At the risk of seeming a bit maudlin, there is something almost symbolic in the transition between summer and fall that is marked by the Labor Day holiday, the last official weekend of the summer season here in the United States. For the past few years reflection on that symbolism at this time of year has developed an odd sort of clarity.
The seasons are on the cusp of change, likewise with life in general. For me winter is still some years down the track. Still I need to look no further than the mirror where I see grey stubble on my face (I haven’t shaved for a few days)to know that summer is fast giving way to fall.
As an astute student of history, and a survivor of almost six decades of life, I am painfully aware of just how fast time passes. In reflecting on the summer of 2014, I am astounded by how it seems to have passed in less time than it takes me to figure out what hat to wear in the morning.
What, pray tell, does this have to do with Route 66? Well, take just a moment to give thought to the Route 66 of 2002, and the Route 66 of today. Now, look toward the future the exact number of years and we will be celebrating that iconic highways centennial.
Take a gander at the photo in the upper left corner. Does it look familiar? That, my friends is the Kimo Café, circa 1940, which currently masquerades as Mr. D’z in Kingman, Arizona.
As late as the mid 1970’s the old place remained unchanged from this photograph. My future brother in law pumped gas and fixed tires in that Shell station in 1977. The first dinner upon my return to Kingman took place in this restaurant just before Christmas, 1976.
Since then the old Kimo Café has evolved into a caricature of a Route 66 diner much as the road itself transitioned into a romanticized image of what once was. Is this good, or is it bad? Shouldn’t we simply be happy that it survived? Where do we draw the line between preservation and transformation?
If we myopically focus on preservation do we risk loosing the spirit, the essence of what makes the road special? However, if we simply abandon preservation to ensure a building survives, isn’t there a risk of transforming the highway and its unique culture into a cheap imitation of Disneyland?
These are key questions to consider as the countdown to the centennial commences.
As we await developments from Edwardsville, may I respectively ask for your thoughts, ideas, and vision for the future of Route 66? I have some thoughts about the forthcoming centennial and need your help in clarifying them.
This morning while my dearest friend attacked the monsoon fueled forest that threatens to engulf the front of the homestead, I ignored the need to tackle the wilderness area that is now the back yard, the need to rebuild the workshop, and other assorted tasks vying for my attention, and instead focused intently on the current book project. Resultant of time consumed with festival planning and development, as well as the current employment situation and assorted issues that constitute daily life in modern America, I have fallen behind schedule.
So today, even though I awoke with a pounding sinus congestion induced headache, my butt was tied to the chair for most of the past ten hours. Break time came with lunch, and because my dearest friend isn’t keen on a portable john at the desk, a few trips to the rest room.
The rough draft for the text is now at the halfway point. This is a good thing because as of this morning I was only one third of the way and there are just four months to go.
The plan is close out the Labor Day weekend with labor in the yard in the morning, and labor at the desk in the afternoon. It isn’t exactly what we envisioned for the last official weekend of summer but there really weren’t a great deal of options.
An aspect of the desert that always fascinates me is the dramatic transformation that occurs with the addition of the slightest amount of water. Winter and spring were so dry this year there was a serious concern that we would be hunting jerky instead of deer. Yard maintenance consisted of pulling the occasional weed.
With a wet monsoon season the transition has been dramatic and almost immediate. Large swaths of the desert are awash in greenery, and wild flowers abound. At the homestead we went from dusty to forested in a manner of days.
The weeds, the pressing deadlines, the need to address household repairs, and the flurry of activity leading up to the festival have left us a bit weary. Compounding this has been a year without vacation.
No complaints. I am truly blessed. I have a great friend to share the load with and to ease the burden. We have a homestead to be frustrated with, a couple of jobs which ensure we eat on a regular basis, and a number of tremendous friends.
Our reward for transforming the holiday into a work day is dinner with friends from the Netherlands on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday, an opportunity to visit with Dries and Marion, our amigos from the land of bicycles, pre-rolled joints, and wooden shoes. The tongue in cheek reference to the Netherlands was made by Dries during his presentation at the Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference held in conjunction with the 2014 Route 66 International Festival.
Needless to say, we are eagerly counting the days until we set out on a grand adventure to Cuba, Missouri and the big Cuba Fest party. An opportunity to share in a celebration of just what makes the double six special, with friends while enjoying the music of the Road Crew, and breakfast at Shelly’s, is something to look forward to with ever increasing anticipation.
Also on the list of things that have me looking toward the future with eager anticipation are awaited updates on developments from Edwardsville, Illinois, site of the proposed “big event” on Route 66 next October, and updates from Scott Piotrowski who is spearheading work to put the “big event” in 2016 at the original terminus of Route 66 in downtown Los Angeles.
Before either of these events take place, I am rather confident that a coalition will be in place to foster development of cooperative partnerships, to develop a unified sense of community and community purpose along the Route 66 corridor, and to steer development of a centennial celebration of the double six in 2026. The festival served as the catalyst for putting this endeavor in high gear and indications are that the first manifestations will be evident in a few short months.
Meanwhile, the international popularity of the old road seems to be growing in popularity exponentially as people seek an authentic American experience, and an opportunity to experience life rather than live it in a cocoon of impersonal, cold technologies.
A few short years ago the primary season for Route 66 tourism was from April to September. This year we met with visitors as early as January, just weeks after meeting with visitors in December. The current schedule is to meet our last tour group of 2014 in November.
The year is fast coming to a close but there is still time for an adventure or two. Will you join us for Cuba Fest?