When Dave Hitchcock mentioned this past winter that he and Linda were hatching a springtime adventure retracing the iconic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, it peaked my interest despite my being knee deep in hockey mode.
I’ve met my share of “never dull” families in the course of my coaching career and the Hitchcock’s certainly qualify. As parents of skaters, the Hitchcock’s have covered more than their fair share of highway travel following the athletic exploits of their two talented daughters Jenn and Jess the past two decades.
I first met Dave at a hockey event in Vancouver of all places. It was the summer of 2002 and I had just completed my first season as the new head coach of the women’s program at UNH. His oldest daughter Jenn was a talented prospect and Dave was accompanying a group of skaters from Ontario that were participating in the tournament. I soon discovered he was in the automobile business and as many of you know, I have a weakness for ‘old’ cars and trucks. We quickly struck up a conversation and over the next decade as first Jenn and then Jess made their way to Durham to skate for the Wildcats, Dave and I shared our passion for the auto industry. Much to my wife Karen’s chagrin, Dave did little to dissuade my habit of seeking out old ratty looking cars and trucks from our past. It’s a disease that afflicts many and Dave could be described as an “enabler” or sorts.
6Canucksonroute66 is their story of retracing, literally, the iconic American route that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. It’s often referred to as “the Main Street of America.” Established in the fall of 1926 it transported thousands upon thousands of migrating families from America’s heartland to the west coast. This ribbon of road traversed Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before spilling into Los Angeles. It covered an amazing 2,445 miles of the rolling hills, dusty desert, canyons and mountains. “The Mother Road” as it was also known, may not have been quite as adventuresome or dangerous as the Lewis and Clark Trail, but in a span of three decades it would become equally famous. The Dust Bowl of the 1930′s coincided with it’s construction, enabling thousands of farming families from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas to seek refuge on the west coast. Mom and Pop service stations, restaurants and motor courts emerged along the route to handle the traffic. An entire new industry sprung forth as “Okies” and “Arkies” sought their fortunes to the west. John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” captured the imaginations of Americans chronicling this desperate search for survival. When American entered WWII, Route 66 became the official lifeline supplying war related industry in California with workers. By the 1950′s with the war behind us, American vacationers took to the wheel and freely travelled the plains and mountainous west in search of adventure and relaxation. Now at it’s zenith the road became a near perfect microcosm of American culture and our love affair with the automobile.
Ironically at the very same time events were in motion spelling the demise of the very road that thrust American culture into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. Dwight Eisenhower had experienced the value of establishing major highways whilst fighting in Europe. In 1956 he signed the “Interstate Highway Act” into existence, signaling the slow yet steady death of Route 66. Bypasses were built siphoning off travelers and eventually interstate highways came into existence that offered a safer and quicker means of crossing the American west.
By the early 1980′s the road that had entrenched forever the American love affair with the automobile, was decommissioned. Realizing that the loss of this legendary and iconic roadway was imminent the first Route 66 Association was established. Sections of the road were placed on the National Historic Register and markers began to line the entire 2400 mile route. The famed roadway was becoming a fixture in American culture and states began recognizing it’s iconic nature. In the spirit of it’s history Dave and Linda & Co. determined that a trio of Corvettes would be their chariots of choice. I’ve spent the last few weeks living vicariously through their pictures and tales of travel.
If you want to join along you can easily locate their colorful and entertaining blog: 6canucksonroute66.wordpress.com