Last evening my dearest friend and I shared a delightful dinner peppered with stimulating conversation at El Palacio with Jeroen and Maggie Boersma, friends from the Netherlands. We prolonged our visit with a late evening stroll through the dark and quiet streets of the historic district after dinner but all to soon it was time to say tot ziens.
For those of us privileged to live or work along Route 66, spring, summer, and fall is an almost magical time. Last week it was an interesting lunch with Professor Nick Gerlich and this week it was an enchanting dinner with friends from distant shores.In between was a visit from two charming, elderly French ladies who stopped by the office seeking directions to Route 66 (they were on it) and the Grand Canyon. As they spoke almost no English, and my French is quite limited, I resorted to typing messages in Google translate and printing them in French. All of this sparked an interesting idea. I call it the take a tourist to lunch initiative. During the months of spring, summer, and fall an almost endless stream of explorers and adventurers flow through every community along Route 66. Even though most of the travelers from abroad speak English as well as Americans do (or better) they are usually easy to spot. So, what if we started a Chicago to Santa Monica initiative of inviting them to lunch? Restaurant owners and chambers of commerce could subsidize the program or help offset the cost. The chamber of commerce in each community would initiate the program by soliciting restaurants to participate, and provide a list of participating restaurants to interested volunteers. In turn, the participating restaurants could then be provided with the list of names for the volunteers participating in the program. The chamber of commerce could encourage participation by offering a monthly subsidy to restaurants, or restaurants that join the program could offer special discounts to the volunteers who bring a foreign guest to lunch, dinner, or breakfast. The rest of the initiative is easy. Simply put, when we meet a traveler or traveling couple, we ask them to join us for a meal.The benefits of such an endeavor would have far reaching implications. The Route 66 community develops a reputation for hospitality. People in communities along Route 66 develop a deeper understanding about the potential impact of Route 66 on their town. The traveler gets the authentic American experience that most Route 66 adventurers are seeking and they discover restaurants often missed by tourists.Would you care to share your thoughts, ideas, or suggestions about such a program?