4 Jul 2001 jfleck   » (Master)

I haven't decided if this is about my marriage or about Route 66. Perhaps it's about both. You decide.

We are in the throes of a celebration here in The States of the 75th anniversary of Route 66. For those of you in older lands, this must seem odd, but we are a young nation, and have to reach hard to make a history for ourselves. So 75 years of a road is a worthy historical passing to mark.

Stretching from Chicago to the beach in Santa Monica, it was the first road to span much of our continent, and we use it to symbolize the 20th-century freedoms brought on by the automobile.

My affair with Route 66 is more personal, though. The freeways were already beginning to replace it by the time I came to be, but for all but a handful of my 42 years I have lived within a mile or two of the Mother Road.

I went to High School on it.

My parents were both teachers, which meant summers off, which meant these epic car trips across the southwest, through Barstow and Kingman and Winslow and Holbrook and Gallup and Albuquerque. It is the sort of car-bound freedom that Route 66 symbolizes - a big family station wagon and a canvas tent and Indians selling jewelry by the side of the road.

My first newspaper job was in a little community spanning it.

My marriage (I was headed here, trust me) has seen its major milestones, with no intention, happen there.

Our first date, a Friday night after work at Griswolds Patio Pub Night in Claremont, happened on Route 66. It was a huge weekly affair, one of those things with free salty snackish foods to get you to buy beer. All the artists and other riffraff hung out there, nursing beers and eating free. I hate beer, but it was a cheap dinner.

I proposed to Lissa at the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino.

On our honeymoon, I rode the bumper cars on the Santa Monica Pier, where Route 66 ends it run, dumping cars out onto the Pacific Coast Highway beneath glistening palm trees.

Today, we live a mile from the Mother Road. Thinking about this today, I made a wandering detour on my Independence Day bike ride, back up through Albuquerque's old neighborhoods to Central Avenue, festooned with "historic Route 66" signs, past the Indian jewelry pawn shops and the university, up the hill home.

It's just dumb luck, I guess. There's no real point to my life with Route 66, except it's been there all along without my really noticing it.

But I am certain that the secret to the success of my marriage - which gets better by the year - has something to do with the fact that we were goofy enough to become betrothed in a cheesy motel shaped like a teepee on Route 66, in what must be the heart of our way of life.

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