I know there are other roads in America beside Route 66. Over the years I have traveled many of them, even a few that are now little more than overgrown goat trails.
Still, it often seems as the entire world is beating a path to the double six, America’s most famous highway. In recent weeks I have received emails from friends as well as folks planning an adventure along this storied highway from more than a dozen countries.
The diverse and scenic wonders of the roadside, the history, and what the old represents are all part of the appeal and charm. However, what really sets this road apart from all others are the people who reside along the way, who operate businesses, and who travel along it.
This afternoon I spoke with one of the colorful characters that give this old road such vibrancy, Croc Lile of Amarilo, and quickly determined the source of my funk these past few weeks. During the months of winter the pulsating, exciting flow of travelers along Route 66 slows to a crawl and as a result, ordinary life with its daily routines seems colorless, dry, and sepia toned.
Soon, however, as with desert flowers that spring from the stark and rocky soil during the first weeks of spring,the rumble of Harley’s, the dialects, languages, and accents from dozens of countries, and the contagious enthusiasm will quicken the spirit. Soon Route 66 will again assume its proper role as the Main Street of America.
Even though winter in Arizona is mild compared to, say, Chicago, my anticipation for spring grows every day. A new season on Route 66 is another opportunity to visit with friends and friends yet met, another opportunity to share its wonders, and another opportunity for adventure.
Magnifying all of this are projects, such as work on the companion to The Route 66 Encyclopedia, a Route 66 historical atlas,and the opening of our gallery in the historic Brunswick Hotel, and plans for road trips. For us the first grand adventure on Route 66 will take place on the 6th of April as we motor west to a book signing at Auto Books-Aero Books in Burbank.
Most likely the last one of the season will be a trip to Cuba for Cuba Fest. We had such a delightful time last year that I promised my dearest friend every effort would be made for a return in 2013.
In between are an endless array of opportunities. May I ask, what are your Route 66 plans this year?
Our first order of business this blustery afternoon are condolences. I received notice this morning that Jan Finder (AKA The Wombat) has passed away.
Though we only met twice in person, once in Kingman for breakfast at the now defunct Silver Spoon as he motored west on Route 66, and at the international Route 66 festival in Amarillo, there has been a fair amount of correspondence and some interaction via Facebook over the years.
I will miss his witty snippets and observations. If I were to try and describe Jan, colorful and unique would be my succinct description.
Often I talk of how Route 66 in the era of resurgent interest has assumed the persona of a 2,000 plus mile small town. Indicative of this is the international outpouring of condolences for Jan’s family.
In an unrelated note, acclaimed photographer Michael Campanelli stopped by as he headed east on Route 66. Here is yet another indicator that a new season of fun, excitement, and adventure on the legendary double six is about to begin.
If you are unfamiliar with Michael’s work, there are two wonderful exhibits on Route 66. One is in Pontiac, Illinois at the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, 110 W. Howard Street. The second is housed at the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce in Tucumcari, New Mexico, 404 West Route 66.
As we are on the subject of photo exhibits,I should remind you that Route 66 is the theme for the month of May at Beale Street Brews & Gallery in Kingman. I am quite sure that this as well as other activities being planned for Saturday evening during the annual Route 66 Fun Run will round out a fun filled weekend.
Angela, the owner, still has room to display some work. So, if you are an artist or photographer with a portfolio of material pertaining to Route 66 you might want to give her a call or drop an email. Here is a link to her website.
As there have been a few delays in the refurbishment of the historic Brunswick Hotel, the location for our forthcoming gallery, we will be displaying work at Beale Street Brews & Gallery in May. If you are attending the fun run, I hope you will stop by on Saturday evening.
Development of the first installment of Jim Hinckley’s America is on track in spite of my inexperience that has resulted in numerous “do overs.” This past Saturday we shot a segment about the Desert Classic Race of 1914 along a pre 1920 portion of the National Old Trails Highway, and another at the old Methodist church where Clark Gable and Carol tied the knot. We also did some work at the site of the American Kitchen restaurant where Tom King was killed in October of 1926, and at the former gunnery range for the Kingman Army Airfield. Thank you for the patient tutelage Mr. Fisk.
Mr. Fisk, the producer, is working on another project at the same time as my schedule prohibits development except on weekends. This second project may be even more exciting, the documenting of the Van Dutch bus restoration that will also feature exclusive interviews with family.
Meanwhile, a great deal of my spare time is filled with research pertaining to the compilation of information on movie, music video, and television filming locations on Route 66. Your input would be most appreciated.
Speaking of movies on Route 66, can anyone provide insight into an early 1950’s movie entitled Route 66 starring Burt Lancaster as a long haul trucker? I have several newspaper clippings pertaining to development but there is no indication that the film was completed.
Well, that is about all I have time for today. If all goes well, I should have a few more updates to share in a couple of days.
The current projects are proving to be quite consuming largely as a result of the fact they are so fascinating I loose complete track of time. For the companion to the popular Route 66 Encyclopedia there will be a Route 66 historic atlas.
After lengthy debate, discussion, and research it was decided that there would be a mere seven topics. However, the depth of these subjects is such that initial research leads me to believe that it would be possible to fill several books.
One of these topics is filming locations on Route 66 for movies, television programs, and music videos. Another, and the one that has really sucked me deep into a research time sink, is Route 66 crime scenes.
Examples of the dark but fascinating tales uncovered include a police officer gunned down while serving a truancy warrant, a bus robbery that went horribly wrong as there was a policeman on board, a deputy killed by Bonnie and Clyde, and an oddly named murderer by the name of Willie “baby face” Doody who killed the police chief in Berwyn during a vicious crime spree. There was definitely a dark side to life along Route 66.
This morning work will continue on the first installment of Jim Hinckley’s America, a new video series focusing on obscure but fascinating places along Route 66 and the road less traveled. The focus will be on an often overlooked but perfectly preserved segment of the pre 1920 National Old Trails Highway east of the Kingman historic district.
This will serve as the primary location for presenting the history of the 1914 Desert Classic race that the press dubbed the Cactus Derby. This was the seventh and last in this series of races that garnered international headlines as it featured the most famous drivers of the time, a grueling 671 mile run across the Mojave Desert and northern Arizona, a grand prize of $2,500 and a diamond studded medal that procalimed the winner was master driver of the world, and an absolute carnival atmosphere including a chartered train filled with costumed and drunk businessmen.
The race kicked off under cold, cloudy skies on November 9, 1914 at 5:30 in the morning at East Lake Park in Los Angeles. The drivers would follow the National Old Trails Highway to Ash Fork before turning south to Prescott and the finish line in Phoenix.
They set off in intervals of two minutes and with the exception of J.F. Pink who lost control on the wet pavement and hit a telegraph pole four miles from the starting line, the nineteen entrants hit the San Bernardino checkpoint within seconds of each other.
At Cajon Pass as the rain turned to snow, the pack began to break up as drivers struggled with weather, alternately muddy or icy roads, and mechanical problems. The driver of a Metz flipped on the icy road, the second car to fall by the wayside, and soon it was a neck and neck race between Barney Oldfield at the wheel of the white and red Stutz he had driven to a fifth place finish at the Indianapolis 500 and Cliff Durant (son of William Durant, founder of GM) who was driving a Chevrolet.
From Victorville to Barstow the press and spectators were presented with a real race. Louis Nikrent, winner of the 1909 race at the wheel of a Paige, Louis Chevrolet driving a Chevrolet, Olin Davis, the defending champion, pushing a monstrous Simplex 90, Durant, and Oldfield, were seldom more than seconds apart with speeds often reaching 65 miles per hour over muddy roads.
An engine fire stopped Oldfield, temporarily. This resulted in Durant taking a six minute lead at the Barstow checkpoint.
Oldfield regained the lead near Ludlow but the brutal road conditions were taking their toll. Only fifteen vehicles arrived at Needles, the finish line for the first day.
Mechanics were kept busy through the night as they dealt with bent axles, broken frames, and all manner of mechanical maladies. One of the casualties was Louis Chevrolet who was forced to leave his car and continue the race as the mechanic for Durant.
And so it went. Eleven drivers arrived in Prescott at the end of day two, six crossed the finish line in Phoenix.
Even though Oldfield lost serious time after becoming stuck at the New River Ford and had to be pulled free by a mule team, he claimed victory with an elapsed time of 22 hours and 59 seconds. Second place went to Nikrent with a time of 23 hours and 35 minutes.
A few other sites we hope to shoot today are the Kimo Cafe, now Mr. D’z, the church where Carole Lombard and Clark Gable married in 1939, and a segment of Route 66 in use since it was signed as the National Old Trails Highway in 1913. It should be an interesting day.
Okay, lets get up caught on the latest exciting developments from my corner of Route 66. I also have a few personal notes to share that might be of interest. This includes updates on new books, developments in Kingman, and things to look for during the annual Route 66 Fun Run.
For regular followers of this blog a break in the pattern of daily postings can only mean one of three things – I am sick enough to have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel, we are off on another adventure, or I am deep into another project. Well, I feel as fit as a fiddle and we have not been on the road with the exception of the recent day trip to Kelso and our picnic in the Cerbat Mountains last weekend.
That leaves the project option. Well, as is often the case in my world where the childhood quest to be a writer when I grow up continues, this word should be plural as in projects.
It started with the big October trip that included the promotional launch of The Route 66 Encyclopedia at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. At this juncture I should note that we had such an enjoyable time at this event, and found the hospitality to be so refreshing, we have loosely penciled this on the calendar as the destination for our vacation this year.
In addition to the promotion of the new book we were also working on the photography for a new book, a project with a March 1, 2013 deadline. Reason one for the sporadic posting in the last week or so.
I am pleased to say that the final draft for the text, and a large photo file (thanks again Mike Ward, Joe Sonderman,and Steve Rider), were mailed this morning. This project is a guide to Route 66 that includes quirky or interesting detours of less than 20 miles.
As my primary target was the novice or armchair traveler that needed some motivation to get out and explore, I made it clear in the introduction that a copy of the dining and lodging guide published by the National Historic Route 66 Federation, as well as the EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan were essentials for any adventure on the legendary double six. I can honestly say that we never leave home without them.
This is not to say the book won’t be of interest to those who are intimately familiar with the old road. I am quite sure that there will be a few surprises for everyone.
Meanwhile, while I was working on crafting this project, the publisher requested I also write a smaller book that chronicled the evolution of Route 66 as mirrored through the development of promotional material for the road and business along its course.
While all of this, as well as the mundane details of everyday life such as tax preparation was ongoing, I was also doing the preliminary submission work for another project, a companion to The Route 66 Encyclopedia. I am pleased to announce that as of today, the Route 66 historical atlas has been given a green light.
One aspect of this will be to document locations along Route 66 used in music videos, television programs, and movies. Your two cents worth would be most appreciated.
In addition we are diligently providing assistance on various aspects of the Brunswick Hotel restoration to ensure the refurbished hotel, restaurant, and bakery is an asset to the community as well as a destination for Route 66 adventurers, and that our gallery in the Brunswick Hotel provides visitors with a memorable experience. This includes historical research, publicity, location of artifacts, and the development of a line of limited edition prints, framed and unframed, as displayed above.
Initial plans were for the gallery and hotel to be open in time for the Route 66 Fun scheduled for the first weekend in May. Unexpected delays pertaining to the installation of an elevator have pushed that date back to July.
Meanwhile, Beale Street Brews & Gallery (one block north of Route 66) is making plans to host a special Route 66 exhibit, featuring a selection of our photographs, for the entire month of May with special hours during the fun run. Angela, the owner, is looking for artists as well as photographers interested in displaying their work.
It looks as though the Old Trails Garage window mural project at the corner of Third Street and Andy Devine Avenue will not be finished in time for the fun run. However, I am quite sure that visitors will be most impressed with the improvements.
In addition to this, plans are afoot to transform the entire historic district into a gallery by combining shadow galleries in currently empty buildings with an expansion of the window mural program and displays of photography and art in stores, restaurants, and city buildings. Details will be provided as progress is made.
I think that this catches up for now. Stay tuned for more exciting details on these and other items.
Long, long ago U.S. 66 transcended its original purpose to become Route 66, an American icon of epic proportions. This amazing old road may not be the most scenic or the most historic but it has always had the best press and in recent years this trend has catapulted it into the realm of international stardom.
The seeds for this were sown by visionary men and women such as Cyrus Avery who in February of 1927, mere months after certification of the highway, launched the U.S. Highway 66 Association and an advertising campaign promoting Route 66 as “the Main Street of America.”
Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century. Route 66 has morphed into a living, breathing time capsule with an overlay of Disneyland. The charming and colorful essence of the old road from the glory days of the 1950s has been distilled into a magic elixir of music, photos, small town diners with blue plate specials, friendship, neon, scenic wonder, history, excitement, adventure, and fun that is addictive as well as intoxicating.
Route 66 has become a linear corridor where small town America circa 1955 seems unaffected by the intrusions of the modern world. Along its course from the inland sea of Lake Michigan to the shores of the Pacific Ocean there are still malt shops, neon lit nights, a ribbon of asphalt that flows through the heartland of America rather than violently slicing through it.
If you are unfamiliar with the charm and transforming wonder of legendary Route 66, I encourage you to make a voyage of discovery this year. And if you are familiar with its wonders, and will be following it to adventure this year, welcome home.