IT IS THE PEOPLE

The essence of what makes Route 66 special and unique is the people. It is the legion of passionate enthusiasts, the sincerity and heartfelt love for the Route 66 community displayed by business owners from Chicago to Santa Monica, and the camaraderie that transforms a cup of coffee at a time worn cafe into a family reunion that ensure a drive along this storied old highway will be memory filled, life changing event.

The Parks, Arizona store predates Route 66. 

To say Holbrook is a bit worn at the heel is akin to saying Amboy is a bit warm this time of year. Within one year of the opening of I-40 and the bypass of the city in 1981, forty-five businesses closed. 
Steeped in history, the town never recovered. Still, a few hearty souls held on and in the Route 66 renaissance, they found hope. 
The second annual Route 66 Festival which took place last weekend is indicative of what promises the rising tide of interest in Route 66 holds for forgotten, bypassed Route 66 communities. It also exemplified the spirit of the Route 66 enthusiast. 
My journey to Holbrook was a bittersweet adventure. With the exception of the road between Kingman and Seligman, a late start necessitated a long, boring drive along sterile I-40. Still, it was a road trip and those are always invigorating but a few last minute issues kept my dearest friend from going with me. So, it was a long, memory filled drive.

The breakfast room at the Globetrotter Lodge. 

I arrived at the Globetrotter Lodge, my home away from home for the weekend, early on Friday evening. This is more than an oasis for weary travelers and another old motel that has been given a new lease on life. It exemplifies what just may be the most exciting chapter yet in the highways ninety year history.   
Formerly of Austria, Mona and Peter Hoeller, have lovingly transformed a forlorn, empty relic into a destination. Blending the attributes of an historic mom and pop motel during the “glory days” of Route 66 with custom touches and European hospitality the Hoeller’s have created a roadside masterpiece. 
Exemplifying the hospitality and special touches is the breakfast room; linen napkins, real table ware, no plastic, and a silver holder with room number and flag from the guests home state or country of origin. 

Holbrook street scene. 

After checking in and visiting with Peter it was off to dinner with friends at the Butterfield Stage Company Steakhouse. This restaurant is clean and features a tasteful western ambiance. It is a roadside classic. There the compliments must end as the food was average at best and highly over priced. 
Still, that didn’t dampen the lively conversation or stifle the laughter. How could it when your dining with folks like Mike and Sharon Ward, Dean Kennedy, Brenda St. Clair, and Rhys Martin (author of the delightful Rhys’ Pieces)? 
The lively conversation continued late into the evening poolside at the Globetrotter Lodge. That night set the tone for the rest of the weekend. 
Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful with a hint of tangible excitement in the air. After a pleasant breakfast shared with a fascinating couple from Germany, I set out for the historic Navajo County Courthouse, now a museum, where I was to sign books and answer questions pertaining to Route 66.
The old courthouse reminds me of a vast attic in a grandparents home. Every nook and closet presents a new opportunity for an intriguing and interesting discovery. 
Topping my list of highlights was the old jail. Built in St. Louis and shipped by rail, it was installed during courthouse construction in 1898, and used until 1976.
Throughout the day there was an ebb and flow of folks but about noon I took a break to check out the festivities in the park, and to grab a Navajo taco from a vendor. The palpable sense of enthusiasm at the small event leads me to believe that in the years to come this festival will become an annual destination for many Route 66 enthusiasts.
Organizers have embraced the fact that Route 66 is the pathway for bringing people to visit Holbrook but if those tourists are going to stay for a weekend, if this is going to become a destination, they need to showcase the communities unique attributes. 
Native Americans performing traditional dances in the park was one way of focusing attention on what makes this city unique. The Relics Tour, however, is a key component. 
This inspired idea represents a partnership with the national Park Service. In addition to showcasing the natural wonders that embrace Holbrook, it provides Route 66 enthusiasts with a very rare opportunity to explore forgotten alignments and roadside treasures including the Painted Desert Trading Post, arguably the crown jewel for fans of the double six. 
A hint of just how popular these tours could become is found in the people that attended. As an example, Heather Petry flew from Texas to Phoenix, and rented a car to drive to Holbrook solely for the festival that included this tour.  
I met with Frank and Lynn Kocevar, formerly of Seligman Suundries, for some conversation, exploring and the recording of a fun little video. Frank is currently working to develop a most fascinating and informative Route 66 website. Here is the link
My time at the courthouse ended at 3:00 and after picking up a few items at Safeway, I returned to the Globetrotter Lodge with the intent of writing a blog post about the adventure from the poolside. In the past a variety of technological impairments prevented such endeavors but that has since been rectified. 
What prevented a posting from the road this time was something much more interesting; in depth conversation with Rhys Martin, an interesting gentlemen whose blog  has piqued my interest for quite some time, and discussions about how to transform Holbrook with local business owners.

Route 66 Festival in Holbrook.

The evening gathering of enthusiasts for dinner at Romo’s Cafe was a lively and interesting bunch. As always the food was excellent (it is hard to go wrong anyplace where the tortillas are homemade).
The conversation continued late into the evening, first with some poolside conversation, and then as the crowd thinned out, to a motel room with Stacey Greer, the Mays, and Dean Kennedy. It was a great way to end a weekend on Route 66, and to plan new adventures. In fact, with the exception of missing my sidekick, it was a near perfect adventure.
On Sunday, after another wonderful breakfast, I bid  adios to Peter and his family, and began to motor west. This was a more leisurely drive with stops for a bit of exploration, to sign books at the La Posada and the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, and lunch at Parks General Store.
Hats off to David Heward, Kathleen Smith, and the organizers of this great event. Here is to hoping next year is even bigger and better. I close the story of this adventure with a few views from the road. 

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2 Replies to “IT IS THE PEOPLE”

  1. I'll be back to the festival next year. Perhaps I'll drive and definitely stay longer, so I can enjoy more dinners with you folks! Thanks again for your hospitality (and shout-out) Jim!

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