In the mid 1890s, Montgomery Ward said that the automobile was a fad the children should see before it passed. In 1906, a Stanley “steamer” was driven to a new speed record that was just shy of 150 miles per hour, there were almost three times as many horse drawn vehicles manufactured in the United States as automobiles, and Studebaker, a company that introduced its first automobile in 1899, an electric designed by Thomas Edison, and that was the largest manufacture of wheeled vehicles in the world in 1870, was quickly moving toward the abandonment of the manufacture of horse drawn equipment.
|A tired old Ford out to pasture in Hackberry, Arizona.|
Twenty years later, Route 66 and the U.S. highway system made its debut and the manufacture of automobiles by hundreds of companies, and its ancillary components as well as the development of supportive infrastructure, dominated the American industrial landscape. Surprisingly, a number of companies were still producing horse drawn vehicles but in numbers eclipsed by all but the smallest of automobile manufacturers.
Three decades later the dawning of the interstate highway system began sounding the death knell for Route 66, tail fins and the Edsel were about to transform the American automotive landscape, and fledgling motel chains were poised to end the dominance of mom and pop enterprise in that industry.
Americans have lived in the fast lane for more than a century now but the ever escalating speed of transition has left people hungering for solid ground, something tangible that is timeless, an escape from the dizzying changes that engulf them. Ironically, they have found it in Route 66, a highway that has been evolving since before its inception.
|Santa Monica Pier from Pallisades Park|
As a result, this iconic old road that sweeps across the heartland of America in gentle curves is fast becoming a blood stirring symphony where the past, present, and future blend together harmoniously. It is a 2,200 mile monument to what we were and to what we can be, it is a magic carpet of asphalt where dreams come true and memories are renewed.
I have traveled this old road for more than a half century and yet with each trip along its storied course find new reasons to hope for the future and opportunity to mourn what has passed. On our last trip along this legendary highway, we bid farewell to Zeno’s with new found friends and discovered Angela’s Cafe, renewed old acquaintances and joined in sorrow shared for those we have lost.
I am not myopic in my passion for the old roads, and the places that give them color or vibrancy. However, only Route 66 is woven into the threads of my heart.
And so it is with eager anticipation that I look forward into 2012. What discoveries will be made as I travel to Albuquerque on February 26 for a book signing at Book Works, and who will I be able to share them with?
What memories and friendships will be made at the Wheels on 66 event in Tucumcari, New Mexico in June? What will I preserve and who will I inspire with the Route 66 in Mohave County exhibit at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman?
Route 66 in 2012, another year of opportunities and memories along a highway signed with two sixes. Cuba Fest in October, the Fun Run in May, visits with friends from Holland in June, and friends from Australia throughout the year, are but a hint of what awaits us on this old road in the new year.
I may not be able to stop the world, nor would I want to. However, I can find temporary refuge and renewal in a magic carpet of asphalt that stretches across this great land. Will you be joining me in 2012?