May. 23rd, 2010

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Starved for Route 66 material, I browsed Amazon, and of course there was lots!

Here's a novel, based around the old road, which I threw in, along with a guidebook for my big trip next year.

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

A poignant trip along a very elderly Route 66. Ella has more medical problems than a medium sized city, and husband John's memory is very random access indeed. It's not quite the lame leading the blind, but both need each other as they head off down the Mother Road.

Luckily, they own a much-loved RV, a Leisure Seeker with two big captain's chairs up front and a tiny house in back. Bed, table, kitchen and dinky bathroom. A self-contained home to replace the one they left behind in Detroit, but every now and then they lash out on a room in a roadside establishment. The Lincoln Motel in Chandler, where I've had a Route 66 experience. A Radisson in California, where Ella exclaims that she doesn't want to buy the place, just sleep there for a night.

There's the highway, sometimes loved, sometimes buried under their more modern four or six lane, sometimes ignored in favour of a convenient Interstate. The hokey diners, the tourist traps, the faded remnants. And here and there the narrow old road, weeds poking up through the gaps in the slabs, sometimes taking a second life as a service road, sometimes missing pieces like John's memory.

The children, left behind, to John's occasional consternation, but adults now themselves, married and children of their own, understandably concerned at their fragile parents taking off like this. There are occasional sad and funny phone conversations, but really, what can they do about their wayward folks? Call out the police?

The relationship is old and comfortable, beginning to fray on the practical points, but still as loving as ever. Ella is the voice of the novel, and to my mind she sounds exactly like TexasWren in her clear good spirits, her straightforward approach to life's joys and challenges, her down-to-earth observations of people and places along the way.

There are surprises aplenty. Courage, confusion, tenderness and turmoil at every bend in the road. The old campervan chugs along, the captain at the helm, still licensed and solid, even if his memory is somewhere back in the Sixties. The airconditioning is fading, the floor is cluttered with rubbish, the exhaust leaks, the tape player chews tapes, but it keeps going on, so long as there's road ahead and love inside.

I hated to see this novel end. Like all journey books, it's a pleasure to travel along, enjoying the scenery, the sun rising over the desert, the clutter of small towns, the glory of rivers, the tackiness of the tourist parks. But there's Santa Monica coming ever closer, and the pages thinning out like Ellas's silver hair.

There's an ending that is kind of satisfying, kind of sad. Disneyland was never like this.


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September 2010

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