People are hungry for roads that exude local flavor and can be taken at a slower pace, just like we are hungry to enjoy local and sustainably grown foods. Route 66, The Mother Road, is very much one of these roads that illuminates the character of the land it takes one through. Adventure Cycling is planning and promoting a US Bicycle Route System to include Rt. 66. This is a great idea. Perhaps it will become as famous and popular as the National Parks as a vehicle for discovery and delivering new narratives on national values and creating adventurous trails.
As with the Complete Streets concept, the US Bicycle Route System encourages bicycles to utilize existing transportation corridors and sees multi modal traffic as a value added element. The bicyclist and pedestrian themselves are agents of positive change. What I love about the Route 66 bike route is the extension of the power of the bicycle beyond the confines of a city. It captivates the magic of roaming wide and far across the country side just like you would in a car. This is a key attraction for igniting the imagination for traveling, stringing together not only the dense streetscapes of the urban environment but the long stretches of open and free countryside where people are living to customs and rhythms closely in tune with land and traditions. At a slower pace places come alive and illuminate under the full power of our senses. We can seamlessly experience the interconnectedness between locations.
Traveling slowly through the rural landscape tells us a story, much like the farmland along the plains surrounding the waterways hold incredible renewable values whose tales are told after harvest at the farmer’s market. Route 66 is not just a place to drive through but a place to be in and appreciate, to taste and sample carefully. By accommodating and encouraging a lighter mode of traffic and prevailing a slower way of travel, the local character remains intact and reciprocally flows back a greater ambient value toward discerning travelers. Give yourself up a little and get much more in return.
Bicyclists are part of America’s lungs, legs, and fresh eyes. These slow bike trekkings, like Lewis and Clark’s long journey, take great patience and inscribe America’s rediscovery into the ledger of our national experience. Our national character is being continually revealed through intimate focal experiences strung together like a sequence of jewels along a golden banded necklace. What is revealed through our daily contact with the land and people is as important and poignant to the data and images we collect from voyages on the space shuttle. The scales inform each other so the big picture makes sense through our intimately located selves.
Most days I prefer to put my newspaper down and go check the daily news a bike ride delivers. Find out what’s happening in the great bounty of the country outside more closely scripted city life. Bicycling a local and slow road builds a continuous flow of adventure in my life and is the lamp by which I see. I forge a stronger bond. A motto for slow and local roads and the US Bicycle Route System could be: Ride where you love and love where you ride.