“But wait!” the astute reader might cry, “What about Route 66? This was a story about Route 66! You barely mentioned it!”
The Destination is the Journey
Yep. You’ve got me, but there actually is, a point. I rode Route 66, but it turns out that I always do.
When I set out on this journey I had a brief vision of Route 66 as some lost road, away from the hustle and bustle and leading to places way off the main drag. Older places. Cheaper places. Places with character. People with heart.
The reality is that Route 66 is mostly covered up. Interstate 40 has replaced the vast majority of it, the remains of Route 66 simply relegated to the business loops through the many small towns along the route. I found a great deal of manufactured nostalgia in these places, most of it made simply to entice people off the interstate for a stop in town. Once I’d seen the “Original Route 66 Wireless Phone Store”, the “Route 66 Recliner Center”, and the “Route 66 Video Store” I understood. Many of these places were trying much too hard to capture something that they didn’t quite understand.
Manufactured nostalgia simply doesn’t taste like the real thing.
The trip is still worth the ride though. There are places to visit and things to see. There are snake farms and hometown cafés, museums and motels. There are even ruins—sad, lonely, motels and service stations abandoned when they were bypassed by the hustle and bustle of the world. There are roads to run. There are people to meet. There are also the occasional longer loops where the builders of the interstate chose to reroute the highway. Those are inevitably interesting, as they rerouted the highway to shorten it and go through easier terrain. That makes the loop long, scenic, and twisty. Ride on!
Route 66 is an attitude, not a road, not a route, not a destination. On my journeys, a simple whim has been enough so that I’d turn off the highway. Towns with interesting names, a longer route, a barely visible “short cut”, and vague features on the map have always been enough to divert my course.
In that way I’ve found places and people along my routes that were worth finding. I’ve seen amazing sights, experienced great pleasure, and even endured intense pain. I’ve gasped at incomprehensible vistas, marveled at truly astounding works of man, and had nature clomp me firmly back into my place.
Want to ride Route 66? Grab a map and head for Los Angles. Just be sure and turn off the main road now and again. Whim and curiosity need to rule the day. I highly recommend the journey.
And if you don’t have that much time, just head out of your city, turn down a road that is barely a trace on your map, and find a hometown restaurant on the square in a small town. Stop in. Order some pie. Stay overnight in a “Mom & Pop” motel. Say “hi” to strangers.
You’ll be on Route 66 when you do.
Life is a road. Live. Ride. See. Fly…
Are you ready?
I'll see you on the road.
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword