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Spotsylvania man off, at long last, to ‘get his kicks on Route 66’

When Bob Welborn was a boy, he watched the ‘Route 66’ TV show and longed to drive cross country in a Corvette. On Thursday, the 62-year-old Spotsylvania man got into his 2004 Vette and headed west to chase his dream. PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Bob Welborn pulled out of his driveway before the sun came up Thursday morning and pointed the nose of his white convertible west.

“I don’t know how far I’m gonna go, but I’m gonna live out a boyhood fantasy,” he said.

The 62-year-old hoped to drive cross-country, just like the characters Tod and Buz cqdid in the TV show “Route 66.”

Welborn was 9 when the series premièred in 1960, and he’s been dreaming about motoring west—with the top of his Corvette down and the wind in his face—ever since.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I just made up my mind that this year, I’m gonna do it,” Welborn said. “I’m not getting any younger, and my health’s not getting any better.”

But the Spotsylvania County man is just as determined as he’s always been. He worked for a moving company and drove from Washington, D.C., to California for decades.

He never forgot his desire to see America from behind the wheel of a Corvette convertible.

In between, he earned his pilot’s license, and he and his wife, Carolyn, have jumped out of airplanes and gone scuba diving. All that was left on his bucket list was for him to get his kicks on Route 66.

Welborn started at 4 a.m. Thursday, a little later than he planned.

He was thrilled to finally start the trip because he had scheduled it several other times and had to cancel. Two years ago, the trip was put on hold when 80 percent of his house was burned.

In the midst of his pre-trip excitement this week, though, he was remembering his late brother, John. The two were more like best friends than brothers, and they made the trip west many times for moving companies.

“There’s not many places in this country I haven’t been with him,” Welborn said.

Next week will mark the 10th anniversary of John’s death from a ruptured aorta. Welborn will be thinking about him as he drives, especially when he crosses into west Texas and the landscape John loved.

Welborn wished his wife, or another brother, could have made the trip with him. But because he wanted to reflect on his journeys with John—and record his daily experiences each night in a journal—he was almost glad he’s going it alone.

Welborn planned an ambitious pace that only a former truck driver would think possible—as much as 900 miles a day.

He had no doubts that his 2004 Corvette was up for the adventure; he just hoped his spine was as well.

All those years of driving and loading furniture took a toll on his back, and Welborn retired on disability in 2006. He’s had 10 spinal surgeries and three operations to fuse vertebrae together.

But the Corvette’s tan leather seats are comfortable, and Welborn was confident. He hopes to get as far as the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton—and take a photo of his white Corvette in front of it.

But he wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up at the pier in Santa Monica, Calif.

He hopes to log at least 6,000 miles and be back in about seven days.

Welborn wasn’t letting any negative thoughts interfere, as he cranked up his CD of oldies music and got ready for a trip he first imagined half a century ago.

“You don’t give up on your dreams,” he said. “People get old because they let themselves think they’re old.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425