Yesterday I drove through one of those towns. By one of those I mean a town that used to have Route 66 travelers, along with their needs for motels, food, gas and trinkets. When Interstate 40 came through, it was placed a mere 3/4 of a mile off from what was the main street of the old Route 66. I would have never thought less than one mile would have so drastically changed the future of a town. I am sure the locals at that time hoped for the same.
The old town had all the makings of small town America. Local names painted along signs beckoning travelers to eat here and sleep here. Old neon signs outside of motels waiting endlessly to be able to turn on the NO part of the no vacancy sign. What once was campy painted signs and lively marked little businesses are now faded reminders with countless layers of paint, for rent signs and signs of abandonment. As I drove out of town it was less than a mile I saw the freeway...and the NEW way of travel and the new town.
Signs marking the entrance for Interstate 40 hard to see among all the new neon markings of what has become modern travel. The freeway was in the midst of all the franchise names that have become so commonplace. Gone was the little eatery run by the same family for a generation or two. Gone was the local gas station owner who through his mastery and love of vehicles could most likely keep anything on wheels moving so you could finish your travels. Gone was the local owner who would greet you with a warm morning smile and offer great advice on where to eat that day...regardless if you were traveling east or west.
The NEW town was now Burger King, McDonald's, Motel 6, Denny's and every other name you knew from down your own streets back home. No experimenting here with local culture or lore. You could feel right at home sitting in the same spot you would sit back home. And plenty of travelers doing just that. The destination has become more important than the journey. People weren't experiencing this town...it was just a pit stop with perhaps a t-shirt as a reminder or maybe a shot glass. The employees were the displaced people who still resided in the old town. It was after I saw them at work that I realized what the sign on the store picture below actually meant. The new road did provide jobs for them, it just didn't provide a living.