STATE OF THE ROUTE 66 COMMUNITY

Giganticus Headicus, now the
studios for Greg Arnold and
Antares Point Visitor Center.
For my dearest friend and I, this has been a most extraordinary year. In addition to the recent trip to the festival in Los Angeles, we were privileged with an opportunity to participate in the first European Route 66 Festival, in the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington, Illinois, meet with tour groups and friends from throughout the world, and provide assistance with the marketing and promotion of Grand Canyon Caverns, and now the Antares Point Visitor Center. 
I was also honored to be able to assist in the development of the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative project. Opportunities to make presentations at the festival and a school in Germany, at Cuba Fest, the conference in Bloomington, in LA, and at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis have all contributed to making this a most memorable year. 
With the exception of Chicago, we covered the road from end to end. Along the way I sat with tourism and economic development directors, city managers, and chamber of commerce representatives in several communities. I also met with business owners and museum directors.  We discussed the state of the Route 66 community, challenges, and triumphs. 
So, I feel confident in saying that the international Route 66 community is alive and well. It is is vibrant, passionate, and generally healthy. In fact, I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that the road is more popular than ever, and that its future is quite bright. 
Everyday I receive exciting news about new businesses, festival plans, or developments. This morning I received word from Ramona Kiewert the Fabulous 40’s Motel in Adrian, Texas is reopened for business. Imagine being able to start the day with breakfast at the Midpoint Cafe after a restful nights sleep!
Chain of Rocks Bridge
This is not to say there aren’t problems. Counted among the litany of issues that need to be addressed are the historic bridges of Route 66; more than 98% are scheduled for replacement or demolition. 
Grassroots initiatives to generate awareness of the problem, and then to build coalitions that can address the multitude of issues associated with preservation, are making a valiant effort. However, problems of this magnitude will need a national organization to magnify and bolster these efforts.
With that as an opening, I want to address some of the inquiries received and questions asked about the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative. It has been flying a bit under the radar but the ambitious project has been quietly building a rock solid foundation of committees consisting of people from throughout the Route 66 community. 
In addition, there are some impressive advisory groups under development that to facilitate coordinated development, dissemination of information, and programs to foster greater public awareness. Among these are a Native American and international advisory group. For more information about the Road Ahead Initiative, this is the link to the website. Take a look at the third quarter report, you might be quite surprised by all of the behind the scenes activity that has taken place this year. 
Few things exemplify the nature of the Route 66 community in the modern era than the festival in Germany this past summer, or the celebratory dinner at Cameron’s Seafood in Pasadena on November 11. 
Arranged in mere weeks, the dinner, a Route 66 anniversary celebration that, as often happens when enthusiasts gather, turned into a family reunion that was attended by about sixty people from five countries. When it was learned that it was also the birthday of Yasuka Takeuchi, wife of Japanese author Akio Takeuchi, there was added reason to celebrate. 
A giant birthday card  was signed by all in attendance and gifts were presented. A shirt from the European Route 66 Festival was given by Wolfgang and Anja Werz of the German Route 66 Association. Jerry McClanahan presented a personalized copy of the EZ 66 Guide for Travelers
If you happen to be in Kingman, Arizona on the evening of Saturday, November 19, you might have interest in a presentation that I will be making at Beale Celebrations. I will be speaking on Route 66 in the era of renaissance, and what it means to communities. 

This community development event is being sponsored by Promote Kingman, envisioned as a chamber of commerce for the 21st century, being developed by MyMarketing Designs, a sponsor of Jim Hinckley’s America. 
The event will also serve as a fund raiser for the local Kiwanis, and the Route 66 Association of Kingman facade and neon sign restoration initiative. Donating items for the silent auction will be an excellent opportunity to promote your business and support the Route 66 community. 
And that wraps things up for the day. It is time to get to work. There are two book proposals to complete (details to be posted soon, I hope), a morning walkabout, and a few other odds and ends that require my attention today. 
See you on the road. 



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.

MEANWHILE, …

When hearing people talk of killing time or being bored, I am always amazed. Time is the one precious commodity that it is impossible to get more of and boredom is something that I last experienced when Gerald Ford was president (of course, I was in high school at the time).
Life is so full of excitement, frustration, depression, laughter, adventure, friends, family, holidays, loss, road trips, discoveries, illness, and the endless possibility for more of these, that boredom seems like such an impossibility. Likewise with a need to kill time, a commodity that I never have enough of.
If I was to see this outlook as a fault, and wanted to blame someone for it, it would have to be my dad. When he was born my grandfather was in his sixties and my grandmother in her forties.
Resultant of this, I grew up in an odd world where the events of the 1960s swirled all around us but we were locked in the 1930s and 1940s, a world where kids began driving as soon as they could see through the spokes of the steering wheel and reach the pedals, and the work day began at 5:00 sharp. The day was divided between chores and school, if you had spare time there were always more chores or something to learn, like how to repair a garage wall after mistaking the throttle knob for the choke. 
With the exception of a few years in my youth where an effort was made to shake off what I perceived to be shackles, I have always found a project to plan for, to complete, or to think about. I offer this long winded preamble as an explantion for an inquiry about how I find enough time in my day to write books and have a full time job.  
While we are on the subject of books, here is the latest Ghost Towns of Route 66 report from Amazon.com –
#5 in Books > Travel > United States > Regions > Midwest

#20 in Books > Travel > United States > Regions > West

#24 in Books > Travel > United States > Regions > South


I am always glad to see a book is being well received. What I can’t see, and hope for, is that the book will add depth as well as context to the Route 66 experience. Of even more importance, I hope it inspires folks to make their own voyage of discovery along this storied old road.
The report on Ghost Towns of the Southwest leaves me with similar hopes. It also leads me to believe that the subject of ghost towns and Route 66 are rather popular.
#26 in Books > Travel > United States > States > Arizona

#60 in Books > Travel > Reference & Tips > Tourist Destinations & Museums
 
I wrote the Route 66 encyclopedia with a two fold purpose in mind. One, I wanted to create a resource that would chronicle a very large portion of that highways history, present that highway in a broader context through the concise history of each town along the highway, and portray the road as a tangible link that connects the future, the present, the past, and even the distant past.
Two, I am hoping it will spark curiosity about the highway and places along the route. Additionally, I am hoping that spark of curiosity will translate into exploration for Route 66 in its modern incarnation has transformative powers that are difficult to describe. As crazy as this may seem, I am quite convinced, especially after the last trip in October, that keys for the restoration of the nation are to be found in the people, the mom and pop enterprises, and the sense of community found along Route 66.
And that leads me to the next book projects. The one being bandied about with Voyageur Press, the publisher for the past five books, is a travel guide with a twist.
I could never hope to compete with, or even create a better guide than, the EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanhan. However, I could craft a companion title that would add some zest to what is arguably the most exciting opportunity for adventure in America.
What I envision is a guide that will enable the traveler to immerse themselves in the rich and colorful history along the way, as well as provide them with the keys for unlocking wonderful treasures found with the shortest of detours north or south of the highway. Examples of the latter would be Hualapai Mountain Park and lodge, 15 miles south of Kingman, or the Cave Restaurant, about the same distance north of the highway in Misosuri.
But the book I would really like to write would be a bit different than any of the other eight published titles. I would like to write a travel guide laced with my trademark dry wit to add some comedic overtones to a search for America that can only be found on Route 66.
I want to find, and introduce readers to, the America I remember. This is not the America that made the Negro Motorist Green Book a necessity for a large segment of the population but the America that negated its need.
My search would be for the America where individuality trumped generic corporate offerings. It would be for the great mom and pop enterprise that ensured each community had its own distinct personality.
In either case, it is my hope to take the time capsule feel of Route 66 to a new level next fall. Hence my quest for a vehicle manufactured by Nash, Hudson, or Studebaker between 1948 to 1953, and businesses interested in having their business tied to Route 66 through some advertising sponsorship.
Bored, not a concept I understand. Wasting time – sorry but I don’t have time.

IN ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION

For those who fear the international fascination with Route 66 may be waning, please be assured this is not the case. I base this assurance on the volume of emails and questions received that pertain to Route 66.
As many of this blogs readers may have similar questions, I felt it might be nice if answers were provided in a manner that benefits everyone. So, lets get started.
Where can I find an accurate and easy to use guide book to Route 66?
If there is a better guide available than the EZ 66 Guide penned by Jerry McClanahan, I am unaware of it. This is the guide I always carry when traveling Route 66. Copies of this book, and an excellent dining and lodging guide that I also carry, are available through the National Historic Route 66 Federation. As a bonus, buying the books through this organization will support a very worthy organization.
If I am interested in current events on Route 66, where is the best source of information?
Route 66 News. Period.
Do you have ideas or suggestions for attractions found near Route 66?
Yep. I may be a bit biased on this one but am going to suggest my book Route 66 Backroadshttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=076032817X&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr. Another book that will surely enhance the Route 66 adventure is this handbook from Drew Knowleshttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=159580059X&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr.
If time is limited, and I want to just stay in one place while making several day trips do you have any suggestions?
Yes, two. The first is Kingman, Arizona, one of the most overlooked vacation destinations anywhere on Route 66. Hualapai Mountain Park, 180 plus miles of Route 66, the Grand Canyon, one day whitewater rafting trips on the Colorado River, and the only road that is drivable to the bottom of the Grand Canyon are just a few of the day trips available from Kingman. As a bonus, it is only 36 hours from Chicago to Kingman via Amtrak, and the airport in Las Vegas is only 120 miles away.
My second choice would be Amarillo. Route 66 in both directions, one of that highways most famous ghost towns, Glenrio, Palo Duro Canyon, and first class accommodations would be just a couple of reasons for my selection. Another is its proximity to the food at the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas.
Are there any tour companies that offer guided trips along Route 66?
For those who reside in Australia there is an excellent company with a very knowledgeable guide, Dale Butel. I am unsure how others could partake of this adventure or Dale’s expertise but you might give them a call or send an email for ideas or suggestions.
Can you recommend decent vintage motels?
I would suggest starting with the lodging and dining guide mentioned previously. My personal choices are the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, Motel Safari or Blue Swallow in Tucumcari, the Munger Moss in Lebanon, Missouri, and the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri. I would be remiss if I did not note the fact I will be signing books at the Wagon Wheel Motel gift shop on October 7.
I have kids, age 7, 10, and 13. Do you think driving Route 66 would hold their attention and be a fun vacation?
Yes, with a bit of planning and a little flexibility. Start with the movie Cars, then get them excited by creating a game where you search for real life locations pictured in the film. I would also suggest the website, Kids on 66, designed by a gifted teacher.
I would also suggest making it a point to include places like the various Abraham Lincoln related sites in Springfield, Illinois, Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, the Wigwam Motels, and a couple of Route 66 museums. Include picnics at places like the Marsh Creek Bridge in Kansas, and be sure to seek the interesting personalities onthe road like “Crazy Legs.”
I have one final bit of advise for todays’ post, Route 66 is in a constant state of flux. It is also like the Grand Canyon or Monticello, words and pictures will always fall short as it must be experienced. So, drive it all or in segments as the budget and time constraints allow but experience it for yourself.

ROUTE 66 UPDATES FROM COAST TO COAST

I am being chased by schedules, commitments, and deadlines, but there is so much happening along Route 66 it is impossible to resist the urge to share. With that as an introduction, lets get started.
Carolyn Hasenfratz has again harnessed the power of the Internet to link Route 66 with the modern era and fuel the flames of resurgent interest in this amazing old highway. Her first endeavor, John’s Modern Cabins, continues to be an invaluable directory. Her latest enterprise, a site entitled Sell 66 Stuff, provides small town shops and businesses with an international market for their products.
It is with eager anticipation that I await the second edition of 66 The Mother Road, an e-zine that presents this iconic highway to a 21st century audience. John and Judy Springs are the masterminds behind this bit of innovative thinking.
To a degree I have jumped on the electronic age band wagon. First with the blog, and now by offering signed copies of the latest book, Ghost Towns of Route 66, through the blog by offering the convenience of credit card payments made with Paypal. The button for ordering is in the upper right column.
I can now also offer signed copies wholesale, as well as prints. Please send an email for  further details.
While we are on the topic of using the era of the Internet to introduce a new generation to the wonders of Route 66, Emily Priddy has made her contributions in two forms. The first is for those who do not wish to have their Route 66 state of mind interrupted with a generic chain motel at the end of the day, and the second is to keep the younger set busy on the road as well as inspire a new generation to savor the pleasures of a Route 66 adventure.
One of the slickest items to come down the pike in quite some time is the Arizona Route 66 Passport. A souvenir in itself, this little booklet becomes a treasured heirloom with acquisition of the various stamps from businesses along the route.
If your planning a trip through the Grand Canyon State on Route 66, you can order the passports by contacting Josh Noble at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman. They are also available at 4 Women on the Route in Galena, Kansas, the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas, the Enchanted Trails RV Park & Trading Post in Albuquerque, and the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, California.
I hope that other associations follow suit. Even better, perhaps an enterprising organization can create a passport for the entire route!
There are three great entities that could create such a device, perhaps they could join forces in such an endeavor. One is the Route 66 Alliance with co founder Michael Wallis. Another would be the National Historic Route 66 Federation, your one stop source for guide books including the EZ 66 Guide, 2nd edition, by Jerry McClanahan. Then there is the fast rising star of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce.
Route 66 is most definitely alive and well. Try it for yourself and see what all of the excitement is about.