THE HEART AND SOUL OF ROUTE 66

Even though our recent excursion along Route 66 was a hurried affair with only 9.5 days to drive from Kingman to Joliet and home again, with a detour into Michigan to see my dad, it was a most delightful adventure. The stunning fall colors in the Missouri Ozarks added to the adventure as did the opportunity to seek out unusual and overlooked places along the way.


Big Red and Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.

Still, the true magic of Route 66, that something special that seems to sweep away the cares of the world and transport the visitor back to the era of the tail fin and I Like Ike buttons are the people. The heart of soul of this legendary old road are the fans who come together at small town events, the folks who lovingly serve as caretakers of its time capsules, and those who just simply enjoy having a special place where people can visit and leave with a smile and memories.
On the recent excursion our first visit was with Bob “Croc” Lile, a talented and colorful artist with a gallery (2719 SW 6th Avenue or www.crocodilelile.com) in the very heart of the often overlooked Route 66 corridor that runs along SW 6th Avenue in Amarillo. If your only association with this interesting city has been The Big Texan or Cadillac Ranch you have been missing something really spectacular and I hope you can rectify that on your next trip.

Left to right, Annabelle, Jim Hinckley, and Harley.

In Erick we made an unscheduled stop to visit with the unofficial clowns of Route 66, Harley and Annabelle. Mere words can not adequately express what a stop here is like. As with so much of Route 66, it must be experienced to be believed.
The next scheduled stop was to sign books at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. It was a pleasure to visit with Maxine and her staff but the highlight of the stop was a personal tour of the museum and grounds given by L.V. Baker, a museum board member with extensive knowledge of the areas history who happens to own the Safari B Ranch with a healthy population of exotic deer, longhorn cattle, zebras, giraffes, and antelope.
We followed this with a stop to visit Pat Smith and sign books for the museum in Clinton. The passionate enthusiasm found here is quite contagious and as always, we had a pleasant but abbreviated visit.
Schedules are almost impossible to keep on Route 66 and plans often fall by the wayside. On this trip the problem was compounded by what seemed to be endless construction related delays and detours, and the need to gather photos for the current book project.
We had hoped to visit with Jerry McClanahan and, perhaps, talk Route 66 over lunch at the Rock Cafe. Of course we had also wanted to stop at Afton Station, visit with Laurel Kane and the gang there, and see the fascinating Packard truck/motor home I have been hearing about.
Afton Station is another one of the places that is difficult to describe. It is an automotive museum, unofficial Route 66 visitor center, and hang out for a wide array of very colorful people. Laurel keeps an interesting blog that will give you a bit of insight about what goes on there.
Suffice to say we didn’t make it. In fact we were photographing Miami, Oklahoma at around 10:00 that evening after a late evening dinner in Bristow.
As we motored east the next morning we did catch up with Melba at 4 Women on the Route as well as Scott Nelson at the Old Riverton Store. In Carthage we signed books at the most fascinating Powers Museum but missed Ron Hart and as a result had to satisfy ourselves with photographing the outside of the old roadside classic that is the Boots Motel.
On the drive through Missouri we had the privilege of meeting Scott at Mr. C’s where we signed copies of the new encyclopedia as well as copies of Ghost Towns of Route 66. Of course we also stocked up on his signature Route 66 soda pop.

Among the fascinating people met on this trip were Kathleen Avilla at Route 66 State Park, another book signing stop, Sandra at the Barret Station Gift Shop in the transportation museum near St. Louis, another book signing stop, and Barabara Bradley, the innkeeper at the National House Inn (not on Route 66 but an interesting story for another day). This old road seems to attract the most interesting and passionate individuals.
Of course the high point on the trip was Cuba Fest, an event that brought the Route 66 family together from every corner of the nation to enjoy the best of a community that seems to have distilled the very essence of the Route 66 experience into an intoxicating brew that leaves even a desert rat like me with thoughts of moving east. It was such a delight to have another opportunity to visit with the talented folks from Fading Nostalgia, Katie Nelson and Chris Robleski (see above), Rich Dinkella, Joe Sonderman, Richard Talley, Jane Reed, Connie and Riva Echols, Buzz Waldmire, and to finally meet with people like Kathy and David Alexander of Legends of America, and so many others.
With each trip along Route 66 the list of friends seems to grow. With each trip along Route 66 there are regrets about the friends there wasn’t time to visit with.
To each of you that we missed on this trip, we hope to see you next year – at your place, at mine, or on the road.

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