Day 9 – Flagstaff to Santa Monica
You would think I'd know better than to start the day in Flagstaff and then follow Route 66 to Santa Monica before sundown. I did that last year and said I would not do it again! However, there is something about getting home and I am sure my colleagues would readily agree. It was an interesting final day on the road together and a beautiful drive to Route 66's endpoint in Will Rogers Park in Santa Monica where our trip officially concluded.
We began the day at a fun little place in Williams, Arizona called Blondies Route 66 Diner that served as the site of our final meal together. A special commendation goes to Ted Garcia for surviving the Plaza Hurricane in Gallup and the Route 66 Breakfast Burrito in Williams. Both are presented as culinary challenges accepted by only the most gifted and intrepid diners. Ted finished strong, but only slightly ahead of Allen Haren and Nate Pang. Among other statistics recorded during our time together, I suggested we should have had a group cholesterol exam before and after the Route 66 excursion.
Before reporting the day's activities, I need to add that blog readers' comments on music shaped my selections from Santa Fe on and I will offer the final entry, as well as some travel information relevant to the journey, tomorrow. Today I found an "all Elvis, all the time" station on Sirius and so the King of Rock and Roll rode shotgun most of the way home.
We met in the Grand Canyon Hotel in downtown Williams with Donna Eastman Liddle, president/CEO of the Williams Chamber of Commerce. It was a fine opportunity to talk about the preservation of "Main Street" with one of the leading preservationists for the Western portion of the journey.
In 1984 a spur was added to Interstate 40 that led most travelers off Route 66 and away from Williams. The town began to die slowly, but today it thrives and a nice art colony is starting to develop along with some clever interpretations of life on Route 66. The Grand Canyon Hotel where we held our conversation is a very special place. Fittingly, its address is on Route 66 – 145 W. Route 66 in fact. The hotel was lovingly restored by Amy Frederickson and her husband and has all the charm and creaks that one would hope for and expect to find in a place that has served guests since 1891.
In the local museum there is a photo of Williams in its heyday and next year, as part of the celebration of Arizona's Centennial year, they will recreate that photo with local townspeople. The city lives today because of people like Donna Eastman Liddle, the Fredericksons, and others who believe in Main Street. There is, in fact, a Main Street Association that meets to discuss the future of small towns and historic routes. I hope they thrive.
Donna speaks freely of a life that has not been easy in many respects. Her journey, however, has led her to pursue her interest in art and making friends in the city of Williams, both of which bring her joy. She also has two sons in whom she takes great pride. The special place of the individual in small town America is important to Donna and so are education, hard work, freedom, second-chances, and unconditional love. As you can see, we moved from the superficial to those things that reside close to the heart, and while I had just met her, she spoke to me as a long-time friend.
Donna's personal journey includes a search for community. Earlier in life she found it in sports. Today she has found it in art and gardening and she has recently returned to prayer and meditation as strength-giving exercises. In conversation she refers to each element of the "fruit of the Spirit" as outlined in the New Testament.
I sense progress in Williams and, I suspect, Donna deserves a lot of the credit. Her work with the Chamber is much more political than most would understand. To preserve and protect things that are important, one must gain consensus, take risks, and speak up. It has always been that way and always will be.