Yesterday marked one month on the road and we rolled on past 6000 miles. I was thinking about Saskatchewan. It seems like a lifetime ago.
But today we mark another milestone – the midway point on Route 66. Adrian Texas marks the middle at 1139 miles.
I am enjoying this drive tremendously – even though I once again wish we had more time. Driving on Route 66 our speed is rarely more than 45 mph. The parts of the original road or the second generation road that is still accessible is usually narrow and rough. But oh so fascinating.
Often the road parallels the freeway. But not always. Long stretches of the road are straight, especially through Oklahoma and Texas. But other stretches are winding and rolling like in Missouri. Much of the road – both the driveable parts and the non-driveable parts are the original Portland concrete. It’s interesting when paralleling the interstate Route 66 is rolling up and down while the freeway has been filled in to be a constant grade.
We were moving along on the original road today in the Texas panhandle when suddenly Route 66 turned to gravel. That was a surprise. This was the Jericho Gap. Famous for historically swallowing cars in the mud. Lucky for us it was dry.
We’ve lost the road a couple of times, although the small brown historic way-finding signs are numerous and helpful. Until we got to Texas and they disappeared altogether. We got really lost in Tulsa because multiple versions of the old road crisscross the downtown.
The maps I ordered online have been helpful in keeping us on or as close to the original “mother road” as possible. And best of all the maps guide us to cool sites of importance from the old days: service stations, motels, diners. For the most part these cool sites are no longer operational. A few are. And a few have been restored by the Route 66 National Historical Association. Others are dilapidated and ghostlike – in fact some towns like Texola Oklahoma are entire ghost towns – lost in time after Interstate 40 went through. Just like in the movie “Cars”.
I love old stuff. I fully admit I have an active imagination and always have. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy creative writing. My imagination is on overdrive out here. I imagine the thousands – probably millions – of people who have driven this road before me. Of course I think about the Joad family and all those real people like them. I imagine post war convertibles, with a blonde woman her hair covered with a scarf sitting next to her husband who wears a driving cap. My mind thinks about a family in a station wagon, not unlike my own family in the 1960’s, on a summer vacation. Perhaps heading west to the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.
And then I think about the towns and the people who are the towns. The lucky ones whose livelihood came from the road bringing guests into their community and their businesses. And then I think of the others whose world was shattered when the interstate killed their town and their dreams.
As children we learned about Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail and manifest destiny. To me the history I am driving on is just as important. An important piece of American history – not just an icon or a piece of Americana but a significant part of the building of the America we know today – the development of cars, roads, technology, commerce
I admire it, revere it, cherish it for it’s importance while my imagination embraces it and feels it and all those who have come before me.