Painting ©2018 John Clark III
Thought I'd be sleeping in my own bed tonight, with a pair of comfortable warm arms and soft hands holding me close, but I didn't quite make it home from El Paso, about a 550-mile drive. Fatigue started to set in and then it started getting dark and the skies opened up as I got to Junction, Texas, and so I reluctantly decided to call it a day.
A good move, I think, as it continues to pour down outside this nice little Best Western. I was slip-sliding away a few times on the highway, and that'll make your heart rate go up a little bit.
A few days ago, on my trip along Route 66 in California, I stopped at a convenience store near a place called Newberry Springs. After I gassed up the car, I went inside to use the servicios, and there was a dude sitting in a metal folding chair seriously bending the ear of the girl behind the counter. I mean, this guy was doing some talking, yo?
I saw an opportunity.
On my way out, I stopped and introduced myself, and he jumped up and grabbed my hand and shook it. I told him I was traveling Route 66 and interviewing people along the way and he looked to me like he might have some stories to tell. Would he mind answering a few questions?
Sure, he said, with a big smile on his face, you wanna buy me a beer?
No problem. I paid for my gas, bought him a cold one and we went outside and stood in the shade and off he went.
Turns out his name is Ricardo Polanco-Navarro, son of an Apache mother, Spanish father, and a descendant of Geronimo. Ricardo, 59, was born in El Centro, Calif., graduated high school in 1975 in Redlands, and a year later, he joined the Army, with high hopes of taking full advantage of all the opportunities the military can provide.
Things didn't turn out as planned. He left after two years.
"I joined, and so I decided to take my ball and go home, because they weren't fair. They used me as a scapegoat for some things, and it just wasn't good."
He went back to Redlands, angry and resentful over his treatment by the military.
He did some landscaping work, married once, and had some other relationships that resulted in three children. Now, he is living with his 78-year-old mother, helping her and helping other people when he gets the opportunity.
Life, he says, hasn't gone exactly as planned, but he relies on his faith to keep going one day at a time.
"Like in the Bible, I'm a sojourner. I'm an adventurer. You know, things could be better, but I can't wait for Jesus (to return). That's what I'm waiting for -- the rapture, you know? I just take things one day at a time. I like to try to help people whenever I can. That's what it's all about, really.
"I want people to know that Jesus is the law, and Jesus is Lord. That's the main thing. There's one commandment that really matters: Love one another. Take care of each other. If we all would just do that, everything else would take care of itself."
Can't really argue with that ....
Headed home today after my 12-day odyssey along Route 66. Instead of the serene backroads following the ol' Main Street of America through small-town U.S.A., it was time for pedal-to-the-metal interstate travel.
Nonetheless, it was beautiful cruising along Interstate 10 out of California and into Arizona, as you can see from the photos I snapped while motoring 80 mph (OK, maybe a little faster sometimes). Most of the past two weeks, I drove with the car radio turned all the way down, preferring to let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go, thinking about this and about that, concentrating on my surroundings. Meditative travel. Quiet is a good thing.
Today, I listened to the radio, and it was a little disturbing.
Along with being a writer, I am also a musician. I've played guitar in bands. I've written some decent songs, and played acoustic sets at different open mic nights and coffee shops and such with my talented-singer wife. But I really don't like to listen to music when I drive. I like talk radio. I don't know why. I just do.
And so much of what is going on in this country nowadays is pathetic and ridiculous and ... scary. I don't care if you consider yourself liberal, moderate or conservative, Republican, Libertarian, Democrat, or none of the above. I fear for the future of our wonderful country. I really do.
OK, enough of that ...
Yesterday, I mentioned the group of 60-something bicyclists from Switzerland that I met along Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. These guys, remember, rode bicycles 2,400 miles along Route 66 from Chicago to California. Here's their photo again:
I haven't transcribed the interviews I did with these gracious men, who took the time to tell me all about their adventure -- after I used about seven different cameras and tablets to take this same photo for them :) -- and their accomplishment to me is amazing. They shipped their bikes over here, and said they planned to return to Chicago on a three-day train ride, then fly home.
They took some rest days along the way during their month-and-a-half trip, and at one point, as they pedaled through the Mojave Desert, ran out of water and became concerned not only for their ability to complete the ride, but for their survival.
Still, Urs, the tall guy in the middle, told me that on the final day, as they rode into Santa Monica, the emotion he felt was sadness, because their journey was coming to an end. It was the same for me.
I've talked about how this trip compares to walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Talking to these gentlemen only reinforced that for me.
Route 66 is absolutely America's Pilgrimage.
On the Camino, walking miles and miles each day is absolute freedom. You meet wonderful people along the way. You see amazing things, have unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You experience history. And when it all comes to an end, you feel a bit of sadness. You don't want it to end. You want it to go on, and on, and on.
Same thing on Route 66.
If you ever have the time and the inclination, even if you can't get away for two full weeks, go travel a part of Route 66. You'll find the heart of America ...
Later, y'all ...
Made it. The end of my tour along Route 66, starting June 13 in downtown Chicago and finishing today in Santa Monica, California.
A total distance of 2,400-plus miles, driving through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, all the way to the beautiful Pacific Ocean. An amazing journey that I am so glad I made. When Route 66 hit the Los Angeles area, I kept hearing Jerry Jeff Walker singing, "If I can just get off of this L.A. freeway without gettin' killed or caught ..."
I grew up in Houston, Texas, and the traffic there is unbelievable, but gawd-almighty. There's a bunch of people out here, and they drive like freakin' maniacs.
The beach at Santa Monica was incredible. I'm used to the Texas beaches at Galveston, Port Aransas and South Padre Island, but this place is ... well, breathtaking. In Galveston, the beach is a few yards wide, but here? At least a few hundred yards of smooth, light brown sand between Ocean Avenue and the waters of the Pacific.
That's looking from the walkway along Ocean Avenue towards the famous Santa Monica Pier. I went there to find Dan Rice, who has traveled Route 66 more than two dozen times, and operates a souvenir kiosk on the pier, but unfortunately, he was not there when I arrived. I left one of my cards and hopefully Dan will contact me. I'd love to hear some of his stories.
I had to park about a mile from the pier and walk over there, so it was a little disappointing to strike out on what was to be my last interview opportunity of the trip, but as I walked back to my car along Ocean Avenue, through the beautiful parkway filled with hundreds of people enjoying what has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the country, I spotted a group of five men in bicycle riding gear, adorned with various Route 66 patches on their shirtsleeves. They were milling about, taking pictures of each other.
I walked on by, but after about 100 yards, my journalist/writer/author instincts kicked in and made me turn around. I walked up and introduced myself, told them I had just finished driving Route 66, and from their outfits, I assumed they had ridden Route 66. One gentleman had an Arizona patch on his sleeve, so I figured they had ridden from Arizona to California, an amazing accomplishment in itself.
But, no. These five men, all in their late 60s, all from Switzerland, rode bicycles more than 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. They started on May 5 and arrived today.
I was amazed. They asked me to take pictures of them all together with all their individual cameras and tablets and such, and then they told me their stories. I took a photo, of course, with my own camera, and recorded our conversations, so there will be more later on that.
Riding a bicycle from Chicago to Los Angeles?
A picture paints a thousand words, so here you go ...
OK, not quite 'nuff. Obviously, it was a spectacular day along good ol' Route 66, as I headed through and out of Arizona, into California. Words to describe the scenery are hard to find. Breathtaking? More than once, as I rounded a corner on this narrow two-lane, twisting, turning stretch through the mountains, I said, "Oh, for heaven 's sakes," or something like that, and stopped the car to pull out the camera.
It was a little freaky at times, too, as you're driving around the curves, inches away from sheer unprotected drop-offs that would create a Hollywood-style crash and no-doubt fireball explosion. But good grief, the beauty was intense.
After a while, I crossed the border into the Golden State and wound up in Needles, California, a cool little town of about 5,000 on the western banks of the Colorado River at the edge of the Mojave Desert, near the borders of Arizona and Nevada. It was there I ran into Rich Gonzales, a world-class character drinking beer with his cousin Danny Medrano at the Red Dog Saloon on Broadway Street.
Gonzales, 64, was born and raised in Needles, and spent 37 years as a pipeline welder for Southern California Gas Company."My office was the Mojave Desert," he said.
Now retired, Gonzales, father of none, has been happily married for 38 years, and says Needles is the best place in the world to live.
"Needles don't have much to offer, except peace and quiet. I love it here. It's worth a million. The people here ... Needles is like 'Mayberry,' man. Everybody knows everybody; they all love each other. They call Needles 'California's East Coast' because of the river. It's beautiful."
He has traveled "quite a bit" but not all of Route 66, Gonzales said. It is a special place for him, and he enjoys sharing it with other people.
"Oh, yeah, the Mother Road. It means a lot to me. I went to Ireland last year, and I met this guy -- a rich dude. He told me how he was going to ship his vehicle to New York, and drive all along Route 66. I told him, 'I live on Route 66!' He said, 'What?'
"I said, 'If you come down here, I will show you the Route 66 that most people don't see, and haven't seen. There are small sections that not many people know about, that are still there. I know about them. So I'm waiting on him to come in October."
With that, I was headed on down the road, and right now, I'm about 80 miles, I think, from Los Angeles. I think I might have seen Robert Downey Jr. this afternoon on I-15. There was a new BMW with dark tinted windows going about 90 mph, cutting in and out of traffic, disappearing in the distance. The windows were too dark to see inside the car, but, hey, it might have been Downey headed home.
I can almost smell the ocean -- the salt air, the sea breeze, the .... oh, wait a minute, that might be something else.
Probably won't reach the end of the line until Wednesday, since Santa Monica is about 350 miles from Kingman, Ariz., where I'm hunkered down for the evening. On the interstate, that's just a few hours' drive, but traveling Route 66 and stopping along the way to interview folks and grab some photos adds a lot of time to the trip.
Today, I headed out from Winslow, where I stopped for a minute and took a much better photo of Standin' On the Corner Park. It's the coolest place down there. If you missed yesterday's report, Winslow was the inspiration for the Eagles' classic song, "Take It Easy," which was actually created by Jackson Browne, who later gave his unfinished version of the song to Glenn Frey. As you walk along the sidewalks around the various shops, Eagles music is playing everywhere. Here's the new and improved photo:
Scenery got really pretty today in the Flagstaff area and farther west. High atop the San Francisco Peaks around Flagstaff, there was still some snow in some places. And after a lot of interstate driving yesterday, it was back to good ol' Route 66 for most of the day, as the Mother Road travels more than 100 uninterrupted miles toward California, including passes through historic Williams and Seligman.
Williams, the last town to have its section of Route 66 bypassed by I-40, is a small but bustling tourist town now, taking full advantage of its Route 66 heritage. Restaurants, souvenir shops and bars line the main drag through town, including the "world-famous" Sultana Bar and the Canyon Club Bar, which is where I ran into Azusa, California, native Mike Grimm, 64, who retired in Williams after spending his working life as a veterinary technician in Mohave Valley. His wife, Rebel, runs the Canyon Club, where he was relaxing with a cold beverage on a warm afternoon.
Grimm said he enjoys the small-town atmosphere and friendly folks in Williams. I'd have to agree. When I walked into the Sultana Bar looking for a likely suspect to interview, there was not a soul in the place, except a young lady mopping the floor. I asked if they were open. She smiled brightly and said, "If the door's open, I'm open." I did not catch her name, but she's the one who directed me over to the Canyon Club.
On the way there, I spotted Cruiser's Route 66 Café, which was doing big business, as both pedestrian and automobile traffic filled both sides of Route 66 through town.
From there, it was on to Seligman, a tiny town devastated by the Route 66 bypass. A number of people are working hard to keep the town alive, including Deborah Balistreri and her husband, John, owners of Route 66 Motoporium. When I walked into their shop and introduced myself to the ponytailed dude sorting T-shirts, he directed me to a back office where Deborah, a "Route 66 baby," was tidying up.
"I was born in San Bernardino, Calif. So, yes, that's why they call me that. I am an actual Route 66 baby," Deborah, 65, said, showing me a colorful Route 66 tattoo encircling her left wrist. "When we were kids, we drove up and down Route 66, in our cars and on our motorcycles. I like the old cars and the old bikes. It's just special. I love it."
She hopes to see the scattering of small Route 66-themed business owners in Seligman join forces to market and advertise the town, and fund improvements, Deborah said.
More later. See y'all on down the road ...
Today, I was standin' on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.
Not only that, I saw the " ... girl, my lord, in a flat bed Ford ... " that Glenn Frey of the Eagles sang about. See her?
Lots of beautiful, rugged scenery driving mostly interstate highway out of New Mexico and into Arizona. There are bits and pieces of Route 66 here and there, and it parallels I-40 for quite a ways, and when I cut through Winslow on ol' 66, I had to stop and take a look at the famous corner immortalized by the classic Eagles song, "Take It Easy," which was actually mostly written by Jackson Browne, who grudgingly handed it over to Frey, who at the time was living above him in a Los Angeles apartment. Frey finished the song and included it on his band's first album released in 1972.
After I snapped a few photos at Standin' On The Corner Park, I walked just across the street to Don and Sandra Myers' "On The Corner" T-shirt and souvenir shop and chatted them up. None of the Eagles band has ever stopped by their store, but two years ago, Jackson Browne himself walked through the door.
"He was standing right behind where you're standing now," Don said, a big grin on his face.
"It was so cool," Sandra added. "He came in with his girlfriend, bought a lot of T-shirts, and the next day he even did a little mini-concert with his whole band out in back of the La Posada Hotel. He played about 10 songs, and he told the story about how he wrote, 'Take It Easy.'
"He was headed back to California and his car broke down three times, once in Winslow. The last time it broke down was in Flagstaff, and he left it on the side of the road and never saw it again. His friends had come up behind him in a five-panel Dodge van, picked him up, heading back to L.A., and he wrote the song in the back of the van.
"He wasn't all the way done with it, and Glenn Frey kept hearing him working on the song. The Eagles were working on their first album, and Glenn Frey kept telling him, 'That's a great song. I need that song.' And he kept telling him, 'No, no.' Finally, he bugged him enough and Jackson Browne said, 'OK, you can finish it. But you have to put something in there about how the women out west drive pickup trucks, because it's so damn sexy.'
"He said Glenn Frey did the song the ultimate justice by putting in something about God, women and pickup trucks, all in one line."
Unlike many towns that thrived during the heyday of Route 66 and are now withering away or mostly extinct, downtown Winslow is coming back to life, thanks in no small part to Route 66, which passes right by the famous corner. The Myers say they get between 100 and 500 people a day -- including visitors from all over the world -- during the tourist season, which starts to die out every year in November.
"Winslow used to be the main hub of the railway in Arizona. When Route 66 came through, it put a big hurt on the railway. Then the interstate came through and killed Route 66 -- that's a story everybody knows. It really destroyed this downtown," Sandra explained.
"But in the last 15 to 20 years, Route 66 has become what is saving this town, actually. We're still a railroad town -- over 100 trains come through here a day, and 90 percent of the people are employed by the railroad. But Route 66 is revitalizing our downtown.
"Do you know how Route 66 was completed? Did you hear that story? When they started building Route 66, they ran out of money. That was around the time of Prohibition, and Al Capone needed a way to get his stuff to the west coast. He funded the finishing of Route 66. It's true."
A pretty awesome day, especially considering I also may have driven in Elvis Presley's tire tracks yesterday. I decided to spend the night at an old Route 66 landmark, the Sands Motel in Grants, New Mexico, and they gave me room 125. Well, two doors down, in Room 123, is where Elvis stayed about 50 years ago. That's what they say, and here's a photo that backs up the story.
Told ya so ...
After eight days following Route 66 from its start in downtown Chicago, through the state of Illinois, into Missouri, across a corner of southeast Kansas, through Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and into New Mexico, I'm becoming more and more convinced that this historic highway is America's Pilgrimage.
There are a number of ancient expeditions around the world, including pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the Middle East, pilgrimages to Rome and the Vatican in Italy, and the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain -- which I have experienced twice, the first time in 2011 and then again in 2013.
I truly think now, more than halfway through my journey across the country on the famed Mother Road, that this is our historic pilgrimage. Not in the same religious or spiritual sense, of course, as the others, and the trip is accomplished by means of driving rather than walking, but there are a number of similarities.
There is vast history along Route 66, the same way there is incredible history along the Camino de Santiago, the only other pilgrimage I know anything about. Not nearly as much history, but some pretty cool history, nonetheless.
As I travel Route 66, I've used a guidebook to navigate, the same way I did on the Camino. The directions are confusing at times, and once in a while, you get lost -- or at least think you may be lost; may have taken a wrong turn. Sometimes, your gut -- your instincts -- tell you that you're heading the wrong way, and you retrace your "steps," and find your way again. Sometimes, just as you're starting to seriously wonder if you've made a mistake, a sign appears along the path and lets you know that all is well.
The route passes through tiny towns that once were thriving, back in the old days when Route 66 was the featured route for folks headed west. Now, many of those towns are dying off, or trying desperately to hang on. Same thing on the Camino, a network of small towns and villages, with people scraping together a living.
Just like on the Camino, for the most part, everyone you meet on Route 66 -- both locals and fellow travelers -- are warm and friendly, willing to sit and talk for a while with some knucklehead from Texas (me) who tells them he is writing a book. There were several of those today, including Sal Lucero, a New Mexico native proud of his heritage and still working to preserve the history of Route 66 in tiny Moriarty, about 40 miles east of Albuquerque.
Lucero has lived for more than 40 years along Route 66 in Moriarty, beside the now-defunct Whiting Brothers service station -- which he operated for 20 years -- and the historic Sunset Motel.
The station hasn't pumped gasoline since 2003, but he keeps it open as an historical site.
"Let me tell you something, when I took over this station, it was (busy) 24/7. You had to wait on line both sides of the road to get service.
"I quit selling gas in '03. You know why? They wanted new pumps; they wanted new gas tanks. They just won't leave you alone. I had an above-ground tank that was not leaking, but every day -- two or three times a week -- they were coming in here, bothering me. So finally, I said to heck with it. I stopped selling gas.
"I like to keep it open, because it's a historical place, you know. What would I do at home? My wife, she's gone. That's her, right there," he said, pointing to a large portrait of him and his wife, Inez, who died a little over a year ago at age 75. They were married 54 years.
Lucero -- father of three, grandfather of four and great-grandfather of one with another on the way -- would not admit to his own age, saying with a smile: "I'm as old as my little finger, sir. I don't talk about age. I'm up there, my man; I'm up there."
With that, Lucero stood up and abruptly cut off the interview. He and some friends were working on some tires when I arrived, and he wanted to get back to work. He shook my hand and wished me well, told me to enjoy Route 66, which is most assuredly not a problem. I'm situated right now in Grants, N.M., about 78 miles west of Albuquerque, at the old Sands Motel, a familiar stop along old Route 66.
It's one of those old roadside motels that doesn't look like much from the outside, but is neat and clean and perfectly acceptable for an old(er) dude traveling by himself along ol' Route 66.
Stress was killing Tennessee engineer Dennis Purschwitz when providence stepped in and a family road trip along good ol' Route 66 changed his life.
It was four years ago that Purschwitz and his wife were set to spend a week driving part of Route 66. They would drive from their home in Tennessee up to Chicago, then spend seven days driving as far south and west as they could, before turning around and heading back.
"We go to a small little church, and the weekend before we were going to leave, they were having a teen weekend and our daughter was doing the sermon, and of course we wanted to be there," Purschwitz, 55, explains. "Well, the week before that, they announced in church that there was a conflict and so they were going to have to push teen weekend back up a week.
"Now, instead of us leaving Friday at noon, we didn't get to leave until Sunday afternoon. So we opted to start the trip instead at St. Louis, which was only five-and-a-half hours away instead of almost 10 hours to Chicago."
On the final day of their journey, they wound up in tiny Adrian, Texas, just west of Amarillo, at the Midpoint Café. In the window was a for sale sign. Purschwitz was intrigued, his wife thought he was crazy, but for the past three years, he has been the proud owner of the historic Route 66 attraction, which has been in business since 1928, and sits exactly at what is considered the halfway point between the start and finish of this famous highway that was established in 1926.
"I had been looking to do something different with my life, before I got too old and stress put me in my grave" Purschwitz said today, as we sat in a corner booth of the remodeled joint famous for its "ugly" pies, coffee, sodas and hamburgers. "I'm not an overly religious person, but I believe in God and I believe there is a reason why everything happens, and I truly believe it was meant for me to come here.
"It's easier to step back and see it afterwards. To this day, nobody at the church can tell us why there was a conflict -- nobody knows. Had it not been for the conflict, we would have started in Chicago, and maybe made it to Tulsa or Oklahoma City before we had to turn around. We'd have never gotten this far, and never known this place was for sale.
"We got here 10 minutes before it closed on our last day, before we had to go back."
Now, the self-proclaimed roadie splits his year in half, spending the tourist season in Adrian and the winter months back in Tennessee. He has driven all but 150 miles of Route 66, and is enamored with the highway, which he calls one of the best "ambassadors" this country has ever had.
"We've had people from 54 different countries in here since April 1, and last year we had visitors from 72 different countries. People get to see the heartland of America, and the people who truly make this country great."
Indeed, while I waited for Purschwitz to finish composing an email he was sending to one of his consulting business clients, I spotted a number of people outside posing for photographs in front of the Welcome sign and plaza he built across the street.
Two of those friendly folks were Siep and Geri Woudstra of The Netherlands, a retired couple making their fifth visit to the United States. They have navigated the entire length of Route 66 in three different sections, and Geri says the prettiest section was through Missouri, while neither particularly enjoyed the trip across Illinois, between Chicago and St. Louis.
"We enjoy seeing all the history, and listening to the locals talk about it," the couple said.
After Adrian, it was on toward the New Mexico border and Tucumcari, where I found a grocery store for something to eat, and a nice place to lay my head for the night.
More later, I reckon ...
Marveling today at the wide open spaces and warm, friendly faces along historic Route 66 as I headed east to west across Oklahoma and crossed into the great state of Texas.
I feel completely at home anywhere inside the Lone Star State, and Oklahoma is a close second.
That familiar, comfortable feeling, however, was undercut today by news of the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina.
I was stunned by the reports I heard this morning. I could have turned off the car radio or switched to some music and ignored the bad news as I explored part of the history of this great country and basked in the freedom of the open road, but I didn't. I didn't want to.
A few years ago, I wrote a book called "Finding God in Texas," and it includes stories from people I interviewed all across the state about whether they believe in God, heaven and hell, etc., and why they believe whatever it is they believe. I just did a radio interview a few days ago about my latest book, "Destination Unknown: What Happens To Us When We Die?", which includes people from all over the world discussing their views on what comes next after this life, if anything.
This morning, I was listening to former presidential candidate Herman Cain's radio program, and of course he was talking about the nine people who were unbelievably gunned down at a Bible-study class at their church. Cain, a guy who I mostly respect, said something to the effect that although the murders were horrible and tragic and yadda, yadda, yadda, everything is part of God's plan, and even though we don't understand such things, someday our questions will be answered.
When people say that, it really pisses me off.
What could possibly be the purpose of nine innocent, God-loving people being slaughtered? Inside God's house, reading and studying his book, trying to be closer to him? Tell me how that makes any sense. Why would an all-loving God allow something like that to happen?
Why didn't God flatten that guy's tires as he drove to the church, with hate in his heart, murder on his mind, and a gun in his pocket? God knew what was fixin' to happen, right? Why didn't he change something in that guy's heart, as he sat there with those people for an hour during Bible study? Why didn't he give him a heart attack? What possible purpose could there be to sitting back and watching him pull out that gun and fire hot bullets into the bodies of those terrified people?
Sorry, I ain't buying the belief that it's part of God's plan. If it is, that's a really shitty plan.
OK, off the soap box now.
Today was a good day along ol' Route 66. I stopped just outside Weatherford, Oklahoma, at the former site of Lucille's, and happened to meet 67-year-old Army vet Greg Lewis from Minnesota.
Lewis, a Yuma, Arizona native, was riding a BMW motorcycle along Route 66, traveling south from Minnesota, where he lives now after retiring from the military, and picking up the Mother Road at El Reno, Oklahoma. So far, he had cruised 900 miles, and wasn't exactly sure where he would end up.
"My dad was career Air Force. As a kid, I have been up and down 66, when I was 10-12 years old. The Air Force has a lot of bases up and down this route. I'm fond of it.
"Usually, I'm balls-to-the-wall up and down I-40. This time, I don't care how far I go every day, I'm just having a good time."
Indeed. At some points, Route 66 runs alongside the Interstate, where cars and trucks and 18-wheelers are hurriedly headed to whatever destination, but the old route can really take you back to a simpler time. A better time?
After several days of good ol' mom, baseball and apple pie Middle America wholesomeness, Route 66 revealed another side of life today as it cut through a dilapidated section of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Instead of good ol' guys and gals steering riding lawn mowers around lush green lawns and smiling kids riding bicycles down the street, there were filthy, disheveled men holding cardboard signs on street corners, a plus-size young woman in a too-tight mini-skirt and high heels wearing too much makeup and smoking a cigarette standing near the roadway out in front of a rundown motel. Lots of unsmiling faces on tired-looking people waiting at bus stops.
Kinda sad ...
I spent most of the day trying to outrun Tropical Storm Bill, with reports of heavy rain and flooding headed toward southeastern Oklahoma and beyond. It rained off and on, but mostly light showers, as I motored from Vinita, near the Kansas border across the state to El Reno, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City. Then, I started to run out of gas -- me, not the car -- so I decided to stop as soon as I saw a barbecue place and a motel. I found both in El Reno, but the motel across from the barbecue place did not have WiFi, so I had my barbecue sandwich, but no room for the night.
Not to worry, though, just a little farther down 66 was a nice, clean but cheap motel that does have the modern convenience of Internet access, so here I am.
Tomorrow, I'll slice through the Texas Panhandle and maybe even make it into New Mexico. Hopefully, I'll have a little more get-up and go, and I'll nail down a few good interviews to let y'all get to know some more of the folks who live along Route 66.
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