Well, the 2012 edition of the international Route 66 is now history and I am quite sure it will be one for the record books. In spite of record heat, issues with the host hotel, and the litany of organizational issues that accompany an event of this magnitude it was (in my humble opinion) a smashing success.
For as far as the eye could see the green was a sea of classic cars glittering under a glaring desert sun. These, however, were only a small part of the eye candy on display for the vintage car enthusiast as there with big rigs and even a building filled with historic military vehicles.
An amazing array of food trucks filled the grounds. Sushi, traditional Greek foods, award winning buffalo wings, unique fruit smoothies and Korean delicacies were but a few of the taste sensations that made choosing lunch or a snack a very difficult decision.
As exciting as all of this was, this event, as well as the road it commemorated, is about the people. Vendors included some of the Route 66 communities most famous authors and historians including Jim Ross, Akio Takeuch of Japan; Michael Wallis, Joe Sonderman, Shellee Graham, and Jerry McClanahan (author of the popular EZ 66 Guide).
|Zdnek Jurasek, and his wife, Ava, of the Czech Route 66
The crowd that ebbed and flowed through the exhibit hall and around the fairgrounds mirrored the international popularity of America’s longest attraction – Route 66. On Saturday afternoon alone I spoke about Route 66, and provided promotional material for attractions along the highway, to people from Czechoslovakia, England, Japan, Ireland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, and even South Africa!
There was a palpable and contagious excitement in the air that was invigorating, even after two back-to-back fourteen hour days followed by a 240 mile drive that commenced at 3:30 AM. As many in attendance were old friends or that have been electronic pen pals with a shared interest, there was a sense of being in attendance at the world’s largest family reunion.
The event culminated with an awards banquet at which the immeasurable contributions to the preservation of Route 66, as well as the fostering of its popularity, by John Delgadillo, Jim Ross, Kevin and Nancy Mueller, Zdnek Jurasek, Jerry McClanahan, and Shellee Graham were recognized. Full details of the awards and banquet are available at Route 66 News.
Unfortunately my schedule prohibited attendance of the banquet and ceremony. However, that did not mean our Route 66 adventure was over.
As the sun sank in the west behind heavy clouds we rolled out of Victorville across the historic bridge that spans the Mojave River and immediately began wishing for our trusty Jeep rather than a fuel frugal rental car as recent rains had washed sand, gravel and stone across the road. In places standing water left us a bit nervous as we made very slow crossings.
The passing storms had dropped the temperature to a more comfortable ninety degrees, and provided a rainbow for framing a treasure that has survived into the modern era. After dinner in Barstow we walked to the car in awe of what was about to become a stunning sunset.
Wanting to capture the beautiful sunset as a backdrop for something special we set our sights on historic Daggett a few miles to the east. We arrived at the Desert Market and Stone Hotel just as the sun masked by purple and black clouds cast a rich golden glow on the sky. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Our journey east on Route 66 came to an abrupt but temporary end a few miles east of Daggett as the road was submerged under several feet of water. So, discretion being the better part of valor, and as we had the rental car instead of the Jeep, we beat a hasty retreat to the interstate and resumed our Route 66 odyssey at Newberry Springs.
By the time we made Ludlow the dark desert sky was presenting the illusion of being a vast black sea of glittering diamonds. This, however, was but a mere prelude to the show that awaited us near Cadiz Summit.
As we stopped to savor the simplistic wonder of a star studded desert night, meteors arced across the sky in a blaze of stunning glory. What a spectacular finale for a most enjoyable weekend!