Reflections on thirty-three years of adventures and blessings, trials and tribulations was the dominating theme of a dinner date with my dearest friend last evening. It wasn’t a wedding anniversary, that comes later this year. This was a celebration of our first meeting on April 1, thirty-three years ago.
I am always amazed that this charming and beautiful young lady gave me the time of day, let alone agreed to see me again. To say that I was rougher than a cob would be akin to saying that Route 66 seems to be somewhat popular.
My worldly assets consisted of a ’46 GMC pick up truck with a sun burnt and sand blasted patina, a burlap sack filled with sun bleached western cut work shirts, faded blue jeans, a pair of well worn and weathered boots, a misshapen sweat stained Stetson, and a couple of hundred dollars. I was between jobs with no prospects and no real direction for the future.
When I took a job in Drake, Arizona, a trip to Kingman for a date started by topping off the tank at Whiting Brothers at the west end of Ash Fork, and then rolling west on Route 66. That was the genesis of our association with the legendary highway as a couple. My association predated the meeting of my future wife by almost two decades. We had made family trips of varying lengths on Route 66 since 1959, and moved west to Arizona on the double six in 1966. I learned to ride a bicycle and drive on a neglected pre 1952 alignment of the highway. For my dearest friend a relationship with Route 66 was just as intimate. Her grandparents, later her parents, operated Hood’s Court and Hood’s Market on Route 66 just across from the City Cafe, and to the west of the Dambar. As a couple, the old road, arguably the most famous highway in the world, has figured prominently in some of our most amazing adventures, a few of which could never have been imagined when we first met in 1982. It has also opened doors for some incredible friendships.The Route 66 of today is not the Route 66 of my youth. Of course, in all honesty, the Route 66 of 1930 was not the Route 66 of 1940, or even 1936. From its very inception the double six has been in a near constant state of evolution. The Route 66 of 1966 was a highway stuck squarely between the past and the future. The interstate highway system had bypassed long sections of the old road. In a few instances U.S. 66 shields adorned interstate highway signposts. The Holiday Inn, as well as Travel Lodge, Highway House, Whiting Brothers and other motel chains provided travelers with a previously unavailable luxury which was to remove the gamble from the selection of lodging for the evening. They also fostered the spread of a toxic flood of generic sameness that cleansed the roadside of mom and pop cafes and motels, and transformed the once vibrant heart of communities into empty ruins that stood as silent monuments to a time when a highway signed with two sixes truly was the Main Street of America. Today from Chicago to Santa Monica, all along the Route 66 corridor, the hands of time are being turned back. Like a colorized black and white photograph the old road is experiencing a renewed vitality, a pulsing sense of excitement. People from near and far are rediscovering the thrill of the road trip. Once again people understand the wisdom in the old adage that claims the journey is more important than the destination. An authentic American experience, an opportunity to live life rather than experience it vicariously through the cold impersonal world of electronic media is beckoning to people from throughout the world and as they answer the call and travel, they fuel an ever growing atmosphere of excitement and renewed vibrancy in the international Route 66 community.These are amazing times on the old double six. Still, it is not all sunshine and roses. It is simply the best of times and the worst of times.That is a rather fitting descriptor of where my dearest friend and I stand thirty-three years after that special meeting. Still, I can’t imagine having a better friend for weathering the storms of life with, or for sharing the adventures.