Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting my kicks

Williams, Arizona, will be my basecamp until tomorrow morning. Williams is a small town situated on the iconic former U.S. Route 66, and it was apparently the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by the Interstate Highway System.

The town's economy has been tourist-driven for a long time. A good many of the restaurants, hotels, and shops that were built to accommodate the masses who discovered the joy of auto travel during the postwar era are still standing and have been renovated. It's now a destination for present-day tourists who seek to re-experience Route 66's glory days en route to the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, the Kainab National Forest, and other area attractions.

It's a cute little town. However, looking around, I can't help but think of an earlier generation of Route 66 travelers: the Dust Bowl farm families who sought better lives in California and who, as John Steinbeck eloquently chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath, all too often found their misery compounded. No one is particularly nostalgic for this aspect of Route 66's history, so there's not much evidence of it on public display.

Postscript re: last night's motel confusion: in my sleep-deprived haze, I missed the small sign regarding overnight service at the motel at which I made reservations, and the manager on duty this morning was aghast when I told him that I ended up staying at another motel. He offered to work something out, but I told him not to worry about it; I failed to see the sign, and he let me move my stuff in first thing this morning, so I've had more than one day's use of the room.

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