges of better times that provide tangible links to a not so distant past that is remarkably different from the present. It is a colorful string of time capsules from an era when neon lit the night, the tail fin represented the latest in automotive design, and the station wagon had yet to be replaced by the mini van. It is also a vital highway that links the past with the future as evidenced by plans for alternative energy powered vehicle rallies along its route.Is has served to elevate Dust bowl refugees and itinerant artists to a level of acclaim once reserved for the Greek heroes of the Trojan War. Look at the heart felt admiration and acclaim being poured out for Bob Waldmire, an icon of the highway that has captured its very essence with his unique art work that ranges from intricately detailed post cards to panoramic wall murals.
All of this reflection may be old news but as I dig deeper into the story of the ghost towns of Route 66 for the next book it has taken on a new dimension. I now see the legendary highway as the Main Street of America that has served as the parade route for more than a century of our nations trials, tribulations, and triumphs.
The wide spot in the road that is Halltown, Missouri, contains vestiges of the glory days of Route 66 as well as others from the turn of the century, and from the American Civil War. Oro Grande in California has served travelers on Mojave Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Spanish Trail, the National Old Trails Highway, and Route 66.
There are more historic and more scenic highways in America than the legendary double six. However, none are as storied. This amazing highway has long ago transcended its original purpose as a transportation corridor to become an icon that shares a place in the American lexicon with larger than life figures and places such as Daniel Boone or Bunker Hill.
Its thoughts such as these, as well as the ghosts of Route 66, that spur me to dig deeper in my effort to ensure these forgotten places have a brief moment in the spotlight once more, to travel back in time, to see things as they were and then convey those visions to paper. Still, as I journey into the past it is imperative that I am also mindful of the present for the clock is ticking and a deadline looming.