In all honesty, I expected the resurgent interest in legendary Route 66 to taper off or at least level off. My foolish assumption was that folks would have found a new fad that would lure them away from the magic carpet of asphalt that is old U.S. 66.
Okay, so I was wrong. My recent excursion to Amarillo made it quite clear the popularity of this iconic highway is here to stay. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest the wave of interest is still building and this is fueling an amazing resurgence of the mom and pop enterprise that was swept away by the rise of chain motels and restaurants, mega shopping centers such as Walmart, and the ever increasing speed of American society that demands faster everything.
Only on Route 66 will you find an nearly empty McDonalds next to a busy little cafe or a Holiday Inn with a half full parking lot while the place across the street built in 1955 has a full house where guests talk and laugh away the evening. To experience Route 66 as it is today is a heady feeling that time has slowed to an absolute crawl, a dizzying sense of standing with one foot in the past and one in the present.
I spend a great deal of my time immersed in the history and culture of this old road. Still, when we travel it there is a sense of renewal and of excitement that is highly addictive.
Add the slightest of detours to your Route 66 excursions, such as Hualapai Mountain Park south of Kingman or Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo, and you have a life time of ever changing vacations with limitless possibilities on America’s longest attraction. Develop friendships along the way, something that is almost impossible not to do, and old Route 66 becomes, in the words of Michael Wallis, a linear community with a very extended international family.
Perhaps the most invigorating aspect of the resurgent interest in this old road, is to see time rolled back in dusty and forgotten towns, and life restored to places once thought dead. The now classic animated film Cars, portrays this transformation beautifully.
In Tucumcari, a town that presented the illusion of being on life support just a few years ago, a stunning transformation is underway. Empty buildings mere steps away from demolition are being transformed and given a new lease on life as colorful Whiting Brothers, and vintage Texaco, Sinclair, or Phillips 66 service stations.
The now iconic Blue Swallow Motel, dating to 1939, has new owners and is a lodging choice for thousands of enthusiasts traveling the old road. Likewise with the Motel Safari that dates to 1960.
In this, Tucumcari is not alone. At the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, a place that seems suspended in time with its dirt parking lot and dated furnishings, it can be difficult to find a find room without advance planning. Likewise with its older cousin, the lovingly refurbished Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California that dates to 1949, the historic Munger Moss in Lebanon, Missouri, or the circa 1938 Wagon Wheel Motel, another beautifully refurbished property, in Cuba, Missouri.
In closing, I have a few quick Route 66 related news items to share. The exact date has not been set for the 2012 International Route 66 Festival but the host city of Rancho Cucamonga in California has been selected. For more information contact the Historic Route 66 Association of California.
I am not a big fan of reservations, especially when traveling Route 66, as they add deadlines to what is supposed to be a leisurely and relaxing adventure. Still, as crazy as this sounds, if you plan on attending, and want to stay at one of the classic Route 66 historic motels or hotels in the area, such as the Wigwam in Rialto, it might be a good idea to consider making reservations soon.
I spoke with the proprietor yesterday in regards to his order for signed copies of my new book for the gift shop and was informed he already has received open reservations. These customers simply told him that when the dates for the festival are announced to put their name down for that time. I must confess, we have also made reservations for that weekend as this our favorite stop when business takes us to the west end of the L.A. metropolis.
The final item of the day pertains to reccomendations for dining discovered, or rediscovered, on our last trip. In historic Las Vegas, New Mexico, a very slight detour off Route 66, splurge for a lunch (upper end of the medium price range) at the historic Plaza Hotel with its million dollar view of the historic plaza.
An old stand by that I never tire of reccommending, or eating at, is hte Midpoint Cafe in Adrian., Texas. The long and short of itis this, no Route 66 trip can be considered complete without least stopping for pie and coffee.
A new discovery was made in Amarillo. Dolly’s Diner on old Route 66 in hte historic San Jacinto district offers great food at very reasonable prices. As a teaser, even the potato chips are home made.

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