Route 66/Servant-Leadership Journey

Writings & postings from Larry from his cross country 3-4 week journey.Larry will be traveling Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica (about 2,300 miles by car, one way). Please scroll down to see all blog postings.
In more than years of travelling I have easily spent 1,000+ nights in hundreds of different hotels/motels across some thirty states and a dozen different countries. I know people who travel much more frequently than that. Still, even at the level of my own travel experiences I have developed an appreciation for certain hotels and motels. Over the past ten years I have tried to stay at Hampton Inns as often as I can. Listed below are the Top Five Reasons I Like Hampton Inns (in reverse order):

5. Great Value

I find Hampton Inns to be a great value for the money. They are consistent in their quality, and they are reasonable in price (most that I have stayed at run between $75 and $99).

4. Great Breakfasts

Hampton Inns offer a hearty and free breakfast from 6-10 a.m. that often includes eggs, sausage; make your own waffles and other kinds of road food that I tend to prefer. Of course, they also have the healthy alternatives for those who prefer that, too!

3. Curved Shower Rods

It was at a Hampton Inn some years ago where I first saw what I think is the greatest invention since fire: The curved shower curtain bar. I like having a little elbow room when I’m in the shower, and I was forever batting my elbow against shower curtains that came straight down. The curved shower curtain bar was clearly invented with me in mind. If I should ever find out the name of the inventor of the curved shower rod I just might launch a campaign to name a national holiday for him or her.

2. Really Good Coffee and Tea Offerings 24-Hours a Day

I know some people who like the hot cookies that Hampton Inn offers throughout the evening (our now grown sons were once among them, many years ago). However, the thing that I appreciate about Hampton Inn is the impressive coffee/tea service that they make available 24 hours a day. You can get your coffee in regular, bold, or decaf. There is hot chocolate (instant, but still something of a treat for young ones). I prefer tea, myself, and Hampton Inns always have between 6 and 12 different offerings of teabags, including my personal favorite, Earl Grey. At the end of a long drive or flight, a hot cup of Earl Grey hits the spot.

1. A Company That Cares

I have spoken with a number of folks who work at Hampton Inns and they have said things that have led me to believe that it is a company that cares for its employees, and for its community. Several years ago I began to notice signs promoting awareness of their efforts to save landmarks along Route 66 and elsewhere. On their website I see a listing of their “Save a Landmark” campaign in which Hampton Inn workers will go out and refurbish run-down landmarks in small towns and along the roads across America. While I haven’t yet seen the word “servant-leader” appear yet in their literature, Hampton Inns strike me as having something of a servant’s heart—and another reason I choose to stay with them when I can.

--Larry Spears [Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010]

Other than an occasional rental car in California, I don’t recall ever driving much west of the Mississippi river. For a variety of reasons my driving has been done almost entirely in the eastern half of the U.S.

That is why, for me, this particular stretch of driving was so dramatic and powerful. While I have seen the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona on television, and in books, it can’t compare to seeing the huge expanse of landscape stretching out to the horizon. I travelled miles at times without seeing any sign of civilization—only the natural beauty of the red soil and the layered colors that makes up many of the surrounding mountains and cliffs.

I have spent my entire life basically living in three cities: Detroit, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. Certainly the eastern U.S., and even the Midwest, has a relatively high population density. This means that it is rare to go more than a mile or so anywhere and not see some sign of humankind (a house, a gas station, something). On this leg of the trip there were so many times where there were no towns, no houses, and no signs. Just the pristine, stark beauty of the western landscape.

Because of my frequent stops on this section of the trip I wound up getting into Flagstaff after dark.

Wide open spaces indeed!

--Larry Spears [Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010]


I have been making mental notes of some signs that I have seen along the way. The following come to mind for one reason or another.—

Paradise Motel
[Sign located above the most rundown and dismal-looking motel I’ve ever seen.]

Do not enter areas of smoke
[Given that there were no trees in sight, this sign was initially puzzling. Only later did I understand that it referred to the potential danger coming from prairie grass fires. It’s just not a sign I’m used to seeing in the eastern U.S.]

Tucumcari Tonite!
[Frequent signage stating this seen for nearly 100 miles leading to Tucumcari. Small-town marketing at its finest, I guess.]

Photo Enforcement Zone
[This sign, seen in a very picturesque stretch of road, initially had me thinking that it had something to do with the taking of photos (either discouraging or encouraging it, though no pull-off areas to do that). Later, I wondered if it had something to do with law enforcement and speeding, though I saw no signs of that, either. Still not sure what it means.]

[Billboard promoting a Native American casino.]

Elevation 6,000 feet
[The highest I’ve ever been on four wheels!]

--Larry Spears [Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010]

It was a pleasant driving day on Route 66, travelling through the small towns of Vega and Adrian in Texas. As I entered New Mexico the landscape began to change again, and I began to see a lot more red in the soil and in the hills. The sun was bright and the sky was clear blue. I stopped in Tucumcari for a bottle of water and a sandwich, and then headed on to Albuquerque where I stopped for the night.

I have designated alternating days on this trip as silent days and music days. Today was a silent day in which I was able to simply think and reflect upon many things.

On my music days, I am listening to the CD’s that I brought along with me: Mostly the Beatles, plus some Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens, Sting, Hall and Oates, and a few others.

Having lived in Philadelphia in the 1970’s and 80’s, both Bruce Springsteen and Hall and Oates were kind of hometown heroes (never mind that Bruce was from the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey). Daryl Hall and John Oates met in Philadelphia in the late 1960’s; they had lot of hit records in the 1970’s and 80’s; and, they are still performing today, more than 40 years later. I saw them perform a couple of times in Philadelphia and have always enjoyed their music.

--Larry Spears [Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010]

As I drove through the little town of Weatherford, Oklahoma today I was reminded of Weatherford, Texas, and of Jim Boyd.

The first time that I recall meeting Jim Boyd was sometime around 1996, when he participated in the first Leadership Institute for Servant-Leadership, sponsored by The Greenleaf Center. Jim was President of Weatherford College at the time, located in Weatherford, Texas. I remember being impressed by his thoughtful and deliberate nature, and by his keen insights into servant-leadership. Later on, I invited Jim to facilitate one of the Institutes and to become part of the Speakers Bureau. We would occasionally have a chance to talk at conferences and elsewhere.

Dr. Jim Boyd began his career as a teacher in the public schools of Fredericksburg, Texas. He advanced through the teaching and administrative ranks, eventually serving as Dean of the College of Education at Tarleton State University and ultimately as the fifteenth president of Weatherford College. Following his career in academia, he retired to the family’s Texas Hill Country ranch in l998 to pursue his interests in ranching, writing and lecturing.

In 2004, when he was told he had ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, Jim began writing a manuscript which was both a reflection upon his experiences in coming to terms with ALS, and his insights into the world of leadership, and especially servant-leadership.

As I recall, it was Bob Ferguson of TDIndustries who told me in the spring of 2007 that Jim had entered the later stage of ALS; that he had written a manuscript but hadn’t yet found a publisher; and, he (Bob) wondered if I might be able to help in some way. Over the years I have done whatever I can to help authors of servant-leadership manuscripts (making connections with publishers, reviewing and critiquing manuscripts, editing, writing Forewords and Endorsements, etc.) I told Bob I would be happy to see if there was anything that I could do.

I contacted Jim, and his wife, Veleda, responded and sent me by email the manuscript. I was touched by what I read; I recognized that the manuscript needed some cleaning up and organizing prior to submitting it to a publisher; and, I offered to do both of those things and did so. I believe that we submitted the manuscript to Paulist Press in July of 2007, knowing that it can normally take at least six months before a publisher makes a decision about any manuscript.

In September of 2007, Veleda contacted me and said that Jim’s life was nearing the end. She asked if there was anything that I could do to try and get an immediate answer from Paulist Press. I contacted Paulist’s Managing Editor, Paul McMahon, and explained the situation to him. Paul said that he understood and would try to get back to me within 24 hours with a decision, which he did, and the decision that they would be publishing Lessons from Life.

I contacted Veleda and she was able to tell Jim of Paulist Press’s decision to publish his manuscript. I also encouraged the adding of a subtitle, “A Servant-Leader’s Journey,” which was incorporated into it. Two days later, I received this email from Veleda:


Jim passed away on Saturday afternoon here at the ranch with his family by his side. I am so thankful that the news about his book came before then. He was so pleased to hear that the work would be published. Thank you for all the work you did on Jim's behalf.


Paulist Press subsequently published Jim’s book, Lessons from Life: A Servant-Leader’s Journey in the fall of 2008. I think it is a splendid book, written by a wonderful man, and I highly recommend it for its insights and encouragement.

I will leave you with this postscript from the book, one of the last things that Jim was able to add to the manuscript—

Postscript from Lessons from Life: a Servant-Leader’s Journey, by Jim Boyd [Paulist Press, 2008]

Christian, Mariah, Thomas, Elisabeth Rose: As I said at the start of this work, I hoped to capture from my own imperfect life, lessons that might be of use to you in the future. My journey since then has taken me down a number of roads I never expected to follow. It may be that along the way, I became not the teacher, but the real student. As I think back on this experience, I know it has given me a much greater appreciation for all things. For that, I am so very grateful, and I suppose I have you to thank.

For me, one of the most memorable things I found in my research for “Lessons from Life” came the day I stumbled onto the words of our ancestor Roland Taylor. Two days before he was martyred in 1555, he was allowed to briefly speak with his family. His moving message to them transcends all generations. It is a message of parting and I leave it for you, your Oma [Veleda] and your moms and dads. I hope you will share it with your children.

“I say to my wife, and to my children, The Lord gave you unto me, and the Lord hath taken me from you, and you from me: blessed be the name of the Lord! I believe that they are blessed which die in the Lord. God careth for sparrows, and for the hairs of our heads. I have ever found Him more faithful and favorable, than is any father or husband. Trust ye therefore in Him by the means of our dear Savior Christ's merits: believe, love, fear, and obey Him: pray to Him, for He hath promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live, and never die. I go before, and you shall follow after, to our long home.” [Roland Taylor, February 7, 1515]

--Larry Spears [Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010]

Longest driving day yet: 380 miles from Tulsa to Amarillo. Route 66 and associated roads much improved today. Still, I was surprised to see snow along the side of the roads all the way to the Texas-Oklahoma border. I hadn’t realized that last week’s snowstorm had extended so far south and west.

Route 66 Museum

Beautiful to drive through the small towns that dot Route 66. Towns with names like Sapulpa, Chandler, Yukon (a sign indicated that it is the birthplace of Garth Brooks), Clinton, Elk City, and Erick (yet another sign proudly announcing it as the birthplace of Roger Miller).

As I entered the Texas Panhandle I noticed that the soil increasingly takes on a more reddish color. Also, much less ground cover (trees and bushes are disappearing as I head west).

--Larry Spears [Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010]

As I neared the Missouri-Oklahoma border today I saw a sign for Neosho, Missouri. Located in the heart of the Ozarks, I was reminded of three things—

1. My wife’s parents had first met around 1947 at what was then the Army base known as Camp Crowder. Beth’s mother was an Army Captain who was also not the best driver. She was driving a jeep and somehow managed to hit a tree. Beth’s father was a lower-rank M.P. who went to the scene of the minor accident. He asked her if she had been drinking (not the most unreasonable question to ask someone who had managed to hit a tree at a slow speed). Beth’s mother was insulted by his question and stated emphatically that she most certainly had not been drinking! I find that story to be one of the better “how I met your mother” stories that I have heard. They began dating and eventually got married, and I wound up marrying their youngest child. That’s another “how I met your mother” stories best saved for another time.

2. Camp Crowder was eventually decommissioned as a base and James B. Tatum managed to gather support to establish Crowder College where Camp Crowder was once located. Jim Tatum is a remarkable man who operated one of the largest farm equipment businesses in the region. He is also well-known in community college circles for his work on behalf of local colleges, and for his involvement with the Association of Governing Boards (AGB). And, during the late-1980’s and early-1990’s he was the board chair of The Greenleaf Center. Which brings me to item #3.

3. It was quite possibly 20 years ago today (or very close to it), that I was interviewed and hired as chief executive of The Greenleaf Center. At the time I was based at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and working as CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium—a consortia group made up of a dozen colleges and universities in the Greater Philadelphia area. Prior to that (in the early 1980’s) I had worked with the Quaker magazine, Friends Journal, which is where I first heard of Robert Greenleaf and servant-leadership. Friends Journal published half-dozen articles written by Bob Greenleaf.

In the fall of 1989, Beth became pregnant with our second child, and we became open to the idea of moving back to Indiana to be near family members—if I could find the right position. No sooner had I become open to the possibility than I learned that the Greenleaf Center was relocating from Boston to Indianapolis and looking for someone to lead it. My interests in servant-leadership and Quaker values, coupled with my experiences in helping to grow several non-profit organizations, resulted in my being invited out to Indianapolis for what was to have been an initial one hour interview.

The interview in Indianapolis took place at what was to become The Greenleaf Center’s first home in the Hoosier state, in the Indiana Interchurch Center. The interview-and-hiring committee was made up of Jim Tatum, Sr. Joel Read, and Jack Lowe. As I recall, that initial meeting ran much longer than I had expected, which I took as a good sign, and I was asked if I would stay over and come back in the next day. I did, and I was offered the position the next day. Beth, our son James, and I made the move out to Indianapolis in March of 1990. Beth gave birth to our second son, Matthew, on July 14, 1990, which is both Bastille Day and Robert Greenleaf’s own birthday (he had been born on July 14, 1904). More than one person has asked me over the years if Matthew’s birth date had been arranged in some fashion to coincide with Greenleaf’s birthday. My answer has always been: Not by me! Bob Greenleaf chuckled when I told him that he and Matthew shared a birthday.

My eighteen years with the Greenleaf Center were quite meaningful for me, and I continue to do the same kind of work that I have done for the past 20 years—raising awareness of servant-leadership through a broad range of writing-and-editing projects. I am forever grateful to Sr. Joel Read, to Jack Lowe, and especially to Jim Tatum for having hired a certain 34-year-old on another cold January day back in 1990. It proved to be a great match.

I thought about all of this as I pulled out the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper CD and popped it into the player in my car. As I drove past Neosho, Paul McCartney began to sing, “It was 20 years ago today,” and I recalled the excitement that I had felt all those years ago.

--Larry Spears [Monday, Jan. 11, 2010]



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