VAYA CON DIOS, LAUREL KANE – THE CHANGING FACE OF ROUTE 66

Afton Station
Even though she has been in ill health for quite some time, the recent passing of Laurel Kane has shocked and sorrowed the Route 66 community. On a personal level, a lesson that we have all learned at least once was reinforced, again. 
For the Route 66 community, her loss calls to our attention, again, a very serious issue that is not easily addressed. However, the very future of Route 66 as a living, breathing time capsule with its own unique culture depends on us, as a community, finding a solution. 
As happens far to often, our trip to Edwardsville and the Miles of Possibilities Conference this past October was bound within the confines of a fairly rigid schedule. The evening before we left, I was contracted to speak before a tour group. On Sunday morning, the day we left, I was to meet with a tour group in Winslow. The date for our return to Kingman was also set resultant of another contracted appearance. In between were several appointments. 
A Tulsa sunset at the Campbell Hotel.
As a result, the flexibility that allowed for long visits with friends on the road was severely restricted. Still, plans were set to have dinner with Laurel Kane, as well as Rhys Martin, and his charming wife Samantha at Maxwell’s in the Campbell Hotel. Laurel canceled at the last minute resultant of not feeling well, and a dialysis appointment scheduled for early the following morning. 
On the return trip, we stopped at Afton Station, but Laurel was absent that day. The schedule didn’t allow for another stop in Tulsa, so I called Laurel when we got home to Kingman, and into December there was some correspondence as she provided input for the next book.
The moral in this story is an ancient one. Time is the one finite item that we each have. Not one of us has control over the amount of time allocated. However, we each have control over how we choose to spend or invest this precious resource. Use it wisely. 
Learn to balance the need to earn a living with what is needed to ensure that it is a life worth living, a life that is enjoyed, a life that enriches the lives of others. Lastly, keep in mind one simple fact, none of us are getting out of this alive. However, while we are here, lets fill that life with friends and family, laughter and adventure. 
Last summer we embarked on a new odyssey, one that was a bit unnerving. For the first time in more than thirty years of marriage, I wasn’t bringing home a steady check or two. On one hand being set free from a rigid structure of schedules, an employers soul crushing lack of respect, and mind numbing boredom has been liberating and invigorating. However, now that the schedule is being set by me, it has been discovered that I can be a very harsh taskmaster.
Laurel Kane will be sorely missed by all who knew her, and by the Route 66 community. Her loss, as with that of Gary Turner, highlights an impending crisis. 
The historic bridges that enhance the sense of time travel on Route 66 are imperiled. A few will be lost. A few will be saved. A few will be re-purposed.
Landmarks face a similar fate. We will loose a few, and we will gain some new ones. 
However, what really makes a Route 66 journey memorable, what really sets a road trip on the double six apart from any other in the world is the people. It is the passion, the spirit, the enthusiasm, the warmth, the generosity, and the hospitality of the people that you meet on the road, and the people who open businesses and that welcome travelers with open arms.
The passing of Laurel Kane highlights a very real threat to the future of Route 66 as a community. As the song by George Jones so aptly asks, who is going to fill their shoes?
There are glimmers of hope in Rhys and Samantha Martin, Jessica and Cameron Mueller, Katie and Chris Robleski. Still, the question remains, will Route 66 as a vibrant community survive into its centennial and beyond?           
   
           

JAY LENO, A ROUTE 66 SURPRISE, AND NOTES FROM THE ROAD

For quite some time I have touted Afton Station for its eclectic charm, amiable host, and cast of colorful characters that encapsulate the Route 66 experience. Well it appears as though the station, and aforementioned host, have had a well deserved brush with fame in the form of a phone call from Jay Leno. 
I would like to believe that this is another indication that celebrities are starting to discover what we already know – Route 66 is a most amazing community. Another indicator would be the increasing number of celebrity sightings along the road in recent years. 
While American celebrity sightings are eagerly noted, dignitaries from foreign shores often travel the road unnoticed. I suppose in part this is due to the condition of myopia that plagues many Americans (me included).  
A case in point is a dinner we had with Dries Bessels, his charming wife, Marion, and a tour group from Holland at Redneck’s a couple of years ago. As is always the case when we meet with groups from distant lands, it was a most delightful and fascinating evening. Even though language barriers presented a few interesting issues, we had Route 66 in common and that bridges that widest of chasms.
It was during the second visit of what became an annual dinner get together that we learned the tour company director, Karel Kuperus,and his companion, Hanneke Wiersma, were also film stars in Europe.
Even though we may not know who they are here in America, or their name may be but vaguely familiar, there a few celebrities found along Route 66 that can’t hide the celebrity status. Nor do they try as sharing the adventure with folks back home is the catalyst for their journey.
Who along the old double six hasn’t met Mark Fletcher? Grant Denyer? Billy Connolly?
All of this provides clear evidence that Route 66, America’s most famous highway long ago transcended its original purpose. It is now an internationally acclaimed celebrity, a living, breathing legend of near epic proportions.         

THE HEART AND SOUL OF ROUTE 66

Even though our recent excursion along Route 66 was a hurried affair with only 9.5 days to drive from Kingman to Joliet and home again, with a detour into Michigan to see my dad, it was a most delightful adventure. The stunning fall colors in the Missouri Ozarks added to the adventure as did the opportunity to seek out unusual and overlooked places along the way.


Big Red and Rich Henry at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.

Still, the true magic of Route 66, that something special that seems to sweep away the cares of the world and transport the visitor back to the era of the tail fin and I Like Ike buttons are the people. The heart of soul of this legendary old road are the fans who come together at small town events, the folks who lovingly serve as caretakers of its time capsules, and those who just simply enjoy having a special place where people can visit and leave with a smile and memories.
On the recent excursion our first visit was with Bob “Croc” Lile, a talented and colorful artist with a gallery (2719 SW 6th Avenue or www.crocodilelile.com) in the very heart of the often overlooked Route 66 corridor that runs along SW 6th Avenue in Amarillo. If your only association with this interesting city has been The Big Texan or Cadillac Ranch you have been missing something really spectacular and I hope you can rectify that on your next trip.

Left to right, Annabelle, Jim Hinckley, and Harley.

In Erick we made an unscheduled stop to visit with the unofficial clowns of Route 66, Harley and Annabelle. Mere words can not adequately express what a stop here is like. As with so much of Route 66, it must be experienced to be believed.
The next scheduled stop was to sign books at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. It was a pleasure to visit with Maxine and her staff but the highlight of the stop was a personal tour of the museum and grounds given by L.V. Baker, a museum board member with extensive knowledge of the areas history who happens to own the Safari B Ranch with a healthy population of exotic deer, longhorn cattle, zebras, giraffes, and antelope.
We followed this with a stop to visit Pat Smith and sign books for the museum in Clinton. The passionate enthusiasm found here is quite contagious and as always, we had a pleasant but abbreviated visit.
Schedules are almost impossible to keep on Route 66 and plans often fall by the wayside. On this trip the problem was compounded by what seemed to be endless construction related delays and detours, and the need to gather photos for the current book project.
We had hoped to visit with Jerry McClanahan and, perhaps, talk Route 66 over lunch at the Rock Cafe. Of course we had also wanted to stop at Afton Station, visit with Laurel Kane and the gang there, and see the fascinating Packard truck/motor home I have been hearing about.
Afton Station is another one of the places that is difficult to describe. It is an automotive museum, unofficial Route 66 visitor center, and hang out for a wide array of very colorful people. Laurel keeps an interesting blog that will give you a bit of insight about what goes on there.
Suffice to say we didn’t make it. In fact we were photographing Miami, Oklahoma at around 10:00 that evening after a late evening dinner in Bristow.
As we motored east the next morning we did catch up with Melba at 4 Women on the Route as well as Scott Nelson at the Old Riverton Store. In Carthage we signed books at the most fascinating Powers Museum but missed Ron Hart and as a result had to satisfy ourselves with photographing the outside of the old roadside classic that is the Boots Motel.
On the drive through Missouri we had the privilege of meeting Scott at Mr. C’s where we signed copies of the new encyclopedia as well as copies of Ghost Towns of Route 66. Of course we also stocked up on his signature Route 66 soda pop.

Among the fascinating people met on this trip were Kathleen Avilla at Route 66 State Park, another book signing stop, Sandra at the Barret Station Gift Shop in the transportation museum near St. Louis, another book signing stop, and Barabara Bradley, the innkeeper at the National House Inn (not on Route 66 but an interesting story for another day). This old road seems to attract the most interesting and passionate individuals.
Of course the high point on the trip was Cuba Fest, an event that brought the Route 66 family together from every corner of the nation to enjoy the best of a community that seems to have distilled the very essence of the Route 66 experience into an intoxicating brew that leaves even a desert rat like me with thoughts of moving east. It was such a delight to have another opportunity to visit with the talented folks from Fading Nostalgia, Katie Nelson and Chris Robleski (see above), Rich Dinkella, Joe Sonderman, Richard Talley, Jane Reed, Connie and Riva Echols, Buzz Waldmire, and to finally meet with people like Kathy and David Alexander of Legends of America, and so many others.
With each trip along Route 66 the list of friends seems to grow. With each trip along Route 66 there are regrets about the friends there wasn’t time to visit with.
To each of you that we missed on this trip, we hope to see you next year – at your place, at mine, or on the road.

HAVE I GOT A DEAL FOR YOU – AND A FEW OTHER ROUTE 66 ITEMS OF NOTE

The first order of business is congratulations to Melba and everyone who worked so long and hard to bring recognition to the shortest stretch of Route 66, that 13 mile segment found in the state of Kansas. Rather than reinvent the wheel, follow this link to Route 66 News for more details of their accomplishment.
Another item of note pertains to Rich Dinkella’s latest endeavor to shine the light of fame on legendary Route 66. Again, Route 66 News has all the details.
If you have a company or business that is looking for unique promotional opportunities, I have got a deal for you. How would you like to have that business associated with Route 66? How would you like to help support the numerous places along this storied highway that make it the last bastion of mom and pop enterprise in America?
The idea initially started as the foundation for a new book. As I envisioned it the book would be something similar in nature to Travels with Charley or On the Road, a classic by Jack Kerouac.
In these difficult times when it seems the world has been turned upside down I thought it might be kind of neat to search for the America that shone so bright with promise during the 1940s and 1950s. I would not be seeking the nation that made the Negro Motorist Green Book a necessity for a large portion of the populace during those years but instead the nation that negated its need.
As I gave thought to this project it became increasingly evident that there could be but one road for this quest – iconic U.S. 66, the very Main Street of America for most of the 20th century. This road would be ideal for my journey into the past as it is the colorful thread that ties the past with the present and future.
When I allowed the imagination to meditate upon the many facets of this idea it became quite apparent that driving this road, and savoring its wide array of time capsules would not quite be enough. To develop the proper mindset that allowed me to see the present and future from the past, our mode of transport could not be a new rental car as it was on our last excursion along Route 66. 
Initially, I gave thought to something really unique, a rolling time capsule of historical proportions if you will. As I have long had a curiosity about the first generation of Hudson Super Six, roughly between the years of 1916 and 1928, that became the focus of initial research in seeking the ideal vehicle. 
This search evolved into evaluation of the Model A Ford for this venture, a vehicle admired for its durable simplicity that I have longed to own since my first days behind the wheel. My dearest friend, an adventuresome gal cut from the cloth of frontier era pioneers, gently nudged me to something just a bit more practical – a Nash, Hudson, or Studebaker manufactured between the years 1948 and 1953.
These cars are quite durable, are simplistic in nature, easy to repair and obtain parts for, and have unique styling but are also capable of modern highway speeds, as well as gasoline mileage in the 22 to 30 mile per gallon range. With the focus narrowed as to what type of vehicle would transport us on this grand adventure, and the course charted, I began meditating on other aspects of this odyssey worthy of Jason and the Argonauts.
The book is still the primary reason for the adventure. However, the more I thought of my pending voyage of discovery, the more I came to realize the inspiration that it was my hope to provide through this book should not stop there. I could use this journey to promote the road itself and the people who are transforming it into America’s longest attraction, the people like Laurel Kane, Connie Echols, and Dan Rice who represent the America of the pregeneric age that I was seeking.
This would be accomplished from developing and promoting international buzz about the adventure through the media, the blog, internet radio, television interviews, by scheduling speaking engagements in schools as well as museums, and other venues. As my thoughts twisted through the labyrinth of possibilities it dawned upon me that funding for the trip, a factor that could greatly hinder development of the project to its full potential, could be derived by offering business owners an opportunity to hitch their wagon to the Route 66 phenomena, and in so doing, fuel the resurgent interest that is making it economically viable to refurbish old motels, restaurants, and trading posts.
So, in a nutshell, what I am seeking is sponsors, companies that would like to have their name associated with such a wild and wooly adventure, companies that would like to see their logo and name displayed on a vintage Nash, Studebaker, or Hudson in a NASCAR type manner. What is needed are companies that would benefit from having promotional material for their company distributed along America’s most famous highway from Chicago to Santa Monica.
A rough date for this voyage of discovery is October of 2012. That should allow enough time to locate a vehicle, acquaint myself with its mechanical intricacies through repair and refurbishment as well as a few test runs, and resolve the myriad details associated with a scheme such as this.
As always, your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions are appreciated. Stay tuned for details –

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

MId Point Cafe, Adrian, Texas
Painted Desert Trading Post





Afton Station



Pallisades Park in California



Mojave River Bridge in California



The ruins of Ed’s Camp with its million dollar views.



Santa Monica Pier in California