Welcome to the first in an ongoing series where I show off some of my favorites of the photographs I’ve taken over the years and write about why they are important to me. The first picture in the series is from 2009 during my very first trip down Route 66.
I have long been in love with the hidden places, the crooked winding paths. I have always been fascinated by the sight of the road that tilts out of sight, out of frame, going places unknown.
Back when I was doing a lot of photography, this love manifested itself in a series of photographs I called “Pathways”. As a rider, it’s manifested in my love of the dirt road and the fine art of purposely getting lost. I also see this in my love of cemeteries, of abandoned places, and of the forgotten. When I travel, I find myself drawn to the hidden road, to the treasure hunt. And that’s what started my love affair with Route 66.
One day I told Mr. Man that taking the motorcycle and a camera down Route 66 was a lifelong dream of mine. I’m not sure if that thought had ever actually fully formed in my mind before, but once it came out of my mouth, I found that it was true and had been true for some time. He didn’t seem to share my fire regarding this and after traveling with him for a while, I came to realize that the sort of journey I wanted at that point couldn’t be done with him. In fact, the only person I could do this with was my best girl, Diva. Diva and I have been the closets of friends since we were 11. I told her that I wanted to take this trip with her and we quickly decided that for us, this trip would be best in a car, not my motorcycle. I could tell she was as excited as I was and so the talking and dreaming began in earnest. We chose a rough time frame and I sat down to plan the biggest trip of my life. Two years later, we did it. In 2009, Diva and I discovered Route 66 for ourselves and it was a life changing trip.
Route 66 doesn’t actually exist as a highway anymore. It’s been decommissioned. To find it you have to look for it. Some states it travels through are excellent at marking the road with signs, either with historical marker signs or State Highway signs (hats off to Illinois!). Other states make you work for it. You can make guesses but your best bet is to find a map. They are out there. My favorite set was a cartoonish hand drawn set of maps called “Here It Is”. They never got me lost….well, hardly ever. There are also guidebooks and turn by turn books to help you along the way. But the road itself will teach you so much more.
It took three weeks. I could have taken a month. It was one of the most pivotal and defining trips of my life. Just myself and my favorite girl in a huge rented Dodge armed with maps and guidebooks journeying from Chicago to California. It changed me. It showed me my own strength and independence. It taught me how to plan a trip, how to make changes in the middle of a trip if you have to. It reminded me that I love Diva and that I would go anywhere with her. Above all, the road taught me that America was larger and smaller and more strange than I could have imagined.
I know my Route 66 adventure isn’t over. I really want to finish the trip with Zippo and Spyderman and take us to Needles, California on bikes. That trip has to wait for now but someday soon, my love for the hidden, the crooked way will come to the front and I’ll find myself planning yet another trip down the Mother Road.