NO END IN SIGHT

For most of the past half dozen years I have patiently awaited the wane or decline of international popularity in Route 66 as travelers discovered the next big thing. It would seem that my concerns are unwarranted as the groundswell of interest in the iconic double six continues to grow.

As Kevin and Nancy Mueller, the new owners of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, have discovered, the village of Route 66 truly is America’s most famous attraction. A few days ago they hosted a Cadillac tour, from China, traveling the highway. Earlier this summer they provided lodging, as well as their trademark hospitality, to a group from Holland, as well as visitors from Australia, Germany, Norway, and other countries.
This week the group from China will be stopping in Kingman for lunch and a tour of the Powerhouse Visitor Center. It will be my privilege to serve as their unofficial guide during their visit, a service I have been providing more frequently.
For my dearest friend and I, serving as an impromptu tour guide is one of the greatest rewards derived from writing and photography – the doors that open for sharing the wonders of Route 66 to an international audience. At times it is seems as it we are international travelers in our home town!
In our travels up and down this amazing old road there is often a sense that Route 66 is more than a former highway that connects the inland sea of Lake Michigan at Chicago with the ocean at Santa Monica. It is almost as though the old road links every nation on the planet.

Author Akio Takeuch at the 2012 International Route 66
Festival in Victorville, California.

At the event in Victorville we again met with Akio Takeuch of Japan, author of The Tropic of Route 66, and other titles including a Japanese tour guide for the road. We first met Akio at the 2011 International Route 66 festival in Amarillo, Texas.
While dining in Barstow on Saturday evening we overheard conversations in French, German, and Italian. In deathly quiet Amboy, at 10:30 in the evening under a brilliant starry sky, there were people from France taking pictures even though the neon has been dark for almost a half century and the temperature hovered just below 110 degrees.
Zdnek Jurasek of the Czech Route 66 Association will again be transforming the largest mall in Prague with a Route 66 themed exhibit. In conversation this weekend I also learned he is spearheading the creation of the first Route 66 museum in Europe.
The magic of Route 66 transcends barriers of culture, language, and even distance. No one seems to be immune, even captains of capitalism whose steely eyed focus and determination are legendary.
Albert Okura, founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain, has been led to purchase the site of the first McDonald’s restaurant and create a free museum dedicated to that pioneering company. He has also purchased the remains of Amboy and is embarking on a lengthy restoration project that will make this a living Route 66 time capsule deep in the forbidding Mojave Desert.
Route 66, is more than an ancient road that links the past with the present, a living time capsule that chronicles a century of societal evolution. It is truly the stuff of dreams and there is no end in sight for its popularity.

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