Encyclopedia > United States Highway 66 -- Historic

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Route 66

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Alternate meanings: New Jersey State Highway 66, Interstate 66

Route 66 is a United States highway that ran from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California (actually Santa Monica) a distance of 2448 miles. When it first opened in 1926, it was one of the first national arteries, although it was not completely paved until 1938.

The route was not straight, but intentionally linked many small towns in the middle west. With its essentially flat course and favourable weather, the highway became popular with trucks, thus contributing to the growth of that industry.

In 1940, John Steinbeck called the highway the Mother Road in Grapes of Wrath, his novel about westward migration.

In 1946, well-travelled band musician Bobby Troup[?] wrote his song "Route 66" about the road. It goes:

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way,
Take the highway that is best --
Get your kicks on Route 66.

It winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way,
get your kicks on Route 66!

Now you go through St. Looey,
Joplin, Misoury,
And Oklahoma City,
Looks mighty pretty.

You'll see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona,
Don't Forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.

Won't you...get hip to this timely tip,
When you make that California trip,
Get your kicks on Route 66.
The song goes on to list many of the towns and cities along the highway:

The highway also gave its name to a popular TV show, Route 66, seen from 1960 through 1964, which featured two young men in a Corvette looking for adventure along America's highways. Much of the show was filmed on location, but little along Route 66. The show's theme song, by Henry Mancini, was also a hit.

Much of US 66 was decommissioned in the 1980s, as most of the traffic traveled on wider, swifter interstates. Interstate 55, Interstate 44, Interstate 40, and Interstate 15 were built over the remains of US 66, as it didn't seem so important that a highway from Chicago to L.A. have the same designation. Nevertheless, some highway historians want to put historic US 66 signs on US 66's former route.

See also Highway 61, Winslow, Arizona.

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