Memories are funny and stubborn things. They can evoke all manner of emotion (such as thoughts of trying to trade my little sister for a speckled hen), serve as an inspiration (like memories of my son as a child), hold us back, play tricks on us, and even lie to us. In the past few months I have spent many an hour lost on memory lane and can attest with certainty that the above statement is true.
Most of us today, especially the over fifty crowd, longingly look backward and dream of the good old days. The good old days is that vague point in time when the sun was brighter but there were no sunburns, people drank and smoke but there were no problems with drugs of any kind, and cars were built to last.
In this scenario the memories have not lied to us as much as they have simply obscured the past with a wisp of smoke that causes selective amnesia. Yes, cars were built to last provided you worked on them every weekend and didn’t drive them on the deplorable roads or use the substandard grades of oil. Yes, alcohol and tobacco were the drug of choice, except for the morphine addict or the individual that really, really liked their coke with the little touch of cocaine that gave such a lift.
We seem to have forgotten that in 1920 the average life expectancy for an American male was forty eight years of age. That is if you were white, for everyone else subtract a couple of years. We seem to have forgotten that in the 1950s head on collisions accounted for almost one half of all traffic fatalities.
There are a multitude of areas where the past was most definitely better than the present. But there are just as many that make today much better than yesterday. It is a case of the best of times, the worst of times.
So, as I live in the present, a period in time that allows the luxury of nostalgia made manifest in outdated cars as a hobby and twisted two lane highways that we can drive because we want to, that is where I had best find happiness. Besides, even if the past was the best of times, I can’t live there, but I can visit on occasion with a cruise down legendary Route 66 behind the wheel of the old Dodge or a delightful evening of rest at the Wigwam Motel in Rialto.
Memories that inspire stand in stark contrast to those that hold us back. Quite often they are the same memory but it is our interpretation that determines if they are to be a liability or an asset.
My list of failures is a lengthy one that grows by the day. Do I use them as an excuse for not trying again or do I see them as lessons learned? Do I take the memories of those failures and use them as an anchor to keep me safely moored on the sand bar or do I use them as lessons learned for navigating the rapids?
In my world memories have evoked a wide array of emotions since the death of my mother and sister in December. Fueling this has been the on going effort to shovel through years of debris and mementos.
We are not a close clan but my little sister and I had our moments. In spite of the gulf between us, especially the past dozen years or so, I can never forgot that she took me in, dusted me off, and set me on my feet after a really bad fall. Nor can I forget the road trip adventures like trying to trade her for a speckled hen in Alabama, tossing her Cracker Jacks out the window on a hot day in Oklahoma as we motored west, or the time I tried to give up my allowance for a year if dad would leave her behind at a service station in Ohio.
Memories can be the spice of life. But like over salted food, a life lived on old memories rather than in the quest of new ones is a life that is difficult to swallow.


At lunch when I wrote the first part of this post a green ball distracted me. My original intent was to provide something a bit more uplifting and inspirational than an essay on the perils and rewards of pursuing a career as an author. So, before another distraction leads me astray …
The acknowledgement section of the Route 66 encyclopedia will be a lengthy one and that is if I went to the publisher with it today. A complete list of who helped transform this dream into a book will be posted at completion of the project but in the past few weeks the list has grown to include Rich Henry, a help on many fronts with this and other projects, Becky of Becky’s Barn, and the fine folks at the Illinois Route 66 Association.
As noted previously, my concern is not in meeting the deadline for this project but in what might be overlooked or missed for inclusion. An excellent example would be the recent discovery of Murray’s Dude Ranch, “The World’s Only Negro Dude Ranch” in Apple Valley, California.
So, if you have a suggestion for inclusion, be it a person, place or thing, please share. My name may grace the cover of this book as the author and photographer but that is only because the cover will not be large enough to include the name of everyone who made it possible.
This is our project. I am merely compiling the information. So, feel free to jump in and help write another chapter in Route 66 history.
The next item on the list is in regards to photographs. The heading photo, will be the first in the Ghosts of Route 66 series. The second will not be quite as dark or gloomy, a sepia toned image of the Painted Desert Trading Post as seen from the old Dead River Bridge.
“Croc” Lile, an excellent artist himself, has been graciously tutoring me on the world of art galleries and related matters, patiently endured my questions, and has even served as the distributor for my work including the limited edition prints. Once I finalize a print schedule, and make sure I haven’t wore my patience out with Croc, I will post details here. the mean time click on the link above for more information about the Lile Fine Art Gallery. The entire Sunset Gallery complex is a wonderland and through Bob “Croc” Lile’s tireless efforts it will be a beehive of activity during the Route 66 festivities in June.
With that segaway let me ask who is attending the big shindig in Amarillo? If you need more information about the event, host hotel, or are just curious follow this link.
Short of something cataclysmic happening, my dearest friend and I will be attending to kick off the premier of the newest book to flow from the word processor of Jim Hinckley, Ghost Towns of Route 66, to meet old friends, and to put faces with names from correspondence. As I understand it Joe Sonderman, the man who has been transforming a cavalcade of images from the glory days of Route 66 into a series of time capsules for Arcadia Publishing will also be in attendance.
If you are not familiar with Joe, his collection, or his work, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of one of his books even if you do not belong to the Route 66 fan club. My bet is that if you buy one the others in the series will soon follow.
My favorite is Route 66 in Arizona. Of course I am a bit prejudiced in regards to this state and really enjoyed the images from Kingman, my adopted hometown.
I spoke with Kathy Alexander recently and she is also planning on attending. Her amazing Legends of America website was the primary catalyst for the new book, Greetings from Route 66
It is my guess that this will be one for the history books. I hope to see you there.
This isn’t my oney reason for eagerly anticipating the end of winter. There is a new season of Chillin’ on Beale Street on the horizon. Dave Gurney, a friend from Australia, will be returning to Kingman in a bout a month.
The Route 66 Fun Run is always a first celebration of the American love affair with the automobile, the road trip, and legendary Route 66. For me there will be several bonuses this year.
Bob Stevens, former editor for Cars & Parts, will driving out from Ohio in his 1960 Corvette. Dale Butel, Route 66 Tours of Australia, will also be participating with one of his groups.
Another friend, Dries Bessel, and his charming wife, from Amsterdam will be motoring west this summer. A visit with these fine folks is always a treat.
Then there is the fall tour. At some point around the first of October, my dearest friend and I will drive the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Kingman to get the photos for the encyclopedia. Fall colors are the goal.
I have been invited back to AM Arizona in Prescott. Details are in the works and when they are finalized I will post dates.
So, what are your plans for 2011?