A "Cool" History Of The Mother Road

Many have memories of Route 66, the historical highway that connects Chicago to Santa Monica. Though made obsolete by the completion of the Interstate highway system in the 1950's, "The Mother Road", as it's sometimes called, still invokes strong memories in the hearts of many. In Cool Springs, Ariz., Dennis DeChenne, inspired by the stories of Route 66, has rebuilt a piece of the past. "Well, I have enough stories, I could write a book," he said. Located about 20 miles west of Kingman, Ariz. on a spectacular stretch of desert road, Cool Springs was a gas station that served as a place for travelers to rest and fuel up on their trip westward. In its 1920's and 30's heyday, Cool Springs also rented cabins for weary travelers to spend the night. However, after the completion of I-40 in the early 50's, Route 66 and small outposts like Cool Springs quickly fell by the wayside. Tragically, Cool Springs was destroyed by a fire in the mid 60's. 40 years later, Cool Springs was reborn. Ned Leuchtner, a real estate broker from Chicago, purchased the property and hired DeChenne to rebuild the structure to match historical photos. Today, travelers once again visit Cool Springs. Though no longer serving gas or food, it is once again a must-stop for motorists. The structure now contains a museum filled with Route 66 photos and memorabilia, with DeChenne serving as its informal historian. Many who pass through have stories, either first hand or through relatives, of voyages on the "Mother Road", and find a willing ear in DeChenne. When relating stories he's heard about Dust Bowl era refugees, many of whom passed through on their way west, DeChenne was moved to tears: "Some of the stories you hear will simply break your heart."