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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just before Labor Day weekend of 1972, my best pal and I made a trek to Tulsa, Okla., for Don Garlits' now legendary PRA National Challenge. The race was the plum, but the trip over Route 66 proved to be almost as memorable. The nutty sideshow that paralleled the highway really riveted our attention. In 2000, Jeff Burk persuaded me to leave California for St. Louis and like 28 years ago, we went via Route 66. The difference between recalled and contemporary reality was shocking for both of us. Below are my comparative recollections of both trips. For some demented reason, I decided to write, or attempt to write, a poem about this. This is my first and unless, I completely misunderstand my readers, it will be my last. There are a few literary allusions, "Nebraska" is a Bruce Springsteen LP and "Burroughs" is fabled St. Louis novelist, William S. Burroughs. Check it out and pleasse don't hold it against me.



Despite the dizziness from the interim 28 years of living and existing, this hot memory with

building speed always revives and stands up for me like a Route 66 sign awaiting
an oncoming car. THEN the target was Tulsa, we were poised in
North Hollywood, a ‘57 Ford Ranchero in the starting blocks,
stacked to the lid, for a run
down the mother of all roads, America’s Main Street in 1972

A year of hippie abundance, barber shop doors quietly shut for the final time, as we

headed for 66 in a cloud of pot smoke which filtered a chorus of chopping
blades and popping pull-tabs, reckless, long-haired, slouched in war surplus,

the magnetic pull of pool hall handles like "Big Daddy," "the Golden Greek,"

"the Snake, "the Mongoose," and "the Israeli Rocket," smoke to life in rural
Oklahoma amidst snake and alligator farms, dime novel horse-shoe court motels,
fields and cattle stopped by the highway, barbed wire fencing and Burma


Now three decades later, a Route 66 dream pops momentarily into drive, Tod & Buz’s ‘58

Corvette revving toward the good life, Bobby Troup getting his kicks on something
other than Julie London, grinning chrome-grilled convertibles vacuuming up the
miles in a landscape of fresh WWII victory colors, guys with Superman hair
and golden girlfriends waving from a postcard backdrop of Whiting Bros. gas
stops, Sinclair’s Dinosaurs, and Stuckey’s pecan logs, cartoon billboards
flagging us down with indian pottery, petrified wood, sandpaintings, kachina
dolls, and meteorites. A gaggle of used car dealers are willing to tote the note.

A southwestern soundtrack hums with the sleek wash of string and brass, sled smooth

accoutrement for the accelerator that surges us through hillbilly heaven, 1800
miles of swap meet consciousnessearly sunny morning life blossoms in
Holbrook, Arizona as hoses spray the sidewalks, rinsing off Saturday night into a
curb side stream, a lazy cigarette butt gliding along for the ride, a new day
greeted with the bright gloss of wet concrete.

Then inside the steamed Ford’s innards, lightly browned thumb and fingers grip the

ribbed wheel, laughing, overly loud conversation punctuated by coke sniffles and
jacketed arms wiping the windows. "God almighty, we were driving blind," and
then hacking hilariously at the irony. Light dandruff snowflakes freckle Cline’s Corners, New Mexico and we wheel into a scene like the Nebraska LP cover, looking from that summit past a hundred flat miles to another jagged horizon
whose other side is unseen. A straight shot into tomorrow, optimistic future lies dead ahead.


Jaundiced, brittle race papers are all that holds that past in place now. That and nine-to-five-

bruised and boozed memory. Don Moody, "The Mongoose," "‘Da Grump,"
appear through the haze with tired grins and wooden poses with checks in hand for
35 grand. Mini-skirted trophy queens, Garlits, and starch-collared Navy personnel
fill in the winners circle gap between them, the anchor clankers mustering every bit
of strength to mold facial sinew into a smile.

North Hollywood had no time then for pictures, no time to stop, hot to trot out of the

lot, gas n’ go, four on the ‘flow, slashing through rain, turning up the volume,
electric guitar alarm clock, tossing empties into the inky Texas Panhandle
midnight, speed now with determined resolve, no looking back to say
goodbye, gotta work on Wednesday, allow a day for a hangover, our Route
66 dreams dropping pounds at 80 mph.

2000 makes it all seem like 2000 years ago. This February the mouse’s hands stopped and

the signpost up ahead said, "Leave California." Large Motorsport Editor and I
would rerun Route 66, me leaving a stack of unpaid bills, final notices, and
indigestion on the doorstep of a rent-a-shack in Encino, my precious artifacts
shoe-horned into a rental truck a week before we put our Taurus under a million
points of light, hunting for the past, illuminating the present, bound for
St. Louis.

So bad I hope to say, "Bud, it hasn’t changed a bit," looking foward with vapor clarity,

there’s got to be more to indian life than casinos. Alligator head ashtrays, the Dew-
Drop Inn, salt water taffy in the middle of the desert, a beer-drinking cow
into a tavern in a canyon every day at 2 in Glenrio, Texas, then out
the swinging doors past a purple, polished Packard glinting in the sun,
the swan on the hood poised for flight over a wigwam motel, you just don’t see shit
like that anymore,


when the vapor bubble pops, will it reveal an Arizona Highways backdrop littered with

shards of a losing collision with the future, shards of existence in the wake of the
corporate chainsaw. You know that stuff happens, rust will out, age accumulating
to erosion, a lot like time-sanded mountains, empty caves, to paraphrase
Burroughs, like pockmarks in boiling oatmeal.

Lamenting the latter to the letter.


New Interstate 15 parallels old Route 66 through the El Cajon Pass.


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