The Empty Places

The Empty Places

Photo, authors collection ©

The centennial is fast approaching. How will it be celebrated? What does the future hold for this storied old highway? What will be preserved and what will be lost? The answers to these questions are as diverse as the communities along Route 66 and the reasons people from throughout the world make the drive as though it was a pilgrimage.

Iconic Route 66 is more than a mere highway that connects a metropolis on the shore of Lake Michigan with a metropolis on the Pacific coast long ago it transcended its original purpose.

The old highway is the stuff of dreams, just as it has been for almost a century. It is the quintessential American road trip. It is an odyssey worthy Jason and the Argonauts. It is a grand adventure.

It is time capsules from an era when Studebakers still rolled from the factory in South Bend. And it is the empty places where old dreams are whispered on the winds through broken windows.

To the those that have not experienced the infectious magic of a Route 66 trip, the old highway is simply a 2,291-mile (according to a 1936 map) ribbon of asphalt lined with dusty remnants, ghostly vestiges, and long dark neon. Along Route 66, from Chicago to the shores of the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica in California, whispering breezes carry the voices of ghosts from the Civil War that blend with those of French explorers, Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors, and pioneers fulfilling a young nation’s Manifest Destiny. These voices mingle with dreamers abandoning the Dust Bowl and rolling west to the promised land in California.

To drive Route 66 is to follow the path of a new nation on its journey of westward expansion. The signs bearing the double six mark the path of an American highway that is but a modern incarnation of the Pontiac Trail, the Osage Trail, and the old Federal Wire Road; the Beale Wagon Road and the El Camino Real; the National Old Trails Highway; and the Santa Fe Trail.

Route 66 is vibrant and colorful. It is the empty places. It is ghost towns and places where the past and present blend seamlessly.

Join me this Sunday morning, 7:00 AM MST for Coffee With Jim, our live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. I will be sharing a few of the very special “empty” places along Route 66. These are a few of my favorite places to stretch the legs, listen to the voices of the past and unleash the imagination.

Walnut Canyon with its cliff dwellings. Beale Springs, site of the first Hualapai reservation. Its road trip inspiration at its finest. But telling people where to go is what I do.