Wind is the dominate thought of the day. The winds of change and the howling desert winds of spring, currently exceeding 25 miles per hour here in Kingman, specifically.
The desert winds are a given here. In fact the running joke for as long as I can remember is that Kingman was founded by folks who stopped to wait for the wind to quit blowing. Part two of the joke is that everyone else broke down here.
There is seldom a day here without a slight breeze. That was another aspect of the Saturday evening Chillin’ on Beale Street that was so delightful, an absolutely calm evening with temperatures in the seventy degree range. That is also why even during the months of summer there is seldom a day that is truly so hot it is miserable.
For the kind of torment folks associate with desert heat you have to drive about thrity miles to the west. There, in the Colorado River Valley the hottest temperatures in the nation are often set.
The nights do cool down a bit. I remember coming home from a job on the river one night in early August and the digital temperature on the Riverside Casino read 110 degrees. That was at midnight!
Now, lets talk about the winds of change. I initially began thinking about this topic as it pertains to Route 66 yesterday while adding a little polish to the new book.
One aspect of Route 66 that is seldom touched upon pertains to how the perception of the highway has continued to change with the times since its opening in 1926. As a result, while other two lane highways that may have been popular during the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s are now little more than historic footnotes and empty county roads, Route 66 has actually grown in popularity.
Manifestations of the new incarnation of Route 66 as a delighful blending of authentic road side Americana, fanciful recreations, and whimsical renditions that cater to the nostalgic minded are appearing along the route. From the Route 66 Museum in the Barstow Harvey House to Afton Station, from Gay Parita to Mr. D’z, from the Cozy Dog to 4 Women on the Route.
Additional glimpses of the new era on Route 66 are found in the wide array of products that are linked to Route 66 through advertisement and promotion. An excellent case study on this would be to see how many times in the past five years the Roy’s sign in Amboy has appeared in advertisements or how Harley Davidson has masterfully welded its iconic image with that of Route 66.
Now, take a moment, give the imagination free reign, and envision the Route 66 of the next decade. Alternative energy vehicle rallies, vintage roadhouses transformed into internet cafes with juke boxes and historic service stations that now dispense hydrogen or plug in stations for electric vehicles.
Narrow the focus and imagine the famous 180 mile section of Route 66 between Seligman and Topock in the 2020. The Snow Cap is unchanged but the old station across the street is now an internet cafe set amongst vintage vehicles and nostalgic displays. At the west of town is a fully restored time capsule of a gas station but now it dispenses hydrogen and includes a place for overnight guests to charge their electric vehicles with electricity supplied by solar panels on the roof of the old garage.
Hyde Park has been given a new lease on life with vintage cabins, modern prefab units constructed of recycled materials sold through an enterprising company that provides the state of the art units with antique looking facades to property owners on historic highways. With solar power no place is now to remote for a modern motel, especially in the desert southwest.
For the adventuresome bicyclist following the bicycle trail that parallels Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, and that utilizes old sections no longer passable by automobile, places like Hyde Park are welcom sites. The reproduced neon signs that light the night, powered by solar, are a warm welcome after a long day.
The Grand Canyon Cavern remains a seemingly unchanged time capsule of the 1950s. Still, there have been a few changes such as hydrogen at the station and an experimental space station attraction deep in the cavern where food for the restaurant is grown hydroponically.
Peach Springs is still Peach Springs but with one major change, a monorail to the Grand Canyon West and Skywalk. This modern contrivance stands in stark contrast to the historic Grand Canyon Railway in Williams.
The Hackberry General Store has survived another decade seemingly unchanged. Of course hiding the solar panels enables that illusion.
The Antares Point store with is faux Easter Island Head has a new attraction. High in the peak of the steep roof is an observatory where visitors can look across the wide Haluapai Valley towards Red Lake and the largest solar powered elctrical generating facility on the planet.
In Kingman, the Fun Run, is still the premier event. Now, however, the Model T and the colorful deuce coupe share the road with vintage GM electrics of the 1990s, Citicars of the 1970s, and Prius cars with historic vehicle plates.
Kingman has finally marshaled its vast Route 66 treasures. The entire south side of the highway in the historic district is lined with vintage neon now solar powered.
A vintage trolly system serves tourist and locals alike in the historic district. The Beale Hotel was saved at the last minute with its facade and classic sky light preserved but the interior opened into a multi-storied convention center that includes the basement and historic Sump Bar below street level.
One of the highlights to a Kingman visit is the automobile driving museum. In addition to the cars on static display, including early solar powered vehicles, visitors can register for daily drives south on Fourth Street and then into the canyon on the pre 1937 alignment of Route 66.
Vehicles used for this are a diverse lot that encapsulate the history of the automobile. They run the gamut from a Model T and ’57 Chevy convertible to the latest factory hybrids and even solar powered vehicles.
The drive to Topock has changed little since 2010, 1990 or even 1950. Perhaps the most interesting aspects now are the roadside markers that describe places and their historical importance via satelight to your MP3 player or in dash unit.
Okay, I have a vey active imagination. Still, look how much Route 66 has changed in the past twenty or thirty years. Look at how popular the highway today is as a result of innovative change that blends the past, present, and future.
So, why not dream big. Why not envision a new incarnation of Route 66, a Main Street of America for a new generation.