Missing your daily dose of whimsy? We took some time off to experience the Great American Roadtrip: a 2,448 mile journey across The States along Route 66. Contrary to popular belief, there is still plenty to see and do along the old motorway. (It kept us entertained for 19 days!) With summer at our doorstep, I'll be sharing tales from our journey via Whimsy On The Road, in hopes to inspire others to venture along the Mother Road, be it for a weekend or an extended vacation.
From roadside vernacular and Art Deco architecture to some of the
kindest people and delicious scratch-made regional fare, Route 66 is a
step back into a slower-paced, simpler time; a pre-franchised era of
What makes Route 66 significant?
in 1926, Route 66 became the first paved transcontinental highway
spanning from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Crossing
through eight states, it became a primary artery in transporting people
from the Midwest to western states and the Pacific Ocean. Route 66
followed the lay of the land, constructed from existing dirt roads and
cattle paths used by early settlers. It helped thousands of Okies
migrate from the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, delivered military vehicles
to the Pacific Coast during World War II, and evolved into a family
vacation destination by the 1950s.
To meet the needs of
the travelers, mom-n-pop businesses blossomed in
small towns along the way, providing basic services like petrol
stations, motels, trading posts and diners. While many of these are no
longer in operation, plenty of landmarks still exist today. Route 66 is
an experience that foreign tourists call, "exploring the real United
States" as opposed to destination metropolises such as New York City,
Washington D.C., or Miami.
What happened to it?
victim of its own success, tourism brought heavy volumes of traffic on
U.S. 66 and other highways, which led to the advent of the Eisenhower
Interstate System in 1956. Over the next 30 years, many small towns
along Route 66 found themselves bypassed by I-55 or I-40. Travelers now
preference expedited journeys over hospitality, and those small
boomtowns gradually began to fade away.
Come 1984, Route
66 was decommissioned by the Federal Government. That means while it is
still a drivable road, it has lost its usefulness to the Interstate and
has been downgraded to a local road. The federal or state government is
also no longer responsible for its maintenance.
What is Route 66 like today?
about 82% of Route 66 is still drivable. Other parts have fallen under
severe disrepair: ghost towns, washed out roads, plants growing
through cracks in the pavement, collapses and sink holes due to nearby
mining. In some cases, sections of Route 66 were merged with I-40 or
I-55. Dozens of small towns still prosper along the route, welcoming
tourists with Great Plains hospitality.
66 has been and will continue to be a story about people. From its
conception to its recent revitalization, the folks a traveler meets along the journey
are the true keepsakes; not the postcards or the tchotckes. They'll be
your fondest memories and feature of the stories shared with friends
Who did we meet and what did we experience? Be sure to check back to Whimsy On The Road for regular musings from our journey.