Route 66: A Secular Pilgrimage

David Dunaway (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque)

Route 66, A Secular Pilgrimage: The Scallop and the Shield (Short) "The Road was a historic monument, the work of heroic people who had left everything behind to become a part of that solitary place The journey, which prior to this was torture because all you wanted to do was get there, is now beginning to become a pleasure. It is the pleasure of searching and the pleasure of an adventure. You are nourishing something that's very important-your dreams. Pay attention to the road. It is the road that teaches us the best way to get there, and the road enriches us as we walk its length. Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage (1992) The pilgrimage, the voyage of a stranger on a land (pilgrim means stranger), is one of the oldest stories in Western literature. In the fourteenth century, when the pilgrimage described in Chaucer took place, those venturing from London to Canterbury departed "with full devote courage" in the introduction and Pardoner's tale, their voyage becomes an honor and a rebirth. Skipping ahead 600 years, Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian fabulist, imagined a pilgrimage along the sacred road to Compostela, similarly to seek enlightenment and a magic sword. The essence of the pilgrimage lies between these literary goalposts: a voyage of honor, redemption, and magic; a pilgrimage to heal the soul and redeem the pilgrim. But today, in a more secular world, we find more secular pilgrimages. If we are to track the changes in a changing world, we can reimagine what it means to be a pilgrim today. There are few better examples of this secularization of travel for the above purposes than Route 66. As Angel Delgadillo, the barber of Seligman, Arizona put it, "I have seen the foreign tourists get off their tour bus from Las Vegas, go down the steps of the bus, and kneel and kiss the ground: 'This is the true America."

Part of 05-09 Social Histories In and Through Oklahoma, Friday, October 14, 10:30 am–12:30 pm