Author and historian Michael Wallis once quipped that
Route 66 was a linear community. While that is an apt descriptor it falls short of presenting an accurate portrait of what this community has become in the era of renaissance. It is America’s longest small town. It is an international community where people work towards common goals such as preservation, promotion, the provision of travel planning assistance, and even small business support. It is nothing short of amazing.
Attend any Route 66 festival be it in Joliet, Illinois, Ofterdingen Germany, or the second European Route 66 Festival next August in Zlin, Czech Republic and you will immediately sense the passion, the excitement and enthusiasm, and the camaraderie that transcends barriers of language or culture which underlies the Route 66 renaissance. Route 66 is not only America’s longest small town, it is also one of the most colorful and most dynamic.
Exemplifying the sense of community and the generosity that is the essence of Route 66 in the 21st century, is the “Disrupt” initiative developed by MyMarketing Designs that is striving to provide every business with a modern website, regardless of available budget for promotion or marketing. Another example would be the multifaceted promotional network developed by author Jim Hinckley through a crowdfunding initiative.
Shortly before the Miles of Possibility Conference in Joliet, Illinois, a request was made for the donation of items that could be raffled to attendees. Louie Keene of Uranus, Missouri responded. So did John McEnulty of Grand Canyon Caverns, Steve LeSueur of Promote Kingman, the Route 66 Cruizers, and business owners all along the Route 66 corridor. This was another example of what makes the Route 66 community unique.
Some years ago the theme song for a popular television program had a refrain about going some place where everyone knows your name. That is also Route 66. Travel the road once, and you have friends that will greet you by name on the next trip, friends that will meet you along the way and share a meal, friends that will help you plan that adventure. You don’t even have to travel the road to tap into this network of friends. Simply ask questions about planning a Route 66 trip on a Facebook Route 66 group and see how many people, from throughout the world, respond.
The highways renaissance, the infectious excitement about a Route 66 odyssey, and the sense of community has as its foundation inspirational people, generous people, caring people, dreamers, and visionaries. Stop by the Ariston Cafe, enjoy the shepherds pie and cherry cheesecake, and strike up a conversation with Nick Adam, son of the founder who opened the restaurant in 1924. Spend an evening at the Motel Safari (say hello to Larry), Roadrunner Lodge, or Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari. Take your EZ 66 Guide to Jerry McClanahan’s Gallery in Oklahoma for a signature. Take a break at Red Oak II and visit with artist Lowell Davis.
Route 66 is more than a mere highway. It is America’s longest small town, an almost magical place where the best of the 1950’s has been distilled and refined. It is smiling faces, a visit on the front porch as the sun sinks in the west, friends and friends yet made. It is a barbecue, an invitation, and a shared dinner. It is the ultimate road trip.