I have had several recent reminders of how powerful a piece of pavement can be. Or even just the memory of long-ago-replaced pavement.
The cool kids call it “The Mother Road.” Those of us jaded by living along it call it decidedly uncool things like Central Avenue or I-40. For most of us the magic is gone and it is simply a way to get somewhere.
But to the 40 police officers and their significant others I met by chance in Santa Rosa the other day, Route 66 is America.
They came, get this, from Australia just to ride the route. They flew into Chicago and rented a slew of Harleys. They are only traveling 250-300 miles each day because they want to stop and experience more than sore butts. They want to touch America and think riding big bikes across the country together is the best way. I suggested mules and Conestoga wagons as another option, but they just looked at me briefly and then made some quiet comments, in Australian of course, to each other about how they should perhaps move away from me in the parking lot.
When they reach L.A., the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is going to escort their Harley parade actually onto Santa Monica Pier.
They ARE the cool kids.
Later that same day in Tucumcari, I spent time talking to people staying at the Blue Swallow, a classic Route 66 “motor hotel.” And I found more travelers following the road that no longer exists. That included two couples who came from Milan and rented an SUV to make the long drive.
In St. Louis, someone broke into their rental and stole everything. They lost money, clothing, iPads…everything that wasn’t with them as they went to see the Arch on the banks of the Mississippi. And they were stuck until they could get new credit cards and a replacement rental vehicle.
I told them I was sorry, and “Welcome to America.” But they weren’t upset. They said they were having a great time, and wanted to know what they should see as they wound their way across New Mexico.
It’s just a street to us.
But people are traveling from across the globe to follow its path. There could be some profound and mystical draw that we overlook. Something about transporting bodies across the state, but transporting minds back in time. Or it could just be that people have vacation time to burn, and driving across New Mexico is a great way to burn it.
In any case, I’ve got to go. Got to look into starting a wagon train business.