Looking for pearls.
02 Sep 1997 08:01:54 -0700
Park Campground; Springfield, Illinois :: 02 SEP 97
One difficulty with RV travel is finding a place to setup in
urban areas. I ended up in Tinley Park, a small ways outside Chicago.
Pulling a trailer through a city, finding parking in one, those present
other problems. So I'd left the trailer in Tinley Park for the day driving
the truck into Chicago to pick John up from the Hostel. After satisfying
ourselves with a late breakfast at a guide-recommended diner on Jackson
Street, John and I climbed into the truck and headed west.
Before reaching Joliet, there isn't much about 66 to admire.
Cicero, and the town following it, Berwyn, are crumbling and the bright,
new banners lining the Ogden Street light standards seem unreasonably
hopeful. Somehow, they proclaim, the commercial potential of Route 66
tourism will revitalize the area.
Get your bucks on Route 66
Commerce on the Mother Road
We are now into our third day and we've both been noticing the
inevitable commercialisation of Route 66. Businesses which never existed
before the last stretch of highway was decommissioned now flog themselves
with the familiar ROUTE 66 highway symbol. The state marks the highway's
path through the country side with "Historic Route 66" signs pointing
the way. Although there are multiple alignments of the highway, the signs
pick just one, leaving the impression that no others existed. I'm sure
this is not what Tom Snyder had in mind when he founded The Route 66 Association,
an organisation which steadfastly works to revitalize the old highway.
Short of having the President of the United States declaring 2,500 miles
of highway a National Monument, appealing to the commercial and tourism
benefits seems the surest way of keeping the road bed driveable and the
roadside attractions operating.
Neither of us is interested in that type of tourist journey.
Sure, we're photo-oping all the roadside
attractions; three guide-books and a ROUTE 66 map help us find the
various alignments of the highway. We eat in diners and restaurants recommended
by either the guides or, preferably, the locals. But what we're seeking
is a sense of how the folks lived and live, what life was and is like
on the highway.
Yesterday, after photographing an old, boarded up train station
in Chenoa, John struck up a conversation with Bobby, a 13 year-old boy
who was buying cans of Pepsi at a vending machine. "I'm from California."
How did you get here? "My parents wanted to move away from the city, live
in a small town." What do you think of Chenoa? "There's nothing here."
Bobby rides BMX, bicycle moto-cross. Apparently he rides well,
taking second place in a recent state-wide event. The California boy whipping
the poor rural kids? His mother owns two businesses in Chenoa, she waitresses
and mows the lawn for the town. His dad's a brick-layer/contractor who
also works a second job. So much for the romantic ideal of slow-paced
Several times now, locals have referred to "old Route 66" when
giving directions, even though officially the highway is posted as SR
53, or some other number and even though the oldest alignment runs right
by where we're currently standing. I'm wondering if this is a hangover,
the result of refusing to acknowledge the new number applied by the state's
highways department to the decommissioned 66, or whether the move to restore
the highway has restored the name.
And so we drive down Route 66, which often closely parallels
the interstates that replaced it. Occasionally, the interstate runs over
old 66 and we are forced to enter the four-lane rush of cars and semis.
We're happy to get back on the old two lane highway which we have almost
entirely to ourselves. We watch the traffic overtaking us on the interstate
and know that the feel of it, of traveling, of driving-of life-changes
perceptibly and qualitatively whenever we signal for the onramp.
I'm not looking for the pearl, I'm looking for pearls
and you have to know where to look for them.
~~~ Responses Sought ~~~
I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that's practically
all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and
it was delicious of course.