There are two primary requirements for anyone who wishes to honestly study history or who desires to present history through writing, film, or speaking engagements. The first is the ability to move beyond preconceived ideals, to have an open mind, and to be willing to adjust cherished views of life.
Once you master this challenging exercise, you can work on developing the ability to see history through the eyes of those who lived it rather than through modern eyes that prohibit seeing a time, place, or person with clarity. This has never been an easy task for the historian as it is far easier to present sanitized versions that justify a modern view of a subject or to present a selectively edited version that justifies an opinion or philosophy.
With the current project, a Route 66 encyclopedia, the challenge has been to present the history of this iconic highway, and the people who wrote that history, in an honest manner without damaging the romanticised ideal and perceptions that make Route 66 a destination for those seeking renewal through tangible links to the past. It is my hope that by including in this history the dark side of this legendary highway – the devastating race riots, the Negro Motorist Green Book, or Nat King Cole having to use the rear entrance at clubs where he performed – I can add context and depth to the Route 66 experience as well as ensure its history is preserved for future generations.
Now, you may ask, how does this long winded introduction tie in with the title for today’s post. The obsession with political correctness and hypersensitivity in our modern American society has done more than taint the history of Route 66 and deny a generation the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past, or to be inspired by our nations heroes.
One of the items on display in my counter top at the office is a little paper back book entitled, Handbook for the Women Driver that was distributed by Phillips 66 in 1960. The little book is quite benign as it is filled with all manner of tips from how to check oil to buying a car, from changing a tire to tips on for packing when traveling alone.
The response customers have to this book provides me with a great deal of amusement. They range from the, “I should have that for my wife” to “I can not believe you have the audacity to put that on display.”
I wonder what the response would be if the display included my advertisement for the 1903 Jaxon, “A car so easy to drive a child, or women, can operate it.” Perhaps I should try the 1930 Pontiac advertisement that recommends bring the squaw to the dealership so she may see the savings.
See, we are now so conditioned to be offended that a useful book from the past is often viewed with the same hostility or derision as something that is offensive, yes, tasteless, yes, but that yet still serves as a milestone of our progress. To hide the historic in an effort to avoid offense is akin to keeping the lights off so you do not see the roaches.
How do you know if we have progressed without first knowing where we have been? We risk the danger of a repeat performance when we deny the holocaust or sanitize it for modern taste.
Let me leave you with this brief tale of a legendary heroine on the western frontier. I leave it for you to decide what pigeon hole to place this model of moral ambiguity in.
Sarah Bowman was born in about 1812 on the then western frontier. She grew up to be a women of overpowering presence; red headed, piercing blue eyes, more than six foot tall and weighing in excess of 200 pounds.
She enters the stage of history in 1845 when her husband enlisted in the United States Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and she signed on as a laundress. Now, when viewed from the context of modern, politically correct America a laundress would be seen as demeaning work most likely resultant of her inability to get an education.
Yes, Sarah was illiterate. However, a laundress for the army earned food, shelter, a salary, and an opportunity to sell various goods that she might make from quilts to pies. More than a few ladies in this profession honorably earned more than three times that of a private.
By 1846, in addition to being a laundress, she had become a proficient nurse and cook. When the Seventh Infantry was ordered into Mexico, her husband took ill.
Faced with the choice of loosing her lucrative business and staying at her husbands hospital bedside, or following the army, the couple chose the prosperous path. So, as army regulation forbid a women to travel with the infantry unless accompanied by her husband, Sarah gave up her position as a laundress, purchased a mule and wagon, and set out as free lance operator.
At Fort Texas the garrison was besieged by overwhelming Mexican forces and the women, save one, were escorted to the bunker to sew sand bags. Sarah, requisitioned a musket, and prepared food and coffee to men manning the walls. As the battle raged on, she also utilized her nursing skills. Her actions at the fort during this battle made her a national celebrity.
The history of her marriage is a bit sketchy at this point but apparently her husband died, and she remarried. She also established a boarding house, that in addition to lodging, also offered a stable, food, liquor, and “ladies of the evening.”
When the army moved south into Mexico, she resumed her free lance work. During the Battle of Buena Vista, Sarah prepared food, coffee, tended to the wounded and sick, reloaded weapons and helped carry the wounded from the field of battle, often under fire.
With the cessation of hostilities, and the loss of a second husband, Sarah set her sights on following the army to California. This time the commander was adamant about regulations pertaining to military wives accompanying the column.
Undaunted, Sarah remarried and set out with her new husband for the western frontier. It was during this period she became known in the southwest as the Great Western, a reference to the largest ship afloat at that time.
In 1849 she arrived in El Paso, without a husband, and established another boarding house. Her generosity toward travelers earned her the moniker, whore with a heart of gold.”
Between that date and her death in 1866, Sarah plied her trades at various locations before settling at Yuma Crossing in the Arizona Territory and earned the respect of most everyone she met. She also cared for orphans, provided free food and lodging to indigent travelers, and provided a home and education for Indian and Mexican children.
In a world dominated by men, she held her own and met life on her terms. John Salmon Ford, a hard bitten Texas Ranger, said of the Great Western, She could whip any man, fair fight or foul, could shoot a pistol better than anyone in the region, and at black jack could out play the slickest professional gambler.”
She was buried at Fort Yuma but later exhumed and reburied at San Francisco National Cemetery.
The moral of the story is this. Don’t let anyone whitewash history for you and don’t be afraid to see history as it was. You will be the better person for it and so will your nation.


What happens when you combine a promotional tour for a book, a photographic safari, and the quest to document locations listed in the 1949 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book? Well, in my world that is simply just another opportunity for an adventure on iconic Route 66.
We have no fear of moss growing under our wheels during the first week in October. As it stands now, we have several hundred locations to photograph, five formal book signings, a handful of informal signings, and, of course, lots of old friends to see along the way during our epic 9.5 day odyssey along the old road signed with a double six.
The fun begins on October 1 after a half day at the office. The destination for that night is Grants and, as much as I hate to say it, we will most likely have to endure the generic sterility of the interstate for this first leg.
Between then and the hell bent ride for leather return that kicks off after the book signing at the Powers Museum in Carthage on the afternoon of the 8th, we will be putting politicians during an election season to shame with the handshaking, embarrass a trucker or two with the distance covered, be praising the Lord we are not burning through rolls of film, and be sucking enough coffee to warrant a Christmas card from the Colombian Coffee Growers Association.
I think the only person who will be able to lay claim to a faster Route 66 adventure is Dale Butel on his east bound jaunts from L.A. to Chicago to meet up with his tour groups. My old adage that the worst day on Route 66 is better than the best day anywhere else is being sorely tested with this trip.
An adventure on the double six is to be savored like a good beer shared with friends, or a slow cooked rack of ribs. That is not an option for this trip but trust me, we will be enjoying every moment.
There is an opportunity to visit with an old friend who lives in Wisconsin that will be driving in to Berwyn for the signing at the Route 66 museum on the afternoon of the 5th and breakfast with my dad. We will be enjoying the fine food at the historic Ariston Cafe with John Springs, Dale Butel, Kumar Patel and a host of others.
I will be fulfilling the nearly life long quest of paying homage to Abraham Lincoln by visiting his home and introducing my dearest friend to he beauty of the Ozarks, and the fine people who call those mountains home, with an evening at the historic Wagon Wheel Motel on the evening of the 7th. That is the time scheduled for Joe Sonderman and I to sign books as well as discuss Route 66 with all interested parties.
This trip is another opportunity to linger over pie and coffee at the Midpoint Cafe, and to see what the fuss about pies is at the Palms Grill. It will also be an opportunity to meet the new owners of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, to sleep in peaceful slumber at the Munger Moss Motel, and to catch up on the latest news at Afton Station  and Melba’s in Galena, Kansas.
I have little doubt that this trip will add a new chapter to my half century of adventures on this storied highway. Posting may be sporadic but there will be much to share upon my return.
In the mean time, I hope to see you on the road. And don’t forget to keep the Monte Carlo man, Cort Stevens, in your prayers. He has been a blessing to many of us on Route 66 and the other great two lane highways of America so it is time we reciprocate.


One of the perks that come from notoriety derived through my endeavor to become a writer when I grow up is the opportunity to see Route 66, and my beloved America, though the eyes of visitors from foreign lands. As an example of just how much a blessing this is, consider the recent film starring Billy Connolly.
After watching this, the second episode in the series, do you have the same perspective about the all American Bible belt, the zaniness of the Sunday morning salvation through donation programs, the swastika, or the unique entrepreneurial spirit made manifest in giant rocking chairs or underground light shows found along Route 66?
On numerous occasions I have noted that Route 66 long ago transcended its original purpose. As the Main Street of America it presented a microcosm of the American experience. Today it is a repository, a time capsule, where the absolute best, the worst, and the unique flavors of this great nation are preserved for all to see, to touch, to taste, and to feel in the very depth of their souls.
I once heard it said that any man who could stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunrise and not feel a quickening in their spirit was dead to the wonders of the world and void of a soul. This analogy works quite well in regard to adventures on iconic Route 66.
How can one not be renewed and invigorated by the atmosphere, the friendly people, the tangible excitement of foreign visitors, the easy conversation, the good food, and the excellent coffee at the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas? How can one stand in the now quiet west bound lanes of Route 66 in Glenrio, Texas where the dry bones of a once vital community stand in mute testimony to an era when the journey was more important to the destination and not question the price of progress?
To drive Route 66 from end to end is an increasingly rare opportunity to savor life, to experience what makes this nation unique, and to discover, or rediscover, why this country is still the destination of choice for immigrants seeking opportunity and freedom. It is a religious pilgrimage, a quest worthy of the Argonauts, and the search for the holy grail all rolled into one grand adventure.
I have traveled this storied highway for decades and used a river of ink to extol its virtues, chronicle its colorful history, and tell the tales of those who gave it life. Still, with each trip I make new discoveries, find renewal of the mind in following its twisted course through the heartland, and am left in awe of its ability to inspire.
From this perspective, will anyone be surprised to learn I am eagerly awaiting the time of our departure for the next grand adventure along iconic Route 66?



After a long week that left us both wore thin, we just couldn’t bear the thought of following the sterile trail of I-40 home. So, even though it added about forty miles to the trip, we decided to renew the mind and spirit by catching the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 at Topock, basking in the solitude and beauty of the Havasu National Wildlife Reserve,  and then following the twisted and tortured course of that legendary highway through the Black Mountains and over Sitgreaves Pass.

For me, this stretch of old road is as comfortable as a well worn pair of jeans, as inviting as the wagging tail on an old hound, and as refreshing as a glass of ice cold sweet tea on a hot summer afternoon. Long before the world rediscovered the hidden pleasures found in a leisurely drive along dusty old U.S. 66, the broken asphalt that tracked across the desert, over the spine of the Black Mountains at Sitgreaves Pass, and down to the oasis at the river, was my refuge, an island where the confusion and angst of adolescence was held at bay. 
It was the summer of ’66 when I made the first trek over this road. My dad had a day off and decided a drive to Needles, in August, in a 1964 Ford Fairlane, without air conditioning, was a good idea.

To this day when I drive the old road, the memory of the stifling and choking heat that seemed to increase with every mile, the look on my mother’s face as the chocolate bars she had forgotten in the glove box began to drip on the floor, and of our many stops to poke around the empty places fills my senses. Sitting at the top of the pass and watching the sun sink into the west, just as we did that hot summers day on our return trip, I can still smell that baking engine, and hear my mom warn my little sister about snakes, while my dad fumed about the ruined carpet as the ticking of the cooling engine, and the hiss of the radiator, played as background music.
With the exception of the traffic choked ends of U.S. 66, there isn’t one mile of this old road that I don’t enjoy. Still, it is the old road across the wide Sacramento Valley, over the mountains, and into the Colorado River Valley that serves as the sacred chalice of my fondest memories.

When we first drove that road, the traces of Fig Springs station could still be found, the ruins at Cool Springs were still fresh, Kings Dairy was an oasis, old man Edgerton still called Ed’s Camp home, a tree and picnic table remained at Schaeffers Fish Bowl Springs, the skeletons of visible register pumps still stood as silent sentinels at Snell’s Summit Station, Goldroad was still a village of empty shells, Oatman was a ghost town, and the old highway was quite along its shade dappled course under the willow and salt cedars along the river. Much has changed but in my mind these fast fading remnants of better times are still there to provide tangible links to the era when this was the Main Street of America, and my special memories. 
In those years before the old highway rose like the mythical Phoenix from the ashes, few traveled its course into the Black Mountains. So, I learned to ride a bicycle by following the faded white line towards the swimming hole near the faded vestiges of Fig Springs station, and how to start a vehicle with a clutch at Ed’s Camp.
The first time I changed a tire was just down the road from the Whiting Brothers station now hidden behind the facade of Dan’s Auto Salvage. It was at about the same spot that I learned the importance of never trusting a forty year old gas gauge.
Years later, when I was working in New Mexico and my visits to Kingman were infrequent, memories of this old road with its many charms and hidden secrets made the loneliness of the line shack, the emptiness of riding fence, and the cold winter nights on the dredge, tolerable. Little has changed. 
Route 66 remains my refuge, my island where the angst of fast approaching age, and the confusion of rapidly changing times, is kept at bay by memories and long stretches of empty road. Still, it is only in the twists and turns over the Black Mountains, and the high perches where I can watch the shadows of sunset transform the canyons, that childhood seems near, and the promise of the future seems brightest. 



In the days before a big road trip, I am like a kid at Christmas. Each hour drags by even though there are a multitude of last minute details to attend to, and the sense of anticipation and excitement becomes almost unbearable.
The restrictive and tight schedule is far from ideal but in my way of thinking, the worst day on a road trip, especially one on Route 66, is better than the best day anywhere else. We have 9.5 days for this grand adventure that pencils out to something like 4,000 miles.
As this will be my dearest friends first venture into the Ozarks, I have requested that Connie Echols of the Wagon Wheel Motel place an order for fall color. We will be joining acclaimed author Joe Sonderman there on Friday evening, October 7, to sign books as well as talk Route 66.
Even though the schedule is going to be railroad time table sharp, we will have to stop at Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois. This has been on my “to do” list for at least forty years.
The closest I came to making this important stop on my presidential homes pilgrimage was on a trip west with my family in 1967 or 1968. We arrived just before sunset and it was closed but the stop did allow me to peer over the fence and into the windows.

One of many treasures awaiting discovery at
Afton Station.

Another exciting visit on the list of unofficial stops is Afton Station. It is always great to see Laurel and the gang in their native habitat but the 1917 Packard motor home added this past summer has truly piqued my curiosity.
The publisher is still wrangling with Barnes & Noble for meet and greet sessions in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Springfield, Illinois, Des Plaines, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. Meanwhile, the session at the Route 66 Museum in Berwyn with historian and author David Clark, and the ones at the Route 66 Museum in Lebanon, Missouri, with Joe Sonderman, and at the Powers Museum in Carthage, Missouri, are still a go. Details are found at the tab on top of this page.
Food is always an important part of any adventure but on Route 66 that quest takes on a special importance. The Midpoint Cafe is always a stop. My list also had the refurbished Palms Grill Cafe as a stop but after seeing the first installment of the Billy Connolly special, there is no doubt we will most likely stop at least twice.
While we are on the subject of food, I must confess that I have yet to experience the culinary wonders and hospitality at the legendary Ariston Cafe. Rest assured, that will be rectified on this trip!

For those who look for our trademark safari wagon in cafe parking lots, the Jeep is being a much given rest as we will be traveling incognito with a yet to be identified rental car. I am quite sure the Hinckley Hillbillies will have a field day with the gadgets.
In fact, I am quite sure there will be more than a few Hinckley Hillbilly tales when this trip is through. After all, we will be looking for dining in Greek Town in Chicago.
As is always the case even when time is not a concern, we will miss more than a few places as well as great events. Of the latter, one that we truly hate to miss is the Octoberfest in Galena scheduled for October 8. So close and yet so far away is how this story goes. We will be in Carthage on that day until 5:00 and need to be in Tulsa that evening.
Between now and the date of departure we have a litany of loose ends to attend to. Heading this list is stocking the house to ensure our house guests/slash caretakers (my son, his fiancee, the 2.5 grand kids, and something that may be a dog) are comfortable as well as fed, and making a valiant effort to ensure I have a job to come back to.
Then there are the last minute book orders to fill. That reminds me, signed copies of Ghost Towns of Route 66 are now available at the iconic Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, and at 66 to Cali on Santa Monica Pier.
So besides catching up with Dale Butel, “Croc” Lile, Kumar Patel, and John Springs, who else will we see on the road in October?