On a regular basis I find myself trying to figure out just how Route 66 morphed from highway to icon, from simple road connecting point “A” with point “B” into America’s longest attraction. Usually these thoughts are accompanied by a more personal reflection on how much of my life is tied to the old double six, and how plain and simple Jim Hinckley has morphed into an attraction of sorts.
In this I am not alone. I am quite confident that Kevin and Nancy Mueller, or Laurel Kane, or Rich Henry, or Melba, or …never imagined that they would become international celebrities simply because they hitched their wagon to the popularity of Route 66.
Several years ago Dale Butel introduced me as one of the characters on Route 66. After giving that a bit of thought I realized that descriptor fit rather well. I suppose folks might consider me a bit of a character, and Route 66 is intertwined with most everything in my life since at least 1959.
Still, when I was learning to ride a bicycle in the shadows of Sitgreaves Pass, or when I was picking tomatoes for old man Edgerton at Ed’s Camp, or when I was getting a haircut at a little barbershop in Seligman in 1979, there was never the thought that the dusty old road I traveled was about to become an American icon that would inspire legions of international enthusiasts to follow it through the heartland of America. I can also guarantee that the furthest thing from my thoughts at the time were flights of fancy about writing books that inspired people to make that journey or books that preserved the amazing old roads history.
I can also tell you with absolute honesty that in my wildest imagination, at the time it would have been impossible to think that my association with this old road would lead to international friendships, a photo exhibition in Europe, the writing of several books, incredible adventures, and boundless opportunities for helping people get the most from their Route 66 adventure. As a result, on a personal note, Route 66 has become a magic carpet of asphalt and gravel.
As I look toward the future, it appears as though the ride is just getting started. On Thursday night we spent most of the evening providing assistance to Roger Allison who is developing a Route 66 tour for a group from New Zealand.
Our original plan had been to work on his travel schedule over a leisurely dinner at Redneck’s. However, as it was Halloween the historic district was thriving with activities and people so instead we sought a quiet corner at Cracker Barrel.
Next Thursday evening, I will be speaking on the evolution of Route 66 before the Prescott chapter of Westerners International. To ensure I inspire members to make a voyage of discovery on the double six, I am creating a slide show consisting of highlights from Grant Park to Santa Monica Pier.
At the end of the month, I will be joining Mike Ward, Kevin Mueller, and other Route 66 associates at a World Monument Fund Route 66 seminar in California. To say I am honored by receipt of an invitation would be an understatement.
As I race toward the deadline for the Route 66 historic atlas, my thoughts turn toward Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri. Plans are to debut the book at this most delightful festival.
Of course, the really big news for 2014 is the annual Route 66 Festival. As the festival is taking place in my adopted hometown of Kingman, I have an awesome opportunity to introduce the world to the most overlooked destination on Route 66.
Yes, my dear friends. This character is quite glad that his life is intertwined with Route 66. This character is looking forward toward the new year with eager anticipation as it is filled with Route 66 adventures, and sharing those adventures with friends and fans of the double six.