War II broke out,
proved to be invaluable in transporting troops, equipment and products
across the vast West to
where the government established multiple industries and armed force
bases. When the war was finally over in 1945, the
Mother Road served to transport thousands of troops home.
Perhaps more than any other American highway,
symbolized a new positive outlook that spread
through the nation’s postwar economic recovery. For thousands of
returning servicemen and their families,
was more than just a highway. "It became," according to one
admirer, "an icon of free-spirited independence linking the United States
across the Rocky Mountain divide to the Pacific Ocean."
Almost immediately, the tourist industry began to grow, giving rise to countless
tourist courts, motels, service stations, garages and diners. However, the excessive truck travel during World War II and the ever
expanding automobile industry had left the Highway in appalling
conditions, with narrow pavements and poor road conditions.
In the mid 1950s the public lobby, along with
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, were demanding a
federal sponsorship for a system of divided highways, and on June 26, 1956, the
Federal Aid Highway Act was passed by Congress for a national interstate highway
program. The act, also known as the National Interstate and Defense
Highways Act, allocated over $30 Billion for the construction of over
40,000 miles of interstate highways, the largest public construction
project in U.S. history at the time. On June 29, Eisenhower signed it into
law. While it is remembered by many as
Eisenhower's greatest domestic achievement, the flip side was the demise
of small towns along highways which connect more isolated parts of the
country. With the highway act, Route 66 was doomed.
Doomed or not, by the 1960s, many points of interest were familiar landmarks to a new generation of travelers, and the television series "Route
66” was aired "driving” the
Mother Road into homes all over America. Though the series created great
interest in the American public, it was to be short-lived, as by 1970,
nearly all segments of original
Route 66 were bypassed by modern four-lane highways. By 1984, all of the
poorly maintained vestiges of
Route 66 had completely succumbed when the final section of the original road
was bypassed by Interstate 40 at Williams,
Route 66 was decommissioned
on June 27, 1985, its signs were removed and the
Mother Road was almost lost. Even to this day, the Mother Road appears on very few current maps. Most states have installed
Historic Route 66 signs along portions of the road, but, unfortunately, they rarely give exit directions where the road so very often veers off from the interstate highways.
Obviously, the route today is not what it was in the past. The sights and
sounds of the Mother Road
change daily with the emergence of new businesses and development along
the old highway. You will want to take a lot of pictures, because what is here today might be very well gone tomorrow.
However, much is preserved and the Route 66
Historical Associations and private groups have done alot to preserve
these vintage treasures. As you travel along, you will often see a sign or marquee of the vintage road as
these icons of history are preserved, though their buildings are long gone.
Traveling the road, you will experience everything from the frustration of finding the route in a
metro city to being pleasantly surprised by the next small town that you
venture into. The landscape quickly changes from the hustle and
bustle of metropolitan area, to quiet meandering roads, to tall grass
prairies, where you feel as if you might be the only person left on earth.
While it’s a good idea to plan your trip, because the road can be confusing, the
whole idea is to experience the Mother Road. Our advice is to get a couple of really good
Route 66 books and some good maps before you begin your adventure. Here and
there, some places will give you a road sign when the road veers off the
interstate, but mostly not. Even with a few good maps, you will, no
doubt, take a wrong turn once in a while. Take the Business Loops off the
interstates when possible – they will often lead you to your photo
opportunities of our scenic past.
Such is the experience!! Enjoy the ride!
of America, updated November, 2016.