As my life has been intertwined with legendary Route 66 since about 1959, a lot of lessons have been learned on that old road. I learned that boredom induced activities such as trying to jump a barrel cactus with a bicycle is a bad idea. I learned that a short cut across a sand wash in a tanker truck loaded with 1,200 gallons of water isn’t really a short cut.
I also learned to drive just about anything with four or more wheels on Route 66. One hot summers day I learned the true value of money while walking from a point near Hackberry to the Stuckey’s east of town with a months pay in my pocket and no water.
Of a more recent nature are the lessons learned in providing assistance for the development of the 2014 Route 66 International Festival. Most of these will last a lifetime, a few were merely a refresher course, and others were a bit of a surprise.
I learned that some folks who own businesses will promote the Route 66 community with a masterful illusion of righteous passion while pouring efforts into eliminating competition by torpedoing a neighbor. I learned that some folks will promote the road and assist the Route 66 community even if there is no limelight.
I have learned that Route 66 truly is a linear community where folks pull together in time of need, cover their neighbors back, and are quick to offer assistance. I have also learned that there are others who have decided that the key to success is sincerity and once that can be faked the rest comes easy.
There are people who can put aside differences for the betterment of the community and those who find it easier to blame others for their failures rather than resolve problems they created. A few become disillusioned when they discover that the riches in Route 66 aren’t always monetary in nature.
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned, or should I say confirmed, is that the Route 66 community is truly unique and special. It is the best of the American spirit refined and purified, it is hospitality and generosity made manifest, and the last great bastion of mom and pop enterprise.