'Route 66: A Photo Journal'

'Route 66: A Photo Journal'

One of the comments Michael Campanelli hears most often about his passion, Route 66, is, "I didn't know you could still drive that."

The subject is the Mother Road, the highway that nearly eight decades ago spanned the vast western United States but later faded as the era of the interstate highway replaced it.

Campanelli is quick to tell people that almost 2,000 miles of the storied road remain.

"Sometimes, it's hard to find," he says. "Signs are missing. Some of it's in bad shape. You can get off it before you know it. But it's there."

Campanelli's new book, "Route 66: A Photo Journal" (Premier Print Group, $45) testifies to that. It's a photographic record of the author's exploration of a fascinating piece of Americana.

Photos by Campanelli will be displayed at the Edgewater Inn Conference Room during the one-day Daffodil Daze celebration Saturday, March 21, in Shady Cove. Campanelli will sign copies of the book.

Campanelli, of Eagle Point, is a retired house painter and a photographer. In February of 2002, he spent eight days exploring the old highway from Santa Monica, Calif., to Chicago, Ill. He took 1,100 photographs with an inexpensive Pentax camera on a tripod, shooting film in a digital age.

The photos are so sharp they stand being blown up to 20-by-30-inch prints. A major exhibit of those prints, many of which will be on display in Shady Cove over the weekend, is up in Pontiac, Ill., about 100 miles southwest of Chicago on the old highway.

Photos show the predictable pickup truck rusting in the weeds under the big sky, the old two-lane blacktop winding through flatlands with mountains in the distance, curiosities like a vintage DeSoto car atop an Arizona beauty/barber/gift shop named DeSoto's somewhere in Arizona.

But it's Campanelli's detail shots that perhaps best show off of his painter's eye. The nose of an old Ford pickup turning slowly to rust, green paint peeling from battered windows, a leaning crutch caught between two broken panes of glass.

The latter, one of his favorites, is a cropped version of a larger shot showing a man sitting in front of a large, industrial door.

"I used to look at those things and just think the building was a wreck," Campanelli says. "Now I think about the guys that made the lumber, the guys that made the bolts, and that did the glass and caulked it.

"I said that to one lady and she said, 'You're a romanticist.'"

Campanelli made his first trip because his son's basketball team was in a tournament in Detroit. He's since retraced his steps, seeing the sights and selling his book.

"Shopkeepers have told me they've never seen anything like it," he says.

The book documents places and things that give the feeling have having been passed by time. Following the road for eight days, Campanelli would sometimes not see anybody for hours. It was often hard to buy gas or coffee. He could get out of his car and lie down in the middle of the road.

"Then I'd head north a few miles to an interstate and there'd be all this traffic," he says.

Four years later it popped into his head to do an exhibit. He showed 50 large photos in Eagle Point in 2006. Then came the book.

Share This Story