Doom, gloom, disaster, and end times all make for good press. Do I need to remind you of Y2K or the current crop of predictions about 2012 that is making headlines and inspiring a cacophony of discussion?
Even though it appears we are going to relive a slow motion replay of the Great Depression, and be forced to endure a year of debates, meaningless rhetoric, and talking points carefully crafted to create division and the perception that there is a distinct difference between the preselected representative of party “R” and party “D”, the year 2012 has more than a few bright spots to provide a ray of hope in the darkness. As it so happens, many of these are to be found along Route 66.
Perhaps the first place to begin our search for good news is in this economic impact study by Rutgers University. A couple of things that should be noted in regards to this report is the under reporting of foreign tourism, and the lack of a more in depth focus as evidenced by the few references to Kingman.
Next, we widen our search for good news to Australia. This link is for Route 66 Tours, a company owned and operated by Dale and Kristi Anne Butel.
Please note the booking status of tours on Route 66 through 2013. I should also note this is but one of dozens of international companies and associations planning tours along this highway in 2012.
Now, lets examine the success of an on line publication, 66 The Mother Road, launched in 2011. I suggest first reading the current issue and then reviewing earlier issues through the archives.
Not seen in this study is the fact that readership has increased dramatically in the past several months. Also not evident in this search is the fact it is now being read in dozens of countries, or that the publishers are planning an amazing contest that is sure to greatly expand readership as well as publicity for Route 66.
However, research of this type will only present a one dimensional picture. To truly grasp the impact, the enthusiasm, and the template for development that is found along the multifaceted Route 66, it will need to be experienced.

Dan Rice, left, and Chris Durkin, right, on Santa
Monica Pier.

Only in listening to a new breed of entrepreneur such as Dan Rice, owner of 66 to Cali and the current president of the Route 66 Association of California, Connie Echols, owner of the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, or Kevin and Nancy Mueller of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico will you begin to understand that Route 66 is more than a mere historic highway. It is a time capsule and a phenomena, it is the last bastion of mom and pop enterprise, and it is fertile ground for the ambitious, free thinking entrepreneur of a new era.
For years I have been expecting the international fascination with this highway to wane or level off. However, my recent travels along this highway in late 2011 confirm the Rutgers University report, the economic potential encapsulated in the resurgent interest in Route 66 has yet to be fully realized. 

The Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California.

Only on Route 66 is there potential profit in the renovation of a circa 1949 motel with units built in the shape of teepee’s located in a less than desirable neighborhood. This can be verified in discussions with the current owner of the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California, Kumar Patel.
Only on Route 66 will you find a half empty franchise restaurant and a very full ten stool diner. Only on Route 66 will you find people traveling from the four corners of the earth to stand in an empty street and photograph ruins as evidenced most every day in the ghost town of Glenrio, Texas.
As people travel the road, see its potential, become enamored of its charms, and meet the people who seek its simple pleasures, another unique attribute of Route 66 is revealed. That is its ability to bridge cultures, barriers of language, and even racial divides. 

Route 66 Fun Run in Kingman, Arizona

This is made manifest in a number of ways. These would include the international tour companies that cater to the foreign enthusiast, the number of international Route 66 associations, and most recently, the investment in, and renovation of, properties by either first generation immigrants or foreign born transplants such as the Israeli born owners of the 1939 El Trovatore Motel in Kingman, Arizona.
With the economic potential growing in direct correlation to the expanding fascination with the highway, and with more and more people seeking a simpler, more fruitful way of life, and with so many historic properties awaiting refurbishment, can there be any doubt that 2012 might mark the end of the world everywhere else, but on Route 66 it is the dawn of a new era.

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