Route 66 in the News

Reflecting on the Mother Road

2011-08-15 20:10:32

VICTORVILLE, Calif. - Jim Conkle's first trip on Route 66 was in 1949 when his family moved from Virginia to March Air Force Base in Riverside County.

The family of six, packed in an un-air-conditioned car, drove at night to avoid the heat. They took turns trying to keep the father awake while he was driving.

“It wasn’t anything special,” said Conkle, who lives in Pinon Hills, recalling his first experience on the Mother Road. “It was just a road. It didn’t have any significance back then. It just moved one part of your life to another.”

They didn’t have to pump their own gas at the station — people came out and took care of the car, Conkle said. He doesn’t remember much about diners, referring to them as gas stops with a restaurant.

They didn’t see many cars on the two-lane road, except for local farmers driving at 35 to 40 mph. They could smell meals cooking as they passed homes.

“Nobody seemed to be in a hurry,” Conkle said.

Like for many others who traveled on Route 66 before the Interstate Highway System was built, the nostalgia struck Conkle later in life.

Since the first journey, he’s traveled the entire Mother Road or close to it more than 200 times, said Conkle, now 70 years old. He did it 20 times in 2004.

He founded the Route 66 Preservation Foundation and has sat on the board of the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville for the past 13 years. Some call him “Mr. Route 66.”

“He promotes the road and educates people about the road,” said Terry Kafides, who won Mrs. Route 66 and became a lifetime ambassador of the road. “Anywhere you travel on Route 66, he’s the heart and soul everyone knows.”

~Tomoya Shimura,


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