U.S. Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, and the Mother Road, was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926. The highway became one of the most famous roads in the United States and ran from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles County, California. Route 66 covered a total of 2,448 miles through eight states and three time zones.
The Mother Road was recognized in popular culture by the hit song, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66; the Route 66 television series (which aired from 1960 to 1964); and John Steinbeck's 1939 classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath (which was also a famous movie). For many people, Route 66 was a powerful symbol of escape and loss.
US 66 served as a primary route for those who migrated west. This was especially true during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s when the road supported the economies of the communities through which it passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway. However, times changed.
Beginning in the late 1950s and for the next 25 years, Route 66 was bypassed by the construction of new high-speed Interstate roads. After the last stretch of freeway was completed in 1984, Route 66 was officially decommissioned. With the loss of travelers and tourists, many businesses went bankrupt. Towns were abandoned. And the old highway became known as Historic Route 66.
No other road has captured the imagination and the essence of the American Dream quite like Route 66. The Mother Road was speckled with romantic and unconventional attractions and symbolized a pathway to better times.
© John A. Verner - Clear Lotus Photography