Shortly before Maurice turned 66 he said, ” You know what I would like to do to celebrate my birthday? ”
I had no idea. He came up with the idea of driving along Route 66. For some reason many French people seem fascinated with that highway. When I mentioned Maurice’s idea to a couple of Americans they looked puzzled and said, ” Why? ” I’m sure the song saying to get your kicks on Route 66 as well as the old television show has a lot to do with it. It is really a slice of Americana, a memory of the 50’s and 60’s in smal town America. Growing up in the Southwest I had been on it a couple of times and didn’t have any particularly warm feelings about it. I remembered long trips on narrow roads stretching out straight ahead without a curve for miles while acre after acre of brown,barren desert could be seen from the back seat of the car. We were going to the States for the Thanksgiving holidays anyway so we thought, “Why not include a drive along some of Route 66 while we were in Arizona? ”
So, when we were in Scottsdale, Arizona to visit my parents we decided to drive up to Kingman and then head east finding Route 66 when we could because, as it turns out, not all of it is remains but parts are now listed as historic and you can still find old signs and now many shops selling Tshirts and mugs with the famous logo. In fact, it once went all of the way from Santa Monica, California to Chicago and opened up many areas of America that were little visited before and also brought a lot of visitors to little towns along the way. The highway itself followed a railroad track for most of the way and we saw train after train loaded with long boxes that would be put on semi trucks once they reached their destinations. I had forgotten how many trains America has.
When we got to Kingman we headed east and soon found a little northern loop of Route 66 which becomes a two lane highway without the 75 mile an hour speed limit of the nearby freeway. There was a lot less traffic and it was sort of fun to tool along like we did in the past. We had a fabulous hangburger at a little place called Mr. Dz’s which was all fitted out with a fountain with round twisting stools, a juke box playing hits from the 50’s and 60’s, and photos of Elvis and Marlyn Monroe.
The road took us to a little stop on the road called Hackberry with an old gas station in front of a store, a red corvette parked in a space saying: corvette parking only and it was filled with memorabilia of Route 66 where we could buy replicas of the old highway sign, Tshirts, mugs and more. I also bought a bottle of Route 66 Root Beer. What a rush of memories came with my first sip of that drink-long summer days, frosty mugs of root beer floats, lying on the lawn looking at the stars, the sound of a slamming screen door. I was starting to get into this nostalgia thing. Outside were rusting cars and even a pair of donkies.
On we headed through Peach Springs eventually ending up in Williams. The highway goes right through the center of this town. I had gone to school in Prescott, Arizona, many many years ago and remembered coming here for football games or passing through it on the way to Flagstaff for skiing. Maurice wanted to stay in a hotel here overnight instead of going to the larger city of Flagstaff so we found one of those motels, the scene of many an American movie, and strolled down the street for dinner at a place which was also selling Route 66 mugs, Tshirts and much more. We bought a mug here. The next morning the traffic on Route 66 was temporarily blocked off as a huge pine tree was hauled up the street on a large truck. It was going to be placed in the middle of a small street and decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving.
Heading on to Flagstaff, there suddenly is no more Route 66 and you are required to get back on Highway 40 with its heavy trafic and high speed. We found a small portion here and there but then there were only parts of it in the main street of towns such as Winslow. As we were getting closer to New Mexico we decided to make a detour to explore the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert where the old highway 66 once went.
The new highway when built actually led to millions of tons of the petrified wood being removed when it was discovered by travelers. It was a fascinating place with large pieces of what looked like huge tree trunks lying on the ground but which had become stone through millions of years of immersion in water and then silt and volcanic ash being deposited on top. The land is layers of colors-some gray and while, some shades of pink and rust-and here and there lie groups of pieces of petrified logs. It was a fun and lovely detour.
To be continued….