Can we afford to celebrate Route 66?

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Michael Pineda

The 100th birthday for Route 66 is marching forward with events over the next four years to highlight the Mother Road. 

The only problem is, can we afford to celebrate it?

Gas price increases are on steroids with no sign of letting up. It has gotten so bad, I read on CNN that high gas prices are here to stay – and I believe it. It seems easier to believe than posting fake news on the comment section.

Over 100 years ago, Route 66 connected the Midwest to the Pacific Coast. Okies filled the roads during the Great Depression, traveling to California to find a better life, not knowing how liberal things would get. Seems a little ironic with the California plates that seem to have popped up in this part of the county. 

My knowledge of the Mother Road is not that vast. I did have the fortune of sitting in on a presentation about Route 66 as a reporter with The Ardmoreite. I remember the movie “Cars” was highlighted, but to be honest, I wasn’t paying that much attention. 

It turned out to be the night I met my future wife. I asked what her favorite road song was, and I was on the fast track to marital bliss. She just didn’t know it yet.

When I picture Route 66 in the old days, I mentally see a car and family like the Beverly Hillbillies driving down the road. In many cases, there must have been bailing wire and prayer holding those dreams and cars together.

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Fast forward 90 years later and most everyone has a vehicle that can make it to California and back. We just can’t afford the gas. How in the world can we celebrate the Mother Road if we can’t afford to drive it?

Luckily for tourism departments along Route 66, I have put some thought into it. A group effort is needed to celebrate the road properly. In the 1980s, people were proactive. If you needed to solve a problem, you sang songs and made T-shirts. 

In fact, it was this type of proactive spirit that helped birth Hands Across America. In 1986, millions of people joined hands, forming a human chain across the United States to combat hunger in Africa. I wish I could have been witness to this historical achievement. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to go through Comanche. 

Under the Mother Road plan, you don’t need as many people. Organizers will be able to start in Chicago and follow the famed road to the Pacific Ocean. In Yukon, it’s a short, convenient drive to go stand in line and hold someone’s hand. Those that can afford gas, fill in the gaps between here and El Reno. 

Maybe somebody can get creative and come up with a good song like “We are the World.” Proceeds from the song and event could go toward buying gas cards for those who have a long commute to work. Sponsorship opportunities would add a new dimension. “Celebrating the Mother Road,” brought to you by ExxonMobil. Or, “The Route 66 Centennial Party,” sponsored by your friends at Pennzoil. 

Remember, there are four years until the centennial celebration. A lot can happen between now and then. Gas could drop down to $2 a gallon. We could all have an electric car to get around in like the Jetsons. 

Given how gas prices are trending, some outside the box thinking might be in order.

Michael Pineda is a staff writer for The Yukon Progress. He can be reached at michael@yukonprogress.com. 

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