Route 66. The Main Street of America. The Mother Road. Since its inception in late 1926, US 66 has been given an array of monikers and descriptive titles. For me it is center stage, the place where my life has unfolded. Since about 1959, most of the milestones in life have taken place on this road or have been linked to it.
In the summer of 1959, my family motored west to California from Virginia in a derelict convertible. Much of the trip was along Route 66, at least from St. Louis west. Then in the summer of 1966 we moved west from Michigan to Kingman, Arizona and a homestead along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in the shadow of the Black Mountains. I learned to ride a bicycle and drive a truck on what was mostly an abandoned highway at that time. My first employment was for Ed Edgerton at Ed’s Camp, a Route 66 business complex that dated to the era of the National Old Trails Road. Ed himself was a fixture that predated Route 66.
Old man Edgerton taught me a lot of valuable lessons. A life well lived is measured by the people that you inspire and the people that you are inspired by. A man with ambition can find opportunity under a rock. Perhaps the most important thing Ed passed on to me was a passion for the desert, and respect for the tough folks that scratched out a living under a blazing sun.
Route 66 is woven deep in the tapestry of the 37 year relationship that I have with my dearest friend. Her family manged an auto court and grocery store on Route 66 in Kingman. We met at a birthday party that took place at a Route 66 roadhouse. Our courting centered on Route 66; dates to Jan’s Soda Fountain on Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) in Kingman, double dates to Oatman, and barbecues with friends that lived on Route 66. The first time my dearest friend crossed the Texas state line was on the old alignment of Route 66 at Glenrio, Texas. Our first crossing of the Mississippi River was on a bridge that had carried Route 66 traffic.
Our first trip to Europe, and every one since has been linked to Route 66. In the winter of 2015, we traveled to the Netherlands to speak about Route 66 at a travel fair. The trip was made possible by the Kuperus brothers, owners of U.S. Bikers. Friends that treated us as family were made on Route 66. Our first trip to Germany was to attend the European Route 66 Festival, and it too was shared and enhanced by friends made on Route 66. Likewise with the trip to the second European Route 66 Festival in Zlin, Czech Republic.
Jim Hinckley’s America is rooted in Route 66. The books written and the presentations made, the podcast and Adventurers Club programs, the YouTube channel, and most importantly, the friendships are linked directly to amazing, magical Route 66.
Route 66 is merely a road. For me and countless others, however, it is something more. It is a special place, a link to the past and to the future, to friendships and friendships yet made. It is a grand adventure of epic proportions, and the gateway to odysseys that surpass the wildest imaginings of Jason and his legendary Argonauts.