Monday, October 20, 2008

Here It Is!

Jackrabbit, ArizonaThere have been several car clubs coming through Santa Fe lately, and some are here just to tour Route 66, the old "Mother Road" that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. It's hard to name a street that's had more influence on pop culture and the American imagination, or that attracts so many visitors from far-flung locales.

From 1926-1937, Route 66 went right through the City Different. According to this website, state-level politics caused the hasty re-routing that would leave Santa Fe out of future Route 66 songs, movies and memorabilia, not to mention the neon aesthetic. I wonder how different the city would be today if it had stayed on. El Camino Real meets The Mother Road? Now that's a crossroads that bluesmen could sing about.

American Route 66In 1999, I was fortunate to be part of the festivities for Route 66's 75th Anniversary. Since then, I've got the Mother Road fever. I haven't traveled the entire stretch of Route 66, pre or post 1937, but I make a point to go along on the old roadbeds or routes whenever possible. I've photographed the start and end points in both Chicago and LA. I've seen the wild donkeys in Oatman, Arizona, and abandoned service stations at sunrise in Amboy, California. I followed the signs to Jackrabbit, Arizona to gas up after a Vegas wedding. I stand on a corner of Winslow, Arizona every time I'm on my way to Flagstaff. Looking at a map of Route 66 today, I realize I picked up the road in St. Louis when I drove out West a decade ago, following in the tire-tracks of 70 years of travelers and adventurers.

US Route 66Thankfully, you don't have to travel that far to see the original "Main Street of America". Albuquerque's Historic Postcards Collection grew from the 75th Anniversary celebration, with fantastic postcards from Route 66's heyday. Hundreds of miles of the original route, including over a hundred miles of the original roadbeds, criss-cross the center of New Mexico, from Glenrio to Manuelito, and Los Lunas to Santa Fe.

So if the roads you usually travel have become familiar or boring, do as the man says, and get your kicks!

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