There’s something poetic about searching for a portion of a lost highway that you’ve read about from authors like Steinbeck. However, finding the space almost as an afterthought is both thrilling while equally somber; On one hand you have found something that has been assigned significance by others. On the other, you ultimately know that you are not seeing the marvel that has been bolstered in your mind by their accounts. What you stumble upon is a shell of something that once was. As much as one might try to imagine what a different period of time might have looked like for an area, you understand immensely the reality of what has held on and the struggles faced by trying to remain relevant.
Route 66 was established in 1926, an original feature of the U.S. Highway System. The route, stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. While officially removed from that same system in 1985, the area that stretched throughout the Midwest was a preferred method of travel. Further popularized by tracks such as this week’s spin “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” as performed by Perry Como (featured), Nat King Cole or even Chuck Berry, the highway was as much trade route as it was a public utility.
Every few years, I’ll see a story about traveling the country for cheap by train. Amtrak has a line that passes from Chicago to LA, much like Route 66 once did, and I have seriously thought about making time in my schedule to even hop on halfway, ending the trip in San Antonio from Chicago and then hopping a ride back to Houston. Travel by rail seems exciting, but I also know that the reality of being a passenger may not be the highlight I expect. There is something about being behind the wheel of a car that I’ve found freeing, albeit a great responsibility too. Whenever I see the rail stories, the Amtrak line being named “The Texas Eagle” for those making plans of their own, I look into the time and even measure what it would cost in car rental and gas to give it a run of my own.
I am fortunate to through my 9-5 to receive a decent discount on car rentals when I need them. It’s the one area of my life that I feel confident dropping a name when making a reservation. In fact, I had an area manager of a specific rental company glad-hand me (as well as all my my coworkers) a card or two. Ever since, if I have needed a rental while on vacation, he or his wonderful team are the first call I make. There is a company access code to be used, but I have found that after the first few times with a thank you postcard from my destination, it feels more like family when I send over a quick check in. In fact, once a few years back while in San Francisco, I was supplied a Convertible Mustang with less than 200 miles on the odometer to cruise the coast with for the same price as the rental I paid for (a nice car with a moonroof). Look, it may not mean the world to you, but I consider that one of the better days of the last decade. I felt like it meant something, maybe that there was a sign or that I was where I needed to be in that moment. It is a story I can reasonably share with my friends and family for years to come.
And so, here we are again, at another weekly juncture, both remembering what once was, and knowing what it takes to stay relevant and hang in there. I don’t know how poetic it is but I know that I am not planning on going anywhere anytime soon, except for travels with you.
So let’s just get our kicks on Route 66.