Last weekend, I finally saw Cars (2006). What a good movie! I didn’t expect from the big-eyed automobiles that I saw in the toystores that this computer animated flick from Pixar/Disney would have such lively characters, such a witty script, and such an evocative story. One of its themes is the difference between the Interstate sensibility and the Route 66 sensibility. (“Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”)
I grew up in a little Oklahoma town right on Route 66. And our relatives lived way down that same road, so we did a lot of driving on that mother road. In fact, the town where I lived looked a lot like Radiator Springs in the movie. The “EAT” cafes, the motels shaped like teepees, the tourist traps, all of those glamorous neon signs, and other imagery from the movie gave me a nostalgia rush. (Also the “Ghost Light” referenced in the movie would have been the mysterious apparition that occasionally appeared to freaked out motorists known as the “Spook Light,” just 20 miles or so from where we lived. (No, I never saw it. But we tried, venturing out on some scary drives.) Then there was the teenager car culture that went with all of that, trying to turn our junkers into hot rods and dragging main. And the road food. (We would never stop at a drive-in on Route 66, though such things had been invented. We always stopped at a local restaurant for hour-long-lunches, finishing off with amazing pies.) In the words of the song, I got my kicks at Route Six Six.
It’s a good movie that can bring all of that back.