It’s been called The Mother Road, the Road to Opportunity, America’s Main Street .. its been celebrated in movies, and songs .. and it exists, in its traditional form, in a mere handful of places.
It’s Route 66, the legendary highway from Los Angeles to Chicago.
One of America’s first national highways, the road connected states from Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Texas and Arizona to California. It’s quality varied from four-lane freeway status to ‘sidewalk sections’ – single lane segments, notably in Oklahoma.
The highway, as a nationally-designated road, actually ceased to exist in 1985 – because the newer Interstate Highways had replaced it along its entire length – but there is a quasi-official “National Scenic Byway” called ‘Historic Route 66” – and some states still designate parts of the road as “State Route 66” (as is the case in Arizona.)
We drove the stretch from Seligman to Kingman in Arizona .. the 145km of local highway probably took an hour longer, at 90km/hr, than the 115km straight route on the I-40 – at 120km/hr. But it was easily worth it.
The history of this road is amazing. John Steinbeck was the one who called it “The Mother Road” in his story of dust-bowl victims moving west to perceived opportunity, “The Grapes of Wrath” – but it really became part of the popular culture because of the hit song (“Get your kicks on Route 66”) and the early 60s TV show “Route 66” starring Martin Millner.
Perhaps that’s why there is such a lot of 50s and 60s nostalgia associated with the road -as shown by the towns which make their living from tourism, like Seligman.
It’s all Elvis, and Marilyn (although neither have any real connection with Route 66) – and cars.
Although at least there’s a connection with old cars and Seligman – it was one of the towns used as a reference by the producers and animators of Pixar’s wildly successful animated movie, “Cars”