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Life lessons learned from Route 66

on Tuesday, 17 September 2019. Posted in Columns, Opinions

Life lessons learned from Route 66

By: Bob Sloan

Like many people, social media and I have a love-hate relationship.

I hate, and hate is a word I rarely if ever use, all of the venomous, opinionated, self-centered comments people make without considering for a single moment the harm it could inflict. It is ugly and hurtful and reveals the very worst in character.

I hate all the dirty laundry that people are willing to hang out in public.

I hate the fake news. Being a newspaper guy, I shook my head in sadness years ago when Facebook first announced a media partnership with the New York Times. I knew it signaled the demise of “real journalism,” with ethical standards in regards to accuracy and truth. I was not wrong.

But there are many things I love about social media. There are lots of positive posts that inspire, encourage and make you think. I love good stories on good people.

Most of all, I love social people because it allows me to remain in contact with people I would otherwise only remember fondly. Through social media, I get to stay in touch with people from my childhood, old Marine buddies, and college friends. I am very thankful for that.

I recently caught up with a college friend of mine via social media, Marcy Martinez Tate. Marcy and I attended school together at Clinch Valley College, which is now the University of Virginia at Wise, in Wise, Va.

Marcy is now the owner and chief operating officer for New Beginnings Pulmonary Rehab, Inc., in Norton, Va. Most, if not all, of the clinic’s patients are coal miners and former coal miners diagnosed with Progressive Massive Fibrosis, more commonly called black lung disease. The disease is considered incurable, but the clinic offers a new approach that can improve the quality of life. In late July she traveled to Washington D.C. to testify before Congress in support of the miners her clinic serves.

For the work she has done and continues to do, I am proud to know her and to call her a friend.

A trip to our nation’s capital, however, is not the only traveling Marcy has done lately.

She and her husband recently packed their bags, gassed up the car and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. The two of them set out to cross the country by way of “The Mother Road,” Route 66.

It took them nine days to get from one end of “The Main Street of America” to the other. The journey begins in Chicago, Ill. and continues for nearly 2,500 miles before coming to an end at the Santa Monica Pier, in Santa Monica, Ca.

The legendary blacktop cuts a swath through the heartland of America. It’s one thing to travel from coast to coast by way of Interstate, traveling at high speeds in hopes of arriving at your destination as soon as possible.

Along Route 66, speed is not your friend. You take your time and take in all the magic the journey has to offer.

The highway is actually no longer a part of the U.S. Highway system, it still draws travelers by the thousands, all hoping to soak in the nostalgia of a slower and friendlier time gone by

Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926. It served as a primary route for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and the road supported the economies of the communities through which it passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway.

In 1946, Nat King Cole had a huge hit, singing about getting’ his kicks on Route 66.” It only served to make the highway even more popular. In 2009, Jon Mayer did a remake of the classic tune for the “Cars” soundtrack.

As time went by and the Interstate system was established, business owners along the route fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.

Change, as always, is inevitable, and Route 66 was removed from Highway system in 1985 and replaced by Interstate.

The call of the legendary road still beckons to thousands. The unique and off-the-beaten path hotels and restaurants of small town America have an alluring charm.

There’s the Safari Inn and Blue Swallow Restaurant in Tucumcari, N.M. the U Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas; the Wigwam Motels of Holbrook, Az.; the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Mo.; Little America in Falstaff, Az.; the Flatbed Ford Bed and Breakfast in, you guessed it, Winslow Az.; the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas; Lucille’s Roadhouse in Hydro, Texas; These are but a few. Dozens more greet travelers with their big, quirky signs.

And the sights are, well, something to behold. A 4,000-foot wide, 600-foot deep meteor crater in the middle of the Arizona desert; a Giant Pink Elephant outside a mall in Livingston, Ill.; the Gateway Arch in St. Louis; the Cadillac Ranch; the Painted Desert; Shea’s Gas Station Museum; and the Milk Bottle Grocery. The list goes on and on.

As you near the end of this amazing journey, one discovers that the fabled ribbon of highway has some incredible life lessons to teach.

Marcy discovered this and shared these thoughts on one of her Facebook posts:

“There was an old advertisement for Route 66 that says you can find yourself on Route 66. So here are my reflections on my road trip of a lifetime.

I have discovered America... the REAL America. A land of great beauty, vast land and wonderful people. Our great nation is filled with amazing people! It’s the small towns and the off the beaten roads that are the true heart and life force of our country!

For me personally, I discovered that I can do anything if I set my heart to it! I am stronger and braver than even I realize. I have realized that the greatest sadness is not death but in not living! So many people just exist day to day. They never experience the magic of life. I have also realized that the people you miss are the most important people in your life. The word love is so overused and quiet honestly, abused. But when you miss someone that means they fill a space that all the beauty and things of this world can’t fill.

Now that it’s over and we are safe, I will tell the scariest part of our whole trip. We had to drive through the Mojave Desert at night. There were no lights for as far as the eye can see. This went on for 178 miles. It was late and there were no hotels, no gas stations, just an eerie feeling of isolation. It taught me that, in life, we will go through dark, empty places that have no glimmer of light for as far as the eye can see; but, if we keep moving forward this too shall pass.

And last but not least, home is more valuable than any gold. Home is not just a place, but a place of belonging. My entire life I have been a gypsy and moved around. After driving over 3,180 miles from the place my roots run deep, I have realized that you can have wings, but it is so much more important to have roots!


Thanks, Marcy and Route 66, for the reminders.

Contact Editor Bob Sloan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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