Get Your Kicks...

Route 66. The Mother Road.


Everywhere I drive in Oklahoma, I see these annoying brown signs directing interstate traffic to "Historic Route 66". I figured that in leaving the state for a few days, I wouldn't have to see these signs for a short while.

Problem is, I went to New Mexico this weekend. Apparently that state worships that stretch of asphalt just as much as Oklahoma does.

But I ask why. What is so wonderful about a 3,000-mile stretch of two-lane undermaintained highway?

Nothing new has sprung up on this road since 1963, and it seems like the establishments still in operation along the road haven't seen any renovation since then, either.

By a stoke of sheer luck, I ended up on this road for lunch today. The options available in sunny Santa Rosa were a Mickey D's (obviously), a Kentucky Fried Long John's, and an ex'tra greasy-spoon called the Route 66 diner. Advertised on the joint's front awning were "Steak" and "Mexican Food". I had Mexican Food.

The place was riddled with Route 66-ness. Old post cards, Advertisements from old Chrysler and Chevy, even a bar replete with candy-apple-red barstools with "Route 66 Diner" embroidered on them. Real kitschy.

The facilities were atrocious. I expected a "Use At Your Own Risk" sign on the men's room door. What really took me off guard was the piped-in 50's music was provided by commercial-free Sirius Satellite radio. But that's probably only because they couldn't afford a jukebox, and there wasn't an oldies station within broadcast range of the place.

What really drove home to me how useless this road is was the fact that we were able to jaywalk to the other side of a 5-lane highway at a casual stroll, and without the help of a traffic-control device. They don't often rip up a road to make it narrower, but I think in the case of this one, it'd be a good idea.

Once, it was an icon of westward expansion. A neon trail from Chicago to California. Who cares that it would take about 10 days to make the trip, not to mention 10 times the fuel than on the interstate (the way the nation was intended to be traveled)?

I'm sure the road was fine when vehicles weren't designed to exceed 55 mph, but now that we're legally confined to 75, there is no reason to use this road, nor is there any reason to keep on about how wonderful that road was in the glory days.

Can we move on now? The towns this city goes through all have a major interstate paralleling the road, actually increasing the traffic these towns accommodate compared to what the Route channeled in. I believe the littering of run-down motels, restaurants, and bars is doing nothing but bringing down the local economies.

It was okay to "get your kicks" on the road before, but I think people don't really get "kicks" anymore. People generally just want to sit at home and watch something on cable.

Somebody ought to write a song about that.

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