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Rooted on 66: Ron's Route 66 by Bicycle
By Ron Maskell - (contact)

5. Route 66? On a bicycle? Why?

Monday March 5, 2012

1.I have been reading about road trips in the USA since I was a teenager.

2.I have been listening to the song "Route 66" since before I was a teenager. The lyrics evoke the spirit of rock 'n' roll driving. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Troup

3.I have always liked rock 'n' roll era cars, especially American cars.

4.I have car buddy friends in the USA and would like to meet some of them. One of them restored a 1950 Ford and drove about half of Route 66, posting photos in the discussion forum on the Shoebox Ford site (www.shoeboxford.com). I looked at his photos of Route 66 with its quiet, almost deserted roads and towns and thought, "that looks feasible".

5.I want to visit the United States at least once, despite its reputation for gun violence, its tendency to cling to its violent past, its fundamentalism and xenophobia.

6.I have a tendency, that often gets me into trouble, to gravitate to things that are a little different. Most people would buy or hire a car or a motorcycle to do a Route 66 pilgrimage. I respect that, but I'd like to get a good long look.

7. I want to see if I can do a long solo bike trip. It'll take about 6 items off my bucket list.

Back in the 70s, I did a lot of driving and read a lot of Jack Kerouac, especially "On the Road". While Neal and Jack rampaged everywhere in other peoples' cars and a few they temporarily owned on hire purchase, Route 66 is the road I most closely associate with them.

Of course, I also read much John Steinbeck. The Okies in "The Grapes of Wrath" followed Route 66 on their way to the promised land. He also circumnavigated the United States in 1960 with his American Standard poodle in "Travels with Charley".

Larry McMurtry was another inspiration. His early novels, from "The Last Picture Show" and those like "All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers", featuring the alliteratively named character Danny Deck, to his late travelogue "Roads", featured a lot of road travel.

A lesser-known influence was William Least Heat-Moon, whose travelogue "Blue Highways" described travels on U.S. backroads that I later discovered made the loneliest stretches of Route 66 seem like the I-40.

Ironically, there is, in Queensland, a Highway 66. It runs across the centre of Queensland (just as Route 66 runs across the centre of America) from Rockhampton to Longreach. Back in 1970, when I drove it the first time, it was a predominately unsealed single-lane track linking a series of outback towns struggling to survive the vicissitudes of the pastoral industry. The similarity to Route 66 in the 1930s are obvious. (Nowadays it traverses massive coal and compressed natural gas projects and is a dirt track no longer).

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My 1950 Ford Custom on Australian Highway 66 near Comet in February 1970.

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Australian Highway 66 between Emerald and Anakie, February 1970. It probably looked the same in the 1930s. The Joad family's cut-down Hudson would have laboured over sections of Route 66 that looked just like this.

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My 1950 Ford parked outside the Commercial Hotel at the top of the Bogantungan Range on Highway 66 in February 1970. The hotel burned down in the 1980s; the Ford was scrapped in 2011 and became the back half of another 1950 Ford.

During the 70s, in my 1950 Ford Custom, I travelled up and down and across Australia, mostly alone, trying to capture the zeitgeist that informed the literature I was reading. I didn't totally succeed, but the lure of the road, implanted when I was a boy in the 1950s travelling in my mother's truck from Victoria to Queensland, was reinforced and has never really left.


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"Rooted on 66: Ron's Route 66 by Bicycle" Copyright © 2012-2014 By Ron Maskell - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on March 5, 2012 18:56 PDT, last updated on February 5, 2013 20:12 PDT
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