Monday, November 7, 2022

Q&A with Brennen Matthews




Brennen Matthews is the author of the new book Miles to Go: An African Family in Search of America Along Route 66. Also the editor of ROUTE Magazine, Matthews is originally from Mombasa, Kenya, and now lives in Toronto.


Q: What inspired you to take this trip along Route 66, and did you know beforehand that you'd be writing this book about your experiences?


A: We had no idea that a book would come out of the initial trip. We were looking for inspiration, direction. My wife suggested that we take a road trip across the country and down to Los Angeles, where I had lived 30 years ago!


When we dug into which highways to take, which route to use to get us there, Route 66 popped up. We had heard of Route 66 but were far from Mother Road enthusiasts. We knew very little about classic Americana and roadside America. We only knew that we loved such adventure and discoveries.


But as we researched and planned, our interest and enthusiasm grew daily. We became obsessed with roadside America, and with all of the quirky, colorful people and stops that we were seeing showcased along the way. By the time that we hit the tarmac, we were converts.


Q: What would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about Route 66?


A: Many people don’t realize that Route 66 is a living, breathing highway that transports motorists across the country, through small towns, ghost towns, and big urban cities. The people that you encounter during a road trip are not employed by the road or any tourism body. They are real people, good and bad, who call those towns their home.

As such, Route 66 is a perfect example of life all across the country. It is a snapshot of cultural norms happening in every single state. You can get to truly know America via traveling this one historic highway.


Q: What impact did the trip--and writing the book--have on you and your family?


A: We decided to launch a new magazine – ROUTE Magazine – after the second trip down 66. It has gone on to celebrate the people, places, attractions, history, culture, and stories of the people and places along Route 66 and beyond. We are grateful for the wonderful national and global response over the last five+ years.


But personally, the trip opened up new and wonderful relationships with not only fabulous people, but American history and culture, too. We have developed a huge appreciation for the diverse, vibrant, fascinating journey that America, a country that is almost 250 years old, has taken.


Q: What surprised you most in the course of your travels on Route 66?


A: Just how kind and generous people can be. Americans are warm and friendly and passionate about their towns, businesses, and history. It is a young country with a very strong story. The other thing that surprised us is that travelers can still travel 85 percent of the original road.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Miles to Go just got released so we are focusing on publicity for the book. We hope to use it to promote travel across America and a celebration of what it means to be an American. We want to support small towns and American mom-and-pop businesses and bring readers a funny, inspiring, enjoyable story. 


We are also working on 2023 issues of ROUTE Magazine, which are always packed with great articles and beautiful photographs, and I have a new book focusing on the American Southwest that I am starting to think about.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, grab a copy of Miles to Go and ROUTE Magazine and make a plan to hit Route 66 in 2023. The road’s 100th birthday is coming up in November 2026, and there is palpable excitement out on American Main Street. Go see for yourselves!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment