The historic Route 66 may be the most famous road in America! It was built in 1926 and stretches over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Its popularity grew when travelers realized it was one of the most direct ways to reach the Pacific coast, and it was quickly nicknamed Main Street of America. Now an embodiment of the carefree, road-tripping spirit, Route 66 has been immortalized in songs, television, and famous works of fiction.
Along the way, on the “double six,” countless curious motorists will stop to witness numerous wacky roadside attractions, stunning natural landscapes, and many significant historical landmarks.
Of course, most of the allure of traveling Route 66 isn’t just in the memorabilia of 1950s and 60s America—it’s the Western American landscape. One of the most beautiful parts of the road is in Arizona, where it passes near the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, and the Grand Canyon. Route 66 ends in California at the Santa Monica Pier, a classic American boardwalk. It’s fun to celebrate the completion of your road trip with a ride on the famous Ferris wheel or by just watching a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
If you have read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, you know it’s a story about a man and his family that are forced from their farm in the Depression-era Oklahoma Dust Bowl and set out for California along Route 66 with thousands of others in search of jobs, land, and hope for a brighter future.
Well, that book is actually very close to the truth.
We learned all of this and more at the Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona. It depicts the historical evolution of travel along the 35th parallel that became Route 66.
The drought and the depression during the 1930s drove thousands from the Midwest to California in hopes of a
better life. Unfortunately, life was not better. Along the way, they would gather in migrant camps only to be driven away by police who were instructed to force the migrants to move. On Route 66 near the California/Arizona border, there was actually an official sign from the state of California warning migrants to turn back because they were not welcome in California. Contrary to popular belief, of the 200,000 people who migrated to California, only 8% stayed! Within a few months, most had made the journey back home.
In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck became the first writer to refer to Route 66 as the “Mother Road.” In doing so, he helped capture the road’s image of redemption and turned it into a cultural icon.
Few roads in the world resonate like Route 66. It is filled with so much adventure, glamour, history, and nostalgia. This enduring route embodies everything that a road trip should be about! It even goes through eight states and three time zones.
During COVID-19 times…this could be your epic road trip where you can “Get Your Kicks on Route 66!”