Well, another hour was spent in the spotlight but this time it took the form of an interview for a radio program. Here are the highlights of that transcript. You will have to use your imagination for the voices but if you wonder what a Hinckley sounds like, at the bottom of this column are the videos for two interviews completed with Jay Leno last fall.
What is it that makes the ghost towns of Route 66 unique?
First, almost all of them fell victim to the progress of the modern era, the need for speed made manifest in the interstate highway system conceived during the administration of FDR, the rise of generic America, and a disdain of the past fueled by the sparkling baubles of gadgetry.
Second is the fact that most of these towns have origins that predate the highway signed with two sixes by decades, some by more than a century. A few of these towns survived the upheaval of adaptation to three distinctly different cultures, collapse of primary economic underpinnings, war, and dramatic societal evolution only to succumb to a tide of generic motels, restaurants, and soulless box stores.
You mention a disdain for the past. Doesn’t the resurgent interest in Route 66 reflect just the opposite?
Yes and no. In the resurgent interest of Route 66 there is an element of historical interest in the foundation. However, other components are a romanticised perception of the past and a need for something tangible from the past, roots if you will, that can provide an anchor for the uncertain times in which we live and an even more uncertain future. Route 66 is a treasured time capsule, more than 2,000 miles in length, with an overlay of Disneyland.
In your opinion, do you see the current fascination with Route 66 as a fad, something that will be forgotten as soon as the next big thing comes along.
No. Long ago Route 66 transcended its original purpose to become more than a mere highway connecting point A with point B. It is the Yellow Brick Road where the seven golden cities of Cibola are discovered every day and the treasures from the tomb of the boy king flow without end.
You make it sound as though Route 66 is magical?
That would be an apt descriptor. On this old road the past and present flow together seamlessly. To drive it in a manner similar to savoring a fine meal is to be renewed in mind and spirit.
To what do you credit the enthusiasm and passion this highway generates?
Hype. This old road is not the most scenic, the most historic, or even the most fascinating. However, from its inception it has had the best press. In the 1950s Disneyland was an amusement park but with enough hype, with enough people discovering the fun, the thrills and the excitement there, it became the magic kingdom. Likewise with Route 66.
What do you feel is the most exhilarating aspect of Route 66 today?
The ever increasing popularity of the highway has now made it economically viable to restore a sixty year old motel, a ten stool diner in a town with sixty people, or transform a condemned gas station into a tie dyed gift shop. As I explained to Jay Leno in recent correspondence, Route 66 may be the last bastion of the American entrepreneurial spirit made manifest in mom and pop enterprises. In turn, that passion, that excitement, that enthusiasm become infectious with travelers and inspirational for those wanting more out of life than a nine to five job.
What can people expect from a drive on Route 66?
Adventure. The manifestation of fantasies. Friendships that span continents. A hunger for another trip. The entertaining of thoughts about opening a shop on Route 66 or transforming an old bus station into a bed and breakfast. Fun. Inspiration. These are just a few things that come to mind.
It is my understanding that you have a very long association with this highway. Could this result in a somewhat skewed perspective about the highway and its popularity?
Possibly. After all, I remember the highway when it was the Main Street of America which meant stopping at every stop light between Chicago and LA. Now you can have your cake and eat it to, you can have the best of both worlds.
You can take a leisurely drive along Route 66 and, if the schedule demands, take to the interstate for speed. You can grab some generic food and then chase it down with home made pie and wonderful coffee.
But none of this changes the fact that this highway is more popular than ever. Consider this. There are tour companies in Australia that specialize in Route 66 tours. There are Route 66 associations in more than 25 countries.
We are almost out of time but I do have a couple of real quick questions. What is your very favorite place on Route 66?
For dining we have two that is must stop on every trip along Route 66, the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas and the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, Arizona. For lodging it is the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California and the Route 66 Rail Haven in Springfield, Missouri but am quite sure we will be adding the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri after our October trip.
The favorite sections are the old, now gravel, portion between San Jon, New Mexico, and Glenrio, Texas, the pre 1937 alignment from Santa Fe to Romeroville, the pre 1952 alignment from Kingman to Oatman in Arizona, and the little dogleg through Spencer in Missouri.
Your latest book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, seems to be garnering excellent reviews and a great deal of press coverage. Where can listeners purchase the book.
Autographed copies, either single copies or wholesale orders, can be purchased though my blog, Route 66 Chronicles. Of course copies are also available at most book stores, at, and of course, at the Barnes & Noble here.
One last question, whats next?
The current project is a Route 66 encyclopedia and atlas. I am in negotiation to contract for a Route 66 travel guide, and, I hope, to shine some light on U.S. 66 with a guide to that highway.
Thank you for joining us this morning. We hope that the next time you are in town we can talk again.
Thank you.