Without question the documentary that best captures the very essence of what makes Route 66 unique is the recent series starring Billy Connolly. Part one aired last week and is now available on Youtube.
To say the very least I was quite impressed. His child like excitement and enthusiasm, the muted criticism (with the exception of the Trump built skyscraper in Chicago), the lamenting of what is being lost in America, and the conveying of an honest interest in, and respect for, the people he met along the way perfectly capture what makes an adventure on Route 66 a life changing experience.
It also encapsulates why I so enjoy sharing the charm and wonder of this iconic highway through writing, photography, and visiting with the people who travel from the four corners of the earth to experience the very best of America. So, it is with eager anticipation I await part two.
This video series has also clarified a focus that was becoming acute after the past few visits with Dale Butel, and his tour groups from Australia, with Dries Bessels, his dear wife Marion, and his tour group from Holland, and other international visitors this year. We who are fortunate enough to reside along Route 66, to be in a position to share its wonders or to travel its twisted course across the nation on a regular basis, have an obligation, a sacred duty if you will, to preserve its unique character, and to encourage the unique characters found along its course to resist subtle adaptations to conformity.
With that said, I need to take a moment to say thank you to Dale. It was over a beer at the Dambar on your tour with Grant Denyer that the importance of unique characters to the Route 66 experience, and the fact I was considered one of those characters, was brought home.
Long ago Route 66 transcended its original purpose to become far more than a mere highway connecting point “A” with point “B”. It became the last bastion of the mom and pop enterprise, a repository of what makes this nation a beacon of hope for the immigrant and a destination for the international traveler, and a time capsule containing vestiges representing the best and worst of America during a century of dramatic societal evolution.
If one merely sets out to drive Route 66 they will become bored and take to the interstate instead. If, however, they take to Route 66 to experience it, to savor it, to allow it to fill their senses, they will be transformed and their spirit renewed.
A journey along Route 66 is not a mere drive, it is a pilgrimage. It is a quest to find a place where one can give the imagination free reign and the pressing fears, worries and constraints of life in the modern era are, for a time, forgotten.
Route 66 is a bridge linking the past, present, and future. It is also a bridge that spans the gulf of language, culture and custom where the German, the Australian, French and Japanese are unified through coffee and pie in a cafe surrounded by dusty cornfields in the heartland of America.
|Chillin on Beale in Kingman, Arizona|
On Route 66 conformity collides with nonconformity, the generic and nongeneric do battle, and the colorful overwhelms the bland. All of these are made manifest in the diversity of automobiles seen cruising along its cracked and broken asphalt under the glow of vintage neon or cast in deep shadows by blazing sunsets framed by historic edifices.
I have traveled Route 66 for almost a half century. It has been the stage for most every important event in my life and still, I find wonder and renewal in following it across the nation, in the international friendships built upon a shared wonder for this storied highway, and the simple pleasure of pie and coffee in a quiet place unchanged in a half century or more.
Yes, my trip in October is at its core one taken for business. But it is also one being taken for renewal, for discovery, and for restoration of the mind as I stand at a crossroads in life.
It is my sincere hope that you too will be able to experience the wonder, the excitement, and the friendships found only on Route 66 for the first or the fiftieth time. And if that trip coincides with ours, it is my sincere hope that our paths will intersect where the coffee is black and hot, the pie fresh baked, and the conversation flows freely. See you on the road.