The Road of Flight

The Road of Flight

66 is the mother road, the road of flight.
~ John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 12

Steinbeck dedicated chapter twelve of Grapes to Route 66, the road of flight for dust bowl refugees seeking the promise of something better in California. The chapter traces Route 66, its terrain, its places, its challenges, the experiences of its desperate travellers, from the Joad family home in Oklahoma all the way to Los Angeles.

The story of the road is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Thousands fail to reach California. Their money runs out, their jalopies break down, their will expires — and often their lives. But for those who persevere, who are clever, resourceful and lucky, something better surely awaits them at the end of the road.

And so they make their way, through it all. They are nearly through the expanses of New Mexico and Arizona, where a new obstacle rises out of the hot, flat, dry land.

Ashfork and Kingman and stone mountains again, where water must be hauled and sold. Then out of the broken sun-rotted mountains of Arizona to the Colorado, with green reeds on its banks, and that’s the end of Arizona.
~ John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 12

This photograph captures the look back on those sun rotted mountains. The end of Arizona. Sitgreaves Pass would have ended many a jalopy’s life. For those who managed to get over, this would have been a welcome look back, another barrier bested, with the green reeds of the Colorado just ahead. And beyond that?

There’s California just over the river, and a pretty town to start it. Needles, on the river. But the river is a stranger in this place. Up from Needles and over a burned range, and there’s the desert. And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in the distance. At last there’s Barstow, and more desert until at last the mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it’s over.
~ John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 12

A pretty little town is Needles, yes, but beyond it lies California’s Mojave, the terrible desert. Many more vehicles would overheat there, tires would shred, refugees would mark their last days beside the Mother Road.

Best not think about that, not just yet. There’s a pretty little town, and more water than you’ve seen for miles and miles. A chance for respite before continuing the flight.

And best not think about what lies in wait in the pilgrimage’s fictional promised land.

Looking back to Sitgreaves Pass
Route 66
The Road of Flight
Arizona, United States of America

Taken during travels, 1997

Posted as a response to this week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge: Symbol.

I hope you enjoy these additional sights (and words) found along Historic Route 66