Sunday, December 9, 2012

Get Your Kicks

The subject of today’s post could easily span many decades. But since it was quite popular during the fifties, it seems appropriate to talk a little about the Mother Road. I’m referring to Route 66. It’s been around for many years, although a lot of the original alignment has been replaced by newer Interstate highways.

From its starting point near the shore of Lake Michigan, Route 66 weaves its way through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and ends in Santa Monica, California. There’s a monument near Santa Monica Pier indicating it’s ending (or beginning) point.

My friend, Wes Holden, and I drove from Independence, Missouri, to San Diego, California, way back in 1968. We were only 18 years old, fresh out of high school, and it was an adventure neither of us are likely to forget. Imagine, if you will, two city boys with very limited knowledge of the big world outside their hometown. We were young and green, and the open road was beckoning us like the Sirens of Lesbos called to Jason.

In those days, Route 66 was a bit different than highways are today. You had to pay attention because, when you arrived in one of the many towns along the way — and there were many in that 1,500 mile journey — the highway went right through it. It usually made several turns so you could get a tour of the downtown area before reaching the city limits and returning to a straighter alignment as it continued across the countryside and headed toward the next town.

And there was a reason for that meandering pattern. The Mother Road was an artery of commerce for countless small businesses in those days. Tourist shops, restaurants, motels, and Trading Posts dotted the roadside like sprinkles on a cupcake. An unending flow of traffic provided a steady supply of income to those businesses, and it continued to do so until the Interstate Highway System realigned a large portion of Route 66, thereby putting the majority of those businesses off the beaten path and, in most cases, out of business.

But the summer Wes and I traveled the Mother Road those businesses were still thriving. It was summer, and it was hot in the states of the Great Southwest. From Independence, we drove straight through for 19 hours until we arrived at Flagstaff, Arizona. This is an oasis in the desert with cool breezes flowing through the tall pine trees. After a few hours sleep we were back on the road again.

Eventually, the tan, desert cactus was replaced by the tall, green Royal Palms of southern California, and we saw the beautiful blue of the Pacific stretching ahead of us to the horizon. We had made it. At 18 years old, it felt like an accomplishment of monumental proportion.

If you’ve ever wanted to take a trip down Route 66, there are many parts of the original alignment still being used. But if you do make the trip, there are two items you simply must have. In fact, I purchased both of them from Amazon earlier this summer, thinking we would make the trip this year. That didn’t work out, but I still have them, and I’m ready to go next summer.

One is a book is called The Route 66 Adventure Guide by Drew Knowles. The other is a set of 8 state maps called Here It Is that show the actual alignment of the old highway and what areas are still in use. It has great instructions on weaving through all those little towns and staying on the Mother Road. Both are great products for someone planning on taking a trip down Route 66.

There's so much more to tell, but you need to see it for yourself. So, get your kicks on Route 66.
It's a trip in your own Wayback Machine.


Les Holder said...

Hey Mike,

It's WES! This sure brought back some memories. We had a time, didn't we? I remember you drove the whole way! We were in your blue '68 Chevelle and you sang instead of listening to the radio. A song would come on and you would say, "I know that one!" and down would go the volume and you would beat on the dashboard and sing your heart out. It was great. I hope you do make that trip again. Maybe in Cherry Berry? Love ya, Man.


Pamela Archer said...

I have bookmarked your blog. I enjoyed reading through several of your posts. I still think the 50's was the best era.

I write a similar blog, and am a new follower on Twitter. Someone else you should read is PopArtDiva. She is also on Twitter.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Nishant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nishant said...

Hi Mike,

Am from India and I love road trips. I along with my friend took the trip last month (Dec 09) , from Chicago to Barstow. We just had 5 days in hand so we could not explore everything but we had a great time exploring the Route. And guess what, we had with us the same two items that you have mentioned in your post :)

Enjoyed reading your blog.