In case you haven’t noticed, Jim loves to tell stories, to tell people where to go, and to encourage people to get out and explore the wonders around them on the road less traveled. As you may have noticed, he has been absent from the cyber world this past week. I wished we could say he has been on the road but it has been illness that has applied the brakes to the daily postings. We are hoping he will be back on his feet by the first of the week. He has asked that I inform you the fine folks at Voyageur Press, through the diligent and hard work of Maurrie Salenger, are throwing their support behind the big event in Amarillo. We look forward to seeing you there.
Soaring fuel prices may force us to adjust grandiose travel plans this summer but with just a bit of advance planning it should still be possible to make this a summer of grand adventure on Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, and other great two lane highways. That is the subject of today’s editions of trips and books.Kingman, Arizona is less than 400 miles from Los Angeles, less than 100 miles from Las Vegas, and less than 200 miles from Phoenix. Now, if you like vintage vehicles and good times it is tough to beat the annual Route 66 Fun Run scheduled for the first weekend in May. With some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere along that legendary highway, this 180 mile, three day block party celebrating the automobile, Route 66, and the American love affair with the road trip has a little of something for everyone. A number of folks that participate, or that simply show up for the fun, have made this event a priority for a number of years. In the first weeks of June, Amarillo in Texas will be the place to be. Deep in the Heart of Route 66 will be theme for this years international Route 66 festival and it is looking as though this will be another historic chapter for America’s most famous highway. Celebrities and fans of that highway from throughout the world will be in attendance. Music by Joe Loesch and the Road Crew from Nashville, food, friends, cars, and a good time are on the schedule. As a bit of shameless self promotion I will be in attendance, with my dearest friend, for the debut of my new book, Ghost Towns of Route 66http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=1968adventurer&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0760338434&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr. I can’t think of a better place for the kick off or better people to share the event with.If time or financial constraints prohibit your attendance in Amarillo, and you live in the Midwest, Illinois is the place to be in the first weeks of June. The Route 66 Association of Illinois Route 66 Motor Tour is always a delight. For the folks on the west end of Route 66, there are a number of events but there is only one mega event – the Stater Brothers Route 66 Rendezvous in September. This monster is without equal. Route 66 isn’t the only highway that leads to fun and adventure this year. If you happen to be cruising the Lincoln Highway this summer check out the Pony Express anniversary in beautiful Gothenburg, Nebraska in June. Even though the Lincoln Highway, once as popular as Route 66, has slipped into the shadow of the double six it remains an excellent adventure for anyone who loves exploring the back roads and lost highways of America. The Lincoln Highway Association has an excellent calendar of events to help plan your trip on all or part of that historic road. Excellent resources for planning your weekend getaways or vacation on Route 66 are found on the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce website. Links, photos, and a wide array of information are found on this site that serves as a clearing house for all things Route 66.An accurate guide book is essential for any trip and Route 66 is no exception. To the best of my knowledge, the best available guide is EZ 66 by Jerry McClanahan, also a very accomplished artist. You can order a copy for the Route 66 Federation. In addition to getting the best guide out there, you will be supporting an organization that has played a key role in the resurgent interest in Route 66, and that continues to work toward preservation and promotion. Don’t let the summer slip away. Make plans today to discover, or rediscover, what makes America special.
Antonio with his cheerful round face and thick handlebar mustache always shaded by an oversized, wide brimmed hat presented the impression he was hoping they would remake the Cisco Kid and that he could play the part of Pancho. He was a good man and was better at hanging fence than I was but everyone, including Antonio, knew I got the job of foreman because old man Bower was as prejudiced as they come. Old man Bower was an odd duck to say the very least. With a shape that mimicked an avocado with legs he appeared almost cartoon like but there was nothing funny about his acid laced tirades, his biting comments, or the short fuse temper. If Antonio had a fault it was his love for the bars on the weekends after payday, a passion fueled by the acceptance of the fact there was, in his mind, a zero chance of moving ahead in this world. As regular as clockwork this always led to him showing up late for work the following Monday. Bower’s accepted it as a way to keep Antonio from moving on. Antonio recognized the leniency for what it was. It was a pretty twisted relationship. Old man Bower was one of those fellows who had seemed to make money without meaning to. His shotgun approach to projects, and absent minded ways, ensured maximum waste of time and money in everything we did. He was a fellow you worked for but could never respect.In spite of his shortcomings Antonio was a man you could count on to get a job done. So, when work required taking a crew on the road, he was always on my short list for who to take. Aside from hard, honest work, and a love for the bars, Antonio had two very memorable traits. He loved his chili peppers (his dad had a pepper farm over on the Rio Grande near Hatch) and he was quite creative in his excuses for reasons why he was late on the Monday after payday. One Monday he showed up at lunch time and looked as though he had been wrapped in barbed wire and was drug behind a truck over a few miles of bad Texas road. The excuse was novel, his foot had slipped from the brake when he stopped and leaned out to pick up the paper. Then his pant leg hooked on the seat adjustment and he was drug across the street where the truck hit a tree.Well, I endured the stories and the late days for a month or two. Then when old man Bower’s told me I was in charge while he was away, and assigned our crew a huge project with a tight deadline, the time came to put an end to Antonio’s long weekends. The first Monday there was an improvement, Antonio was a half hour late and I chewed his backside. The next time he was on time. Likewise with the third Monday after payday. Then on the next Monday he showed up at two in the afternoon. He looked like holy Hell. His nose was broke, his eyes were swollen almost shut, and he had stitches in a few places on his face. He told me the wildest story yet and I snapped. I ordered him into the truck, told him we were driving to his house, and if the story wasn’t true, he was fired. All the way into town he pleaded, “Senor, Jim. Really. You respect me and I wanted to be on time. I set the alarm clock. I didn’t go to the bar yesterday.”“This morning the ceiling fell on me. Really. I am telling you the truth.” And so it went for miles. Antonio lived in the old part of town in a big rambling brick house that had weathered more than a century of New Mexico mountain winters. At some point it had been carved into apartments but few other changes had been made. I pulled up in front of the towering hedge, Antonio jumped out to open the gate, and with growing anger led the way up the stairs to his apartment and into his bedroom. There in the center of his blood stained bed, was a huge chunk of horsehair plaster. Above was the bare lathe that hadn’t seen the light of day in at least a half century. I never said a word as we drove back to the job site. I never again reprimanded Antonio for tardiness and I never again questioned his long winded and creative excuses.