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The Shepherd's Heart: Standin' On A Corner

Thursday, June 4, 2009

From somewhere along historic Route 66 ...

Yep. I did it. During our recent trip along the "mother road" of America I stopped and had my picture taken beside a bronze statue of a young man with a guitar. Behind me you can see a mural depicting the reflection of "a girl my Lord in a flatbed Ford" who might just be slowing down to take a look at the young man with the guitar.

This morning we stopped to take a look at some cliff dwellings in the bluffs overlooking Walnut Canyon just east of Flagstaff. The place was amazing. The mule deer were unafraid of bystanders and the story boards along the trail were very educational. The ruins along the side of the cliff, and the ruins atop the mesa, were ancient, and the mist of the morning gave the place an era feeling. I wondered at the stories ruins they might tell if they could speak, and suddenly realized they do speak to all who will listen.

But that was this morning. And we plan to be in Santa Fe by tomorrow morning to visit a tiny chapel with a huge story to tell.

But it's lunchtime now. At some point, as we drove eastward through Arizona, the decision was made to dine at some historic establishment the famous along Route 66 corridor. Pulling into Winslow for lunch, we came upon this roadside attraction where country-rock music from a bygone era spills out of souvenir shops and into the streets that come together to form the "corner" made famous by the Eagles in their first chart topping hit, Take It Easy.

As you look around from this vantage point, you can see the aforementioned statue, the mural, and a red flat-bed Ford truck, all placed here to immortalize the song and its creators. There's even a signpost with a placard that reads "Standin' On A Corner."

For me, it provided a break from the monotonous concrete super slab of I-40 as well as a trip down memory lane. Nostalgia, pure and simple. It offered a break from some of life's everyday stresses. It gave me a chance to call the kids and say, "Hey. Guess where I'm at? I'm standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona! Cool, huh?"

Call it what you will: a tourist trap; commercialism gone wild; or taking advantage of the gullible and/or sentimental among us. I say call it fun and color this old picker tickled pink by the experience.

The truth is, this is how small towns bypassed by the Interstate keep from becoming ghost towns. You see it all along the old route.

There's a park named after Route 66 in eastern Missouri where a town used to sit alongside the Meramec River. There are diners and drive-ins and local dives all across the corridor with Route 66 in their names. There are casinos and restaurants and convenience stores and truck-stops all using the name. There are even attractions with no mention of the highway in their names, all trying to lure travelers off the Interstate.

There are oversized cowboys and half-buried Cadillacs near Amarillo, Texas. The world's biggest arrows are stuck side-by-side in the ground outside of an abandoned gift shop Flagstaff. Teepee villages (complete with window air-conditioning units for road-weary overnight guests) await you in several locales along the way. Thousands of motel rooms are available, according to the signs, in Santa Rosa and Tucumcari, New Mexico. A large hotel where movie stars stayed during the heyday of the Hollywood Western sits on the historic strip on the other side of the state in Gallup. And in eastern Arizona you can jump off the Interstate for a drive through forests of fallen and petrified trees or stand at the edge of a giant meteor crater.

My guess is that none of these would be viable economic interests were it not for their being situated along Historic Route 66. And that is O.K. with me.

I like the old road and will probably try to see as much of it as possible astride my motorcycle some day. Hopefully, there will be a roadside park with statues and music to entertain me along the way and maybe a teepee or two where I might lay my travel-weary head at the end of a long day's ride. I'll keep my eyes open for a diner called Goldie's or Joe's or something like that where they serve up cold chocolate malts, waxed-paper wrapped cheeseburgers, and baskets full of crispy French fries.

"Come on baby ...

Don't say maybe ...

I gotta know if you're sweet love ...

is gonna save me ..."*

*From "Take it Easy" by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey- copyright 1972.

BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart
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