Local tells tales of historical Route 66
FLINT -- (07/05/11) -- A big part of America's automotive history is Route 66.
Known as the "Mother Road" and "America's Main Street," it covers 2,400 miles between Chicago and Santa Monica, California.
It made quite an impression on a child who grew up in Flint, who into adulthood, retraced Route 66 many times.
When you reach the end of the trail on Route 66, you'll find Dan Rice and his wife selling American-made T-shirts on the Santa Monica Pier. He wrote a book telling the story of how he got there.
Rice grew up in Flint in a GM family and recently visited his hometown. "The cars were built here, that made Route 66 famous. The cars were built in Detroit that made Route 66 famous. If it wasn't for Flint and Detroit, there would be no Route 66," he said.
Rice says he can easily relate to what happened when "America's Main Street" was replaced by the interstate. "Just like the towns on Route 66, my hometown of Flint, Michigan was going through a severe tumult. Flint was in serious danger of becoming a ghost town compared to the glory days I'd experienced there as a kid," Dan wrote in his book.
While Flint and Route 66 are prominent themes in his book, he really wrote it to share his very personal struggle to recover from a traumatic brain injury. He was hit at a Los Angeles intersection by a driver who ran a red light while talking on a cell phone.
"He came airborne, came through my windshield. His tire hit me in the head and scrambled my brains for about two years. And I was fortunate enough that I had friends who got me into rehab," he said.
Rehab, he says, gave him his life back.
Now he runs his Route 66 store on the Santa Monica pier.
The book is more about how he got there than the Mother Road itself, so it's not until you talk to him in person that you hear him describe some of the people he says give Route 66 its personality.
"Harley and Annabelle in Erick, Oklahoma. You wonder, what do I see in Oklahoma? They figure that you're looking to see rednecks so they decided to make themselves the Redneck Capital of the World," he said. "There's Fran Houser at the Midpoint Café. She's a real famous stop. She makes what's called ugly crust pies, which are world famous. The best dessert tray in the entire universe is at the Ariston café, a little town of 9,000 people, owned by Nick and Demi Adam. Gary Turner is a good friend of mine. He is the guy who owns the Sinclair station in southern Missouri. These are all the people who still fight to keep the spirit of America alive."
"The foreward in my book was actually written by Angel Delgadillo. He is the guy who saved Route 66. He is the guy who stood up to the government and said, 'you can't build an interstate without exits to the Mother Road. You're going to put our towns out of business,'" he said.
Angel Delgadillo says Seligman, Arizona was bypassed September 22, 1978 and the town died for 10 long years. Dan says the Arizona barber, whose prediction unfortunately came true, also came up with a revival plan.
"He says, if you call it the Historic Route 66, people are going to want to know, why is it historic? And they're going to get out and travel it to find out why it's special," Rice said.
Rice's travels along Route 66 have taken him many times to Winslow, Arizona and the corner made famous by the Eagles. "I've stood on the corner. I've sat on the corner. I've slept on the corner. I've done everything you can do on that corner. In that town also, there's La Posada, which was one of the old Harvey Houses, just a beautiful old railroad house that you can sleep in overnight, so there's lots of stuff to do in that town," he said.
Rice calls places like La Posada the "historic icons" along Route 66, places that have been there since the beginning. There are also new icons.
"The new icons are places that have come up relatively recently during this nostalgic boom. That would be places like Four Women On The Route in Kansas, which is actually the place where the inspiration for Mater from the movie Cars came from, their little gas station, this tow truck that was sitting out front. A place called Pops in Arcadia. Every type of soda pop you could ever remember in your life, if you can't get it anymore, you go there, you'll find it again," Rice said.
Rice puts his T-shirt business in the new icon category, and says he'll be looking for you at the end of the Mother Road.
"When you get to the end of Route 66 on the pier you can actually smell the sand and the sea air. You'll hear seagulls flying, you'll feel the warmth of the sun on your face. It's just absolutely an amazing place. It feels like you've achieved the American Dream," he said.
If you're interested in reading Rice's book, End of the Trail, it is available at amazon.com. If you're interested in driving historic Route 66, Dan recommends a book by Jerry McClanahan called The EZ66 Guide for Travelers, which gives you turn by turn directions.
books, travel, interviews, local, karen gatlin
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