Travel

HISTORIC ROUTE 66: THE MOTHER ROAD

by DJ Wilson
Route 66 was no ordinary highway. Opened in 1926, the old route crossed through the American Midwest, Great Plains, and Southwest, passing through eight states and three different time zones. The nostalgic highway began in Illinois and cut through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and ended in California. From its humble beginning as an unpaved dirt and gravel road with no signs, the once dusty and dangerous route from Chicago to Los Angeles enticed travelers and grew into America’s most beloved highway. Covering 2,448 miles, Route 66 received its double digit number due to its pleasant sound and ease in remembrance despite controversy over using a round number. Steeped in history and nostalgia, the highway developed into an American icon which celebrated the golden age of the road.

Route 66 served as a major corridor for those who migrated west, particularly during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The highway was completely paved by 1938 and underwent many improvements and changes throughout the years. As the highway grew in popularity, businesses located along the route prospered. Mom and Pop businesses thrived, as motorists flocked the restaurants, motels, and service stations along the way. It also became a popular truck route. The beloved Route 66 received many adorning nicknames, such as “The Main Street of America”, “The Mother Road”, and “The Will Rogers Highway”. It was sometimes referred to as “The Great Diagonal Way”, since parts of the highway ran northeast to southwest. Recognized in a popular tune first recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1946, and written by Bobby Troup, “(Get Your Kicks) on Route 66” reflects excitement and freedom on the highway as it details the many cities along the path of Route 66. Composition of the song was inspired by Troup’s personal journey from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, California. The song continues to be highly popular and has been recorded throughout history by great artists like Chuck Berry, Perry Como, and The Rolling Stones. Though not actually filmed on Route 66, the television show of the same name became popular in the early 60’s featuring two friends traveling across America in a Corvette convertible. Today, many youngsters are familiar with Route 66 as it was featured in Disney’s Pixar Movie entitled Cars.

The Interstate Highway Act, signed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, led to the creation of newer highways to improve national defense. The goal was to provide the army with decent roadways in the event of a ground attacks from a foreign country. Newer highways began to serve motorists, thus leading to the demise of smaller, less direct routes like Route 66. Eventually, by 1985, The Mother Road was sadly decommissioned. Though the highway is no longer in service, parts of the historic route can be retraced and are still drivable. Many original businesses along route 66, like the art deco U-Drop Inn, are listed in the National Register of Historic places. Located in Shamrock, Texas, the Inn served as both a restaurant and gas station. The architecture is a bit unusual and was designed by J.C. Berry who was inspired by a nail stuck in dirt. Today, it has been historically renovated and adapted into a museum, visitors’ center, and gift shop. It also hosts the city’s chamber of commerce. Another historic representation of the time is Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In. It’s an eatery and popular roadside attraction. Located in Seligman, Arizona, it is best described as a flamboyant exercise in architecture. To gain attention for his restaurant, Juan Delgadillo sliced off the roof of a 1936 Chevrolet and added horns, paint, and even a Christmas tree to the vehicle. Displaying a sense of humor, a neon sign was placed in the restaurant window which reads “Sorry, we’re open”. The Round Barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma is yet another very popular destination often recognized in many photographs due to its unique shape. The barn is located on a hill and stands two stories tall, with its circular design selected purportedly to withstand Oklahoma Tornadoes. For some time, the barn fell into disrepair. Fortunately, it was donated to the Arcadia Historical and Preservation Society who restored it under the guidance of a retired building contractor named Luther Robinson. He was assisted by a volunteer group largely made up of seniors who believed the Round Barn worthy of saving. Today, the barn can be rented for parties and remains one of many memorable structures along Historic Route 66.

If you’re searching for adventure or you’re looking for a piece of American History, take a trip back in time along The Main Street of America. Explore the beloved Route 66. While modern day maps no longer indicate the route, specially designed maps are available to help closely retrace parts of the original path of the historic highway through all eight states. Explore the notable landmarks full of charm and character, serving as reminders of the past economic prosperities of America’s small towns in the heyday of Route 66. Capture the excitement and freedom on the path traveled during the golden age of the road. Travel parts of the scenic route, winding through old towns, across steel bridges, alongside rivers, hills and valleys, and sweeping past historic landmarks. Let the sights along The Mother Road embrace your mind, heart and soul. Historic Route 66 is no ordinary highway, it is a true icon. Perhaps Bobby Troup, the Great American Songwriter, said it best. “If you ever plan to motor west/ Travel my way, take the highway that is best/ Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six.”

A starting point for your search for more information could be: www.historic66.com

Leave a Reply

43 Comments on "HISTORIC ROUTE 66: THE MOTHER ROAD"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Virginia Meyer
3 years 5 months ago

Maybe I’m too dense to get this but every time I go to the Roadside Assistance web-site I cannot find a place to log in – there are plenty of options to renew or join but I can’t find any to LOG into the site.
Also – I expected to find something like the AAA web-site were you can find maps to help you when taking a trip. We plan on traveling back east this summer and I wanted to find the best route and thought I could find this option on site. I am a new member and have not had a chance to really delve into all the available options afforded by being a member but I must say I am truly disappointed in my membership thus far. I believe it would be better to go back to AAA!
Thanks,
Virginia Meyer
Surprise, AZ

Jack D. Spence
3 years 5 months ago

Where can you get a map of Route 66? I would like to travel the route. If anyone can tell me where I can get a map of the old Route 66, please e-mail me at Spintz33@Netzero.net. Thank you, jack.

Biker Roy
4 years 2 months ago

Great Motocycle ride. Just finished Route 66 From Chicago to San Monica Ca. My borther and I took ten days to do it. We put a total of 6110 miles to complete our trip from home and back. This was one of my bucketlist to do’s. I would strongly recommend this great America ride.

Biker Roy

Sesonasipho
4 years 7 months ago

[…] Where can I get a sohtomie before work since Papa’s Porch lied about its morning hours? 7am? Bah! I’m sooo addicted to its Tropical Bliss sohtomie, it’s crazy good. I can’t find anything like it anywhere else. I’m not crazy about Jamba Juice, and Cafe Zella and Tully’s use tea in their sohtomies and a sohtomie mix…. […]

Bob H.
4 years 10 months ago

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950’s my parents took me and my two brothers camping around the U.S.. We traveled on Rt 66 stopping in Albuquerque to visit friends who had moved there from Pennsylvania. When the TV series Route 66 came on the two main characters became my heroes and I dreamed of some day duplicating their travels in my own Corvette. In the 1990’s my older brother retired to Albuquerque. Whenever I visit him and see the “Historic Route 66” signs my childhood memories come flooding back and I realize how much I love America.

Michael Freed
4 years 10 months ago

Trying to follow Route 66 is not as easy as it sounds. We found that the highway was rerouted many times when we tried to follow it in Illinois. Signs saying ‘Route 66 19xx to 19xx turn left, 19xx to 19xx turn right’. Very confusing and difficult. After a couple of hours of that we just got back on the interstate!

Jeanne Zella
4 years 10 months ago

I cannot remember where I read or maybe have seen on TV, but I think that I heard that the Phillips 66 owner named
his company after the Route 66. I think Phillips was or is his last name & 66 was the highway. I too traveled the
highway many times in the 60s and 70s crossing the US four or five times.

J.Michael A.
4 years 10 months ago

Yes,Old Route 66,1355 miles from Okla.City toL.A. Drove for LeeWayMtr.Frgt. For several years.In the summer nothing but trucks and RVs wall to wall.But yes ,all the comments before are a great reflection of what has made this country great..All the cars stuck in the ground with there rearends up in the air. Needles Ca.when it was 105 @ midnight. The many places to eat that truckers stopped at, which in those days were actually good places to eat.
Broke down in Seligman Az. with only one room open in the motel in the winter,but the window was broken out.
Lots of stories,but was worth the trips.
Hope to do it again for fun with the wife
and with a 66GTO.

D Davis
4 years 10 months ago

We took part of Route 66 while travelling from Las Vegas to Georgia. We stayed in Seligman, AZ. It was a wonderful experience to share with my 11 year old son. Take the trip if you can.

G Dub Howard
4 years 10 months ago

During the sixties, while serving in the Army, many of my fellow soldiers remember getting traffic tickets on route 66, just outside of Tucumcari, NM while traveling to and from California. What a revenue maker for the State of New Mexico. Lot’s of good memories!

CM Robb
4 years 10 months ago

In july 1955, 5 miles west of Tucumcari on 66 at 0700 am wife driving 1954 olds convertable was force off road rolled over 1 and half times, totaled car no one hurt. Went near their in 2005 could not identify place for sure.All ended ok.

Barb
4 years 10 months ago

We traveled some of it two years ago. I want to travel the whole length of it

Connie Chauvel-Gomez
4 years 10 months ago

Traveled 66 several times in the 60’s and 70’s, staying in the $5. per night motels along the way! We were on the portion in AZ out of Kingman; Hackleberry (?) is a very NEAT store, museum, etc. FULL of memorabilia, as is a stop out of Oatman, a really neat old “ghost town”, complete with donkeys roaming the streets (keep your dogs in the car)!

D.J. Spalding
4 years 10 months ago

Here in New Mexico, I live just a mile from the old Route 66. While the road is no longer continuous, there are some decent chunks still around to enjoy. One unique feature in Albuquerque is the intersection of Central Ave. (old 66) and Fourth St. downtown. This is the only place where Route 66 crosses itself. Fourth (north and south) was the original Route 66. Then when the road was realigned in 1937, it took a more direct east to west route. (Central Ave.) Sadly, there is no real designation or marker by the city at this location, but it’s still interesting to think about and imagine 70+ years ago.

Steve Chapman
4 years 10 months ago

Made the trip from Indianapolis to California in 1963 with my buddy Jack Ryan. WOW, what a trip!

Jack Brannum
4 years 10 months ago

I have traveled parts of old 66 and found them interesting. Having said that, I must put in a plug for my highway. Old US highway 40, which parallels I-70, should be called the “Father road”. It was one of the first coast to coast highways. built in the 20s it traversed the continent from the New Jersey shore to the california shore at San Francisco.l It still is designated from New Jersey to , Just outside, Salt Lake City, UT. For some years, My bedroom was within 100 feet from it in Russell, Kansas. Pacific Intermountain Express trucks passed about every 30 minutes both ways.

Tom Carter
4 years 10 months ago

I was there! Had basic training and leadership school at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.(1951-52) I’m surprised that Leonard Wood is not mentioned here. I am now an 81 year-old military retiree. We had a real old fashioned honky tonk just across RT 66 from the front gate.

Lawrence Acton - Newark, Ohio
4 years 10 months ago

As you can see by my E/M address I advocate preserving American history which 90% of living Americans today have never had a piece or peace.

Richard Higgins
4 years 10 months ago

dj wilson is a good writer- let’s see more of his/her work in your publications!

Roger Martin
4 years 10 months ago

As a child our family (4 boys mom & dad ) traveled multi times between San Diego & Denver using Rt 66. Theses trips were taken during the early years of the ‘ 40’s and late ’50. We were entertained by all the Burma Shave signs. In the late ’90 I took my youngest son on trip from Denver to San Diego on some of Rt66 I sorely missed the signs.

wpDiscuz