Route 66 in the News

Revisiting California's Route 66

2009-11-11 20:52:49

Its heyday has flourished and waned, and yet Route 66, the 2,400-mile corridor from the Midwest through Los Angeles, continues to fascinate travelers with a promise of adventure, nostalgia and dreams fulfilled.

Why does a ribbon of mere asphalt hold appeal for not only Americans, but people worldwide? Why do more and more travelers forsake modern multi-lane highways for an antiquated road that will take them from Chicago to California?

Route 66, also called "The Mother Road" and "America's Highway," is rife with myths and truths, successes and failures.

For decades it sparked innovative enterprises which took root in a more innocent time. As optimistic travelers headed west early in the last century, families and businesses along the highway scrambled to fill the blossoming demand for overnight accommodations and meals. Motels and eateries flourished and the road took on a life of its own.

Somewhere there must be evidence of tire tracks left by thousands of vehicles that traversed this road against all odds.

Born in 1926, Route 66 thrived until modern freeways demoted it to a second-class road. No longer did travelers amble along its pavement, frequenting eateries and motels at a leisurely pace. Gone were the days when families in towns along the Road opened their doors to motorists in need of a bed and a meal.

Modern multi-lane freeways with tempting 55-mph-an-hour signs rendered moot the saying "It is not the destination, but the journey." Suddenly the latter became all important, the former passe.[sic]

But the spirit of Route 66 refuses to fade away. No longer a primary commerce route, it has lost its place as the bloodflow of American travel. But it remains a road that beckons history buffs and boasts icons telling stories of its past.

With our 66th birthdays looming, my husband Alan and I have found great pleasure in reliving the days of Route 66, whether sleeping in a wigwam, photographing a juice stand in the shape of an orange, or perusing photographs of movies stars on the walls of eateries they patronized en route to Hollywood.

We have traveled on the Mother Road, over it and under it.

Following the road I can feel the anticipation and trepidation that consumed the Joads, so aptly described in John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." In those days one did not traverse the desert during hot daylight hours. Maps were not accurate. Radiators boiled over. Tires went flat. Food was scarce and competition fierce. And yet, family after family rumbled over the highway to find a better life in the West.

Today many of Route 66's icons have disappeared, but the road offers many adventures and opportunities for travelers to relive its former glory. Day trips from western San Bernardino County to the San Gabriel Valley to the road's terminus in Santa Monica will take you back into time and can educate the entire family about local history.

Join us on our upcoming adventures exploring Route 66. In Part 2 of this series, we will start at the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, the closest of its kind to the San Gabriel Valley. There we will learn about the experiences that await us.

By the end of the series, we will have visited 66 historic spots along the Mother Road in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, gaining a better understanding of its place in history and the lives it touched.

~Claudia Heller,


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