NOTES FROM THE ROAD – THE JOPLIN, THE ROAD HOME, AND THE PASSING OF THE TORCH

As with Route 66 itself, the annual Route 66 International Festival has in recent years morphed into something absolutely spectacular. In 1997 the National Historic Route 66 Federation (publisher of the “must have” EZ 66 Guide for Travelers) hosted the first festival that consisted of little more than a few collectors displaying items and a John Steinbeck Award Banquet under a rented circus tent in dusty Landergin, Texas.
Now managed under the auspices of the Route 66 Alliance, the festival is fast becoming a focal point for the wave of resurgent interest in this storied old road. In Joplin last week it was quite evident that the organizers for this years festival had masterfully harnessed this as the event was more than crowds, music, vintage cars, and cruising. The excitement, the enthusiasm, and barely restrained passion was almost palpable.
My dearest friend and I closed out the festival with a shared dinner, an exciting ceremony, and barely restrained anticipation for the next festival which will be held in Kingman. Before continuing I should note the organizers for the 2014 festival have a foundational website in place and updates will be added on a regular basis.


Left to right, Rick Freeland and
Michael Wallis of the Route 66
Alliance, Jim Hinckley, and Patrick
Tuttle, Joplin tourism director.

After packing and reloading the car for the trip home, my dearest friend and I joined acclaimed authors Joe Sonderman and Chery Eichar Jett, and Joe’s charming wife Lorraine, at the Red Onion Restaurant for a most delightful dinner of excellent food seasoned with sparkling conversation.
This was followed with a bit of music provided by Joe Loesch and the Road Crew, and a ceremony where the official announcement was made that Kingman will serve as the host city for the festival in 2014. In presenting the Arizona flag  it was impossible not to note that the crowds that lined Main Street stretched as far as the eye could see.
Sunday was a morning without a dawn as the skies were heavy and as black as coal. By the time I finished packing the suitcases into the rental car the sprinkle had turned into a hard rain. Before we had cleared Joplin on 7th Street (Route 66), the rain was almost torrential.
Planned stops for photos were shelved. Other scheduled stops were also cancelled as the flooded road southwest of Quapaw, Oklahoma led to a series of detours.
I did manage to squeeze in a few photo stops but the hassle of using a camera condom to keep equipment dry just dampens the mood, pardon the pun. Unfortunately none of these were the Mickey Mantle related sites I had hoped to photograph for the new book.
On the last couple of trips we rolled through Afton, Oklahoma long after Laurel had shut down for the day. This time we arrived shortly after she had opened Afton Station, which was a veritable beehive of activity since they were preparing for an afternoon concert by the road crew.
Fortunately the weather broke after we left and the concert was an overwhelming success. When we arrived the water was falling in buckets and I was longing for the Jeep as the streets were running deep with water.
It is always a delight to visit with Laurel, and the tourists from the four corners of the earth that pass through the doors of Afton Station, but this visit was an a long awaited opportunity to explore a one of a kind, custom made 1917 Packard based motor home –



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