Route 66 in the News
Mythical End for a Legendary Road
SANTA MONICA, Calif. - The question of where the old Route 66 officially ended in the West has been the subject of debate among history buffs and roadsters. On Wednesday it was resolved in a quintessentially American way, by placing the terminus in a place where it can best be monetized.
A Route 66 sign embossed with “end of the trail” was dedicated at the Santa Monica Pier, a popular tourist destination, marking the 83rd anniversary of the road’s opening and what James M. Conkle, the chairman of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, called the “spiritual,” if not precisely historically accurate, end of the famed roadway.
U.S. Highway 66 — coined the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in “The Grapes of Wrath” and later popularized by Hollywood before becoming a casualty of the interstate system — opened in 1926, connecting Chicago to Los Angeles through hundreds of rural and urban miles of winding road in eight states. Originally, the route terminated on Seventh Street in downtown Los Angeles, but was then extended to the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln Boulevards in neighboring Santa Monica, an unattractive and extraordinarily busy corner where it would be impossible to stand and take a photograph.
Legend had it that at some point, an end-of-the-road sign was placed at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue as a prop for a movie shoot, and eventually disappeared, as did the highway designation itself (Route 66 was officially decommissioned by the federal government in 1985). Given the pier’s proximity to that corner — and perhaps the fact that a place near the scenic Pacific Ocean where one can also buy some churros and a key chain while posing for a shot — the new “official” end seemed fortuitous.
Santa Monica tourism officials and the Preservation Foundation were both behind the idea, and the move required no approvals or permits. It is “like the power invested in me sort of thing,” Mr. Conkle said.
“It’s a myth,” he added, “but it is a myth added to all the other myths of Route 66.”
~Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times