Seen, Unseen and the Route 66 Encyclopedia
Route 66 holds sway over my imagination. I know, it’s just a road. And yet, for me something about it transcends that. I can’t be alone in this thinking because it has evolved in to a cultural icon. Maybe it has something to do with being built on ideas, hope and possibility.
Though I’ve traveled parts of 66 in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma – in many ways I am more sure than ever that so much was unseen. There is a feeling of a secret beyond the veil and a need to look closer, look longer. Coming home from those stretches of road, I am more curious about what I saw than when I left. Now I know there is a story to be told about what I saw versus going in search of answers about a story that I’d already known. It may seem semantic, but to me there is a difference.
A few months ago, I bought a book called The Route 66 Encyclopedia by Jim Hinckley. The book does a great job of intertwining history, photographs, references to old travel guides and materials. It is.. encyclopedic, really. Peppered all throughout the pages are delicious bites of history for the 66-curious.
When I first got the book, I thought it might inspire me to seek out the things in its pages. But when it arrived and I gave it a cursory look-over, I put it aside and there it stayed for a month or so. For some reason, I didn’t want to know about what I was going to be looking at prior to my trip out to Oklahoma.
When I returned home from my road trip, it was only then that I’ve been able to turn my attention back to the book. Now I want to know about what I’ve seen. What was that crumbling facade? What was in that blank space? How did that town spring up in the middle of nowhere? Now those blank spaces have shape, line and form and I can learn about them. If I did it in reverse the ideas would have been too abstract to appreciate. Or maybe too overwhelming. There is so much to feel in a couple thousand miles. Maybe pre-programming myself was subconsciously too much? I dunno. I’m just riding the wave.