A spirited and potentially divisive debate is building steam among fans of the old double six. On one side of the fence are those who see themselves as preservationists, on the other those who are focused on the future more than the past. Both camps have valid points.
The former in their fervor to preserve the fast fading remnants of the legendary highway occasionally become myopic and forget that there is only one constant in the history of Route 66 and that is change. From its inception this legendary highway has been in a state of flux as evidenced by the various alignments, the towns that withered on the vine after being bypassed, and the tide of urbanization that sweeps once rural landmarks from the landscape.
The latter may be well intentioned and even in some cases visionary. It could be argued that their endeavors to develop solar and biodiesel facilities within site of the Route 66 corridor have an historical precedence in the development of dams on the rivers of the western United States and the subsequent flooding of historical sites.
This view looking east across the Sacramento Valley towards the Hualapai Mountains on the pre 1953 alignment of Route 66 is unchanged from when this was the Main Street of America with but one exception, the industrial complexes at the bottom of the valley along I40. The harsh reality is that this nation is in dire need of a new generation of energy production and the path of Route 66 across the deserts of Arizona and California is through the center of prime locations for these facilities. In 1947, Jack Rittenhouse noted the Fig Springs station pictured here was abandoned. Thirty years ago the foundational slab was used as level support for a trailer and a small decorative stone wall outlined a garden where the pumps once stood. Today finding the site is difficult as the desert is fast reclaiming all traces.
Route 66 in its entirety will never again be a transportation corridor. That is a fact. The economic viability of property preservation and rennovation will be more of a determining factor in regards to what is preserved for future generations than historical relevance. That too is a fact.
A recent story carried by Route 66 News illuminates these realities. http://rwarn17588.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/a-dream-in-the-desert/ Does Chambless or Amboy or Cool Springs have greater historical relevance than the currently abandoned Truxton Canyon Indian Agency School at Valentine or the Painted Desert Trading Post? If millions were spent to restore the school or trading post what purpose would they then serve? How would their future upkeep be funded?
We have a responsibility to preserve remnants of Route 66 for future generations. However, all preservation be it Route 66 or the redwoods of California is a luxury that only a prosperous, secure nation can afford.
So, we stand at a crossroads. Perhaps our efforts and resources would best be spent to evaluate the economic feasibility and viability of what remains on Route 66, find ways to save these for future generations and then to encourage development of technologies that ensure future generations will also be able to drive a ’57 Chevy on legendary Route 66.
“There is a race of men that don’t fit in, A race that can’t stay still …” So opens the poem, The Men That Don’t Fit In, by Robert Service.
For at least thirty five years this poem has echoed in my mind as I made countless attempts to fit in, to carve a societal niche. Most attempts have been hollow at best as wanderlust and insatiable curiosity keep me from wandering the path chosen by most.
The house needs paint but an opportunity arises for a trip to Virginia so the trim fades and we stroll the streets of historic Williamsburg. It would be relatively easy to pursue ministry opportunities closer to home in comfortable churches but instead find peace and satisfaction serving in churches where the heater is broken, the cracked windws are covered with carboard, and the collection plate is used to gather change rather than dollars.
Over the years I have been blessed with incredible employment opportunities but chafe under the harness as a wild mustang would if serving as a draft horse. In years past there have been opportunities to make contributions in wide ranging fields from politics to finance but instead find satisfaction in jobs where I can work face to face in meeting needs.
So, it is rather appropriate that we inherited Barney the wonder truck, a homely old work horse that carries the succinct summary of my life in chrome script on the rear of the box, Adventurer. Moreover, like this old truck, I seem to be at my best in settings and landscapes often avoided by others.
This old truck presents the illusion of subdued civility with its automatic transmission, power steering, and chrome trim. However, at its heart it is an unpretensious, no nonsense truck little changed from its Spartan cousins built in the 1940s or 1950s.
Expanding on that theme was the recent acquisition of the Jeep Cherokee, a vehicle that seems to symbolize my life as I begin the second half of a century here on planet earth. I am a bit more civilized, find a bit more pleasure with creature comforts such as air conditioning, but still find the greatest satisfaction in seeking the road less traveled, the quiet places where you can press in to God surrounded by His finest handiwork, the forgotten places, the places where there is no need for pretense or the clutter of life in the modern era. Fortunately I have been blessed with a partner, my dearest friend, that loves these things as well. She also provides the needed balance that keeps my wanderlust, my urge to see, to explore from becoming self destructive.
It is my dearest friend that gently led me to channel my adventurers spirit into writing, to share my love for the lonely and empty places with others. This is another example of how richly blessed I am.
With these thoughts in mind I begin a new week and a full schedule. There is work on the website (www.route66infocenter.com), the next book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, another installment of The Independent Thinker for Cars & Parts magazine, and, of course, the office, the job that keeps beans on the table and gas in the tank.
Meanwhile the struggle will continue as I force the mind to focus on the task at hand rather than dream of a trip on old Route 66, into the Black Mountains, to Bisbee, Alaska, Australia, or the myriad of other places I would rather be.