All the children of the Mother Road.
© “The Mother Road”, Rhody and Welch
Of all the lyrics to all the songs which celebrate our beloved Route 66, the above phrase speaks to me the loudest because it reminds me of the generations of humanity, from all eras and walks of life, who have traveled the legendary highway. Whatever their purpose, it was the only one that mattered to them. For the most part, were just traveling to get somewhere, and they certainly had no idea that their travels would be the very stuff of history. The “romance” of the road was surely lost on the World War II soldiers who used Route 66 as a way to get to a troop ship which would take them into battle. The Dust Bowl migrants didn’t have time to think about the historical significance of their plight. The families of the '50s who used the Mother Road to open up their horizons and explore America may have appreciated the new and amazing sights along its length, but surely didn’t realized their good fortune in being able to travel it during it’s heyday. Instead, all of these people saw Route 66 for what it was -- and is -- a user-friendly, convenient, accommodating part of our American landscape.
Without question, through the years old 66 has been a friend to many. But wait! That song doesn’t mention US! And who are we? We are the new generation of Mother Roaders, and we, too, come in all shapes and colors and motivations. We are good, but we are also bad. We come to preserve, but we also come to exploit. We come to document, but we also come to change. Sometimes we don’t do the bad things intentionally, and yet they happen. By virtue of the fact that we are all travelers there, we are changing things, so we must take the utmost care to make sure those changes are good ones. If you are reading this, then chances are you are one of those who are changing things for the better. You are driving gently. You are disturbing nothing. You are patronizing the old, privately-owned businesses and eschewing those corporate entities that are hell-bent on luring travelers away from the historical alignments and onto the interstates. You are contributing to Route 66 preservation with your hands and your wallets. You are a member of one, or many, Route 66 associations. In summary, you care. And it is you to whom I dedicate my website.
There’s a stretch of Route 66 that I particularly love. It’s in Illinois, between Glenarm and Litchfield, and it’s long and straight and for the most part runs right beside the interstate like a service road. Driving on it is almost a right brain/left brain sort of thing. When driving south, glancing to the left makes me feel like I’m driving on Interstate 55 itself. Route 66 is so smooth and straight that I might find myself going at near-interstate speeds. But when I look to the right I feel my foot ease off the accelerator. Fields of crops......silos.....clapboard farmhouses.....the famous “Start the day with PORK” mural on the side of a low farm building (and the dogs who live there who run out and snap at my tires)..... the Our Lady of the Highways roadside shrine overseeing us all. It seems as far from the rat race as one can get, and yet the rat race exists just a few yards to the left on the high-speed four-lane. It is on this stretch where I like to breathe deeply, feel my blood pressure ease off, and thank the gods of the road for what remains of U.S. 66.
There are other very special places along the Mother Road, and I know everyone reading this has his or her own favorites. I hope you will indulge me, and recall some memories of your own, as I present some photos from past explorations. These are my current favorites, but they will change periodically as we take more Route 66 trips. The old motels are my first love, and I enjoy making the comparisons between the new and the old, the old being their images on my vintage Route 66 postcards. I hope you enjoy these.
Old Route 66 just outside Towanda, IL... in a rainstorm.
Sunset Motel, Villa Ridge, MO. -- Not a survivor. Still standing but abandoned.
Rest Haven Motel, Springfield, MO -- Open and thriving.
The great sign at the Thunderbird Motel, just off Route 66 in Joplin, MO. Motel demolished in 2000, the sign survives but is in a private collection.
Route 66 Appliance Shop, between Joplin MO and Galena KS.
Route 66 in Kansas.... well marked.
The old Route 66 was only 8 ft. wide on a stretch outside Afton, OK.
Another one that didn't make it... the Cotton Boll Motel, Canute, OK. Still standing but no longer a motel.
The famous Cadillac Ranch, just outside of Amarillo, TX
Longhorn Cafe, Vega TX -- New owner, great breakfasts, and infused with the spirit and atmosphere of the old Route 66
Abandoned Gas Station -- Glenrio, New Mexico
El Vado Court, Albuquerque, NM -- Well preserved, open continuously since 1936 until recently. A definite survivor, with current attempts at preservation.
Bob Waldmire in front of The Old Route 66 Visitors Center, which he founded in Hackberry, AZ. He has moved on now, but others are running this interesting piece of Route 66 lore as the Hackberry General Store.
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