Be it the fabled King Tut’s tomb or the forlorn ruins of the Lone Wolf Annex, there is a mystique, an allure to the empty places that is rather difficult to describe.
For the dreamer and the romantic adventurer the empty places are destinations. Add a connection with legendary Route 66 and an empty place, a place where people lived, worked, played, laughed, and staked their future, becomes an attraction with a legion of international fans.
To illustrate this point consider the popularity of the relics tour that is a part of the Holbrook Route 66 festival. People from throughout the United States attended the recent festival to take part in the tour along long abandoned sections of the old double six through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, with stops at the sites of former trading posts and service stations, and at the Holy Grail of Route 66 sites – the ruins of the Painted Desert Trading Post.
Through the wonder of social media, people in Germany and France, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and points in between followed along and dreamed about participating next year.
Interestingly enough, it is the empty places that lure the enthusiast out onto the open road. More often than note, the crowded places along Route 66 are given cursory glances, a passing nod as the travelers answer the siren call of Chevelon Canyon or Two Guns, the Arizona Rancho or Glenrio.
Another fascinating attribute of the avid Route 66 enthusiast is the pleasure they derive from sharing these empty places with friends as well as fellow travelers. Just consider the fact that this past weekend, people from Texas, Tennessee, New Mexico, and other states, on a hot summers day in Arizona, gleefully bordered an old bus to traipse along broken asphalt and scurry through the brush at select stops to photograph broken glass, ruins, foundations, culverts, and bridges.
Meanwhile, other enthusiasts were scouring the backstreets of Holbrook in search of relics such as the Arizona Rancho Motel complex or the Bucket of Blood Saloon. With a guide book to Arizona roads from 1913, they discovered historic 19th century banks masquerading as “antique shops” and the course of a highway bypassed a century ago.
Route 66 enthusiasts are an odd lot, a fraternity of friends that find their pleasures on the road least traveled and in old diners or restaurants where the days discoveries are shared. They are family with a passion for what once was, and adventures on the open road. I, for one, am quite pleased to be counted among them. Even better, I am quite glad that they count me as one of their own.