‘Almost Ghosts’ Looks At Life In The Dying Towns Of Route 66

Sep 12, 2019

Route 66 was once the Mother Road of America, bringing tourists and travelers to small towns along the path from Chicago to Los Angeles. But, as the road was replaced by Interstate 40, many towns lost those visitors and still struggle to stay afloat. 

The documentary ‘Almost Ghosts’ profiles three long-time residents of Mother Road towns, and their efforts to keep their communities going.

The film is screening September 12 at the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff with shows at Holbrook's Roxy Theater September 21-22. Ana Ramón Rubio is the film’s writer and director. She spoke with KNAU’s Zac Ziegler from her home in Spain.

Zac Ziegler: “Your work so far has been mostly TV and short films in Spain. What drew you to the idea of making a documentary about the towns of Route 66?”

Ana Ramón Rubio: “It's something that had always been in my mind because, out of the US, Route 66 is so iconic. It's a road that everybody wants to travel sometime. It was something that I always wanted to do. So I had the time. I had a crazy bunch of people that wanted to come with me. So we just did it.”

ZZ: “That's interesting that it's so renowned around the world. I know what we think of it here in the US. What do people think when they think Route 66 in a country like Spain?

AR: “Route 66 is something that everybody knows because of the songs, the movies, the books. Here it's very typical to read The Grapes of Wrath [or] Easy Rider. It's really iconic here. It's like the dream road trip hear in Europe.”

ZZ: “The film features three longtime residents of small towns on Route 66, including one that people here may be familiar with Angel Delgadillo of Seligman. How did you find these people and what drew you to them?”

AR: “There was a lot of research before going to drive Route 66. So we went from Spain and we already had a list of subjects, of characters, that we wanted to interview. I think that the three protagonists of the film were exactly the essence of what we wanted to tell because it's a story about ghost towns, it’s a story about Route 66 but it's a story about people. We really thought that they would be the three that would better tell the story and we really fell in love with them."

ZZ: “So what did these three people tell you about the reasons they dedicate themselves to these towns and this road?”

AR: “It was like the situation chose them to do this thing.  Angel Delgadillo’s example, as he’s the case in Seligman, in Arizona, they just couldn’t leave.They didn't have money to leave, so they had to reinvent themselves and try to save their towns from absolute death. He had to fight. He didn't have the possibility of choosing.”

ZZ: “After spending time in these towns do you have any thoughts on what may be makes it so that a town like Seligman starts to depopulate whereas just down the road a town like Flagstaff thrives?”

AR: “Well, I think that the problem is that people, we always want to go faster. In our lives, in our cars and all the time. We want to drive through interstates, through highways, and we forget about other roads that make much more interesting the trip. But we always forgot them because we are so busy in our days and we just want to go fast.”

ZZ: “Ana Ramón Rubio, thank you very much for joining me today.”<

AR: “Thank you very much."