Eye of the Tiger

Two posts in a row? What craziness is this? I haven’t been able to manage that since leaving for this trip.

I”ve been traveling down Route 66 all day, which gave me a swing of emotions. Passing through small town after small town, I have to agree with Valerie when she described the route.

It is wonderful that people are reviving it. I’m so glad that it is getting the preservation and attention it deserves, but I can’t help but feel a sense of sorrow as we pass through the towns along the way. Elk City was great, Amarillo was amazing, and now that I’m in Tucumcari I could spend a week here. They all seem to be thriving pretty well.

But as well as a few select towns are doing, there are so many more that are struggling or have given up. Like Texola, Conway, Groom, and all the other small towns no one has ever heard of. As we passed through them, most were stripped down to their last motel and gas station.  Many, like Texola, were completely gone. Broken windows and dilapidated houses are all that remain of what I imagine used to be prospering towns.
And I have to think about all the other small towns along the small routes that haven’t gotten the attention that Rt 66 has. Like US 12, the Lincoln Highway. Just as important, but far less remembered.
Or State Route 5 in Alabama. It wasn’t extremely important, it didn’t go across the country or have songs written about it. But  it was a major connection from Birmingham to Mobile, before the construction of Interstate 65. Now, all the towns and people along it are either gone or skeletal remains of what they used to be.

I know that I can’t save all the small routes. And I’m not trying to harp on the interstate. God knows I take it to commute to work, or when I travel out of state. But being on these smaller roads, Route 66 among others, reminds me to take time and slow down. Buy locally, go to a small diner, meet strangers, smell the roses, and stop the car to look at a rainbow. It reminds me to get out of my car and look around. If I hadn’t, then I would have eaten a shitty meal at McDonalds today in 10 minutes, instead of visiting the Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas and talking for an hour to the owner Dennis. We traded stories, told him about our trip, and he took our photo together outside in front of the cafe sign.

While it’s bittersweet to look at this mother road because some towns have fallen through the cracks, it gives me hope when I see the towns that are slowly but surely fighting hard to stay alive. They are proof that no matter what life throws at you, you never have to take it lying down; or at all for that matter. Fight for what you believe in. Its always worth it.

-M

Taken in New Orleans with my SLR using 35mm Kodak T-Max 400 speed film

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About kodakkerouacs

Kodak Kerouacs is mostly about photography and travel, though notsomuch travel photography. KodakKerouacs is about living free and loud then telling everybody else about how awesome it is to be free and really, really loud. Written by two girls who love coffee, film, and the open road. View all posts by kodakkerouacs

10 responses to “Eye of the Tiger

  • Jim

    I read a newspaper story once about what it was like the day I-70 opened in western Indiana. People who operated businesses on parallel US 40 reported the traffic going away just like someone turned off the faucet. I loves me some US 40 — out here, it’s the old National Road, thank you Thomas Jefferson — but there’s decrepitude all along. So it’s not just 66; it’s all the old highways, thank you Dwight David Eisenhower. The way I choose to look at it is that it just reduces the traffic on the old roads for folks like you and I.

    And here in Indiana, the Lincoln Highway was named a State Historic Byway last year. So we haven’t forgotten.

    • kodakkerouacs

      Thats a good way to look at it. There really isn’t much traffic on the old highways, so not as many people to get stuck behind.
      I know I can’t stop change, nor would I want to. It’s the natural progression of life and its usually for the better. It’s just different to see in person what being bypassed has done to these towns.

      We’ll be on the Lincoln Highway in a few weeks! I’m glad its being recognized as a historic byway, it totally deserves it.

  • Shannon

    People are time-lacking these days. With only a week or two given for a family vacation, it is easier and sometimes cheaper to fly to a destination, hence missing all of the road trip stuff. Big families (like our six) prefer to drive (it is way cheaper), but we get the same allotment of time to also cram in 3-4 days driving time (hello, interstate highways) in order to still have family time at our final destination.

    Alas, the small towns along the state highways no longer get the tourism or the drive-throughs like the days of our grandparents. It is what it is. It’s a very immediate-gratification world today. The small towns must be able to sustain on some specific industry (to support the local population) or risk going bust. Ghost towns are certainly not new to this millenium.

    • kodakkerouacs

      I agree…we always took the interstate when my family went on vacations. I can’t deny the convenience and or efficiency of it. And I’m certainly not saying everyone should only take backroads when they travel. (Although it does make for quite an adventure!)

      Even after visiting these towns and people, I still haven’t come to a conclusion or solid mindset. Just some observations.

      Life changes; it must. It is not static nor does it slow down for anyone. Its a bittersweet truth. I wish there was a way for everyone to stay afloat and succeed but life has a funny way of making things balanced. It is nice to be reminded though, that patience is a virtue and something are worth the wait, or the extra hour out of the way.

      Ghost towns are not new, nor will they ever really go away. I can imagine in several hundred years, perhaps the town I live in will be a ghost town!

      Especially if there are flying cars 😉

      -M

  • Angie Z.

    I know nothing about ol’ Route 66, how sad. I know the song. I remember the reruns of the TV show. It must’ve been from the early 60s and it was just two guys driving around on Route 66. Boring. I obviously didn’t watch it enough to get it.

    My brother’s family lives in Amarillo, a pretty decent city. It’s sad to drive between Oklahoma and Amarillo due to all the towns folding up, as you mentioned. I grew up in a small town and it’s depressing to see them die at such an alarming rate. I complain but you couldn’t pay me to live in a small town again. Yet I want them to exist and be there all the same.

    • kodakkerouacs

      I know how you feel! I’m trying to sympathize with these towns, but I wouldn’t be able to live in one. And I know that things are supposed to change; life is not static. So as sad as this is, I feel like parts of it are unavoidable. 100, 200, 300 years from now, who knows what we will have built to replace the interstate?

      Maybe we’ll have flying cars 🙂

      But I do hope people learn from this resurge in Route 66 that while its great and super fast to take the interstate, maybe every once in awhile remember to get off and discover something new.

  • Shannon

    Certainly (though I can’t be sure since you don’t have kids) you’ve seen Disney’s “Cars.” It’s all about reviving Route 66 and living life a bit more slowly. Great message and entertaining to boot.

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