Stories along the way: Route 66
“If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the highway that is best. Get your kicks on Route 66.”—Bobby Troup
In his classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck called Route 66 the “Mother Road” because it beckoned to desperate migrants fleeing the Dust Bowl as they moved west in search of jobs in the 1930s. Route 66 — the road on which the refugees, drifters and icons of America’s cultural past journeyed — is now the destination.
We checked into the Ramblin Rose motel for the night in Kingman, AZ. Camping spots are sparse and even our last ditch Wal-Mart review warns about intruders. Ramblin Rose, $42 including tax, on Route 66 is worth a try. It was built in 1958 when Rte 66 was still an important cross country route. An old postcard shows the hotel’s full parking lot when it was known as The Travel Lodge. Owned and run by the same multi-generation family for 25 years, with Mama firmly in charge…do you have pets? NO, Do you smoke? NO. “For 4 more dollars you can be on lower level. No thanks. I have a nice corner room upstairs with a big window, but you can’t see your vehicle” Do you have break-ins” No, just some people like to see their vehicle. We are here 24 hours a day. We sleep here.
Up the stairs and into the worn, but clean room. Fridge, microwave, TV, decent towels, the smell of bleach on the sheets and the large Bedroom window and bathroom window.
Jim is extra tired tonight, lots of driving, but also a day of physical work yesterday at his brother’s in NM. He falls asleep as soon as we got in the room.
The Internet isn’t great,….and the walls thin, but it is quiet. The trains on the railroad tracks near us seem to come in the bathroom window and out the bedroom window quite often, but at least we just hear the rythmic click, clack of the wheels and not the whistle blowing. We sleep solidly, discovering we left the room unlocked during the night. Whoops.
The next morning I study the room more closely. There is a writing nook, no plug for a computer, from a time when travelers sat down and wrote postcards or letters home. I imagine a traveling salesman, wanting to be home, writing a letter to his wife telling her about the area. There is a real closet. A locked door leads to the next room in case you bring your family. The shower is completely tiled, no plastic. The bathroom window opens. Although the hotel advertises an outdoor swimming pool, it’s filled with sand. “Hmm,” said Jokester Jim. “I would have a difficult time diving .”
I chat with Mrs B the next morning and tell her that we are pleased with the motel and praise her for its cleanliness. She said they have owned it for 25 years and managed other properties before this one. Her husband is from India while she is from Central Africa–“Yes, say Central Africa, say that” she smiled. She tells me her husband is handy and repairs things. I don’t mention that I saw her mother-in-law in her sari in the tiny back garden. She is a little more open now—before we say goodbye and she goes back to managing the desk and cleaning the rooms. My brain is filled with imaginary Rte 66 stories….and some very special immigrants