DALLAS TWP. — “If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way. Take the highway that’s the best. Get your kicks on Route 66.”
Some folks may remember Nat “King” Cole sang those words, as did Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, and dozens of other artists.
You’ll be able to listen to recordings and decide which you prefer if you visit the exhibit “America’s Road: The Journey of Route 66,” which opens on Saturday at Misericordia University’s Pauly Friedman Gallery.
“This is really whetting my appetite to see more of the country,” gallery director Lalaine Little said earlier this week as she oversaw the setting up of displays that included a vintage gas pump, an old-time parking meter (one penny bought 12 minutes), a replica of a drive-in and many photos.
To research the roadway, exhibit organizer Seth! Leary from NRG! Exhibits drove all 2,448 miles from Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier, taking his then-12-year-old son, Adrian, along on the 17-day adventure.
“You can see how the country changes, from the hills of the Ozarks to the flat, cow-smelling panhandle of Texas,” he said as he helped with the set-up. “As soon as you get to New Mexico, the sky opens up and you see a lot of green. Then you get to the desert.”
Traveling on Route 66 makes you feel connected to the country in a way that driving on Interstates does not, Leary said, noting you’re so close to the passing scenery “you feel like you could reach out and touch it.”
Eager to experience as much Americana as they could, Leary said, he and his son “tried to eat at diners and stay at motels.”
But some Route 66 motels have seen better days. “There were a few where we said, ‘We’re going to keep our socks on,’” he noted.
Part of the exhibit is devoted to a collection of images shot by photographer Russell Olson, who visited 75 sites along Route 66 to show what they look like in modern times and contrast them with photos from decades earlier.
What was once a service station or motel might now be a just a pile of stones, or a private home. In some cases a dilapidated building might still have the same basic shape, plus or minus an awning, that it did in its heyday.
Leary shot photos, too, from a lone cow to a “Cadillac Ranch” art display of up-ended, partially-buried cars near Amarillo, Texas. But he missed at least one photo op.
“We overheated in the Mohave Desert,” he said, “and I never got a picture of steam coming out of the hood.”
The exhibit, which will run through Aug. 12, opens Saturday with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The reception is free to the public and will include refreshments as well as music from pianist Scott Zimmerman.
“We’re really trying to appeal to the motorist crowd and the (car) collector crowd,” Little said, explaining the Northeast Pennsylvania Region Antique Automobile Club of America will host a car cruise on campus from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 7, in conjunction with the exhibit. The event is free to spectators and exhibitors, and any donations received that day will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
On July 18, families are especially invited to bring children to the campus from 5 to 8 p.m. Sponsored by Misericordia and its Chick-Fil-A Express, the event will include a screening of the Disney-Pixar film “Cars III” and a chance for children to work on “art cars” in the John and Mary Metz Dining Hall. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the evening.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.