Friday, September 23 2011 @ 09:08 pm PDT
Contributed by: Joe
There’s a particular kind of restlessness in Americans, and throughout our history that itch has lead us from the first East Coast settlements to what author Louis L’Amour called the far blue mountains of the Appalachians, ever westward, wagon trains of the mid-1800s departing from Kansas City giving way to the smoke-blowing locomotives of the late 1800s and early 1900s, replaced by what mass producer Henry Ford wrought, leading finally to the late 1920s and a thin ribbon of concrete stretching from Chicago to California. The West was open, Route 66 the conduit — like wagon trails and railroad tracks before it — of Americans’ unquenchable wanderlust.
The bug bit me early, and when I was 16 I left my rural Missouri home early one morning on a trip to see a friend in Nashville, Tennessee. As I was driving on Interstate 70 through St. Louis, the Beatles sang “Here Comes the Sun” as our star broke over the eastern horizon. The wonder of traveling — alone — hit me, and I sang along, happy to be on the road, happy to be driving, happy to be just, you know, going.
Twenty-six years and several lifetimes later, I left the interstate behind and stepped into the past as present, traveling Route 66 across Missouri as millions before me had done, two lanes bridging the gap from the late 1920s to today, Americana its lifeblood and nostalgia its currency, the first and last great American road. I left the interstate behind and began my east-to-west journey from St. Louis to Joplin, my long hibernating traveling Jones awakened and ready for adventure.
But first, you know, I had to actually find Route 66 in St. Louis’ user-unfriendly maze of one-way streets and road construction, and thank you Rand McNally.