In preparing a speech for Westerners International in Flagstaff, and another for this Saturday as part of the Smithsonian Journeys exhibition that will be taking place in conjunction with Chillin on Beale, I again found myself thinking about the people that make Route 66 special. The people have always been the cornerstone of what gave this legendary old highway its magic but during this era of renaissance it seems as though that essence has been distilled.
Just spend a half hour with Kevin or Nancy Mueller at the Blue Swallow Motel or Rich Talley at the Motel Safari or Heidi Engman at Teepee Curios in Tucumcari (or watch one of the fascinating videos produced by KC Keefer on Youtube)and see if your not inspired. It is almost as though the best of America circa 1955 has been filtered and purified.
From Chicago to Santa Monica business owners such as Laurel Kane, Rich Henry, Bob and Ramona Lehman, Bob Lile, Vickie Ashcraft, Connie Echols, Kumar Patel, Sam Frisher, and Dan Rice warmly welcome legions of international fans, and keep the legacy alive. In turn the fans who travel the road or enjoy its wonders vicariously complete the rich, vibrant tapestry that is Route 66.
This is why I often describe Route 66 as a living, breathing time capsule with an overlay of Disneyland. It may be lined with ghost towns and empty gas stations but is also infused with life and life filled with color and warmth.
As scenic and as historic as the old double six is, without the people it would be but another interesting old road. With that said I would like to thank each and everyone associated with Route 66 for preserving the legacy, for inspiring those who sacrifice and work hard to preserve that legacy, and for the friendly greetings that ensure the popularity of legendary Route 66 will continue to grow.
With that said, I have a few special notes to add. Indications are that the year 2014 will be a most amazing one on Route 66 (so hang in there Heidi).
A partnership in New Zealand will be hosting two, or maybe three, tours next year, and they are making plans for four in 2015. There is the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman next August, and the big event in Tucumcari in June.
If all goes as planned, I will be introducing the Route 66 Historic Atlas at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri next August, and Travel Route 66 next spring at the Route 66 Fun Run. There is also the possibility of my dearest friend and I having a storefront on Route 66 in Kingman, a project that was delayed.
And, of course, there is always the eagerly anticipated visits of friends from foreign shores.
If your unfamiliar with the life changing magic that is only found in a Route 66 adventure, my suggestion is that you make plans for a road trip this fall or next year. And if your intimately involved with the old road, keep up the good work.
If you have an opportunity, drop a note as I am curious to hear what it is that makes Route 66 special for you.