Our recent journey on Route 66 to Springfield, Missouri, and our explorations this past couple of years in California, have provided me with memories, new friendships, and a renewed passion for this amazing chameleon of a highway that changes with the times. From the suburbs of Chicago to Victorville in California, the old highway is littered with forlorn remnants of better times, ruins, ghost towns, and all manner of flotsam from almost a century of serving the needs of a restless nation. Interspersed amongst these tarnished gems and time capsules are bright, shiny recreations and survivors that have withstood the test of time against all odds.
Together these elements form a rich tapestry chronicling more than a century of American history and societal evolution. It is from this perspective we find its endearing charm, its magical draw, and its power to mesmerize.
This legendary highway became a casualty of the evolution it fueled. A society on the move, a society in search of the best and latest, be it tail fins or Disneyland, has no time for things as mundane as staying in a faux teepee misnamed as a wigwam or seeing the vast American landscape roll past the windows at forty five miles per hour.
In our rush to embrace the new and the modern we lost our soul and became a nation of lonely, harried, and hurried people with very little time to enjoy our new toys or to stop and savor a piece of pie with the locals along the way. As we have learned, the quest for stuff, the rush toward the destination without notice of what is missed in between, is a recipe for bitterness, unharnesses, and emptiness.
To fill that void in recent years people hungrily turn toward the past as salve for the bruised soul. They are not seeking the past as it was with its “Whites Only” signs or the sweat soaked drives across the Mojave Desert in an unairconditioned car but the past as envisioned. Awaiting their return was and is Route 66, America’s Main Street.
Tragically, many seek Route 66, drive its cracked asphalt and concrete, and stop at the old trading post but find only find disappointment. They are as the cancer riddled patient that seeks a cure but can not leave the smokes behind.
The cure for what ails you will not be found until you can turn off the cell phone, skip checking the email every morning, and rediscover the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee and unhurried conversation about something as mundane as last evenings sunset. Route 66 may be the medicine but you have to take it as prescribed.
It starts with an exit off of the interstate. Step two is to turn of the cruise control and dropping the speed. Step three is frequent stops and abandonment of a schedule. Step four is misplacing your watch.
Then and only then will you experience the restorative tonic that is a journey along Route 66. Then you will find balance and perspective restored. Only then can you rediscover life lived rather than life endured.