Long ago Route 66 transcended its original purpose to become a larger than life American icon, a ribbon of asphalt that links the past with the present as well as the future. In recent years it has also become a bridge that links the international community with the heartland of America.
|1961 Renault from Norway|
Chillin on Beale Street in Kingman, Arizona, an event held on the third Saturday evening of every month between April and October, is a delightful celebration of community, of the American love affair with the automobile, and the magic of Route 66. It is also an event that exemplifies the international nature of this storied highway.
Last evening the vehicles on display spanned more than four blocks, lawn chairs lined the sidewalks, and crowds ebbed and flowed along the street taking in the cars, listening to the music, visiting with friends, and watching the endless parade as low riders and vintage T-birds, Model T Fords and rat rods, battered old trucks and vintage military vehicles, cruised back and forth under a starlit desert sky. Smack dab in the middle of this all American celebration were a pair of 1961 Renaults from Norway.
The owners were unaware of the event but just happened to be in Kingman on a cross country jaunt. Curiosity led them to follow the parade into the historic district where they received a very warm welcome, and an opportunity to enjoy real western barbecue at Redneck’s.
This little, informal event, in a little dusty town on the fringe of the great Mojave Desert, made famous in a song about a highway recorded more than a half century ago presented a perfect picture of what Route 66 has become. It has become the portal that allows small town America to experience Europe, or Australia, or Japan, and it has also become the portal for international visitors to experience the real America, the heartland.
Yesterday while waiting in line at Walmart, I had the opportunity to talk with two young men from Germany that were on holiday seeking the wonders of Route 66 and the sites of the great southwest. This evening I will meet with Wolfgang Werz from Germany as he motors west on America’s most famous highway, and in early August, we will have another opportunity to share a dinner at Redneck’s with Dries Bessels of Holland, a friend, and his group. To live along Route 66 is to experience international travel vicariously.
The appeal of this old road never cease to amaze me. However, the most amazing aspect of all is its ability to bridge chasms of language and culture.
As a final note for this mornings post, I would like to call your attention to the international Route 66 festival of 2012. The exact date has yet to be set but hints, including a few from Michael Wallis of the Route 66 Alliance, are that it will be huge with a tie in to Disneyland and the opening of “Radiator Springs.”
Details will be posted as soon as they become available but the host city is Rancho Cucamonga in California. Amazingly, reservations are popular Route 66 motels, such as the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, are already being made.
You might also want to add Chillin on Beale Street to your list of destinations, especially if you are unfamiliar with the magic of legendary Route 66.