Thursday, November 29, 2012

Route 66

One of the reasons why I love Route 66 so much, is because it has character. Billy Connolly said it so well on his show about the Mother Road, "everything isn't beige".  Maybe he's been to Irvine, CA.

In it's close to 60 years of "official" existence, 1926- '84, business' along the road needed to find creative ways to lure travelers to their diners, motels, gas stations and souvenir shops. So they would use bright colors, gimmicks, neon and more to get people to stop at their place, instead whizzing on past. Yes, they were often kitschy and gaudy, but they displayed boldness, character and individuality. It worked then, and now it serves as a portal. Visiting these  unique places along "The Main Street of America" transports you back to a different time. Whether it's the 1930's when farmer's were escaping the Dust Bowl in search of a better life in California, or the 1950's and 60's where a Nuclear family of four was headed to Disneyland on vacation, you know that these little oasis sprinkled along the roughly 2,400 miles of road from Chicago to Santa Monica, were brief respites for people going somewhere. People that, whether through necessity or adventure, were leaving their "comfort zones" and venturing out onto the open road. 

The road has a voice, and it is relentless. It keeps calling like a lost love that may never touch your lips or speak your name again. It lies dormant, waiting for you to reclaim it with passion and the absence of fear. 
Facebook- Jan. 25th 2012

Yes, the road has an allure. There are countless books, films and songs written about it. And none more written about than Route 66. There is just something so damn sexy about her. It's not just me who thinks so either. People are flocking to this road. She is arguably more popular around the world than to people whose own town it runs through. I am not entirely sure why other people are fascinated. For me, I was hooked from the start. The fact that in 1928, C.C. Pyle put on a Transcontinental Footrace from Los Angeles to New York via Route 66, known as "the Bunion Run", to happening upon the statue of the winner of that race, Andy Payne, in his hometown of Foyil, Oklahoma, on my own run across America, there have been many reasons for me to feel connected to her. 

I am rather embarrassed to admit that when I was originally planning my run, I didn't even know about Route 66. I just opened up Google Maps and sort of just put those two pins on either side of the continent and waited to see where the line went. In fact, the original route only followed 66 to somewhere around Albuquerque. It wasn't until I adjusted the route to go through Tulsa, Oklahoma to see family and talked to a business associate of mine and he said "Oh, you can take Route 66" that I even considered it. 

After hearing that, I went to the library and checked out some books that completely intrigued me. Not only was I amazed by the pictures, but the stories and the history! They talked about The Will Rogers Highway (one of the names it's known by) serving as the main highway for people heading west. How the many business' and towns along the highway became prosperous serving those people and then,  with the threat of being bypassed by the Interstate, their eventual struggle to survive.

One of the books also talked about traveling in general and this thing called "wanderlust". Boy could I relate to that. During the run, I was so excited to see the things that I had seen in those books. I felt connected to places before I ever got there. On a particularly hard and lonely day, with 30 miles down and a few more to go, I was running into Tucumcari, New Mexico. I ran down a road lined with old broken down, abandoned Motels. It was sad, but for some reason, it gave me solace. Somehow I could relate to the way they were left. They were once pillars in the desert, and now they were vacant and falling apart. I would get closer to them than most people had in years because I wasn't separated or isolated in a car. I passed them slowly and couldn't ignore them. 

Tucumcari, New Mexico

But for all of those that were dead, there were as many that were still struggling to stay alive and many even thriving. It seems there are plenty of people out there that want to slow down. They want to see this part of America that was truly unique. They don't want to just get from point A to point B on a Superhighway. There are a lot people who's idea of travel is different than driving down a concrete corridor whose exits all have the same travel center and the same 5 restaurants, making it difficult knowing whether the Cracker Barrel you are in is in Florida or North Dakota. No, there are people who want to see what is in between. The uniqueness of each little town. Their personalities and the people who live there. I wanted to see it. I wanted to see every bit of it.

I had ran almost all of 66 on my run from California to New York. We went though Phoenix, so we missed the California and Arizona parts until Holbrook.  Also, we left it in St. Louis, to take the Old National road east to New York. I have since driven most of the Arizona and California parts but that just doesn't compare. I was 60 miles into what was supposed to be an uninterrupted, no drama ride the entire way from Boston to LA via Route 66, but that didn't turn out the way I had hoped. Perhaps that is another one of the reasons why I seem to have such an obsession with this strip of pavement that is only partially still there. And perhaps it wouldn't be out of line for someone to point to this obsession as the cause of me almost biting the big one. And they might have a point. But still, I don't blame her. My love for her doesn't die, it just gets stronger. Because it's not really the road, it's what it represents.  It's movement and forward momentum. It's dreams and adventure. It's leaving home and perhaps, coming back home. It's hope! Yes, there are other roads, but this one is special. So I will keep on dreaming about it. And soon, do the whole thing in one shot.

Until then, I am going to go through all of my pictures and do some editing and post them to instagram, Twitter, facebook, Tumblr and wherever else I can annoy the crap out of people. But beyond trying to spread my genuine enthusiasm for Route 66 to other people (the struggling business' could use the customers:) I also have a real interest in photography developing (pun). I've fired up the old Photoshop after many years and am in the market for a nice DSLR. I've even registered at the local Junior College to take some photography classes. I know, I'm a "self taught Man" but, I have a new lease on life, so I am changin' a  few things up. Who knows, maybe I can eventually figure out a way to put together my own travel show. Maybe do a show about all of the breweries along the way. I'll just put a twist on it and run or ride a bike between all of them. Yeah, that sounds pretty good!

Until then, I'll leave you with a few of my pictures of Route 66 and hope you will find them as interesting as I do.  If you would like to see more of my pictures from the road, you can view them here.

Bluewater, New Mexico

Catoosa, Oklahoma

Seligman, Arizona

Elk City, Oklahoma

Seligman, Arizona

Williams, Arizona

Cool Springs, Arizona

Oh, and that Billy Connolly guy, he also said "Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?... He's a mile away and you've got his shoes!" He's a funny guy! :)


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