6 Back-to-Back Centuries on Route 66
Cover Design by Adam Wagler
A 2,200-mile bicycle ride along Historic Route 66 and a love of car culture inspired this collection. Route 66, also called the Mother Road and America’s Main Street, first linked Chicago to Los Angeles with a paved highway. Businesses, services, and attractions met the needs of Americans who popularized it while embracing driving as a pastime. Some toured the route. Others found opportunities there. Many drove it as their main thoroughfare. If infrastructure changed, Route 66 remains, explored now by nostalgia seekers, tourists, and bicycles.
This sequence of poems documents an ultra-endurance, full gas, bike ride on the classic path seeing the iconic sights—Americana, curios, diners, original tarmac, markers that price gas at 15 cents. It explores the challenges of the pandemic, weather, road conditions, and personal records. It connects the history of Route 66 to a personal one, and a grandpa’s love of car culture who said, “I’ve always wanted to drive the whole thing.”
Praise for 6 Back-to-Back Centuries on Route 66
The iconic highway known as Route 66 is a mythic part of America and its car culture—conjuring images of convertibles cruising from Chicago to L.A., as the 1950’s hit song proclaimed. But Wiseman travels at the slower pace of a cyclist—getting her kicks at 17-22 mph. Spare, imagistic and episodic, these poems invite us to cruise along with her, taking in ghost glimpses of what once was and the “strange culture of what remains.” -Grace Bauer
Laura Madeline Wiseman started a bicycle trip on historic Route 66 in January of 2020, just before the pandemic struck. After more than a year of being cooped up in our houses, what could be more fun to read than this contemporary hymn to the American road trip? Take this "timely tip" and check it out! -Julie Kane
There’s something meditative about combining activity and nature; whether it’s biking the 5.7 miles to my office or canoeing through the Boundary Waters, I get a distinct sense of adventure and freedom when I disconnect from my technology. It’s similar to what Laura Madeline Wiseman describes in 6 Back-to-Back Centuries on Route 66. Wiseman reminds us of the importance of these adventures. Not unlike Route 66, on Highway 169 to Ely, Minnesota, we would catch glimpses of North Woods culture. I’m on the lookout for the Paul Bunyan statues, the roadside attractions that make the trip less boring for the kids, and reminders that we’re leaving everything else behind. For us, that’s our disconnect, bringing the bug spray, and a book to read in the long evenings around camp. The nostalgic escape provided by both the story and the wilderness is what makes the trip worthwhile. And I always bring a book.-Alan Eno