In response to a question pertaining to an historical comparison for the current state of the Route 66 community and the various endeavors to bring diverse elements together for the common good, I quipped that the challenges faced by the Continental Congress came to mind. Did I mention that the fellow I was speaking with had a distinctly British accent?
On a more serious note, the Route 66 community has reached a most interesting impasse. The international fascination and popularity of Route 66 is growing exponentially. The multifaceted endeavors of entrepreneurs to profit from that popularity are only limited by the imagination.
Meanwhile, the need to educate people about the roads history, the importance of blending preservation with meeting the projected needs of future enthusiasts, and the opportunities to utilize this resurgent interest as a catalyst for community development or redevelopment is unprecedented. In response, a wide array of grass roots initiatives ranging from establishment of Route 66 associations internationally to Ron Hart’s expansive Route 66 Chamber of Commerce website, from Kumar Patel’s media presence to development of Route 66 themed events in communities large and small are transforming the landscape while working to meet the needs and fill a void.
From its inception Route 66 was never able to evolve fast enough to meet the rapidly developing transportation needs of the country. Likewise with these grassroots efforts and the rapidly changing needs of the Route 66 community.
In spite of tremendous successes made manifest in the rebirth of Galena, Kansas, the transformation of Pontiac, Illinois, or the preservation of the Chain of Rocks Bridge, fragmented initiatives can only result in fragmented success.
Michael Wallis of the Route 66 Alliance refers to Route 66 as a linear community. Expanding on this analogy, each city, town, and village along the Route 66 corridor then becomes a quirky, colorful, unique neighborhood in that community.
The future preservation and development of Route 66 hinges on our ability as a community to link individual and community initiatives into an unbreakable chain that stretches from Santa Monica to Chicago. It is imperative that we move beyond myopic focus on events or developments as a local issue if Route 66 and its unique culture are to be preserved for future generations.
https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/x_P_U5tW29c&source=udsThe 2013 Route 66 International Festival in Joplin is one example of how to foster a unified sense of community as well as community purpose. Rather than simply utilize the event to showcase the attributes of that one city to an international audience, resources were pooled and the focus was expanded to include Carthage, Webb City, and Galena in Kansas.
The two day Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference in Kingman during the 2014 Route 66 International Festival would be another excellent example. Diverse interests represented by individuals that are often in disagreement temporarily put aside differences to provide an international audience with a multi dimensional portrait of the entire Route 66 community.
Ed Klein of Route 66 World provided expertise derived from real world business experience. Representatives from state Route 66 associations presented an overview of issues and developments on their section of the highway. Representatives European Route 66 associations such as Dries Bessels provided important insight into the Route 66 community from an international perspective.
Important people associated with the electric vehicle community presented a vision of the future. They also provided the Route 66 community with invaluable information about how to tap into this emerging market.
In addition to expanding our focus, it is imperative we utilize all existent resources. It is also imperative that we as a community maintain respective dialogue in regard to the evaluation of potential opportunities.
Several years ago Rutgers University, in conjunction with World Monuments Fund, released an expansive Route 66 economic impact report that proved to be invaluable developmental tool. Last November a symposium in Anaheim facilitated by this organization fostered unprecedented opportunities for bringing diverse elements of the Route 66 community together for discussion, and the building of cooperative partnerships.
This conference also sparked some very constructive debate, as well as non constructive diatribes that muted and even negated some of the benefits derived from the event. Now, World Monuments Fund, and the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has followed through on their promises and announced development of a steering community.
As with the Anaheim conference, this has sparked healthy debate and discussion within the Route 66 community as well as inflammatory discourse that is either void of fact, or that is premature in its evaluation.
An excellent example of the latter are claims that the steering committee is merely the latest manifestation of a Route 66 clique bent on excluding those who have differing opinions. As I was selected to serve on this steering committee, my first course of action was to evaluate what the matrix of the committee was.
In their own words, “A steering committee has now been formed to represent key affinity groups (e.g., tourism, business, transportation, preservation, economic development, and advocacy); geographic regions; public/private interests; and sector knowledge.”
It was not devised to include or exclude any state or international Route 66 association nor was it devised to dominate any aspect of future developments. Apparently a primary purpose is to evaluate the road in its entirety, and devise a proposal for building a Route 66 community capable of meeting future needs.
My personal suggestion at this juncture is to move forward with local and private initiatives but with a focus on how these developments can benefit neighboring communities, and the Route 66 community as a whole.
Next, as noted on numerous occasions, provide input as well as assistance in development of the event in Edwardsville next October. In so doing ask yourself how this event can be utilized to further foster development of a unified sense of community.
Then, evaluate contributions or offers of assistance from the World Monuments Fund, the Route 66 Alliance, the National Historic Route 66 Federation or any other organization based on track record, facts, and the potential benefit to the community as a whole.
As I have received a number of inquiries pertaining to the Steering Committee, this is the list of participants that I received.
Route 66: The Road Ahead
Deputy District Director, California Department of Transportation
San Bernardino, CA
National Park Service (retired)
Professor, University of New Mexico
Facilitator, Route 66 Archives and Research Collaboration
Executive Director, Arizona Route 66 All American Road/Rte 66 Assoc.
Deputy SHPO, Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office
The dark ages on Route 66 commenced in the mid 1960’s. As development of the interstate highway system replaced long segments of U.S. 66, road side businesses turned toward meeting the needs of a more centralized local market to survive. Compounding the problems these struggling businesses faced was the rise of chain restaurants and motels, and an evolving American society that was more interested in the destination than the journey.
The downward spiral continued through the 1970’s and 1980’s. The American roadside was transformed into a generic, bland world of chain restaurants that mimicked classic road side diners, or pirate ships at Disneyland. Hotels and motels offered cookie cutter amenities that provided travelers with assurance of standards but further watered down the thrill of adventure that had been the hallmark of the classic American road trip. Even the service station experience evolved from that of an interactive business to a cold, impersonal self service transaction.
For all of its problems, warts, and associated dangers, the essence of travel on Route 66 was interaction with fellow travelers, the locals in towns large and small, and business owners. In 1959 a trip from Chicago to Santa Monica on the double six was fraught with white knuckle driving, bad food, good food, lumpy mattresses, neon lit nights, flat tires, sweat soaked shirts, cold soda pop, ringing gas station bells, quirky attractions, traffic, trucks, narrow bridges, strings of stop lights, accidents, laughter, and memory making adventure.
In 1979 a trip from Chicago to Santa Monica was usually made in an air conditioned cocoon. Days were spent driving as a herd along a safe but bland four lane track. Evenings were spent huddled around a television watching the same programs watched at home in a room no different from the room where you watched television the evening before.
Dinner usually consisted of burgers from a sterile industrial type facility identical to the restaurant you stopped at in Joliet or Tulsa, and you never had to leave the car. If by chance you decided on a more traditional dinner, chances are you would have the menu memorized by the end of the trip as the one in LA was identical to the one in Kingman or Albuquerque.
Fast forward a couple of decades plus a year or two. Route 66, a highway that doesn’t technically exist any longer, has morphed into a living, breathing time capsule as well as America’s longest attraction. Legions upon legions of international adventurers in search of an authentic American experience flock to a dusty Arizona town to bask in the warm smile of a humble barber. In the tarnished old mining town of Galena, a fast talking, always smiling spitfire of a gal is a celebrity known throughout the world. A stretch of brick covered highway in Illinois is a destination. Likewise with a ghost town astride the Texas and New Mexico border, a neon framed motel in Tucumcari, a hippies school bus turned home in Pontiac, a bridge on the Mississippi River, and a family run cafe in Oklahoma. Thousands of enthusiasts from most every corner of the globe descend on Kingman, Arizona, in August, for an oversize family reunion, a party, and a bit of Route 66 business. A Norman Rockwell portrait of small town America made manifest in a quaint festival in a town named Cuba attracts people from Texas and Arizona, Massachusetts and California. The Route 66 renaissance is unfolding with blinding speed. But with the rebirth, with the tsunami of fascination that translates to a crush of visitors and travelers there are challenges, pitfalls, and problems that threaten the old roads future. How do you preserve the authentic American experience but cater to an international fan base? How do you maintain the historic infrastructure integral to the roads character but ensure safety? How do you meet the future needs of travelers but preserve the essence of a road trip on Route 66 during its golden years? How do you bridge the chasm that is the diversity of communities and their needs? It begins at the grassroots, just as it did during the creation of the National Old Trails Highway, establishment of the various Route 66 associations, and the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman. Now, however, if the renaissance is to flourish we need to harness the power of that grass roots movement and to build a community with a unified sense of purpose. Examples of fledgling efforts to accomplish this abound. There was the World Monument Fund symposium in Anaheim last November. There was the unprecedented Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference during the 2014 Route 66 International festival. There is Rich Dinkela’s donation in the form of the Events on Route 66 website (under development). Now, the World Monument Fund has facilitated establishment of a steering committee to evaluate means for further development of this unified sense of community to ensure the essence of Route 66 survives to the highways centennial and beyond. From its inception Route 66 has been an ever evolving highway. In the past that evolution never was fast enough to keep pace with changing needs. Will that historic trend with the evolution of the renaissance?
The ground breaking conference in Anaheim last November followed by the internationally televised Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference at the 2014 Route 66 International Festival were initial steps with far reaching implications. Now we have another opportunity to foster development of a sense of community and community purpose along the Route 66 corridor by promoting events internationally.
Rich Dinkela has invested in the development of a well designed website (Events on Route 66) that will provide communities and event developers with an unprecedented promotional opportunity. In addition, it will enable travelers to better plan their adventures, and provide communities with tools to develop coordinated events.
Please note, the above link is functional. The website, however, is only showing samples and examples at this time. The official debut will most likely be made within the coming weeks.
I have offered to assist Rich in the sites development by creating an initial list of events on Route 66 occurring in the next eighteen months. The listing of events is free. However, if you have need of artwork to accompany the site, there will be costs incurred. That aspect is currently under development.
So, please send me information about any event in communities along Route 66, and accompanying art work. It can be a car show or rodeo, air show or art walk, or even a Route 66 celebration or Route 66 related meeting or conference. The idea is to create a centralized clearing house for information about all events taking place along Route 66.
I will also post links as well as basic information on this blog on the page under the “What’s Happening on Route 66” tab at the top of this post.
Next, Open Road Productions is now offering customized Route 66 tours with an emphasis on the American southwest. Professor Nick Gerlich and I are committed to assisting the company in the development of these tours to ensure that they provide clients with the best possible Route 66 experience. For more information contact Rick Thomas at (248)561-5506.
In addition to the debut of my new book at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri on October 18, I will be kicking off my fall speaking tour entitled Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future. The first presentation takes place at Route 66 State Park open house at noon on Sunday, October 19.
The schedule is still under development. These presentations are free for museums or non profit organizations. To schedule an appearance, or discuss financial compensation for an appearance at a corporate function, please drop me a note or contact publicist Steve Roth at (612)344-8156.
To close out this mornings report, I have a request. Sam Murray of Gilligan’s Wild West Tours will be kicking off his fall Route 66 tour this week.
This is a fledgling opportunity but Sam Murray has a passion for Route 66, and to share its wonders with clients from New Zealand. Lets help him make the tour a success, and lets roll out the red carpet for his clients.
If you wonder just how passionate Sam is about Route 66, he recently purchased the Frontier Motel and Restaurant in Truxton. Now, Stacy and Allen Greer are passionately giving it a new lease on life.
Am I the only one that thinks setting up displays of Christmas items in stores, in mid September, dilutes the holiday to the point that it is little more than a white sale at Penny’s or blue light special at Kmart? Perhaps we should get a head start on Thanksgiving instead.
I will start my early celebration of Thanksgiving with reflections on the current employment situation. Simply put, praise the Lord I have a job to complain about.
It helps put beans on the table, gas in the tank, and tires on the Jeep after an off road adventure. On occasion it also supports the writing habit.
I am really grateful for the Route 66 community and their inspirational passion, their hard work, their dedication, their vision, and their support. Even though they frustrate me to know end, I am even grateful for those in the Route 66 community that seem Hell bent on creating divisions and drawing attention to folks shortcomings rather than their accomplishments. Without the rabble rousers, how many of us would be stirred to action if for no other reason than to prove them wrong?
Our transportation needs are met by two well worn road warriors that would never win awards based on appearance. Still, both are paid for, both are dependable and durable, and both are practical, at least in regard to meeting our needs.
I jokingly refer to the need to have a day job to support the writing habit. Still, even though the childhood goal of becoming a writer when I grow up is still looming somewhere on the horizon, I am very thankful for the rewards of the quest.
My published work has encouraged countless people to explore the wonders of Route 66 and the road less traveled. It has also opened doors that run the gamut from a visit to Jay Leno’s Garage to an invitation to speak on Route 66 at the Vakantiebeurs (travel fair) in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
An even greater reward is the friends made along the way. Of course it is impossible to reflect on friends and not give thought to my dearest friend, a partner in all things and a travel companion for the road as well as for the adventure of life itself.
When all is said and done, I have a lot to complain about. However, in all honesty, I am a pretty fortunate man, all things considered.
A myriad of issues associated with development and promotion of the 2014 Route 66 International Festival, a variety of employment related issues, book promotions, looming deadlines, home repairs, storm damage, family issues, and a few other items consumed the year 2014 like a ravenous wolf.
As a result, my dearest friend and I have experienced a road trip and adventure drought that is almost unprecedented. In fact, our last grand outing was a weekend adventure to Crown King in early spring.
So, on Saturday morning we set out on a whirlwind adventure across northern Arizona. The catalyst for the outing was the need to celebrate a milestone anniversary. A small photo project provided the excuse. Our destination was the quiet places we so enjoy – those empty places where you can think, meditate on a year seasoned with opportunities to visit with friends, make memories with a friend that will put smiles on our faces in the years to come, and simply reflect on the years gone by while peering into the mist shrouded future without the jangling of cell phones, the unrelenting tick of the clock, or a pressing schedule intruding.
As we had but one appointment to keep, we zipped by the Hackberry General Store, and Stacy and Allen’s place in Truxton with a wave even though we eagerly wanted to see the latest improvements at the Frontier (the friendly invite on the signboard is a nice touch). Our first stop was in Seligman where we hoped to catch the Kocevar’s of Seligman Sundries to personally thank them for their contributions and years of service to the Route 66 community. As it turned out, not only did we have an opportunity to visit with Frank, but we also met the new owners, and learned that Mr. Kocevar is planning on attending Cuba Fest in October.
Our plans also included stopping to see the one and only Angel to thank him for coming to Kingman, and for helping make the opening reception for the Route 66 International Festival such a success. If possible, a haircut was also on the agenda. However, as often happens during the months of summer, his barbershop was swamped with visitors so we simply continued our eastward journey hoping to see him on the return trip.
West of Ash Fork, we made our first foray into the quiet places and stopped to watch a herd of pronghorn antelope as they moved along the broken red asphalt that marked the course of Route 66 in its infancy. In an instant the stillness of the Arizona outback, and the quiet so complete you could hear hoof beats on the stones in the meadow, a year of rushing to meet schedules and deadlines, to fulfill obligations or keep appointments seemed to melt away. As we bounced along the broken asphalt, and over the old Partridge Creek Bridge, I-40 engulfed all traces of Route 66 and we were left to negotiate a rutted road that on occasion imitated a goat trail as we picked our way across the plains toward Ash Fork. Sadly, fences and gates forced us to retrace our steps all the way to Crookton Road.
The signing of books at the visitor center in Williams, and answering questions from a legion of international fans of the double six, was followed with a walk though town to document the opening of some new restaurants since our last visit and a late lunch at the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams (always excellent). We were in such a good mood even the flat tire on the Jeep discovered upon our return to the visitor center couldn’t dampen our sense of eager anticipation for the journey ahead. It wasn’t my best record and I surely won’t asked to join a professional pit crew but we were back on the road in twenty minutes. The next stop was a tire shop in Flagstaff. This year we tapped the anniversary celebration fund for an evening at the La Posada, our first stay at this wonderful roadside gem. We strolled the grounds, watched a few trains, and explored the hotel from top to bottom.
The historic La Posada in Winslow, Arizona.
I remember stopping here during he 1970’s when this building housed the railroad offices. What a difference, passion, enthusiasm vision, and a whole lot of money can make! Needless to see, we are eager to see what magic Mr. Afedlt and his wife can bring to the recently purchased historic properties in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Tire changing and exploration work wonders for stimulating appetites and so we set out in search of dinner long after the sun sank in the west. As we were most definitely in a Route 66 frame of mind, we decided that the Falcon Restaurant, a fixture on the Route 66 landscape for sixty years. The old place is starting to show its age. Still, the food was good if basic. The prices were just north of moderate (a hair over $25.00 for our dinner). Still, there is something about the atmosphere in a restaurant where the locals gather, and travelers have stopped for decades, that seems invigorating. After a relaxing nightcap at the La Posada, my dearest friend and I retired to the oasis of the sunken garden where we basked in the warm desert air, and a bit of memory laden conversation. It was a delightful stroll down memory lane that spanned more than three adventuresome decades. We kicked Sunday off with an interesting breakfast at the La Posada. Then there was the signing of books, and we were off on another adventure, this time to McHood Park, and the 1913 bridge spanning Chevelon Canyon on the National Old Trails Highway (Mr. Heward, we ran out of time and didn’t drive all the way to Holbrook).
McHood Park near Winslow, Arizona.
McHood Park, just a few miles southeast of Winslow, is one of those special places that are often missed in the need to keep our Route 66 adventure neatly sandwiched between bookend dates. This truly is an oasis tailor made for a relaxing picnic or overnight camping, especially in the months of late spring or early fall. If the schedule allows, bring a canoe or kayak. My understanding is that there are stunning natural wonders just a short distance down stream. Original plans called for following the circa 1913 alignment of the National Old Trails Road (now Territorial and McLaws Road) from highway 99 to Holbrook, but we became so immersed in our explorations that we back tracked from Chevelon Canyon to ensure we were home by 5:00.
Chevlon Canyon, Arizona.
The recently refurbished bridge is already being targeted by taggers but it is an incredible time capsule framed by stunning landscapes. Climbing into the rocks to photograph the bridge from different angles soon made it quite evident that the foot had yet to fully heel. As I perched high on the rocks above the canyon floor, looking down on the bridge, I could almost hear the squeaks and rattles, and distinctive clatter of a T Model Ford on the gentle desert breeze. Enhancing the illusion of peering into the past was a bit a graffiti carved into the soft stone by previous visitors in 1919, 1920, and 1924 who had shared my rocky perch. Embraced by the solitude and raw beauty of the desert landscapes, I think we could have stayed for a week but the clouds building over the distant San Francisco Peaks, and the lengthening shadows were clear indication that the time had come to set our course for home. The drive westward through intermittent showers was festive but with solemn overtones as with the passing of each mile, we knew that our brief respite from schedules, deadlines, and obligations was drawing to a close. Still, we made time to explore Bookman’s in Flagstaff, and for a pleasant lunch at Miz Zip’s.
The 1913 bridge over Chevelon Canyon.
Even though we have a grand adventure on Route 66 developing for October, and an opportunity to visit with our Route 66 family at Cuba Fest, our thoughts are on the next anniversary adventure.