Route 66 in the News

Making Memories on Route 66

2011-07-08 14:39:21

SPRINGFIELD, O. - Every vacation has one of those moments where the wheels almost come off.

No, the car’s fine. I’m referring to my marriage.

For us, that moment occurred this past holiday weekend in a roadside motel somewhere in the Ozarks. (Why, yes. You’re absolutely right. Nothing good can come from a roadside motel somewhere in the Ozarks.)

“What’s your problem with this place?” I asked my grumbling wife as the room’s window air-conditioner sputtered over the din of the 15-inch TV.

“Well, the bed is wet from other people’s sweat,” my wife shot back. “There’s a blood stain on our son’s mattress.

“So the fact that you’re fine with it tells me you’re either overmedicated or you never really had OCD to begin with.”

For that one night, I’ll admit, my desire to have an authentic Route 66 experience actually outweighed my usual fears of germs, various zoological diseases, home invasions and coerced, black-market organ harvesting.

I fully realize I potentially put my family at risk to all those things that night — but, man, this place had an amazingly sweet neon sign out front in perfect working condition.

“Memories are forever,” I told myself as we pulled in off the road. “Bed bugs can be treated.”

The great thing about living in Springfield, I’ve always thought, is that it’s so easy to leave.

Our proximity to things is one of the reasons I love it here.

In fact, that should be Springfield’s official motto — “We probably don’t have it ... but you’re close enough to a place that does!”

Right before the birth of our son in 2008, my wife and I had driven Route 66 from its starting point in Chicago — an easy, five-hour drive from here — through Illinois down to St. Louis.

We’ve always been obsessed with kitschy and retro Americana. We’ve always loved cruising around aimlessly.

The trip didn’t disappoint.

We posed for pictures next to the world’s largest ketchup bottle and the world’s largest covered wagon (on which sits a massive Abe Lincoln), ate burgers at 10 in the morning at a joint with a gigantic fiberglass spaceman out front and meandered our way through small towns that were left for dead when the interstate system eventually bypassed them.

We were hooked.

In the time it takes most people to get to Gatlinburg, you can get your kicks (sorry, I had to say it) on the most famous stretch of road in the world.

Encouraged by falling gas prices right before this past holiday weekend — “Whoa! Gas is all the way down to $3.30! Let’s go!” — we set off after work for our new starting point of St. Louis, a six-hour drive from here.

Funny enough, back before he wrote “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” for Nat King Cole in 1946, Bobby Troup’s wife originally suggested he write a song about U.S. 40.

Just think.

Instead of Amarillo and Flagstaff, Springfield and Vandalia might have been immortalized in song.

The tricky thing about driving Route 66 these days is that, despite its international fame, it doesn’t technically exist anymore.

The government officially decommissioned U.S. 66 in 1985, leaving individual state preservation associations to map what’s left of the original route — now renamed by the various states — with historical markers.

It’s easy to get lost, as we did more than once on our way through Missouri, Kansas and into part of Oklahoma.

Traffic on the two-lane road was wonderfully nonexistent — except for the armadillo that darted out in front of the car.

But getting to see the world’s largest rocking chair?

Letting our son climb on the rusted-out tow truck in Galena, Kan., that inspired the Pixar animators to create Mater for the “Cars” movies?

It almost made up for the blood-stained mattresses in the Ozarks.

~Andrew McGinn, Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun


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