If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
~ Nat King Cole; Lyrics by Bobby Troup
As we approached hour 12 in the minivan, my daughter and I debated whether we should continue another 90 minutes to Amarillo or stop for the night along historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM. Stopping in Amarillo would make for shorter day tomorrow; stopping in Tucumcari would allow us an earlier dinner and a chance for me to show my 17-year old daughter a bit of Americana.
Flying eastbound down Interstate 40 at a cruise-controlled 78 miles per hour, I began to regale my 17-year old daughter with memories from my childhood travels. In the days before the Interstate system crisscrossed the country, the American road trip was an event in and of itself. Towns like Tucumcari thrived on the tourists passing through, and many of those towns developed strips of activity – a main road lit up at night with the neon signs of so many motels and restaurants, each trying to woo the weary traveler with a comfortable bed, a refreshing swimming pool, and the classic restaurant/lounge.
As we approached Tucumcari, we saw a sign that directed us to take the first of 5 exits to follow historical Route 66 through town. My daughter and I agreed that we would select a place to stay based on curb appeal, attached restaurant, and general Americana coolness. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that an era has passed.
“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”
~ Clark W. Griswold
I should have known. Travel has changed. When I was young, my parents took us kids on a vacation road trip every summer. Pulling up to the night’s motel was a daily highlight on the earlier trips. It was fun to check out the room, and we couldn’t wait to change into our swimsuits and jump into the motel pool. Today, they’re all the same. Hampton, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn – name a chain. On the plus side, they are generally consistent and reliable. On the down side, there is nothing unique to see here.
After dinner tonight I took a drive through Tucumcari and included a few of my pictures in this blog. Times change, and my travel habits have changed with it. Perhaps that’s why I was so disappointed that our eagerly anticipated trip to Americana didn’t quite pan out. At least I have the memories; sadly, my kids will never know that wonderful era in American road tripping.