After reading the title to this blog, are you starting to sing out Bobby Troup’s American classic – Route 66, followed by the rendition of I’ve Been Everywhere by the great Johnny Cash. This one stretch of road has inspired music, movies, and an entire lifestyle. So join me as we travel back in time for a special edition TruckLogics ThrowBackThursday to the legendary Route 66.
On a stretch of land far, far away…
Established on November 11, 1926, Route 66 is one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway system. Its design did not follow the traditional linear course, instead it laid out as a diagonal path connecting hundreds of predominantly rural towns in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ending in Santa Monica, California; enabling farmers to transport grain and produce for redistribution. The route connecting Chicago with the Pacific Coast ran along mainly flat prairie lands and had a more comfortable climate than northern highways, which made it perfect for truckers. The total distance of Route 66 covers 2,448 miles.
What makes Route 66 just a bit more special is that is was the first highway to be completely paved. And in the 1950s, this road was the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles. The steep increase in tourism gave rise to many roadside attractions, including: Jesse James hideout in Meramec Caverns, the first McDonald’s, Wigwam Motels, U-Drop Inn, and many many more.
We are not going to go into the decline of Route 66 with the building of I-40; I don’t want to depress anyone. We are just going to skip to the more exciting Revival Period.
Route 66 Associations were first founded in Arizona in 1987 and Missouri in 1989; numerous states followed soon after. The highway took on a new name, Historic Route 66, in many places along it’s route. The first “Historic Route 66” is located in Springfield, Missouri on Kearney Street. Many of the old tourist stops and gas stations have been restored to their former glory. In 1999, President Bill Clinton even signed a National Route 66 Preservation Bill that provided $10 million in matching fund grants for preserving and restoring the historic features along the route.
Route 66 is a true American Legacy that truckers, travelers, and tourists alike will get to enjoy for years to come thanks to the efforts of preservation associations. There is so much history associated with this stretch of highway and it will continue to influence popular culture. What are your favorite stops or sights along Route 66?