Mountains, mesas, cactus, canyons, and so on—but wait—there’s more! May I present a worthy regional sideshow. To Wit: Route 66, with nostalgia and whimsy aplenty.
Route 66—just say the word, and—instant recognition. Even if they haven’t been, people know the story, or at least the song. So much so, that over the years the old road has become a cultural icon, loved throughout the world, and attracting thousands of visitors each year.
It didn’t start out that way. In 1926, Route 66 joined the US highway grid as just a normal thoroughfare from the Midwest to Southern Cal. Then came Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath, and the legend of the Mother Road was born. However, it wasn’t until “The Song” and the TV show of the 60’s that the name vaulted into pop culture and history. (Who hasn’t covered that melody?) And lest we forget, recent times have given us CARS, with authentic locations and its denizens of the desert.
Alas for Radiator Springs, Route 66 was “decommissioned” by the 70’s in favor of Interstate 40, and if not for the work of dedicated preservationists would have all but drifted away with the tumbling tumbleweeds. What remains today is small offshoots from Route 40, maybe a business loop through some of the bypassed towns, and occasional roadside markers and billboards. Visitors can bring what they want and take away what they want, but one requirement is imagination and perseverance—off road travel can be bumpy and dusty.
The rewards? Plentiful for the adventurous. So much American lore- history, legend, and myth. There are scenic drives, hiking trails, small desert towns, a steam railroad, geologic wonders, museums in Kingman and Flagstaff, and of course some of the wacky architecture and roadside attractions from that era. Lots of kitsch. How about lunch at the Roadkill Café in Seligman? Your table is waiting!
In a way its like Hollywood Blvd of the Southwest, replete with numerous emporiums hawking souvenirs and trinkets. The whole concept is an IDEA of Route 66 and the longing it inspires for a simpler place and time- the West, the open road, Corvettes, guys and dolls. Illusory? Sure it is, but hey, everyone has a good time. Including me.
I like it for all the above reasons. And for the photo opps. I have seen much of the old road from AZ through Texas and Oklahoma, usually on my way to or from someplace else; but I always look forward to moseying about in search of some new curiosity. Worth a trip for anyone. Some day I’ll rent a period convertible and do it right!
Like my first picture says, HERE IT IS!
Enjoy the tour.