It is the Mother of all Roads.
The escape route from the dust bowl.
It is the 1950s American Dream come true.
Inspiration for songs and shows. It is legend. It is Route 66.
She served as America’s Main Street from 1926 until 1985, then was sadly decommissioned.
Making way for the faster pace of the big four-lanes and our newer, hectic world left only scraps and remnants of the way out West.
The Mother Road is now spotty at best, but a true haven for nostalgia buffs, foreign tourists and GypsyNesters alike.
Starting in Chicago and crossing eight states into Los Angeles, the old Will Rogers highway is still a terrific way to see the “real America.”
IF the traveler is diligent and willing to piece it all back together and hit the road, old school.
Many places of interest are as deep-rooted as the Great Mother herself, like the Golden Driller of Tulsa.
He is straight out of 1953, standing 76 feet tall and resting his 43,500 pound bad self against a real oil derrick. Dedicated to “The men of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God’s abundance a better life for mankind.”
Quite an honor.
While gazing up at The Driller, our awe was momentarily interrupted by a security guard. She observed, “He’s a big feller, ain’t ‘e?”
There’s really only one reply to that, “aeyup.”
Our quest on this trip was not so much one of nostalgia, but of discovery.
We had heard of a town in Missouri that was recapturing its place on the map by weaving retro 66 promotional techniques together with a modern twist.
The Fanning 66 Outpost and General Store in Cuba, Missouri was our target. Our goal? To discover what it took to bring the masses to a tiny town on a virtually vanishing road far out in the boonies.
Through the Outpost’s phenomenal marketing approach, we found that in order to build a proper destination on Route 66 just stick to these simple rules:
Step One: Build the World’s Largest of Something
In the Outpost’s case, it’s a ginormous rocking chair. And yes, Guinness has visited and it’s in the Book of World Records. This massive rocker is 42 feet high, 20 feet wide and weighs in at an incredible 27,500 pounds.
Even the Golden Driller could cop a squat in that, it’s one serious rocker. Rock on!
Why a rocking chair? The proprietor, Mr. Dan Sanazaro, had seen an oversized rocker on a family trip as a youngster and the memory apparently stuck with him. When he launched his business in Cuba, he built a huge homage to that recollection and the chair of his childhood.
Step Two: Provide Professional Growth Opportunities for your Employees
Mr. Sanazaro had the foresight to make the Outpost a destination unto itself.
He sent his nephew to taxidermy school so now you can “Explore Native Species Inside the Taxidermy Studio,” (in somewhat disturbing poses) and commission to have one’s own dead animal stuffed and mounted.
An archery shop and outdoor range round out the festivities at the Outpost and there are licensed experts on hand, thanks to Mr. Sanazoro’s foresight and pro-grow strategy.
A gallery of outdoor art is also on display. We’re not sure if anyone was sent to art school, but hey, art is subjective, right?
Step Three: Catch ‘Em Off Guard
Entering the Outpost, we were completely taken aback by hostess/cashier Jackie Sonsone asking, “Would you like to sample some wine while you have a look around?”
Huh? We were instantly intrigued and answered in the affirmative.
Jackie, an aspiring GypsyNester, served us a healthy pour of Route 66 Red, while laughing at our reaction. We instantly loved Jackie — she loves her job and realizes the humor of it, as well. She is quite the witty little treasure trove of information.
While showing us around, Jackie informed us that the movie Cars had brought renewed attention to Route 66, especially among the younger set.
Tourists from all over the world pass through on their journeys back to the heyday of American automotive travel. Adding our names to the guestbook, we noticed vacationers from as far away as Argentina, Japan, Norway and Finland had visited in just the past few days.
Countless Americans also make the pilgrimage to the ribbon of blacktop that first tied the Heartland to Hollywood.
Route 66 covers so much territory there’s a pretty good chance you’re not far from a chunk of it.
Slow down, take the next exit and explore the wild, weird wonderfulness of life on the Main Street of America.
Put the top down, dial in the radio, tip your hat to Bobby Troop and Get Your Kicks on Route 66.