Route 66

So how do you start writing about something so entrenched in American history and folklore as Route 66? This is more than just a road after all. Dubbed the “Mother Road,” Route 66 runs from Chicago all the way to the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles. Built on portions of the original Pony Express route, it served as the only link from east to west. Many famous stories both factual and fictional have found beginnings, or endings, or both, on 66.

The usefulness of 66 as a major thoroughfare has long since been replaced by modern freeways. But it’s worldwide fame, created by American movies and novels, has forever put Route 66 on the map. Each year people from around the world bypass the newer freeways, so they can drive through the towns that give Route 66 its history and color. What is it all about? It’s about the towns – some with less people than on the average Greyhound bus roaring by on the nearby freeway. This is what you don’t see on the modern highways – you miss the feeling of traveling. Sure you’re moving from one place to the next, but what do you see? What do you learn? And what can you visit other than truck stops? Stepping off the main roads is like stepping into the past, or perhaps the twilight zone in some cases. Where else would you see a 5,000-square-foot museum dedicated to barbed wire?

Jonas Wray and I have run across sections of the 66 several times in our adventures around the Southwest. Each time the sight of the Route sign peaks our interest, but we’d never bothered to follow it as a complete path. This past June was set aside just for this purpose.

Chris Lambert had been on trips with us before, and we both decided he was a good guy to bring again. See, a trip like this wouldn’t be for everyone. In some places, chances of finding skate spots would be slim to none, leaving only long drives in the middle of nowhere. Neal Mims. Now, I’d only met Neal a few times, but knew enough about him to determine he was quite a character. Having characters along is good for comic relief and entertainment. Therefore, we also made arrangements to kidnap Pat Duffy from the headquarters’ of Doctor Righteous – Bill Weiss’ house. I didn’t know Danny Montoya at all, but Ty Evans suggested he come. Montoya turned out to be an impressive addition to the roster. Pat Channita was required simply for the fact we’d be criss-crossing states where fireworks were legal. Oh yeah, the fact he can skate real damn good might’ve had a little something to do with it. Angelides, Richard. If we were going to go through Texas, we’d need a Texan. It’s the law. No Texan, no Texas – look it up if you want. Most of the guys didn’t know Paul Machnau, just as you may not; however, I’m sure everyone would agree he was worth having along. Paul will skate all. He joined us halfway into the trip when everyone was getting worn out – sort of a relief pitcher or something. Oh yeah, we threw Ty into the mix, too. You see, our van had no stereo and Ty has these headphones that actually sound louder to others than to the person wearing them. Therefore, obvious reason.

So now with a crew assembled, we hit the road. Another set of tires on a stretch of pavement that’s seen them all. After leaving the Los Angeles area, one of the first towns that attracted our attention was Amboy, California, population twenty. Yes, twenty, and by the looks of it, about nineteen of them were out of town. Now Amboy itself has zero to skate, but nearby is a natural spot we’d found a few years back. A dry salt lake bed that due to rain, wind, and desert heat formed into a natural skatepark. Unfortunately, after many visits to this one-of-a-kind spot it looked as though this may have been the last. A nearby chloride company has been slowly harvesting the salt. So what was once a large area has been reduced to a very small section on the verge of disappearance.

The first night on the road. What better way to celebrate than at a country western bar in a small desert to with only two other customers in the bar? A local desert dweller pumping country on the jukebox and speaking in his best gangster voice informed us that this was his spot, but we could chill if we liked it. We returned the favor by informing the locals we’d all just moved to town this very day. After the bar, Pat Duffy was sitting on the wall surrounding the hotel pool. With a palm tree right beside him, Pat decided to act out the part in the movies when island natives climb the trees barefoot. Pat made it about twenty feet up before sliding down, leaving himself with literally hundreds of splinters in his feet and arms. While all of this was taking place, Jonas and I were perched atop an eight-story radio tower that was only three feet wide. A rather strange intro to our tour.

The rest of the 66 that runs through California is nothing but a paved trail with no form of civilization left. All of the towns and services have relocated or closed long ago. Route 66 travelers leave messages just off the road written out with rocks on dirt banks. Eco-friendly taggers. This scroll of names runs for miles and miles to the Colorado River, which splits California and Arizona.

The first place worth venturing to for the purpose of skating rather than sight-seeing would be Flagstaff, Arizona. This town has really come up as far as a destination for skating. A few years ago the thought of going specifically to Flagstaff wouldn’t even have crossed our minds, but now it hosts one of the best concrete parks in the Southwest. Unfortunately for Mr. Jonas Wray, it also holds a jail cell that welcomes out-of-towners with weak bladders. Please hold it ’til you get somewhere appropriate or pay the consequences. You’d have thought Jonas had tried to rob the mayor or something. Anyway, after waiting for the drunk-tank doors to swing open in the morning, we skated a bit more around town and they decided to head for New Mexico.

We visited the school in Albuquerque. I say “the school” because I can never remember its name. We’ve been there a ton of times, and so has any other skater who passes through Albuquerque. The school has lots to skate. We did some tricks and left. End of the Albuquerque section.

About halfway from Albuquerque to Amarillo, Texas we pulled off to sleep in a truck-stop town slightly west of literally the middle of nowhere. The fact that this town holds the junction for Highway 666 as its main point of interest, might give you a clue to its bleakness.

At 2:00 a.m. Jonas and Neal went to the store to purchase some adult beverages. On their way back, the occupants of a pickup truck offered to abduct them to a party. Without getting into too much detail, they described it as a life-changing experience. Okay, so that may not have been what they said exactly, but let’s just say Neal spent the better portion of the night trying to convince the local Indians he was ready to embark on his spiritual quest. Neal was in the desert and felt Jim Morrison shouldn’t be the only one allowed to partake in sacred visions. The Indian’s verdict was no. “The white man is too weak,” Neal was told.

Neal told them their party was weak and proved the white man could be a good tracker. He tracked down our hotel in the middle of nowhere – not too bad. Jonas did as Jonas does, he stayed. If there’s an experience to be experienced, he’ll be there.

Some parts of Texas are fine, and maybe it was just the circumstances, but Amarillo may be one the closest places to hell we’ve had the opportunity to visit in our lifetime. We pulled in around 1:00 a.m. only to find out attendees of a Jehovah’s Witness’ convention were occupying every decent hotel room in town. A cop at the local Denny’s directed us to the wrong side of the tracks in search of great accomodations. He’ll probably tell that story of conquest for years.

Now I’ve stayed in some terrible hotel rooms, but hands-down these had to be the worst. The first hotel room was so terrible that Ty and I decided to throw the dice of chance and gamble at another one of Amarillo’s fine establishments. In case you ever happen to travel to Amarillo, here are some hotel pointers. When checking in, if there’s a sign that reads “No Prostitution,” leave. If a four-inch roach greets you as you open the door, leave. If you peel (note: I said peel and not pull) back the sheets to discover a bug party, leave. If the dresser drawers contain old European porno mags, leave. If the water runs brown, leave. If you find a figure of Bert from Sesame Street in your bed (Ty did), leave. We left in search of another.

By this time the fact that we paid for the next room through a two-way mirror, the doors had no locks, the sheets had stains of unknown origin, and the fridge was full of frozen vegetables didn’t bother us at all. We slept (barely) fully dressed and ran at the first sight of dawn. The moral of the story is not to visit during a convention, or maybe not at all for that matter.

Shortly after Amarillo the Texas Route 66 heads north into middle America. It’s here the desert scenery changes to that of the flat green plains and rolling hills of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri: tornado country. In these parts Route 66 gets a little displaced. In some spots following the original path is impossible because the road has been torn down and rebuilt so many times. In other areas the Route followed different paths in different eras. As for skating, spots were few and far between. But this was made up for with the good- old American pastime of blowing shit up. Visit a local fireworks store today, while they’re still legal.

We were now behind schedule. We had to pick up Paul Machnau in St. Louis. To make up time, we decided to cut short our visit to middle America.

There remained two major stops before we reached the opposite end of the road – St. Louis and Chicago. When you’re on the road, you sometimes have to rely on the help of others to show you around. We called a local shop in St. Louis to see if they could show us around, but we never heard back from them. This ended up not being so bad as St. Louis had something for us on every corner.

At this point in the tour a lot of people were beginning to need a break – enter Mr. Paul Machnau, relief pitcher. Paul had been waiting for us in a motel room by the airport for a few days.

If you’re looking for a rail, St. Louis has about every shape and size you could want. We sampled a large portion of them. Once again we encountered some circumstances with our choice of accommodation. The Days Inn we chose to stay in happened to be where the army stations their new recruits who are awaiting processing. Being young, we were continually mistaken as recruits and told what we were not entitled to do: the hotel security guards being the main source of grief. Guard number one had a mole under her eye that turned red to register anger. She took it very personally when we decided to hold a golf tournament on the eighth floor. Security guard number two was a self-proclaimed ex-military man who “don’t take no shit.” The fact we were paying guests and not his new batch of recruits didn’t seem to dissuade him from barking orders and denying us things that seemed ridiculous. Luckily, the doorman broke it down for us and we treated Mr. Boot Camp to some fine behavior. He would’ve court-marshaled us if he were actually living in his army fantasy world. Is your name Tattoo? Do you see planes? Well, you’re living on Fantasy Island, buddy.

Every trip has a highlight as far as cities are concerned. Each time I’ve been in this part of the country the highlight has always been Chicago. We rolled into town and looked up Reggie at his store Push downtown. A city like Chicago always has something to do. This time around we happened to pull in on the day the art museum was having its annual summer solstice party: a 24-hour celebration of the longest day of the year.

Downtown seemed to be a bust for skaand I decided to throw the dice of chance and gamble at another one of Amarillo’s fine establishments. In case you ever happen to travel to Amarillo, here are some hotel pointers. When checking in, if there’s a sign that reads “No Prostitution,” leave. If a four-inch roach greets you as you open the door, leave. If you peel (note: I said peel and not pull) back the sheets to discover a bug party, leave. If the dresser drawers contain old European porno mags, leave. If the water runs brown, leave. If you find a figure of Bert from Sesame Street in your bed (Ty did), leave. We left in search of another.

By this time the fact that we paid for the next room through a two-way mirror, the doors had no locks, the sheets had stains of unknown origin, and the fridge was full of frozen vegetables didn’t bother us at all. We slept (barely) fully dressed and ran at the first sight of dawn. The moral of the story is not to visit during a convention, or maybe not at all for that matter.

Shortly after Amarillo the Texas Route 66 heads north into middle America. It’s here the desert scenery changes to that of the flat green plains and rolling hills of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri: tornado country. In these parts Route 66 gets a little displaced. In some spots following the original path is impossible because the road has been torn down and rebuilt so many times. In other areas the Route followed different paths in different eras. As for skating, spots were few and far between. But this was made up for with the good- old American pastime of blowing shit up. Visit a local fireworks store today, while they’re still legal.

We were now behind schedule. We had to pick up Paul Machnau in St. Louis. To make up time, we decided to cut short our visit to middle America.

There remained two major stops before we reached the opposite end of the road – St. Louis and Chicago. When you’re on the road, you sometimes have to rely on the help of others to show you around. We called a local shop in St. Louis to see if they could show us around, but we never heard back from them. This ended up not being so bad as St. Louis had something for us on every corner.

At this point in the tour a lot of people were beginning to need a break – enter Mr. Paul Machnau, relief pitcher. Paul had been waiting for us in a motel room by the airport for a few days.

If you’re looking for a rail, St. Louis has about every shape and size you could want. We sampled a large portion of them. Once again we encountered some circumstances with our choice of accommodation. The Days Inn we chose to stay in happened to be where the army stations their new recruits who are awaiting processing. Being young, we were continually mistaken as recruits and told what we were not entitled to do: the hotel security guards being the main source of grief. Guard number one had a mole under her eye that turned red to register anger. She took it very personally when we decided to hold a golf tournament on the eighth floor. Security guard number two was a self-proclaimed ex-military man who “don’t take no shit.” The fact we were paying guests and not his new batch of recruits didn’t seem to dissuade him from barking orders and denying us things that seemed ridiculous. Luckily, the doorman broke it down for us and we treated Mr. Boot Camp to some fine behavior. He would’ve court-marshaled us if he were actually living in his army fantasy world. Is your name Tattoo? Do you see planes? Well, you’re living on Fantasy Island, buddy.

Every trip has a highlight as far as cities are concerned. Each time I’ve been in this part of the country the highlight has always been Chicago. We rolled into town and looked up Reggie at his store Push downtown. A city like Chicago always has something to do. This time around we happened to pull in on the day the art museum was having its annual summer solstice party: a 24-hour celebration of the longest day of the year.

Downtown seemed to be a bust for skating. This became evident when cops threatened to arrest us for simply being in the area. Why does it seem like the rookie cop always puts on a show for the veteran? Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and nothing came of it. Even though one section of town was a complete bust, going a few blocks in the other direction was perfectly acceptable with no legal consequences.

Every city has a place you must visit. A few years back Matt Hensley introduced us to a restaurant called Potbellies, a submarine sandwich place. This place is a cut above and tends to be addictive. After returning to California after living in Chicago for some time, Matt has been known to have Potbellies’ sandwiches Fed-Exed to California to satisfy his addiction. We, despite our desire, never made it to the belly. Sorry, Matty. Sacrilege, I know.

We only spent a weekend in Chicago, but out of all the stops on the tour, it was the one place worth hanging out. Having the locals show us around as far as skating, in addition to what the city itself has to offer, makes all the difference in the world. Thanks to the Push crew for all their help.

skating. This became evident when cops threatened to arrest us for simply being in the area. Why does it seem like the rookie cop always puts on a show for the veteran? Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and nothing came of it. Even though one section of town was a complete bust, going a few blocks in the other direction was perfectly acceptable with no legal consequences.

Every city has a place you must visit. A few years back Matt Hensley introduced us to a restaurant called Potbellies, a submarine sandwich place. This place is a cut above and tends to be addictive. After returning to California after living in Chicago for some time, Matt has been known to have Potbellies’ sandwiches Fed-Exed to California to satisfy his addiction. We, despite our desire, never made it to the belly. Sorry, Matty. Sacrilege, I know.

We only spent a weekend in Chicago, but out of all the stops on the tour, it was the one place worth hanging out. Having the locals show us around as far as skating, in addition to what the city itself has to offer, makes all the difference in the world. Thanks to the Push crew for all their help.