While I suspect that I will continue to gain insights from my Route 66 Journey, I want to share a few thoughts that have come to me, and to put a kind of period or exclamation point to this particular blog.

In my initial posting of January 6, I mentioned that I had wanted to make this journey along Route 66 for quite a few years, but that I had repeatedly postponed it. The simple idea of taking three weeks off to do something like this seemed liked a frivolous idea to me. I use the word “frivolous” in an effort to help make clear the essence of what it was that had kept me from making the trip: My own sense of logic and responsibility had led me to reach other conclusions.

What finally enabled me to turn that dream into reality occurred last Fall when I asked myself two questions: “Why do I want to make this journey?” and, “What is it going to take for me to do this?

My answer to the first question (“Why do I want to make this journey?”) included such things as: The desire to try something new; my love of long-distance driving; my use of long-distance driving as an opportunity for contemplation; the opportunity to visit with friends along the way; interest in seeing things that I had read about over the years; and, a vague feeling of wanting to jump-start the New Year in a different fashion. As I look back on it, most of these answers had always been a part of why I was eager to take this trip.

It was my answer to the second question, “What is it going to take for me to do this?” that finally made it happen. The idiosyncratic answer that unlocked the door for me was: Perhaps I could make some use of the trip as an opportunity to do some writing about both the journey itself and servant-leadership. For some, the need to ask that question in the first place, or to find an answer for it, may be perplexing. For others, I can imagine that the question may make sense, but that the answer might seem odd. Speaking as someone who has been called “Mr. Responsibility” on more than one occasion, I can only say with some clarity that my particular answer to that question was the key to my making the journey.

Following years of thinking about making the Route 66 journey, once I had convinced myself to make the trip I wanted to start immediately and not put it off any longer. While it wasn’t the ideal time of year in terms of weather, I chose to make it happen at the earliest time possible, which was January, 2010.

As I reflect upon the highlights of the journey now ended, these are some of the things that come to mind—

FRIENDS: I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with old and new friends on this trip, including: Larry Fidelus in Joliet, Illinois; Jamie & Maren Showkeir, Victoria Crawford, and Jeff & Jennifer McCollum, all in Phoenix, Arizona; Cobe & Bruce Frobes in Rio Verde, Arizona; Warren Bennis, and Roger Slifer, both in Santa Monica, California.

GEOGRAPHY: I enjoyed seeing areas of the U.S. that I had never seen before. In particular, I was impressed with the stark beauty of so much of the landscape in New Mexico and Arizona. The snow-capped mountains were wonderful to see. And, while it rained during my short sojourn in Santa Monica, it was also good to see the Pacific Ocean once again. I have visited the Atlantic Ocean 20 or 30 times over the years; but, I have only been to the Pacific Ocean a handful of times.

CITIES AND TOWNS: It was interesting to stay overnight in the following towns and cities along the way: Joliet, IL; Springfield, IL; Springfield, MO; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Amarillo, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Phoenix, AZ; Rio Verde, AZ; Kingman, AZ; Barstow, CA; Santa Monica, CA; Beaumont, CA; Goodyear, AZ; Deming, NM, Tucumcari, NM; Clinton, OK; and, Lebanon, MO.

THE DRIVE: While the Winter weather made driving quite challenging on some days (I encountered snow, ice, hail, rain, and high winds on roughly half of the trip), on the whole I enjoyed the long hours of driving Route 66 and associated highways. I travelled much of the journey in silence and enjoyed having the time for reflection, and to think about several creative projects. I also had the pleasure of listening to all of the Beatles’ albums, once again, while on this trip.

STATISTICS: Over the course of 21 days I travelled a total of 4,844 miles through the following states: Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. While weather woes prompted me to skip some parts of Route 66 in favor of the better maintained highways, I estimate that I drove on 1,700 out of the 2,300 miles that constitute Route 66.

WRITING: I wrote a total of 38 pieces (about 14,000 words) that were posted on this Blog. Roughly half of them had to do with the journey, and the other half dealt with servant-leadership in some fashion, including two interviews that I conducted along the way. I especially enjoyed writing short pieces, but a large quantity of them. Also, while I am used to writing mostly in the third person, I enjoyed the act of writing most of these Blog items in the first person. The discipline of writing one or two pieces per day was an interesting exercise in-and-of itself.

BOOKS: I made the time to read and re-read a number of books along the way. These included four books written by friends of mine, plus one classic novel—

--AUTHENTIC CONVERSATIONS: MOVING FROM MANIPULATION TO TRUTH AND COMMITMENT, by Jamie and Maren Showkeir (Berrett-Koehler, 209 pages, 2008, www.henning-showkeir.com). One of the best books available on how to improve the quality of meaningful dialogue in the workplace.

--THE ART & PRACTICE OF TRUST: FINDING YOUR WAY THROUGH UNCERTAINTY, CHANGE & TRANSITION, by Victoria Crawford (Way of Discovery Press, 153 pages, 2009, www.wayofdiscovery.com). A caring look at personal growth and development through four guideposts of willingness, awareness, discernment, and action.

--THE STREETS OF FOREST HIGHLANDS: STORIES BEHIND THE NAMES, by Cobe Frobes (Forest Highlands Association, 70 pages, 2006). A delightful anthology comprised of some thirty biographical sketches of founders of the town of Flagstaff, Arizona, after whom streets have been named.

--ON BECOMING A LEADER, by Warren Bennis (Perseus Publishing, 218 pages, 2003 edition). A wise and inspiring book, ON BECOMING A LEADER offers great insights into the nature of leaders and leadership. One of the truly classic books in contemporary leadership literature.

--THE GRAPES OF WRATH, by John Steinbeck (Penguin Books, 619 pages, 1992 edition). The defining work by this Nobel Prize-winning author, THE GRAPES OF WRATH was a book that I first read in college some 35 years ago. It was the original source of my awareness and interest in Route 66 (“The Mother Road”).

SURPRISES: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my visit to the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma, and by how well-organized it was. It was a great mix of information and inspiration. I was also surprised by my discovery of the Bible Museum located within a room at the Hampton Inn in Goodyear, Arizona, along with learning that it had links to the Byrd family in Indiana. Most of all, I was surprised by how interesting I found nearly every aspect of this trip to be. In that way, it proved to be a tremendously satisfying trip.

CLOSING THOUGHTS—

I either learned and/or was reminded of some things as a result of this trip—

12. There is something about long-distance driving that I find quite satisfying.

11. I valued the opportunity to read more, and more intensively, than is usually the case.

10. I enjoyed looking at the mountains in the distance much more than I did actually driving up-and-down them.

9. We live in a large country that is filled with fascinating people and interesting sights.

8. Having a GPS in your car is a wonderful thing, especially when you aren’t sure where you are going.

7. I enjoyed writing these short pieces for this Blog, and I am glad I made it an integral part of this trip.

6. I appreciated seeing places along Route 66 that I had read about for years.

5. There is an element of fun to be found in adventures great-and-small.

4. I value my friendships with people, and I am grateful for them.

3. There is an element of insight that comes as a result of quiet contemplation and solitude.

2. I appreciated my wife, Beth’s understanding as I was away from home for three weeks.

1. There is no place like home.

End of trip

--Larry Spears [Friday, Jan. 29, 2010]