July 17, 2001—Day 13, Route 66-Albuquerque, New Mexico

July 17, 2001

July 17, 2001

 

When you suffer from anxiety, and don’t know it, your panic attacks can come at any time, and when when the root of that anxiety is depression, parts of the lonely Mother Road do little to comfort you.

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Route 66—13 Years Later…

This past week I finished my final edits to my Route 66 book, Dispatches to America, to send out to publishers.  I made my last edit, literally, exactly, 13 years after I first left to see Route 66. Living in Pennsylvania means I have the opportunity to take other blue roads before my main journey, so I’ve been lucky enough to also experience U.S. Route 30 (The Lincoln Highway), U.S. Route 20 (The Oregon Trail), U.S. Route 6 (The Grand Army of the Republic Highway), and U.S. Route 101 (The Pacific Coast Highway).

While many of these roads are seen merely as alternative routes, they are also roads that connect livelihoods and neighborhoods together. We take Interstates to get to where the hell we want to go—we take Routes to enjoy the ride, to meet people, to relax, to eat, to sleep, perchance to dream.

For the next few weeks, I’m posting photos of my original trip from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to San Francisco, California, and then photos of follow-up trips, until I head back on the road on August 15th when I will be blogging again about how much these roads have changed—for better or for worse.

 

July 5th

PA

On July 5th, 2001, the summer before 9/11, the United States was a different place. There were less obstructions to public places, less suspicion and paranoia, and more money given to the American people to help with their homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

The day I left Philadelphia with my friend Kyle was incredibly muggy, and the heat and humidity followed us all the way to Pittsburgh.

We mostly followed Route 30 (The Lincoln Highway) to go throughout the small towns and to maintain our back-road mentality. The only place we experienced any serious traffic on the road was Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

For the record, this was a place I’m glad we didn’t stop for a visit. Today the Amish have gone from their rustic-folk ways to enjoying every bit of the technology and progress they pretend to shun. I didn’t realize polyester threads sewn in China were authentic Amish quilts. And let’s not forget they are the largest perpetrators of Puppy Mills. Continue reading

America’s Cave—Meramec Caverns—Is No Mere Tourist Spot

The sides of barns from Oklahoma to Illinois demand you visit her. Billboards beckon you for miles at a time along Route 66 and Interstates 55, 44 and 70 to explore her insides. She’s one of the first landmarks in the world to advertise her name on the backs of cars courtesy of the bumper sticker. Mermec Caverns is no mere cave—it’s origins as a shelter harken back to the Osage tribes who used her to stay warm during harsh winters or keep dry during severe storms well before Europeans came to steal, rape and rob the lands.

The ballroom of Meramec Caverns. Don't let the neon and the tiled floor fool you—the tour is an impressive spectacle of the power of nature.

The ballroom of Meramec Caverns. Don’t let the neon and the tiled floor fool you—the tour is an impressive spectacle of the power of nature.

When French explorer Philipp Renault came to the New World, the Osage told him about a cave whose walls were lined with veins of gold. in typical colonial fashion, Renault when to the cave to claim his riches, only to find the gold veins were really saltpeter. So, O.K., it wasn’t gold, but saltpeter could just as easily be mined for it’s high demand in the use of creating gunpowder. In 1720 Renault named the place Saltpeter Cave and for over a century Saltpeter Cave was used to produce gunpowder.

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