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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Father of the Mother Road: The story of one man’s mission to turned Route 66 from a forgotten highway to a national treasure

When I read this in this mornings electronic Daily Mail, I just had to share it with you, dear reader! 

In the fifties when I "bummed" around the USA for 30 months of the three years I was there, I spent a little time on Route 66. 

What a route, with lots of bars all with country and western singers every night - Nashville wasn't the home of C&W to many of us, Route 66 was!

Read on, and finish the article in the Mail, link at the bottom.

Angel Delgadillo is sitting on a bench outside his Route 66 gift shop while a gaggle of Japanese tourists crowd round fussing and taking pictures.

'Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheeeeeese,' he says as they sit, two-by-two next to him until another fan approaches.

Bertrand Laisney lives in Paris but is driving Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. He explains that he was compelled to stop in Seligman, Arizona, where Angel lives, after reading a half-dozen guidebooks about the 'Mother Road' that 'all tell about Mr Delgadillo.'
Say cheese: Angel Delgadillo poses outside his souvenir store in Seligman, Arizona on Route 66 with two Japanese tourists - the first of many fans he'll greet that day
Say cheese: Angel Delgadillo poses outside his souvenir store in Seligman, Arizona on Route 66 with two Japanese tourists - the first of many fans he'll greet that day


'You're part of the story of the United States,' Mr Laisney tells him.
At 84, dressed in slacks and with hearing aids in both ears, Mr Delgadillo doesn't look like your average rock star.

But when he saved what is now America's most iconic road after it was decommissioned in 1985 his celebrity shot through the roof. 
'My town all but blew away,' Mr Delgadillo said recalling the dreadful year when the 2,400 mile road was replaced by highway I-40.

'We were forgotten by the world.'
Icon: Mr Delgadillo sits in his barber shop with a portrait of his younger self. He formed the Historic Route 66 Association in 1987
Icon: Mr Delgadillo sits in his barber shop with a portrait of his younger self. He formed the Historic Route 66 Association in 1987

But he wasn't going to give up that easily and in 1987 called a now famous meeting of 15 people to form the Historic Rout 66 Association.

They persuaded the Arizona State Legislature to give historic designation to Route 66 and now the 150-mile stretch between Seligman and Topack is very well preserved attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Today there are leather-clad Harley riders, Norwegians wanting to shake Mr Delgadillo's hand and of course the Japanese tourists who literally 'oohed' and 'ahhed' as he approached his shop on an eight-speed bicycle.

They call him many things: The Father of the Mother Road. The Guardian Angel of Route 66. Sometimes, simply, The Ambassador.
Not your average rock star: Wearing slacks and with hearing aids in both ears, Mr Delgadillo pedals to his shop every morning on an eight-speed bicycle
Not your average rock star: Wearing slacks and with hearing aids in both ears, Mr Delgadillo pedals to his shop every morning on an eight-speed bicycle

'This guy here ... every time I get a chance I come in and shake his hand,' says Jerry Stinson of Lake Tyee, Washington, who plans to someday retire along Route 66 and open a business - 'because of you,' he tells Mr Delgadillo as they pose for a picture.

His story has been related in travel guides, even on a website for a Route 66 association in the Czech Republic. He and his town were the inspiration for the animated film Cars, but he has inspired many others, too, with a vigour that age hasn't diminished - a passion for the road he grew up on, and old with.

He was born on Route 66 back when Seligman was a railroad town ferrying explorers West and was a witness to the Dust Bowl migration and the transport of equipment during World War II.

Read the full article in the Daily Mail.

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