For a fellow such as me that actually remembers seeing dad use a visible register gasoline pump at a remote service station near Bluff, Utah (and complain that he was charged an unheard of .29 per gallon), this modern world is truly a time of wonders.
I carry a cell phone that is smaller than my wallet and it takes better pictures than my first camera. I carry on conversations with friends, and post a good morning photo selected for our photography site (http://jimhinckleystudio.zenfolio.com/), on Facebook and in an instant people from every corner of the globe are commenting or joining in.
I am not quite as old as rope or dirt contrary to the impression given but the changes and developments witnessed in this past half century of life are most amazing. Still, there is a sense that most of them are cold and sterile by nature and that in part is a key component to understanding the ever growing popularity of Route 66.
This is something long suspected but this past summer, as we shared friendship, as well as dinner, beer and marshmallows, with strangers and pen pals around a small fire at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, I watched faces. There was an appearance of melting, of softening as we gathered to take pictures of the neon, or stood around the fire talking of the days adventures on Route 66.
There was a sense that the modern world with impersonal interactions on Facebook or the bland, generic sameness thinly masked by the illusion of uniqueness at restaurants such as Cracker Barrel was the illusion and that this was the reality. The honest warmth of the Mueller’s, our hosts for the evening, stood in glaring contrast to the professional and rehearsed warmth found at the Holiday Inn Express.
I know that while we were basking in the rejuvenating glow of Route 66 inspired camaraderie, similar scenes were being played out all along that highway at the Munger Moss Motel and the Wagon Wheel Motel, at Motel Safari and at the Wigwam Motel. It is almost as though there is something in the breeze that chases the dust along the old worn asphalt.
With the exception of the far northwest, far northeast, and the southern tip of Florida, I have traversed this old country so many times that seldom do we use a map. It should be duly noted that Route 66 is an exception to this rule even though my travels along its storied path began in the era of the Edsel as we always travel with the EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan.
All of this leads me to say with a degree of certainty and authority that there is truly something special about the old double six, something almost magical that transcends barriers of culture or language. The Route 66 of the 21st century is the road of dreams, the stuff of legends, and a world unto itself where the past and present ebb and flow without obstruction to hinder their mingling.
Yes, there are other roads and other old motels and inns (such as the National House Inn in Marshall, Michigan), but they are found in pockets, not in a 2,000 plus mile linear corridor. On Route 66 it is almost as the road is a community unto itself.
For those familiar with the addictive charm of the road none of this is a startling revelation. However, for the uninitiated may I suggest that the next time you feel this brave new world is cold, impersonal, and hollow, may I suggest an adventure on legendary Route 66? May I suggest a leisurely breakfast at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger in Victorville, a restful night immersed in the solitude of the late 1950s at the Motel Safari in Tucumcari, or a pleasant visit with Rich and Big Red at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois?