Route 66 was commissioned in 1926 and fully paved by the late 1930s. It ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, creating connections between hundreds of small towns and providing a trucking route through the Southwest. While not the first long-distance highway, or the most traveled, Route 66 gained fame beyond almost any other road. Dubbed the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, Route 66 carried hundreds of thousands of Depression-era migrants from the Midwest who went to California hoping for jobs and a better life.
“How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him–he has known a fear beyond every other.”
– The Grapes of Wrath
“Like the pioneer days, when they outfitted at St. Louis for all points in the West and Southwest, so today people traveling by auto . find themselves coming to St. Louis over the various U.S. roads, and when arriving in St. Louis, by consulting their map, find U.S. 66 is the most direct road to the Pacific coast and likewise to all points in the great Southwest.
“I challenge anyone to show a road of equal length that traverses more scenery, more agricultural wealth, and more mineral wealth than does U.S. 66.”
In the 1930s, drought and falling crop prices drove thousands of rural midwestern families to leave their farms and follow Route 66 to California to find work. James F. and Flossie Haggard left Oklahoma in 1935 after a fire destroyed their barn and its contents. The Haggards and their children, Lillian and James Lowell, made their home near Bakersfield, and James found work with the Santa Fe Railway. Another son, Merle, was born in Bakersfield and began his singing career there. By the 1960s Merle Haggard was a country
– American on the Move
I am just an old country boy in a big town trying to get along. I have been eating pretty regular and the reason I have been is because I have stayed an old country boy.
– John Steinbeck
The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. A man can make a million and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who gave up that million he got. You can’t get money without taking it from somebody.
– John Steinbeck
NOTE: All photos are mine and mine alone. If you’d like to use one for nonprofit reasons, write and let me know. Chances are greatly in your favor. Otherwise, I shall have to kick your buttocks and I’d really rather not have to do that.
Thanks most kindly.
The road signs along Route 66 are wonderfully retro, aesthetically beautiful and, at times, profoundly sad. So much of the highway has fallen into complete disrepair; what's been replaced is now cracked pavement (when it exists at all) sprouting grass.
The signs that haven't been restored are the ones I love best, but if no one ever restores them one day they'll be gone. Catch-22.
route 66: the mother road herself
A bit of photography for you this sunny (here, at least), temperate day. I stood in the middle of the road to get this shot, in the heart of an almost completely abandoned Route 66 virtual ghost town. All the former businesses were derelict, windows broken, insides filled with debris. I'll be posting several other photos from this location throughout the week.
Have to cut this short this week. It's family birthday party day. (I know, yay.) My boys had their birthdays on July 30 and 31 (two years apart, not twins, which may actually be more remarkable) but we were on vacation then. Today's the first chance we've had to observe their joint birthdays. I still have loads to do; the house looks like Irene picked it up, tossed it around and threw it down again. We're nowhere near the coast, tucked away safely in metro Chicago, but you wouldn't know it by looking in our windows.
Hey, you aren't looking in our windows, are you? Because that's so not cool.
Still reading the Booker Longlist books, working on a couple reviews I'll have up on the blog and reading NetGalley eBooks on my iPhone.
I was reading Chris Bohjalian's The Night Strangers in bed last night. It has supernatural themes, which make me jumpy as a circus performer. When my husband let out a sudden SNORT in his sleep I swear I jumped a foot off the bed. My heart rate shot through the roof. It was not a fun time.
The Night Strangers
Crown, October 4, 2011
"In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts.
Over the course of last week I reviewed:
We stopped by Catoosa, OK for a look at The Blue Whale.
And had a look at one image from an abandoned gas station along Route 66.
Next week I'll talk about a great book for writers/bloggers, another Booker Longlist read and, if I have the time, a couple long overdue eBook reviews. And, of course, more photos from sites along Route 66 from our summer vacation.
Have a good week. Stay safe if you're out East
The Doctor: Rory, take Hitler and put him in that cupboard over there. Now. Do it.
Rory: Right. Putting Hitler in the cupboard. Cupboard. Hitler. Hitler. Cupboard.
– Doctor Who, Episode 8, "Let's Kill Hitler"
The "Blue Whale" of Catoosa, Oklahoma
The Blue Whale is one of those most famous of the famous Route 66 stops. It's a recreation area, a place families could stop and relax after a long morning on the road.
It was about an hour's drive from the hotel we'd stayed at the night before. We got there around 10:00 a.m. or so. It was already approaching the unbearable point of heat and humidity. The sun was just burning off that tiny bit of coolness in the breeze left over from the night, and you could feel the humidity in the air beginning to smolder.
I could picture what this place must have been like at its zenith. Bustling with kids who'd just been sitting on the edge of their seats, bouncing with anticipation, cooped up in the car as long as they could take.
When Father pulled into the parking lot he scolded them, "Whoa there, little ones! Father must park his huge gas guzzler first!"
*Twinkle!* Smiles light up their faces and their teeth, freshly scrubbed with Pepsodent, shine blindingly white.
There it was! The Blue Whale!
They could make like Jonah and go inside the whale's mouth!
Climb to the "top deck" and look out the portholes! Thar she blows!
"Mother! Take my picture take my picture take my picture!"
The slide! Into what I presume wasn't putrid, slimy water back then!
Mom could unpack her wicker picnic basket, throw the red-checkered tablecloth on the table while the kids ran around, waving their arms in the air like mental patients.
Out came the chicken dinner, cooked at home and brought along with them on the road. Good, wholesome food for a good, wholesome American family driving cross-country to Grandma's house, just because they love her that much. And want to make it into her will can't wait to see her!
"Aren't they just adorable? Let's have more!"
"I forgot to tell you. I had a vasectomy. I wasn't really on that "business trip" last month."
"Before you go into that water, little Jimmy and Susie, you need to eat! You can't go in for an hour afterward, either…"
"You heard me."
*Twinkle!* Smiles all 'round as Jimmy, Susie and Father pick a whale and sit on it.
How American! How bucolic, nostalgic and all that other stuff!
But really, when you take off those 1950s glasses, it's actually kinda CREEPY.
I AM A BIG WHALE AND I AM GOING TO EAT YOU EAT LOTS OF FOOD LITTLE JIMMY AND SUSIE 'CAUSE I'M HUNGRY TOO VERY HUNGRY…
Anyone needs me I'll be in the back of Father's Buick, hunkered down until the bloodshed's over.
abandoned gas station – route 66
Loads of cool photo opportunities along old Route 66, especially if you're into the rustic. Or rusty, maybe I should say.
Sad, though, seeing all these once thriving businesses gone to ruin. Once upon a time this was the most bustling road in America, the first trans-American highway. Generations of families knew this road, before President Eisenhower and the interstate system of highways. Just goes to show, for every feat of progress a little bit of culture dies.
This photo starts my series of old Route 66 pictures. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
I'm warning you; it's long (That's what she said.)
Good morning, my lovelies! Err… Afternoon, actually.
Route 66 Museum
Here's a photo from our 2011 summer vacation, for no other reason than I haven't posted a whole lot of pictures yet. Time is the culprit. Time is my nemesis. Also, the wasting of time I could be doing something useful, due to my addiction to Angry Birds and Zombie Farmer.
I am such an iPhone whore. There's no time of day or night I'm unwilling to answer its call. The other night Zombie Farmers beeped at 1:00 a.m. to tell me one of my crops was ready to harvest. Did I turn it off and ignore it? What do you think?
But I needed tomatoes!
Know what I'm thinking? When our family plan phone contract is up next summer I may not get another iPhone. I know! Crazy, right? But I don't like this feeling of being chained to my phone, Googling every little thing I wonder about, like: who was that one actor in that one film, the one with the barking dogs? Google it! Who wrote that book I've been wanting to buy? Amazon! Buy it!
This cannot continue. All this tempting technology is teaching me the evils inherent with constant instant gratification, encouraging my ADD via dangling temptations in my face. Do I really need this? Come to think of it, does anyone?
Know how many books I have on my iPhone Kindle app? I don't want to know, so I'm not going to check and tell you. But trust me, it's obscene. I download a lot of free first chapters, to the tune of maybe 50 or so to date. Yesterday I accidentally bought a book instead of downloading the free chapter. Oopsies. Nine dollars worth of oopsies. Plus, it wasn't even one I thought I would wind up buying.
This confession is my segue back into books, the intention of the Sunday Salon. Smooth, no?
I know. No.
We're already familiar with the fact I've been reading through as many books on the Booker Longlist as possible before the September 6 Shortlist announcement (because I am insane impatient and cannot just wait for the shortlist and read those books).
So far I've completed:
Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side
Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending
I'm roughly halfway through Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child and bored senseless (apologies to Emma Straub!)
I've started Patrick DeWitt's uproariously funny The Sisters Brothers, and next up plan to read Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie.
The thinking behind my choices was I needed to read the biggies (Barry, Barnes and Hollinghurst), regardless of what it took to get them, including spending the money to have them shipped here from Amazon.co.uk. Next, I'm reading the books available here in the colonies.
Once the Shortlist comes out I will compare my guess educated opinion re: which of the biggies should have, and did, make it through, as well as thoughts on which of the other, lesser known survived. At that point (bear with me; this is a highly complicated process) I will behold those books left unread from the Shortlist, determine how many I am able to lay hands on, read those, and declare my choice prior to the announcement of the winner.
Et voilà! Bob's your uncle!
So far, I say Barnes will make it through. That's all I'm willing to conjecture; there are miles to go before I sleep.
But the Booker contenders are not all I've been reading. For the classics group at the library I re-read Voltaire's Candide, discovering how irritatingly unfamiliar I am with the philosophies Voltaire was lampooning, determining I need to read a book about him and/or the enlightenment to offset my ignorance.
So, at Half Price Books (how I love thee!) I lucked upon:
A probing and careful biographer, Davidson recognizes that the transforming event of Voltaire's life came when he was banished from France. Losing his place in a country that idolized him as a poet and dramatist awakened Voltaire to political issues transcending national boundaries. In this chronicle of Voltaire's deep involvement in a series of post-exile campaigns to reverse barbaric court rulings, Davidson limns the great writer's remarkable transformation from a literary celebrity into an international champion of human rights. That metamorphosis generated scores of spirited letters initially appealing simply for the lives and liberty–or posthumous reputations–of specific individuals but finally demanding the radical reforms needed to free judicial proceedings from ecclesiastical tyranny. Davidson piquantly details Voltaire's real and unrelenting fight against the church hierarchy but also explodes the mythical image of Voltaire as an atheist and an egalitarian revolutionary. The brilliant writer of Candide knew all too well that this is far from "the best of all possible worlds"; this valuable study shows how resolutely he labored to make it a better one. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I also re-read portions of Kate Christensen's The Astral, in order to write my review for BookBrowse.com (which won't be up 'til next month). On audio I'm listening to DFW's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, wanting to cry hearing his voice, yet so glad it's been preserved.
Coming up, loads and loads of reviews I'm VERY behind in writing.
A work of zombie fiction for the R(eaders)A(dvisory)I(nterest)G(roup)
Zola's Germinal for the classics group at the library
Colson Whitehead's Zone One, for review
One ARC title I was excited to receive: Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon
Plus, NetGalley eBooks – loads of those.
As usual, there's more. Always more.
As always, have a lovely reading week. Please support your local library and indie booksellers!
Books mentioned in this post:
Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side
Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending
Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child
Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers
Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie
Ian Davidson's Voltaire in Exile
Kate Christensen's The Astral
DFWallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Colson Whitehead's Zone One
Jaimy Gordon's The Bogeywoman