Seen, Unseen and the Route 66 Encyclopedia

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.

4 Replies to “Seen, Unseen and the Route 66 Encyclopedia”

  1. I agree about knowledge. We each try to find the balance between not knowing a lot beforehand, so each encounter is a discovery, and informing ourselves so we can make intelligent decisions. You’re doing just fine.

  2. To know, or not To know….
    Good question. Unfortunately, that question may never be truly answerable. Its almost a paradox. Once you try it one way, you can never go back and try it the other way to see if the experience is any better or worse. Would I have stopped here? would I have skipped that? Would I have missed this? I am usually a researcher and a planner, trying to make the most of the time I have. But does that also waste time? Sunday, I wandered almost aimlessly for about 6 hours. Had the GPS on but wasn’t paying attention to anything but the time and compass. Saw some beautiful countryside, got lost, dead-ended and went through some undesirable areas without being able to roll the windows up or lock the doors. I know I grew some that day. Not sure if the experience was good, bad or could have been better or worse. The best part is that we had the freedom to make the choice. Cheers!!!

  3. This famous road possesses undeniable appeal. To me, history is a big part of that. It’s sad that parts of the road were eclipsed by later neighboring highways but that’s modern life. Seeing vestiges of the old life is nostalgic.

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