Post #1: Intro to Route 66
Will Rogers Highway, The Mother Road, Main Street America: whatever you want to call it, Route 66 was THE way to get around between Chicago to L.A. from the Roaring 20’s to the Eccentric 80s; 1985 to be precise, when the interstate system all but erased Route 66 from the road maps.
Today, some of the highway remains intact but much of it, if not most of it, has been overgrown, taken back by Mother Nature. Some parts of Route 66 have completely crumbled away, and nothing remains. Abandoned motels, gas stations, churches, homes, drive-ins, and even whole towns are scattered here and there around the once busy road, standing as a reminder of what once was; a relic of the past, of time gone by. Some of these places stand like time capsules just waiting to be opened. Time hasn’t been very kind to others.
This road, and some of these towns, witnessed hope, dreams, and struggles that burdened those who traveled through. The 1920s East Coasters from New York, Chicago, and Detroit left in droves toward the Golden Coast, seeking fame and fortune in this still relatively new industry of film-making. They came with dreams of acting in and/or producing “moving pictures” that would be seen all over the country. They wanted their name in lights.
After the crash of ’29 and the Dust Bowl, Depression era of the Dirty 30s, small towns, many of which struggled from the get-go, were bankrupted. Their residents (many of them being poor farmers and labor workers), with empty pockets and no longer a home to call their own, packed up everything they could carry and traveled Route 66 to bigger cities, especially newer cities in the West, in hopes of finding a job and a new life. These bigger cities showed promise, a lack of poverty, more companies to work for; everything that would draw people to it; people who had nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
The 40s that saw the trials and tribulations of World War 2; how many soldiers and sailors traveled this road to go from this military base to that military base? How many sweethearts traveled that road to see their soldier home on leave, or to be the first to greet their love when they came home from war?
The 50s see Route 66 loaded with racing Hot Rods of bright colors. Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins were built along the road as an attraction to those traveling it. The 60s, 70s, and early 80’s; all these decades; all these travelers. Where were they going? Why were they going?
And now today. The once thriving businesses and towns that still remain are no more than dusty skeletons, covered over with graffiti, now only entertaining pigeons, rodents, and bugs of all kinds. But still you can feel the atmosphere from Route 66’s heyday. Some of the old road has been preserved by those who wish it to remain for them, and for their children and grandchildren to visit, and to keep alive the memory of those who traveled on that road. Thanks to their efforts, you can visit even abandoned segments of the road that haven’t yet been taken by time.
Stand on an abandoned portion of Route 66, and you can still sense the feelings of those travelers; those feelings of hope, desperation, thrill of adventure; whatever it was, whatever they felt, and be inspired by them. Like those who came before them traveling west on the Oregon Trail 80 years prior, those who traveled Route 66 never lost sight of what they wanted most when they finally arrived at their destination.
It’s a good reminder that we should do the same.