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Get your kicks on Route 36

Denver author publishes historic and cultural story of 1,400-mile highway

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When Washington Park resident Allan Ferguson first came out to Denver for graduate school in 1966, he took one highway from his hometown of Decatur, Illinois, to get to the Mile High City: Route 36.

Making the drive back and forth over the years gave Ferguson a passionate appreciation for Route 36 - a route that he believes is far more deserving of all the hubbub than the more famous Route 66.

“Route 36 is the great American road trip because it has a lot more value culturally and historically than some mythologized highway,” Ferguson said. “Route 36 is replete with American history and westward movement. It was, and is, the main connection between the Midwest and Rockies.”

Channeling his love of history and affection for travel writing, Ferguson recently published “Route 36: Ohio to Colorado - America’s Heartland Highway” through Denver’s WFPublishing.

Ferguson conceived of the project as a travel article, but it grew in the telling until it became an eight-chapter book. Each of the six states the highway travels through - Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado - get a chapter, and he dedicates two chapters to the history of Route 36.

“People in Colorado think of it as just the Denver-Boulder turnpike, but its 1,411 miles actually pretty faithfully represent what was at one time part of the transcontinental highway, or the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway,” he said. “I don’t include information on restaurants and lodging because you can get that online. I wanted this to be a guidebook for today’s traveler. At its heart, it’s a series of town-centered essays based around question of why should I be interested in this place.”

Putting together a project like this isn’t new for Ferguson. He’s been a writer all his life, albeit in different forms and mediums. He did plenty of marketing writing for the baby toy business he ran with his wife; he’s a jazz guitarist, which is a whole different kind of writing; and has had four editions published of his book, “Golf in Scotland: A Travel-Planning Guide.”

“My first trip to Scotland was in 1998 and when I was there, I fell in love with Scotland and golf. But there wasn’t any very good information about how one could make a budget golf trip to Scotland,” he explained. “After retiring from the toy business, I started a Scottish golf travel business.”

Ferguson explained that there were a lot of similarities between process and finished product of both books. Both are dedicated to providing all the necessary information to make a good trip.

“Rural American is a very serious topic right now - politically, economically, socially and culturally - and you can gain a lot of insight along the highway,” he said. “Plus you can get into the history of people like Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Molly Brown and more along the way.”

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