BY POPULAR REQUEST – Part One

I have shared the story of my Route 66 association in bits and pieces here on the blog, in my writings, and in speaking engagements. By popular demand I present the condensed version of how this old road came to be a centerpiece in my life.
The first trip west from Virginia took place in 1959. Grainy old family movies show the family (mother, dad, and my older sister) in Bluff, Utah, and a few places in Arizona and New Mexico. This adventure in my dads rusty yellow Ford convertible would mark my first encounter with Route 66.
In 1962 we moved to Michigan and for the next four years the summer vacations were spent visiting family in north Alabama and Tennessee with occasional side trips to places such as Meramec Caverns in Missouri or to look at property such as a motel along the Buffalo River since my dad was making plans for a new life beyond the Coast Guard. These trips would occasionally include a foray on Route 66.
In the summer of 1966, US 66 became the stage upon which a great deal of my life has played out. This adventure began after my dad gave up on the motel ownership idea and instead had decided to cast his future, and ours, on the toss of a dart, literally.
At some point a decision had been made that after years spent in the service of the Navy and Coast Guard, a drier climate would be required for a fresh start. So he folded a map in a manner that obscured both coasts, tacked it to the shed wall, and tossed a dart. Yucca in Arizona was the nearest point on the map to the dart.
So, sight unseen, he purchased some land in what promoters claimed was an up and coming development in the Sacramento Valley between Yucca and the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66. It would be 1971 before my dad located the property and on that particular adventure we managed to get the car stuck in sand washes twice.
As the original game plan had been to move the house trailer purchased a few years before, the mode of transport to our new home in sunny Arizona was a battered and rusty Chevrolet COE tractor of the Advance Design series (1948-1954). As a sister had been added since our western adventure of 1959, this was truly a memorable trip. Think Grapes of Wrath but with a thin veneer of modern such as an occasional stay in a motel.
Our first home in Kingman was a small place on Lynette Drive on the outskirts of town near Fort Beale. Here I first encountered the critters that called the desert home, and that freaked my mom out – snakes, desert tortoise, scorpions, lizards, and coyotes. It was here that I first began to wonder if this was the place we warned about in Sunday school.
By the end of summer we were living on Maple Street, just a few blocks north of Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66). Then my dad found an unfinished “model home” right on Oatman Road (Route 66) about fifteen miles west of Kingman right in the middle of the high ground between the two largest washes in the valley. Now, I knew that this was the place I was warned about in Sunday school!
The summers of 1967 and 1968 were truly life changing. I rode the wheels off a bicycle received for my birthday, and spent a lot of time patching tubes with dads assistance. Ed Edgerton began stopping by the house on a regular basis and on occasion he would give me a ride to Ed’s Camp so I could ride my bicycle back down the hill.
The colorful neighbors sparked a life long fascination with characters, the folks that live life on their terms and in so doing keep us from getting caught in a rut. I suppose, in all honesty, I have become one of those colorful neighbors, not the ones who liked to drive around naked but the ones who found simple pleasures in the desert, in a reliable old truck, a good dog, and the silence only found in the vast empty lands of the southwest.
In the years that followed I learned to drive on that old broken asphalt. As we traveled between Alabama, Tennessee, and Michigan on our summer adventures, Route 66 became a familiar friend. These were the years when fond memories and Route 66 became intertwined.
To be continued –

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