What is route 66? In once sense Route 66 is a teenage dream, that place of fantasy we have after we obtained our drivers licenses and want to step out into the freedom bought by driving a vehicle. The mere daydream of boys 14 or 15 years old completely unexperienced behind the wheel.
Just saying Route 66 conjures up images of the American landscape, the open road, and ultimately that freedom that comes from both.
Route 66 in essence means adventure. The thought of traveling it conjures up the image of a great odyssey. An adventure in which one may seek to find a new place to live, a beautiful woman, a new job, a new way to live, or might also seek to find themselves on this road.
The open road no matter where it is or what it is named always presents a chance for self-discovery and self awareness. Ultimately any road traveler no matter what the age, no matter what the relationship status, or their lot in life travels upon the open road to discover something new about themselves. Route 66 even though it is a particular name that travels through a particular place in essence embodies the spirit of the open road no matter where it is.
Traveling route 66 weather by yourself or with a girlfriend or boyfriend or with your family is always an adventure. It is a journey through history, a journey through many different types of terrians, a journey through many different types of regions, and it is a journey to discover what is in your own soul.
I won't lie to you there is a certain amount of hype in Route 66. This is hype and myth that has been left to us by previous generations. Yet at its core there's something unique and special about this journey. When you start your journey on it you will start as a stranger you'll find yourself feeling as out of place as the road itself is in our modern age. You will feel the call to travel the interstates to travel quickly to travel safely. You will feel the call to climb upon airliner and get to where you're going in a couple hours. Route 66 at first will not feel right but as you continue on your journey something about it will feel right, something about it will make you feel whole. You will find that the open road beckons you, and you will also find so too does it's many ghosts. For this route is not only a route from modern city to modern city it is also route through time and through the remains and graveyards of a world that once was.
These graveyards will present themselves in forms of forgotten towns. They'll present themselves in the forms of long-lost gas stations, tourist courts, roadside attractions and cafes formally all teeming with tourists and travelers but now forgotten to deteriorate into ruins next to the interstates and modern facilities that have replaced them for good.
Although Route 66 may have many ghosts so to does it have many of the living. Those who remember the route and it's heyday who are willing to pass down it's stories whether positive or negative. You will meet those who remember the route as it was, and who made their business and their lives upon the road. But you will also find daydreamers those who have staked their existence upon the road as it once was to bring it back to his former glory. Those who have purchased and are restoring businesses and buildings that once used to represent the road and all that it epitomized. You will also find a road that is very much alive. You will see as it travels through Chicago and as it meanders through Los Angeles that the route although sometimes forgotten very much lives and is used every day by people on their way to work or to home or any other place they may have to travel. You will also see the route as the main thorough fare through many other small towns and small and medium-size cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, and Flagstaff just to name a few. Not to mention you'll see 66 as part of the famous Colorado Boulevard through Pasadena California meaning that Route 66 is the star of every New Year's Day as Pasadena presents it's Parade of Roses.
That's the thing about Route 66 there are so many juxtapositions. From farm fields to deserts, from urban blight to urban renewal, major world cities to forgotten small towns, rich to poor, from future to past. In many ways there is a surrealism about the whole route. On a three day trip down the route one could find themselves at Navy Pier in Chicago indulging in the cities luxury, and twenty-four hours later find themselves in the flatlands of Oklahoma sharing a cheap motel with oil field roughnecks. Then the day after that sleeping in a Wigwam Motel in the deserts of Arizona, and the next day starring out accross the Pacific on Santa Monica Pier. 2000 miles of changes, 2000 miles of different ways of life, 2000 miles of incongruity bought together for one uniform past.
In a way that also sums up Route 66's history, incongruity bought together for one uniform goal. 66's past is that of a country with growing pains, and ever changing opinions. The route was aligned, and realigned over and over to suit the needs of the country that traveled it, till finally it had popped its seems and needed to be superseded. Much like the philosophy and beliefs of our nation had been superseded as we moved into a more progressive and unfamiliar new era.
Dont misunderstand me the journey down 66 does not require some deep philosophical understanding of history and politics. It just requires that the traveler be willing to grasp a new understanding, and appreciation for the route and our nation. Most travelers on Route 66 discover the route engages them and not the other way around. The route presents a level of awe, hospitality, and lighthearted playfulness to the first time traveler. It's story may be sad but it's a story about life going on, and drawing inspiration from the pasts mistakes and triumphs to move forward, expressed on a level of accessibility and optimism.