Once upon a time, I wrote a Facebook status update that simply said, “I really want to take a road trip. Who has two weeks?” I thought it would simply fall by the wayside into Facebook history. But, this road trip was really important for me. I was just about to quit my job, hop on some planes, and take my first solo travel excursion for six months. I wanted to see the parts of the U.S.A that I had never seen before I left the country, and, I was going to do it by myself or with a road trip buddy.
In a few short minutes, a ping alerted me to a response. It was a guy that I had met at a street fair in Indianapolis when I painted his face. I didn’t know him past that night and social media, but he seemed fun enough and most importantly, when he said he wanted to go I knew that it truly meant he wanted to go. He wasn’t just a comment and not follow through type of person.
A few weeks later, I drove from Indianapolis to Champaign, Illinois in my rented Dodge Caliber and we set off for three weeks of seeing sights I didn’t even know were naturally possible. We also met some fantastic humans along the way – like these two.
This location may look familiar to some of you, you may even know these guys. Now, what I’m about to tell you has to come with a grain of salt. For one, I refuse to fully trust anything a laughing grey-haired man sipping black coffee and wearing a cowboy hat to say. When it’s met by laughter by his jovial friend who has mischievous eyes, double question everything. That isn’t to say be skeptical, it means be a sport and play along because life is meant to be happy.
These two men are bus drivers and they tote tourists down to the sites on Route 66. This particular location is one of the most crucial stops on Route 66 – Angel Delgadillo’s barber shop. Mr. Delgadillo is a vital piece in the history of Route 66 and the inspiration behind Disney’s Cars. He single handedly rallied the troops and government to make Route 66 a historic location and to save the small businesses along the route. This is largely why you will find the parts of Arizona much more bustling than some other parts when you are on the REAL Route 66 sections.
I was desperate to meet Angel, but, being an elderly man who still runs his business and has to take time off from the visiting throngs of people, he was unavailable at the time. I did meet his children and chatted with them before going outside to try and wait it out – I just knew that Angel would come while we were there. I could feel it.
These guys overheard my conversation and the one on the left called out, “You’re in luck, missy, there he goes on that bicycle.”
I looked up and yes, there he was, cycling down the street…away from us. I’m not a sprinter and I was wearing cheap cowboy boots. I would have to settle for a passing glance and hope his children gave him the letter about my book project dealing with the elderly and Americana.
I sighed and the man on the right said, “We can be interesting if you want. We know this history well.” He chuckled and I knew I would be in for a story. I can’t remember it word for word, I’m sure half of it was improvised based on the rib jabs and eyebrow raises these two traded, but I am pretty sure one part of their story is true. Apparently, as rival bus drivers, these two were never really friends. They would sit on the same bench, running on the same tourist schedule, never chatting, grumbling about having two buses of people at the same spot on the same schedule, and repeating this at every stop they had together. One day, they started talking about hats, began sharing jokes, and a friendship was born.
Now that I think about it, I’m not quite sure the hat conversation actually happened, either, or that these two men were anything but friends from the first moment they sat next to each other. I’m pretty sure they are just pranksters out to cause a good laugh in between their historical knowledge and yarn spinning.
I enjoyed meeting them – I can’t for the life of me remember their names or find my notes from this day, but five years later I can still remember how hard I laughed during that conversation.
This is why I love travel and striking up conversations. I always look for the people whose eyes twinkle before they wink at you – you know they have a zesty spirit. And, I love a good zesty spirit.
Are you still kicking off your 2017 kick-ass mentality? Don’t forget to download my free printable at the bottom of my New Year’s Resolution post to give your goals some power!
Also published on Medium.