Route 66-A history
We have all heard of the famous Route 66. Whether it be in a film or when a friend talks about a road trip across America. What is it though? Does it exist and why does it have such a mythical lure to it?
This blog drives down Route 66 to find out what it’s all about.
Who knows, after reading you may plan your own trip too. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. Our holiday car hire excess insurance cover means you can travel the highway stress free! Get your FREE quote now and then read on!
Going through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, it’s a mix of cultures, time zones and lifestyles. Let’s check it out.
The origin of Route 66
As we mentioned in the introduction, Route 66 has a history behind it, largely due to the legendary status it has been laden with. Why though is this stretch of road so revered?
Maybe it’s the impressive span it covers. Starting in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles, Route 66 fills an incredible 2448 miles. Perhaps it is due to the eight states you pass through when driving it, or maybe it’s because now it doesn’t officially exist anymore. From 1956 up until 1984, every part of it was changed into an interstate.
Let’s travel back in time though, to 1926, when Route 66 came to be after the road connecting Chicago to Los Angeles was given the iconic designation. Built simply to link rural communities in middle America to the larger cities on both sides of the country it was signed into law as one of the original highways in 1927. It didn’t become fully paved until 1938 and this saw an increase in people travelling from state to state for work.
Developing the route
The increased traffic led some smart Americans to sense an opportunity. Restaurants, service stations, and shops began to pop up to cater for the increased motorists. These early days of increased traffic also saw an inevitable rise in accidents. Some parts of the road were so dangerous with tight bends and steep inclines that many drivers hired locals to navigate some of the more frightening twists and turns for them. A part running through the black mountains was especially treacherous and was removed from the route entirely in 1953. You can still drive it today though by heading for The Oatman Highway.
Wartime and the travel boom
As WW2 took hold, industry developed in some parts of the USA as the demand for military equipment grew. Route 66 became a huge transportation line for goods needed by the servicemen. It took on so much traffic that a separate portion of road had to be developed in Missouri to enable the steady movement of both military and civilian traffic. As the war ended, US66 (as it was officially known) became the main road for people looking to take holidays in LA. With drivers passing through iconic landmarks such as the painted desert and the Arizona meteor crater a second burst of cotton industries popped up. Some which went on to become worldwide. McDonald’s being the one that stands out. Set up alongside teepee-shaped motels, frozen custard stands and other newly created fast-food outlets, route 66 was now establishing itself as its own mini-America.
The change and decline
As with many roads the world over, alterations to match demand or to repair faults can lead to disruption and totally new routes being created. Over a period of 26 years various parts of the route were realigned and whilst still linking the same states, the road took on a new path. In some cases, this meant once prosperous towns were left empty. The earlier mentioned Oatman in Arizona literally shut down. As interstates sprung up throughout the US, many of the once thriving parts of route66 saw huge drops in traffic. Despite them still being part of the route, they were no longer classified as such. The route number now being applied to the newer interstates. This led to huge drop offs in trade for many of the previously successful businesses. Then in 1956 the President signed off a multi-billion-dollar project to get 41.000 miles of interstate built. Inspired by the Autobahn of Germany he saw a new future for the roads of America.
Today on route 66
These days you can no longer drive Route 66 as an uninterrupted stretch of road. The work started by President Eisenhower was finished in 1984 and whilst the roads that made the iconic journey still exist in part, some are undrivable. You won’t find it on a GPS and in some instances, you could find yourself on an empty barren road for many hours. However, many of the businesses that popped up in the 30s, 40s and 50s still exist and generate the Americana feel that lots of people embrace and would like to cling on to.
Since its decline various efforts have been put in to restore and maintain some of its iconic features and in 1999, President Clinton signed off $10milion in matching fund grants to keep some of route 66s most memorable assets preserved.
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