Please, be patient. It may look as though I am off on another round of history taught from the soap box but there is a point and even a Route 66 relationship to this.
Counted among the many hazards of studying history as it was rather than as we would like it to have been is a certain clarity, an xray vision if you will ,that allows us to see through the hype and the smoke that stampedes the crowd in a predetermined direction. At times this visual acuity makes it difficult to sleep, and if not kept in balance with things like road trips, friends who derive pleasure from the simple things in life, and a well developed sense of very dark humor, it can lead to a withdrawal from reality made manifest in the lining of the hat with tin foil or the stockpiling of food and ammunition in a very dark hole.
Case in point is this article from the True West magazine site. With the first reading I found inspiration, with the second and a bit of meditation, there was a sense of deep loss.
In the first paragraphs of the article we learn the harsh reality of life in the pre government provided safety net era. But read on. This is the story of a family who worked together to build upon the opportunities that this nation provided, the opportunities that led and still lead immigrants from throughout the world to venture to America.
Can you imagine the outcome of this story if the family was trying this in the 21st century? Imagine the years of costly litigation and the insurmountable battles with CPS, the EPA, Department of Education, IRS, and countless other alphabet soup government agencies.
With historic perspective we can now see the pendulum has swung to the opposite end of the arc. The government safety net has now ensnared us. Participation is no longer optional and fortitude coupled with hard work with a goal being independence and success is stifled or discouraged. So, are we better or worse off as a result?
Contained in this brief article is the most valuable lesson that can be learned from history. Regardless of when you are alive, it is the best of times and the worst of times. The challenge is in discerning which is which.
White washing history is as dangerous as ignoring it. In white washing it we deprive ourselves the benefits of learning from it. Ignoring it is much like walking through a mine field wearing a blindfold while listening to your happy tunes on an Ipod.
Seldom will the two schools of thought find common ground. It is even more rare when those diverse views on history come together in a manner that is pleasurable, enjoyable, and even fun.
In fact, it is so rare that I know of but one place where it exists – Route 66. Only along this storied highway will you find people obsessed with historical accuracy working with people who fudge the facts a bit with the end result being, as an example, most everyone knowing that Route 66 never ended at Palisades Park or Santa Monica Pier but having fun by pretending they didn’t know.
As much as people adore and obsess over this iconic highway, I have yet to meet one person who would honestly trade their place in the world today for a place in 1930, 1940, 1950, or even 1960. They realize these are the best of times and the worst of times, they realize we can visit the past, immerse ourselves in the past but not sacrifice the conveniences of the modern era such as air conditioning, paid vacations, retirement, computers, digital cameras, cell phones, or cruise control. 
The point of this long winded discourse on the importance of history, and of seeing its role in a proper context is to provide an idea of one of the primary challenges faced in the research and writing of the Route 66 encyclopedia. How do I strike a balance between the harsh realities of Route 66 and the perception of Route 66? How much depth and detail is needed to tell the story of the people and places that made this highway legendary? How can I show that the people who traveled Route 66 in 1952 did so in the best and worst of times just as those who travel it today?
Well, hundreds of pages latter, with a deadline just months away, those are questions I still am working to answer. The story of Alberta Ellis who built a small empire by providing the “Negro” motorist lodging and dining is a must for inclusion. But how about the unsolved murders along the highway in 1935, or the brutal murder of a family from Alton, Illinois near Joplin in 1950, or the cowboys who decided to emulate Jesse James by robbing buses from horseback near Tucumcari? 
As I meditate on the changing perspective toward the role of government and the perception of Route 66, as my quest for discerning the times leads me ever deeper into dusty archives, there is a growing sense of urgency to line my hat with tin foil and buy some canned beans, or take a road trip. Perhaps I should start with the road trip and then reevaluate the need for tin foil.
See you on the road in October –