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A Partial Photographic Tour of the Road Today Route 66 Links
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An Introduction
Some background on a good friend, and faithful servant.
      There are some things that we just can't seem to part with, even when it is agreed, if less than unanimously, that their time is past. We still romanticize the cowboy, the pioneer, and many of the rest of the icons produced by the  history of our short lived nation, but their eras have passed, leaving nothing but a few old buildings, some writings  and a great deal of lore and legend. Of course, these intrepid souls did leave us one other thing. They left us the nation they built, the strongest, most successful, most free, and most advanced nation in the world. One of the more recently romanticized figures contributing to the making of our country is, of all things, a road; it is Route 66. Route 66 tied the country together in a very real and meaningful way, more so than anything since the railroads had come through, many decades earlier. Formed in 1927, by a combination of new construction, and the linking of older roads, it's time was publicly declared past in 1960, though the last stretch was not officially bypassed until 1985. In it's passing it has left behind it's own share of legend, lore and chronicle, but it has left more. There are the small towns, and villages, the rest stops, museums, points of interest, ghost towns, and tourist traps. All of these remain along with a uniquely American style and love of the road trip.
    Then there is the pavement itself, thousands of miles of it. No longer a continuos stretch of highway as in it's glory days, but broken into a collection of service roads, access points, frontage roads, and state highways. In some places the pavement remains but has been abandoned altogether. The end of Route 66 did not so much result in it's destruction; instead, the road was discarded, with some parts being salvaged, and put to other uses. The old pavement is nothing like the modern Interstate. The remains of the old road consist of your basic two lane blacktop, with a yellow line down the center to separate eastbound from westbound traffic. There is no limited access here, and any road which crosses the old road produces an intersection. Businesses built alongside the road are easily accessed by driveways, pull outs, and service roads, just as on a city street. In many ways, this is just what the old road was, a 2400 mile long city street, the Main Street of America.
    The old road has left more than legend, and more than physical structure; it has changed us. It has instilled within us, the culture of the road, the automobile, travel, and freedom. Truck stops got their start here, along with motor courts, motels, road houses, drive ins, and a variety of tourist traps. The oases, dear to travelers everywhere, was an innovation of Route 66. The boredom of long road travel gave rise to a selection of museums, gardens, zoos, and "educational" exhibits. Many new things were tried here; some failed, some succeeded.
    Route 66, and some other roads like it, prepared the nation for the age of the automobile. It introduced us to the idea of the motor tour, and weaned us from the old dirt tracks, trails, and named roads carried over from horse and buggy days. These new roads had a far greater role in renewing the sense of adventure and love of travel which so marks our culture, than anything done by Ford, Chevrolet, or any of the other automobile manufacturers.  They also gave entrepreneurs, as well as big business a taste of what services they would likely find a market for as America grew more mobile. These roads then, were a learning tool, as well as a means of getting across the country. The lessons learned on the old federal highway system were not forgotten when the Interstate was being designed. Unfortunately, a whole new series of lessons would need to be learned once the Interstate was put into large scale use. The more studied approach of the Interstate gave us broad straight ribbons of unbroken pavement, removing much of the excitement, if not the terror, of traveling the old road.
    How do you wax poetic about a road? Well, if the road in question is Route 66, it is quite easy. How many Interstate highways have songs written about them, or television series based upon them? What other road has legions of travelers from all over the world, coming just to plant their tires, and their feet upon it's pavement? The Route 66 television series was less about the road, and more about what you might find traveling on it. The same holds true about the song, and the legions of stories, movies, and books about the old road. The television series sparked an interest in the road in a new generation, even as The Grapes of Wrath had inspired the generation before. A series of road movies, and a nostalgia craze for the fifties, generated the same interest in yet another generation. Even after over seventy years, and nearly twenty years past the time it was officially closed, people continue to discover new things along it's length.
    This road carried the commerce of a nation. In many ways it was a victim of it's own success. Stretches of the road were known for the number of fatalities they produced; legendary names like "Dead Man's Curve", were a reality out on some parts of "bloody 66." The existence of the road, a link from, the heart of the country out to it's western edge, encouraged people to travel, increasing traffic to levels not envisioned by the original planners, and builders. Ironically, in recent times, the Interstate which replaced sections of the old road has found itself the victim of the same type of success.

A few facts about the road, along with some comparisons
    America's main street was one road in name only, at least in the beginning. What was to become Route 66 started out as a collection of county roads, state highways, and assorted trails (paved and unpaved). These were chosen by a committee, to be integrated into what would become the main road between the midwest, and the Pacific coast. Initially, the only thing unifying this collection was a series of road signs, and a designation on a map. Even so, this was a pretty ambitious undertaking, for 1927.
    A look at the map gives some idea as to the extent of the road, but does not give a clear idea of the range of climate and terrain it traverses. The map is flat, not showing mountains, deserts, woodlands, rivers, prairies, and the numerous other obstacles which plagued the first adventurers to attempt crossing the continent, a century earlier. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of roads like Route 66, and the follow up of the Interstate system, we have come to take such ease of travel quite for granted. In any other part of the world, a trip of such a length, over such a varied terrain, would be a challenge at best, probably an adventure of a lifetime, and life threatening at worst. Here, it is just a matter of hopping in the car and bringing enough money (or the credit cards) to pay our way. To put things in perspective, let's look at how the rest of the world gets around.
    In Europe there has never been anything like a transcontinental road. The closest thing might be the system of railways, and in particular, the old Orient Express. Although the route varied throughout the years, it ran from Paris to Istanbul, a distance of 3186 kilometers. This comes out to something like 1800-1900 miles. Still not quite up to the distance of Route 66. Counting the spur line which starts at Calais, and adds another hundred miles or so, brings it within a few hundred miles of the length of old 66. This takes the traveler across the entire width of Europe, crossing the alps, a few time zones, and the borders of a number of countries. It also takes the traveler through eastern Europe, and into Asia. Be sure to bring your passport, lots of money (in various currencies, unless you wish to wait in lines to have money changed over in the eastern countries), and even more patience. The train, once the lap of luxury, has become a test of endurance, temper, and in some cases courage.
    In Russia, I have to admit that, the old road has met it's match. Once again, we need to look to the railroads to find a contender; there are no roads in the former Soviet Union to match Route 66. There is, however, a railroad unique in the world. The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the longest in the world. It's 6000 mile span reaches a quarter way around the world (actually closer to a third, at it's latitude). If Route 66 were to exist in Russia, it would stretch from Moscow, all the way across European Russia, and over the Ural Mountains, until it ended deep within the desolate wilds of Asian Russia. If you were to start Route 66 at the base of the Ural Mountains, it would go through Moscow, pass out of Russia, and end somewhere in the middle of Poland. Isn't geography fun!?
    In asia, there is the Burma road which connected India, with China, a distance of about about 700 miles, and took four years to build. Hardly more than a glorified local spur, compared to old 66. Old 66, if built in India, could completely cross the country, either running north-south, or east-west. A more interesting comparison can be made by assuming Route 66 is started in Bombay, and heads, north, and then west. Such a road would pass through Inda, Pakistan, Iran, and parts of Iraq, just about connecting Bombay with Baghdad. If India 66 were to head east, it could connect Bombay to Hanoi in Vietnam, or to Chunking, the former capitol of China.
    Africa has no serious road, or railroad system, and has had none since the passing of colonial times. Tribal wars, petty dictators, poverty, and famine have destroyed much of the old infrastructure of colonial days, and have seen to it that the population of Africa has had more serious matters to busy itself with, than the building of roads. Even during colonial, and pre colonial times, travel within central Africa was extremely slow, and hazardous. The tsetse fly, host and carrier of sleeping sickness, meant that there could be no travel by horse south of the desert. No horses meant no real roads or trails of any size were built. No travel system of any length was possible until the introduction of the railroad, by the colonial powers. A road the length of Route 66, if built, would take one completely across the continent in all but the widest portion. Even here, it would only miss touching both oceans by a few hundred miles. Going from north to south, African 66 would take the daring traveler from the shores of the Mediterranean sea, across the deserts of North Africa, and into the heart of the Congo.
    As can be seen by the examples above, in any other part of the world, the building of such a road, not to mention the support structure, businesses, and stops along the way, would be a major achievement. Here, the road is relegated to secondary status, and would have been discarded altogether, were it not  for the interest shown by tourists. In America, this 2400 mile stretch of pavement passes through big cities, small towns, 8 different states, desert, mountain, prairie, woodland, and farmland. It passes through some of the richest, most productive farm land in the world, and through some of the most barren and sterile areas on the planet. At certain times of the year, the road is capable of taking you from freezing cold to unbearable heat. You can cross rivers swollen to flood stage, and a day or two latter pass through dry areas where no water flows, and there has been no rain for months. People talk funny, in some of the places the road takes you, though you will be too polite to say so. In turn, these people will be too polite to tell you that, to them, you talk funny too. The road itself says nothing, merely humming contentedly beneath your tires.
    Unlike the modern interstate, which merely connects the nation, Route 66 actually joined it. It is possible to travel from one end of the country, to another, via the interstate, without ever driving down a city street, or actually seeing a city proper. We may drive through cities, on the interstate, but we never really have to enter them. This kind of travel was not possible on the old federal highway system, of which Route 66 was a part. This was the reason for it's popularity, and was also what brought about it's demise.

The Mother Road
    Route 66 followed many of the historical paths of pioneers, and explorers. The Osage Trail, and the Santa Fe trail are just two of the many legendary routes which grew from tracks into the wilderness to become local roads, then state or county highways, and then finally became part of route 66, as a part of the Federal Highway System. Many parts of the old road started out as Indian trails, before the coming of the white man. Many more were used by settlers, wagon trains, and particularly as military roads. As cars began to dominate as a means of everyday transportation, it became pretty apparent that, for long distance transportation, the odd patchwork of roads crawling and twisting through the countryside, sometimes connecting, sometimes not, were unsuited to our new found mobility.
    Plans were begun in the early twenties, and by 1927, the road itself came into being. In many ways these federal roads were the final end to the old cowboy, pioneer, and trail system, and ushered in the new era of automobile travel. Their time had come. A combination of production line manufacturing, and post war prosperity, greatly increased the acceptance, and number of automobiles in the nation. New technology developed for the war and applied to peace time products, greatly increased the speed, power and reliability of the new breed of cars on the road. It was now possible to own, and operate an automobile without being a mechanic, or an adventurer. It was also possible to acquire a car without being wealthy. Added to all of this was the restlessness that always follows the end of a major war. Young men displaced from society, struggled to find their purpose; but there was more to the perceived need for these roads, than all of this.
    After the First World War, the nation roused itself, looked around, and seemed to get a sense of itself being something other than a collection of rogue states, cowboys, farmers, and country cousins living in the shadow of their European parents. This was when we began to see ourselves as a great nation, and first realized that we were a world power. The First World War had been a case of the new world coming to the aid of the old. Yet, as we began to take ourselves seriously, we began to note some strange discrepancies. There were parts of this new world power, that were nearly inaccessible, while many areas seemed scarcely to have changed since the days of the pioneers.
    One gauge by which the cohesiveness of of a civilization, and the stability of it's culture can be measured, generally has to do with the speed at which communications, and travel can occur, and the dependability of the means of accomplishing these. Using this gauge, the United States was not what you could really call a unified nation, for much of it's existence. At the time the new roads were being considered, radio was just beginning to enter it's golden age, and the telephone was just starting to to gain ground on the telegraph. Long distance phone calls were a bit of a hit and miss venture. Communication through the mails was erratic, and sometimes undependable, but was regular; transportation was a different matter.
    Even after the first world war, the major mode of long distance travel was by train. The major routes were those  laid down during the days of the frontier, and the wild west; it seemed that in some cases, the trains themselves were not much newer. Yet these vintage corridors were largely what linked the nation, moving it's commerce, keeping it connected, fed, and supplied. The railroads were one of the first real monopolies in this country, and travelers were limited to the routes, schedules, regulations, and limitations imposed by the railroads.
    There were roads, of course, but these roads were as old, if not older, than the routes the trains traveled. Many were little more than trails. The long distance traveler could expect, at the very least, to become lost. Maps were poor, road markings almost non existent, and services hit or miss. From the road itself, the traveler could not know what to expect. There was no consistency. A road could be a mud track, paved dirt, gravel, stone, or asphalt. Even more important, was the chance that a given road may or may not have connections to other roads. For the transport of goods, the roads were not really an option, except for local cartage.
    The federal highway system, took us from trails to superhighways It is sometimes difficult for us to understand just how much the new roads unified the country, and changed the way we think about travel. Fifty years before the coming of the federal roads, wagon trains had still headed out west. The last great land rush took place, in Oklahoma,  less than forty years before. It is ironic that many of those involved in that final rush would find themselves, or their children, on the road escaping the devastation of the dust bowl years.
    During the 19th century, the various homestead acts had done a good job of spreading the population, and filling the country. The challenge now, would be to connect all the little nooks and crannies occupied by a people who, in the space of half a century, had filled a continent.

Stops along the way
    One of the big attractions of "The Main Street of America" is that, in many ways, this is just what it was. Route 66 did not bypass cities, or even seek to avoid them; it took us right through the heart of them. In numerous small towns, and big cities, Route 66 takes one down Main Street, Central Avenue, or First street. These main thoroughfares were chosen because, as main streets, they were generally the widest, smoothest, straightest, and most direct routes through town. Most were already connected to county or state roads, many having gotten their starts as local roads around which their towns had grown up.
    Actually, this jumping from town to town was not too different from the way that travelers had traditionally covered long distances. Back before the federal highways, and before the improvement of the maps, the long  distance traveler would need to go from one city to another, seeking the road in each town which would lead to the next. In order to keep from dead ending in the middle of nowhere, the wise traveler would generally plan his route to lead from one major city to another. So the new federal roads were laid out to follow the cities which preceded them.
    In other cases, the towns grew up along the road, starting out as collections of businesses geared to serve the needs of the traveler. Route 66 has been called, a single city with only one street, though that street is 2400 miles long. It can certainly seem that way, particularly when passing through the tourist traps, and garish little towns designed to entice the traveler. The best of these little towns were delightful attractions in their own right; the worst were little more than speed traps, and places to get overpriced food, and lodging, both of dubious quality. Of course, half of the fun and adventure of travel is learning to discern the bad from the good, seeking out the latter.
    Seasoned travelers share their knowledge, and lore of the road. A common bond of shared experience links them all. Every traveler on Route 66 has seen the big cross, the blue whale, the tilted water tower, the Cadillac Ranch, and the various art deco gas stations, along with numerous trading posts, stands, and assorted roadside stops. So perhaps you stopped at the trading post of Chief Yellow Horse, and perhaps you did not, but you did pass it, and see it, as did all of the other travelers on the road. Then there is dinner at Ollie's in Tulsa, or perhaps at the Dixie Trucker's home in Illinois. You may have had a custard at Ted Drew's in St. Louis, or tried the 72 ounce steak at the Big Texan in Amarillo. Not all travelers stopped at the same places, but all were exposed to the same variety. This gave a certain similarity of experience, but made each journey, and each traveler's individual perceptions of the road, just a bit unique.
    There is more to the old road, however, than places to eat, or stay, and places to buy trinkets. One of the more interesting, and hopefully enduring, legacies of the old road comes from all of the cities and towns stretched out across it's length. Some were never anything more than little stops to eat and get gas (so to speak), while others were large cities which long predated the existence of the road. All became part of it's substance, coloring, and flavoring it with their own unique styles, even as they were colored and flavored by the road. Regions too, added their share to the allure of Route 66. The Midwest, the Southwest, California, and bits of the south, all added to the experience of traveling through the breadth of America on Route 66.
    Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and the other big cities along the way, add a welcome bit of civilization to travel along the road. They are good places to stock up on food, do a bit of shopping, and perhaps stay in a fine hotel. They do make their own contributions to the journey, but they are the public face of the old road. Though each large urban area has it's own local flavor and history, most have been homogenized somewhat, to the extent that most have the same chain stores, restaurants, and generic "big city" way of doing things. The private face, and the heart of the road is contained within the cities, and small towns which grew up and out of it. These special places are sometimes unique to the point of being eccentric.
    The more out of the way, and the more dependent on the road, they are, the larger the amount of eccentricity.  Some of the high desert mining towns in Arizona, are particularly unique. Hackberry, and Seligman seem like little more than collections of shacks. Oatman with it's free ranging wild burros, or Kingman, climbing up the side of a mountain, surrounded by high desert, and twisted roads, seem somehow otherworldly. In California, the little hamlets of Amboy, Newberry Springs, and Bagdad seem to define the notion of the little town in the middle of nowhere. Set in the heat of the desert, amidst dried out lake beds, there is no earthly reason for these towns to be here. There is no industry, no hope of agriculture, and no agreeable climate. The only reason these towns ever came to be, was the presence, and the need to service, the road.
        What today strike us as a bunch of sleepy little towns, were raucous places on the old road. They may become lively again, as, like so many of the youthful travelers which have passed through them, they seek to find their place along the road. Winslow, and Tucumcari in particular, were known as busy, lively places. Williams had, for years, been the jumping off point for the Grand Canyon. This is an honor it is seeking to regain, by an extensive series of improvements, and tourist attractions, including a regular steam train into the park. Then there are the deserted places like Twin Arrows, Two Guns, Allenreed, and Glen Rio, or the nearly deserted places like Meteor City (Pop 2). The old road takes us through all of these places, some familiar, and some unheard of, except by the  locals.
    It also takes us into the countryside. The language was carefully chosen here: where the Interstate takes us through the countryside, the old roads took us into them. Though we have become largely a nation of cities, and urban dwellers, such was not always the case, and even today is not entirely the case. Besides a glimpse of our rural culture and heritage, these country roads also take the traveler through the raw geology, and geography of the continent. Unlike the Interstate, these older roads, permit pulling over, getting out, and doing a bit of exploration. There is really much to explore here. No matter what the climate, or part of the country you come from, old 66 is guaranteed to take you through the different and the unfamiliar.
    Aside from the cities, and the countryside, Route 66 gave the traveler plenty of the new and unfamiliar to explore. The meteor crater is just off of the road, as are the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, and the Grand Canyon. Sandia, where nuclear weapons are developed and built, stands near the road, along with the Atomic Missile Museum. You can sleep in a wigwam, or in a room, and a bed, where Elvis once slept. You can also sit on the back of a statue of a giant jackrabbit (complete with saddle), and enjoy a nice cool cherry cider in the heat of the Arizona desert. You may find yourself doing many things that you would never think to do back home.
    Where the modern interstate impairs and inhibits us from stopping, the old road practically insists upon it. Where the Interstate seems a bit ashamed of some of the places through which it passes, isolating us, and hustling us along, the old road welcomes exploration, as if proudly showing off the places it has collected to itself in it's wanderings.

Defining the era of the American Dream
    What is it about old 66 that inspires such devotion, fanaticism, and even feelings approaching love? Certainly, it is not the pavement itself; there is no shortage of two lane blacktop roads in the world. It can not entirely be a love of the cities, and places along the road. Though some of these locations are quite nice, others are very unpleasant indeed. Could it be the freedom of the road? Well, perhaps a bit, though the Interstate, sanitized as it may be, is faster, safer, smoother, and has better services than the old road ever offered.
    Route 66, along with a few other cultural icons, became a focal point for an idealized America. The fact that it was decommissioned at about the same time that many had given up, or lost their faith in the old ideals, left it permanently associated with them. When, in latter years, we discovered that we missed much of what we had discarded, it was natural for us to search for these things in the places they had last been seen. Some other expressions of freedom, confidence, and optimism, related to our love of the road are:     There is a sort of a combination of quaintness, excess, wholesomeness, and self indulgence that we associate with the bygone days of the old American Dream. Certainly many other versions of the American Dream have risen, but there is something special about the post war boom, optimism, power, and sense of purpose that is longed for, even by those who helped bring about it's demise. The social activism, sexual revolution, new politics, and self awareness of the sixties, and seventies toppled much of the aura of old America. Though few people miss the racism, quiet hypocrisy, and mild paranoia of those days, our "progress" has not come without a price. In curing, or trying to cure many of our former social ills, we have unwittingly discarded much that was of real value to us. It seems like a case of "the operation was a success but the patient died." The old evils have been replaced by a set of new ones, less apparent, more complex, and more difficult to deal with. They have been replaced by the hypocrisy of political correctness, a distrust of our own government, loss of faith, loss of confidence, and loss of belief in our own culture and morals.
    In the fifties, and into the sixties we knew we were the wealthiest, most powerful, and advanced country in the world. More important though, we knew we were the moral, and cultural superior of every other nation on Earth. We knew we were right. As much as we today worship the self, independence, choice, and individuality, we long for the stable family with mom at home, dad at work, junior and sis at school, and the certainty that tomorrow would be better than today. What we also long for, despite our new worship of "open mindedness" is the certainty that we are right, that we are on the right track, fighting the good fight, and making the world safe for democracy, that we can trust our leaders, our neighbors, and ourselves to do the right thing.
    That sense of identity, security, correctness, and purpose is what we so long for, when we go searching for the old 66, and the nation it served. What is surprising is that, in many places, it is still there. In traveling the old road, I have seen small towns and big cities in the process of rebuilding themselves. This was particularly apparent in places like Oklahoma City, and Tulsa. Then there is the stubborn pride of places which have seen better days, but cling proudly to their old identities as they seek to make a comeback, places like Tucumcari, NM. Galena, KS. and Williams AZ. There are also the timeless places, which seem unaffected by the road, or by much of anything else. Some are large cities, like Chicago, and Los Angeles themselves, while others are a bit more modest, places like Flagstaff, or St. Louis. These were all great cities, filled with a great people. Some remain so, while others struggle on.
    So we travel the old road, buy the souvenirs, listen to the old music, and make a fad out of "retro" fashions, dances, cars, and furniture. We also keep a close watch for Elvis.

Passage into legend
    The new system of Interstate Highways, spelled the end of the old Federal Highway System. From 1960, when it's end was pronounced, to 1985 when the last section was bypassed, and it's traffic routed to the Interstate, Route 66 began to die the slow death of 1000 cuts. About the time that the road was being phased out, it began to attract it's greatest following. When Route 66 first aired as a television show, sections of the road had already been bypassed. The vast majority of the road was still there, but the writing was on the wall; the end was clearly near. Many people desired to travel the legendary road just once (or just once more) while it could still be done.
    The road did not die easy. Almost everywhere the Interstate came to replace it, objections were lodged, injunctions were sought, and protests were organized. This was done, in many areas, for sentimental reasons, but in many others the reasons were dead serious. The passing away of the road was the death knell for many of the small towns, and hamlets which got their living from it. It was also the death knell for many roadside businesses, which would be inaccessible, or nearly so, from the limited access Interstate which was to replace the old open access road.
    Throughout the sixties, most of the road remained, and it was still the preferred route across the country, but in the seventies, the old road was noticeably truncated, broken up, and difficult to use as a continuos highway. Road signs and markers were removed from city streets, and rural highways, making the old road hard to find, and difficult to follow. It was no longer clearly marked on maps. By the time the last stretch was closed in 1985, only a few purists, or old timers, even knew how to find the old road. Really by this time the road was already long dead. The final stretch was kept open in Arizona by a series of legal maneuvers, but it's closure was inevitable.
    Most people paid little mind to the replacement of the old road. This was progress, after all, and you can't stand in the way of something so sacred. So the little towns died, or grew much smaller, the old roadside businesses withered and faded to disappear, and the traditional stopping off points were passed by. A few things began to strike travelers about the new Interstate system, though. Traveling on it was deadly dull, consisting of long unbroken stretches of concrete. Where was the romance of travel?

The Interstate
    It may seem that I have cast the Interstate in the role of the villain in this story. In truth, I love the Interstate,
and travel it often. The Interstate is a great way to get around, within it's limitations. These limitations are: Of course, the Interstate is not without it's advantages. These are:     The Interstate has also done some harm to our culture, and particularly to many of our larger cities. Those of us in our forties, and older, may still remember the days when the new construction cut a swath right down the center of town, removing the heart from many cities. Houses were knocked down, businesses relocated, or shut down, and hundred year old neighborhoods razed or at the very least partitioned. There were always rumors circulating, or jokes being told about families barricading themselves in their houses, and refusing to leave, or homeowners lying down in the path of bulldozers. Most left, disgruntled, but without causing trouble, to settle in new places.
    Where the old road had taken traffic through city streets, via a marked route, the new Interstate made no concessions, and seemed to take little notice of the cities through which it was built. It became a world of it's own, replacing rather than merging with the places through which it traveled. Once the new superhighways were finished, the construction crews would move on, and the city which had happened to be in the way, was left to heal it's wounds as best it could. Many never quite healed right, and even those that did were left somewhat disfigured. There was the physical destruction of the parts of the city that the road went through, but there was also the strange way that most cities had of adapting to the presence of the new Interstates.
    One of the first things that the presence of the freeways did was to turn many of the downtown areas, and other business districts into little more than staging areas for the freeway on ramps. In many places, main roads, and side streets were made one way, or rerouted, to more efficiently direct traffic onto the new freeways. Old photographs taken of the downtown areas of most major cities will show streets lined with parked cars, sidewalks filled with pedestrians, and a selection of busses, and streetcars. A contemporary photograph of many of the same places will show only stalled traffic. Street parking was eliminated so that new traffic lanes could be added to help handle the load. This tended to make many downtown areas places to pass through, rather than places to stop, but worse was to come.
    As city business districts became less amenable to casual wandering, People began to frequent them less often, and for shorter periods of time. This had the predictable effect of stagnating much of the traditional downtown commerce, and forcing the businesses depending upon consumer traffic, to move out or go under. Over time, things became much shoddier, and of smaller scale. Downtown areas became a bit disreputable, and run down. This added further to their abandonment. So where could people now go to shop?
    The newly built shopping malls, out in the newly accessible countryside, could provide for all of the shopping needs of the most voracious consumer. Soon enough, even those who remained in the city, came out to the malls. After all, they were so new, and so clean, not like the torn up downtown areas of the city itself; also unlike the downtown areas, out in the malls, you could actually park your car, and stay a while. They were also, relatively safe. The downtown, and central areas of the city had started to become very unsavory places, or at any rate, they had become places in which a certain amount of caution need be shown.
    What of the main streets through town, the ones which people had traveled every day to get to work, or to shop? Well, most of these city sections were bypassed, by the new freeways, and left to whither on the vine. Most people took the freeway through town, rather than the city streets, in order to avoid lights, and to make use of the faster freeway speeds. This was a sort of a minor version of the disasters which befell the towns being bypassed by the Interstate. This also had the effect of segregating older parts of town, which had only been busy in the first place, because they were the major routes through the city. Once alternate, and faster, routes became available, there was little incentive to travel through certain areas of town, making them isolated backwaters.
    I used the word "segregating", to describe the cutting off and containment caused by many of the new freeways; this word was not completely chosen at random. Though there had always been racial segregation in the country, the new freeways, by permitting the isolation of large sections of the inner and central city, made the process much more complete. So just as the civil rights movement was beginning to make some changes in attitudes, and in law, the new fragmenting of the city helped to enhance the segregation of the races. This point was emphasized by a footnote in one of the current guidebooks to Route 66. It warns the reader about following the old road through certain parts of the Chicago, and St. Louis areas, recommending that the wary traveler bypass these places, and take the Interstate through town. Had Route 66 remained the main corridor, and had the Interstate not cut off these sections of town, they would not (could not) have been allowed to fall to such a state. Since these neighborhoods became bypassed, and were no longer "important" to the city at large, they were allowed to decay, and to become dangerous. Rather than pulling together, insisting that these areas be fixed, or fixing them directly, most of the middle class simply moved away from them, escaping rather than repairing, the damage.
    While construction of the new freeways was engaged in tearing up the heart of the city, and fragmenting it, the freeways themselves made the city easier to get out of. Once upon a time, you needed to live in town to be close to work, schools, shops, and cultural activities, but not any more. Now, a short drive on the Interstate could get you out in the country. Little farming communities, and small towns out in rural areas, suddenly became popular places for the newly mobile to live. This was probably the worse effect it had on the cities, since it was now possible to simply ignore, abandon, or discard them, in the minds of those who could move out. Twenty years before, problems of crime, poverty, decay, and corruption, would have had to have been dealt with; the coming of the freeways, made it possible to simply move away from them. So cities became disposable, and large sections of them were, in effect, disposed of.
    With all of this moving out, commuting, and bypassing, cities (now called urban areas to reflect the dependencies of the suburbs, and satellite cities) became much more spread out. This made cars a necessity, for even the most mundane things. It also made possible the large megamarket, and mega store, effectively squeezing out the small shopkeeper. Suddenly, everything became much more impersonal, farther away, and less intimate. The idea of a functioning neighborhood went away. People began to shop, work, and go to school, miles from the places where they happened to live.
    On the other hand, the Interstate can get me anywhere in the country within a few days. The urban sprawl it has fueled is good or bad, as a matter of personal taste. I personally hate it, and hate the blight it has contributed to in the cities. Having said this, I must admit that I personally live in a far western suburb of Milwaukee, though I would have probably stayed in the city had urban sprawl not so decimated the downtown, raised the taxes, and siphoned off so many of the jobs, and culture of the Milwaukee I had known as I was growing up.

Route 66 Today
   So what has become of this famous, and beloved road? Well, a number of things, depending upon which stretch of road you are talking about. It seems as if the old mother road has gone back to it's roots, becoming once again, a broken series of sometimes connected, but unrelated stretches of pavement. In general, you will find the physical remnants of the old road as one of the following:     The most common use to which the pavement of old 66 is put, is as frontage roads, serving the Interstate which replaced it, and providing local access for the people in the area, and the occasional tourist. In many places the old road will veer away from the Interstate, and take the traveler off the beaten path a bit. Some of these isolated areas are treasures of lore, history, and local color; others are depressing bits of abandoned America, left to ruin. In many other places, particularly in the southwestern states the old road will run right alongside the Interstate for miles. In many of these areas, it is nearly impossible to travel the old road for any distance. The service roads, into which it has been transformed, tend to be broken up at intervals by ramps, crossings, or even by the occasional intrusion of the interstate onto the former roadbed of 66.
    In medium to large cities, or areas of special interest, the old road will become a business bypass. In most of these places it will be called Business 40. The business roads, tend to go through either the middle of town, or through special business districts on the outskirts. Often they will do both, taking the traveler through busy areas full of shops, malls, motels, and restaurants, before passing through the heart of the city. These business loops can be a great deal of fun, particularly since the renaissance and rediscovery of old 66. They are probably closer to the feel, pulse, and old liveliness of the original 66, than any other place, including the restored scenic sections.
    In a few areas, 66 has been completely abandoned. There is one long stretch like this, where the road crosses from Texas into New Mexico. In this spot, the road has been abandoned because the Interstate takes a shortcut. The road is still there, and it can be accessed by getting directions from the locals. It starts out as a city street, which heads out of town, and disappears into the desert/prarie. It is not closed off, nor is it forbidden for travelers to embark upon it. This stretch has been abandoned in the sense that it is no longer shown on maps, road crews no longer maintain it, and there are no services along it's length, but it is still there. The Texas/New Mexico border stretch is unusual, on most of these abandoned stretches, the road has simply been cut off at both ends, by freeway ramps. Though these sections are generally visible from the Interstate, and tend to run right alongside it, they can be very difficult to access.
    In recent years, people have been taking a careful measure of the culture we have built for ourselves, and have found it wanting, in many respects. In answer to the nostalgia created by this revisiting of the past, many areas of old 66 are being restored, marked on special maps, and are even seeing a return of the old style highway signs. The best section of this type is probably the small section in Kansas, though there are significant restored sections in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. The midwest seems to be the last section to revalue the old road, though Illinois, and Missouri have developed some strong local groups. California, at the west end of the road, is the state which practices veneration of the automobile, and of the road more than any other. It has a number of organizations, museums, and quirky little stops offs on the stretch of old 66 which passes through the desert.

A New Life
      Route 66, and many of the businesses found on or near it, survive today on tourism. Rather than being a place to pass through, Route 66 has become a place to be; everyone wants to travel the old road. On my own travels I have seen individuals, and tour groups from all over the world. A band of Austrian Motorcyclists pretty much paralleled my own trip down the old road. I ran into them at Meteor Crater, the Petrified Forest, and Painted Dessert, the Museum in Galena, and at the Continental Divide.
    All along the old route, the road is reawakening, though in quite a different form. In the old days, this had been a working road, but not anymore. Interstate 40 handles most of the commerce, travel, and day to day business that once depended on old 66. Instead of trucks, salesmen, relocating families, and business travelers, old 66 now gets tourists, travel buffs, adventurers, and those nostalgic for the dreams of the past. The road has become like one of those old steam trains that people pay to ride, or rather like booking a passage on a cruise line. Many people seek it out to travel it more for the journey than as a means to get to a destination.
    This new lease on life, is by no means a resurrection of the 66 that used to be. Rather, it is a phoenix risen from the ashes of what was once a much different and larger animal. The reborn road is busy enough to keep the little towns, and many of the small businesses along it's path alive, but will never again have the volume with which to restore them to their former glory. They will remain icons frozen in time, like the old cowboy towns which thrive on what they once were. Legendary places from a time when you could put the top down on your souped up car, throw a few things in the back, crank the radio, and hit the road to get your kicks on Route 66.
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