Archive for March, 2010

On the Road

March 27, 2010

We are on the Road! We just placed one of our markers at a rest area in McClean county, IL. There were other markers nearby including a patinated series of figure silhouettes of the family that built one of the first “hard roads” in Illinois near a syrup farm called Funks Grove. Isaac Funk arrived in the area in 1824 and began the road to simplify travel to nearby Bloomington. His grandson later built the first automobile in the area to drive on his family’s road. As America began connecting the named roads in the twenties, This stretch was one of the oldest sections of the infamous “mother” road. We labeled marker number 4 with Katie’s wordpress address. You can find our location on Google Earth.

Our last reading was very interesting in the sense of history and perceived culture. We have been dealing with that a lot in our discussions about our journey. Every time we ask someone about Route 66, they respond with the diddie from the song or they ask us if we are driving an old car. I believe that this is related to America’s perception of Hawaii. People think palm trees, beaches, Lu’uas, and Hula girls. We lazily assign images to subjects and constantly recall these symbols as opposed to learning more about the person, place, event, etc. I think of Dog the bounty hunter. That could have been L.A., Vegas, Detroit or Atlanta but it was Hawaii. A much different Hawaii than most people thought. It was one of drugs, strip malls, trailer parks and a complete list of all things that most Americans do not consider when they think of Hawaii.

We have also compared our path to its uses. To dispel this myth that Route 66 was created in the mid- twentieth century so that guys with nice hair could put the top down and sing to the oldies, we have been working on a more complete history. Route 66 became the mother road for two main reasons. First, was the fact that small cities were becoming connected with permanent roads. America had a lot of River corridors in the East to provide transportation at the time. Second, the Western half of the States still relied on wagon trails to get to the West Coast. Natives were sent westward to their new homes on these paths in the 19th Century as well as the goldrushers. The trails were used for cattle drives to Saint Louis and Kansas City up into the 20th Century. Rails and business began to cater to all of these travelers creating the need for a continual paved road West and was prioritized through the WPA. From these two reasons, other factors assisted in the actual location and use of the highway. Local politicians fought, wrangled and gerrymandered the route continuously for nearly fifty years adjusting it through different cities and sometimes entirely different corridors.

Like Hawaiian tourism, The history that created the reality was later stripped of its local issues and referred to only by its symbols. We do not always have control over image but must always remind ourselves and others to get past the advertising and search for something more in our travels. Learn about the people and the culture. Find out why a certain place came to be important. Check back often. We will be covering a lot of ground this week!



66 Ghosts

March 25, 2010

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On Hawaii

March 19, 2010

Welcome. Last week’s discussion was interesting. It was like a roller coaster ride at times going from highly energetic to a slow creep. It seems that people sometimes become disinterested when the subject is not about their particular chapter or personal interests. Maybe it would help to stick to our “chapter” markers more without digression. Or, possibly, trying to limit our input to shorter thoughts that can be discussed quicker as opposed to one person talking for 3-5 minutes. Not sure.

A quick update on 66 Ghosts: Katie and I have finished our wax model for our site markers. This weekend we will begin pouring waxes (about 30) and affixing individual identification numbers to them. Next Tuesday we will burnout and pour all of our bronze on Thursday. Late Thursday/ early Friday, we will Tig weld our spikes on and hit the road! We have our tent & bags, gas money and our reading list. If anyone is thinking about traveling in this way I found a site with some good links: I have also been reading about Death Cab for Cutie doing a trip following Keroac and writing an album. Here is a link on NPR:

On to Hawaii and the Hula dance. I have a few thoughts after having a couple of days to digest the conversation.

A.) I believe that the book kept the focus on the spectator. Every reference of hula and the Luau was focused toward the consumer. I think that there is room for other views. I read on Alternative Hawaii that the Hawaiian people had actually let their dance slip form mainstream as well as the missionaries. I also believe that it is not just the missionaries faults for stripping their cultural practices with an offer to Heaven. Not to confuse anyone, I believe that missionaries should keep their asses home and quit f@#*ing up everyones cultures trying to spread their religions and ideals.

B.) My other concern is the cultural impact of the militaries during World War II on the Pacific Rim. It seems like such a contrast of the quaint tropical island with ships anchored off shore and runways being put down on clearings. I have thought about this before looking through my fathers pictures (WWII) from Guam, Bora Bora, Phillipines, Etc. I remembered seeing images of topless locals sitting at picnic tables with the G.I.s  eating fruit with palm trees and a USO stage in the background. I would like to imagine how their lifes changed seeing these massive ships come to their islands.

C.) Finally, I also wonder if cultural change is always good or bad. I think that maybe it just happens. It would be wrong to totally withhold from exchanging knowledge with indigenous  peoples hoping to ensure that there lives go on unchanged. I guess that maybe we need to do more talking and less pillaging so that we can truly learn from others. We should take it slow and neither nation build or ostracize.

66 ghosts

March 14, 2010

It has been an undertaking searching for well written material relating to our research trip. The positive side to this is that it gives the freedom to conduct research in one’s own manner. Though I am far away from writing a book, it is the same feeling that once you run out of research on the subject of concern that you should begin your own.

We have been meeting with our professors lately and began to find the strengths of our research trip. I still have some concerns on content, but the beneficial ones are adding substance now. Our largest breakthrough is re-labeling our trip as a “path.” After we arrived at this nomenuclature, we were able to focus our content as it relates to the experience of the act of travel as opposed to destination based travel. Lennon & Foley cite how [dark] tourism is closely related to the size of the population as in Auschwitz. This problem is highly exaggerated in our project as many of the towns along the path that we chose scrape for any tourists that they get. When people do visit, the seem to get this nostalgic view of the American west during the modern time where people jumped in their internal combustion lead sleds, folded the top down and rushed across the desert.

            Now to the dark side: When the United States began the forced migration of the native people west, they moved from one shanty town to another working their way west. As travel expanded westward designated wagon routes started being named. By the turn of the last century, the “new” Americans decided to connect these major routes to simplify travel in the Southwestern States. Old dirt trails, were paved and  linked finally being designated as U.S. 66. The rest is revisionist history as we came to celebrate this segment of time concerning this path. It was far more romantic than it’s previous history and it re-enforced freedom and nationalism along a path that was big and fast. Even the “attractions” that we have been researching mirror this as the roadside is filled with fiberglass statues of men, machine, and animal. Even a lot of the decorations on these attractions are riddled with symbols of the native past.

            Our next big decision, was to create our own markers of what we deem important along this infamous path. We have begun designing Bronze trail markers, sequentially numbered to mark the sites that we find worthy. Arrogant? Maybe. At least we will be providing something that allows for critical review. Maybe Jamaica Kincaid would agree with this procedure. But, our route is not all about saving the memory of a certain era be it native population or post-war poets. We are searching for our own impressions of the path.

            We began with a working title of Site-Marker-Site based on MacCannell’s writings. This has remained a strong base of our trip and has reinforced itself through our various mutations. Despite the relevance of our initial title, we have been using the term “66 ghosts” lately when referring to the project. Ghosts of the indigenous, ghosts of the various routes during it’s 60 years, including the towns and people along it’s way.

            Finally, we have decided to map our path. It became obvious when we started our video documentation that US 66 was very ambiguous. Everyone you ask says it is there. We know from our initial travel and mapping research that parts of it remain. But when asked, AAA states that there is no road designated 66 other than a resurrected stretch of highway in Northern Arizona. “We can give you maps of the states it went through!” she said cheerfully. It may be obvious, but the idea of a map is to show a person routes and locations. This is when the idea of “Ghosts” entered our discussions. So, we decided to create our own path and map it. We have downloaded Google Earth and are learning to set it up for our needs. We are linking our blogs and my personal website to Google Earth so that people can track our route. When we find a place worthy of a bronze marker, we will spike it into the ground and document it’s ID number with a peg on Google Earth. Where as Bronze used to mean forever, we are making pieces that could be located and stolen. Only the virtual world and memory will contain our original path.

Goliaths and Ghosts

March 5, 2010

This week I will investigate a vague idea of site based on the question that I posed for the discussion Tuesday. My question was regarding the idea of how cultural sites get out of hand to the point that they are a bastardized destination. I believe this may happen for reasons due to capitalism and opportunity.
Capitalism is easy. Joe and Nelda collect gas pumps. They have the sickness of a collectors addiction and keep purchasing more and more vintage gas pumps. To justify their condition, they attach cultural value to their motivations and claim they are preserving history. After erecting a pole barn to store their collection, they begin letting people in. Soon, they call it a museum. It begins with a donation box while they wet their feet. Soon, their son comes to visit after finishing his business degree and decides to do some marketing. They make pamphlets, advertise the “world’s largest collection of vintage gas pumps,” add phrases like “a stroll down memory lane” and open a gift shop. Soon they are providing for antique car shows, writing press releases for everyone from the “local” section of the newspaper to the travel channel.
Some sites make it, some don’t. In the extreme, you have places like Las Vegas that began with nothing and somehow turned it into a top destination where people come to pour their money into the system. I am sure there are complete dissertations written just on the Vegas model. I firmly believe that Joe and Nelda want their Vegas as well. If people will keep coming and giving someone money for visiting their site, most people will keep accepting the income. Not every site has the choice. Sites that grow exponentially are reliant on factors of infrastructure . There are, of course, places in contemporary times that actually make an attempt to manage tourism, but if given the option, I believe that most people manage tourism as a response to the requirements and wishes of the patrons spending money as opposed to a proactive system.
I will be documenting support for this theory next month during me and Katie’s trip to Los Angeles via Route 66. Previous knowledge shows that this will be a prime area to study the opportunity side of sites as the route is no longer in existence as one continual road. Some parts of the route have been totally dislocated from the greater infrastructure and some have been replaced by newer routes that funneled traffic and allowed those areas to survive and grow. I will provide Collinsville, IL as a sample of the latter. As Route 66 was being decommissioned, the Interstate system constructed the all new I-70 across the south edge of town. This luck of fate allowed the small mainstreet community a chance to catch all of the traffic funneling into and out of the St. Louis metropolitan area. Many of the old “sites” somehow survived such as the Annual Ketchup Fest (which takes place under the world’s largest ketchup bottle) and the Horseradish festival which draws a huge crowd in the Metro East area as Collinsville is the horseradish capital of the world.
I am familiar with approximately 150 miles of the former US 66 and already have hundreds of examples where people have attempted, some more successful than others, to create destinations. Looking at the many US 66 travel guides, there is no doubt that we will find hundreds of other sites that either grew to more than they deserve [subjective opinion of the author] or withered to a ghost of a side show. Actually, the focus of our collaborative piece is the idea of seeking out the ghosts of US 66. We want to find the places that were not as lucky as Collinsville, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Pasadena, Hollywood, and Santa Monica.
Please share any comments. Always ready to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for listening!