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.