In recent weeks I have spent a great deal of time attempting to explain what makes Route 66 and a Route 66 experience unique. There have been presentations made to the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce as they prepare the city for the Route 66 International Festival, talks with a Telsa representative as the company may be participating in the festival, consultation work with a company developing an innovative magazine that will serve as venue for small business development on Route 66, an interview with Rudy Maxa, discussions with an industrial developer from Phoenix, and consultation work for a New Zealand firm organizing a series of Route 66 tours.
It has been relatively easy to present the basic picture that the iconic double six has morphed into a living, breathing time capsule with an overlay of Disneyland. It has also been relatively easy to present the highway corridor as a linear community with each town along the highway being a unique neighborhood in that community.
What can not be adequately expressed in words is that the essence of Route 66, what really separates it from any other travel experience, is the people who travel it, the people who preserve its history, the people who build a Route 66 centered life, and the people who ensure it remains vibrant and colorful. The often life changing aspect of meeting these people on Route 66, the Main Street of America, has to be experienced but even then it is difficult to comprehend.
Consider KC Keefer and Nancy Barlow. For them a Route 66 adventure has led to the development of an incredible endeavor that captures the essence, the spirit of the road with a series of interviews entitled Genuine Route 66 Life. Not only do these interviews inspire, but in time they will be a valuable historic record.
Tucumcari in New Mexico is fast becoming a haven for inspiring and inspired people. Spend an evening with Nancy and Kevin at the Blue Swallow Motel, the Talley’s at Motel Safari, visit with Heidi and Gar at Tee Pee Curios and see if your view of the world isn’t forever altered.
Just ask David and Amanda Brenner about such an encounter. They are now joining the growing ranks of people who have decided that there is more to life than living for the acquisition of a paycheck. As a result, soon another Route 66 time capsule will be meeting the needs of travelers on Route 66 in Tucumcari.
Allen Greer and his family are starting life anew in Truxton, Arizona as they put a little shine on the tarnished gem that is the Frontier Motel and restaurant. A new Zealand businessman purchased the property after being inspired by Route 66.
Similar stories are to be found at every turn on Route 66 from the Campbell Hotel in Tulsa to Cool Springs in Arizona, from 66 to Cali on Santa Monica Pier to the Wigwam Motel in Rialto.
Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.
Stop and visit with Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, Laurel and the gang at Afton Station, Angel Degadillo in Seligman, Bob Lile in Amarillo, Connie Echols in Cuba, or Gary at Paris Springs Junction, Take time to listen to the guests who stop by and let yourself be drawn into animated conversations with people from Holland and Germany, Japan and Australia, France and China, and see if you don’t find yourself thinking about abandonment of the traditional nine to five job, a career change, and the trappings of suburbia. After each visit look at your speedometer and see if you haven’t adapted a slower pace of travel, and found a bit more enjoyment in the journey.
Harley and Annabelle with author Jim Hinckley in Erick, Oklahoma.
However, the people that have adopted a Route 66 way of life are doing more than just touching and changing the lives of the people they meet. They are also changing the very face of America, at least along the Main Streets in towns all along that highway.
Visit Pontiac, Illinois or Cuba, Missouri, Tucumcari, New Mexico or Galena, Kansas, and see if your not inspired to do something in your hometown even if it isn’t on Route 66. Spend a weekend at the Route 66 International Festival or Cuba Fest, and see if you don’t find yourself dreaming in a Norman Rockwell style.
Route 66 is more than a mere highway. It is the stuff of dreams, the Main Street of America, a state of mind, and a magical place of unbridled inspiration.
Route 66 is now America’s longest attraction and its biggest museum. It is the template for the future and the best of America. It is iconic and revered, it is a national treasure.