What is it about Route 66, the Main Street of America, that lures people from the four corners of the globe? How did this old road go from being a mere highway that connected point “A” with point “B” to an internationally acclaimed icon, America’s longest attraction?
I suppose its a lot like love, or the awe inspired by a sunset, or the emotion stirred by seeing the flag unfurl against the backdrop of an Arizona sunrise. It is not something that can be explained and by trying to you dull the magic.
At its heart the Route 66 experience is simply about life and life enjoyed. There is a vibrancy on Route 66 that seems to magnify the color in flowers, the sunset, the sense of history in the roadside ruins, and the warmth of the smile worn by the folks who travel the road and the folks who welcome the traveler.
A row of books at the gift shop at Joseph’s inSanta Rosa, New Mexico.
I have been fortunate enough to have had a front row seat to almost a half century of Route 66 evolution. I have traveled this old road by bus, by vintage truck, by Jeep, on foot, and by rental car, and even hitchhiked it a time or two. I have shared the spotlight at center stage and been blessed with endless opportunity for playing host to foreign visitors seeking its charms and hidden wonders. Still, its magic and allure is as fresh and as invigorating as it was that hot summer afternoon when Ed Edgerton from Ed’s Camp dropped me at the summit of Sitgreaves Pass, and I soared down the eastern face on my old bicycle. Today those thrills are a bit more multifaceted but they still fill me with an excitement that quickens the heartbeat and stirs the soul. This morning I met with Scott Sheehan, and his charming girl friend,Karla Mauch, of Bay City, Michigan, signed a couple of books she had purchased him for Christmas and assisted in their plans to explore Route 66 in California. Tonight it will be an eagerly anticipated dinner with Driess Bessels, his delightful wife Marion, Karel Kuperus, Hanneke Wiersma, and their group from Holland. This annual visit with our friends from Holland is one of the highlights of our summer.
The ruins of Querino Canyon Trading Post.
There is an indescribable thrill in seeing books I have written lining a shelf in a book store or gift shop. There is an even bigger thrill in seeing the book purchased, or learning that the book inspired an adventure, or that it brought a smile if it was purchased as a gift.There is a sense of renewal in the exploration of ruins and the overgrown and forgotten alignments of Route 66 that hearkens back to childhood days filled with dreams of discovering lost treasure. As in those halcyon days of long ago, it is in the sharing of the adventure with friends that the magic is unleashed, and on Route 66 those friends are without number.I have heard Route 66 referred to as the gateway drug (from a friend on and fellow explorer on Santa Monica Pier), the road that unleashes that child like sense of wonder, of discovery, and of dreams of adventure, the road that ignites an unquenchable desire for travel on the rod less traveled. I suppose that would explain Route 66 bumper stickers on cars cruising U.S. 6 and the Lincoln Highway, the Dixie Highway and U.S. 50. My friend, as the song says, here is a timely tip. Get your kicks on Route 66. It was true in 1946. It was true in 1956. It is true today. Route 66, the portal to a magic land where the factory in South Bend still manufactures Studebaker’s, the tail fin is the latest in automotive styling, and neon still lights the night.