Through Thom Tinted Lenses

February 7, 2010


Filed under: culture,entertainment,humor,society,travel,Uncategorized — Thom Reese @ 5:51 am

My daughter and I recently traveled by car from Chicago to our home in Las Vegas. As we traversed the modern, quite wide, and generally pothole-deficient I-40, we realized that there was a tiny unassuming road running perhaps thirty feet to our right. It followed us everywhere we went. It curved when we curved, it rolled over hills when we rolled over hills, it stopped and waited for us outside of each gas stop. At one point I thought it might be looking for a handout, but that seemed mildly ridiculous. This was a road. It eats tire treads, not burritos. And then I saw it, the street sign, and it all became clear to me:

Historic Route 66. (Pronounced “Root” 66. Don’t let anyone in-the-know ever hear you call it “Rowt” 66 for fear of a severe tongue lashing and, even worse, an all-night slideshow marathon of said expert’s wondrous travels.)

Say no more. I get it. This is the one they call “The Mother Road.” This is the avenue which stretches all the way from Chi-town to L.A. This is the lane that has inspired songs, television shows, and loads and loads of bad T-shirts and hokey coffee mugs. This was…

This was a small, slightly bumpy, two-lane road which runs alongside a perfectly good multi-lane highway. Why bother?

Because, it’s a piece of history, you might say. It’s a slice of Americana. Perhaps history buffs frequent the road. Maybe enthusiasts plot this course to relive the past, to connect with previous generations. With this in mind, I observed the sparse traffic on this tiny lane. Motorists did not drive vintage automobiles, or wear period clothing, nor did they – as near as I can tell – add so much as a “golly” or a “jeepers” to their twenty-first century vocabularies. Most were on cell phones. I saw two Harleys cruising along decked out with radios, helmet-mounted phones, and I’m pretty sure one of them had a Jacuzzi.

I then looked beyond the tourists for my historical connection. There had to be significant landmarks afoot, profound connections to a bygone era. And I was not disappointed. At one stop, I found a Taco Bell, a Hookah Lounge, and a payday loan outfit, all of which were, of course, popular during the first half of the twentieth century.

Now, I know the lore. I’ve heard travelers speak in wonder of their fantastic journeys down this mystical lane. With starry eyes and trembling lips, they utter such awe-inspiring claims as, “We drove Route 66 all the way from Albuquerque to Flagstaff.” Or, “We rode Route 66 and had a blow-out near Winslow.” Two things of note: 1) When speaking of Route 66 one must always affect a southern drawl, and 2) it’s just a road. Travelers must strain and sputter, concentrate and exaggerate in a profound effort to share anything of interest.

So, if not nostalgia, and if not adventure, what is the true purpose of Route 66’s continued existence?


Yes, moccasins, made by real-life Taiwanese, several of whom have actually seen old cowboy and Indian movies. Yep, capitalism is alive and well on Route 66. Souvenir shops litter the lane. One can purchase any number of T-shirts, door-matts, and even belt buckles roughly the size of Frisbees, all emblazoned with the historic Route 66 logo. In these magical establishments, it’s possible to simultaneously wear quasi-authentic hand-sold Indian jewelry, sip a diet energy drink, and groove to a late-nineties techno remix of Smoke on the Water. But most importantly, one can buy moccasins, lots and lots of moccasins, because obviously, that’s what the old-timers wore back when they drove Route 66.


Thom Reese is a Las Vegas based writer whose weekly radio show, 21st Century Audio Theatre, previously aired on the 50,000 watt KDWN. Fourteen of Thom’s audio dramas will be released by Speaking Volumes Quality Audio Books throughout 2010. Thom studied comedy writing at The Second City and works in market research for CBS Broadcasting.

Copyright 2010 Thom Reese All Rights Reserved.

“Through Thom Tinted Lenses” is posted weekly. If you enjoy these blogs, please subscribe using the button to the right and share the link with your friends. Comments are welcome.


  1. As a child I probably traveled this road and never knew it would some day be famous. My daddy was a pipeliner and we moved all the time. So traveling by car was a weekly thing. Yes, I think it’s great that they preserved the road. And okay, so they sell a few things along the way.
    I’m all for it. Hey, if you are suckered into traveling a road that’s been there a while, then it’s your destiny to stop and buy something.

    There are so many things I took for granted as a child, no realizing the importance of what I was missing. To me though, back then, staring out the back of a 56 Chevy or a 60 Buick was not fun. I mean I laerned states by reading license plates for Pete’s sake, whoever he is.

    But nostalgia is something we Americans love. Why, I don’t know. I know I don’t like antiques, heck why would I like them, I grew up with them.
    But it is the notaligic trips that cause the hypes. Maybe we all need to ndulge ourselves every now and then to yesteryear. You have to appreciate where you came from.

    Love your take on it though. But hey, no more about teh southern accents, we can’t help how we talk any more than the blue blooded yankees.

    G-day mate!!!!
    Naw…I’m not Autralian….I’m a Texan through and through.
    Love and blessings
    Rita Hestand

    Comment by Rita Hestand — February 7, 2010 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  2. My hubby once traveled across country on the historic Route, and he stopped at a Route 66 souvenir shop–to find that the young women who worked there had not personally traveled more than 10 miles on the road and had no knowledge of its supposedly rich history. Yes, the mysticism definitely lies in the stories, and not the road itself.

    I used to live right where Route 66 becomes the 215 freeway in southern California. There’s a lovely botanical garden in Claremont, and that’s about all worth mentioning about that particular stretch–save the “Historic Route 66” signs that one sees posted every so many miles (just so we don’t forget where we are)….

    Comment by L. Lane — February 7, 2010 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  3. It is so true to travel that road is almost mystical. What would one see, ghosts of the past, Diners, Drive-ins, and dives! No matter what it must have been great fun. Good stuff.

    Comment by Barbi Rose — February 7, 2010 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

  4. Ahhh one less latte, that might help….hmmm We have a black president because he’s tried awful hard not to be anything other then an American, you see those truthers…umm wanny-he’s-notborn-in-usa’s out there, so that might be a wrong statement. But the rest is dead on. Liberals hate being called that now because people have come to dislike liberals so now they are called Center leaning….no that’s not it….centralist…popularlist….umm something else, oh just go ask Glenn Beck he knows what to call them:)

    Comment by Barbi Rose — February 15, 2010 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

  5. You’re laying rubber on sacred tarmac, there, Pilgrim!

    Comment by Ien — February 17, 2010 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

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