A Personal Epiphany on Route 66

As I sat in an alcohol-induced haze at the bar in the Mineshaft Tavern in Madrid NM, I realized that I had taken my own personal journey on the “highway of dreams” 44 years ago. P1080241

Most of that journey — from Allentown PA to Venice, CA — was on Interstate I-40, not Route 66 (though the routes often overlapped), and I wasn’t fleeing the Dust Bowl. But I was fleeing my own personal “depression” brought on by losing my job, girl friend, and the publishing contract for my first book, all in the space of just a few months.

But it was in that tavern, the oldest in New Mexico, as well as in the nearby city of Santa Fe, where my journey paused for two months as I explored the rugged wilderness of the Great American Southwest, that my luck began to change. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say that I understand at a deep, personal level what Route 66 meant for the millions of seekers and dreamers making their way west on the narrow, sometimes twisty, dusty road.

From Oklahoma City, where I left off in my previous blog post, to Madrid, we passed through the rest of Oklahoma and Texas, where we saw even more motels, filling stations, car museums, cafes and diners as well as the world famous Cadillac Ranch, the idiosyncratic art project of Texas millionaire Stanley Bass 3 (not III).

IMG_0585 P1070915 P1070901 P1070899 P1070893 P1070894 P1070882 IMG_0601 IMG_0600I also had a surprisingly good steak at the kitschy Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo where I saw (not ate) the largest steak I have ever seen sitting in front of a patron at another table who didn’t mind my taking a photo of his dinner (and breakfast the next morning, plus lunch, dinner, etc.).

IMG_0580IMG_0579 Our dessert was pretty huge as well.

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Along the way, we ran into a motorcycle club from Hong Kong, one of two foreign motorcycle clubs (the other was German) making their thunderous way from along the Mother Road.

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After Texas we headed to New Mexico where we stopped in Santa Fe,

P1070960 P1070946 P1070940and the epiphany-inducing bar in Madrid where I spent a couple of afternoons in the summer of 1975 after helping a friend fix up a dilapidated miner’s shack in what was then a ghost town and is now a thriving tourist attraction.

P1070967From there we crossed the Continental Divide

P1070969and headed to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest NPs in Arizona,

P1080015 P1080011P1080028 P1080021and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

P1080082 P1080078P1080059P1080047Next was a stop in Seligman, AZ to visit 95 year old Angel Delgadillo, a humble barber who led the effort to revive Route 66 and turn the route and Seligman into a thriving tourist destination.

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I did find it curious that although the town was named after a 19th Century Jewish financier from NY who helped finance the railroad lines in the area, the pronunciation bore little resemblance to the way in which the name is pronounced in NY (or Philly, Baltimore or any of the East Coast cities with significant Jewish populations). Angel himself described Seligman as “a German from Bavaria.” Go figure…..  

From there it was on to Oatman, AZ a former mining town, now tourist stop know for its burros and Trumpian memorabilia. The burros are descendants of the animals abandoned when the mines were shut down. Not sure what to say about the Trumpian memorabilia.

P1080158 P1080154 P1080150 P1080144Finally, we hit the home stretch and entered California, stopping at the historic but spooky Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy in the heart of the Mojave, which looked more like an art installation than a motel and cafe.

P1080160 P1080162We spent our last night in beautiful downtown Barstow.
P1080172In one of the biggest surprises of the trip, just when I figured it was winding down with little else to see, we stopped at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Victorville,

P1080198 P1080193 P1080185 P1080181 P1080180and then had our best lunch of the trip at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe,

P1080212P1080207P1080211That’s my lunch at the bottom left of the photo, an omelet with everything in it that Emma Jean offers. I ate about half. BTW, this place was featured in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

From there it was on to the end of the route and the trip at Santa Monica Pier, just two miles up the beach from my home in Venice.

P1080237 P1080234 P1080233P1080226P1080241I really enjoyed the trip, but I’m glad to be home. For the foreseeable future, it will be nothing but sushi, salads and the gym until I lose the five plus pounds I gained on the trip. Well, maybe I’ll have one hamburger on July 4. Or two…..

(Note — Don was hosted on this trip by Two Lane America)

2 thoughts on “A Personal Epiphany on Route 66

    • Thanks, Mary. I wouldn’t call it ordinary, however. What I experienced was anything but ordinary, at least within the context of my world. I think “mainstream” is a better descriptor. And I think it would benefit everyone if we all experienced a world significantly different from our own.

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