The Mother Road.  The Glory Road.  America's Main Street. For all its well-appointed titles, Route 66, perhaps more than anything else, helped shape a culture. From Illinois to California, the 2,200-mile highway was a ticket to freedom a pathway to opportunity.

      The road itself was a grass roots project. After devising a plan for a national highway system in 1925, various local groups set about building roads. It was 1940 before paved roads linked the coasts, with U.S. 66 being one of the major highways of that system. It traversed the heartland, the plains, and the desert southwest before coming to rest at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

       The 1950's proved to be a glorious era for Route 66 travel. With the windows rolled down and the radio blaring, Americans had put the World Wars behind them and took to the free road. The promise of a better life loomed westward -and with a steady stream of traffic, businesses along this highway flourished. It was then that the concept of "fast" food came into being, and spawned the American craze for hamburger stands, homestyle cafes and malt shops. Curio shops along the way provided a welcome break from driving, and the service tations competed for business by offering friendly attendants and "registered" restrooms. The thrill of adventure brought Americans to the road, and in a way, in touch with each other.

      For all the values it represents and the very images it embodies, generations of Americans have fostered a fondness, perhaps even a passion, for Route 66. There's more to this open road than all-night diners, motor inns and filling stations. Route 66 was a means of going someplace with the emphasis on the "going" as opposed to the "someplace." For the first time, travelers embraced the idea that the joy of traveling was not so much in the destination, but in the journey itself.

Text Reprinted with Permission from
Smith-Southwestern Inc.
Mesa, Arizona

 

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