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At 2448 miles long, the original Route 66 is the mother (road) of all road trips. Stretching through 8 states and 3 time zones, the iconic road starts in Chicago and ends in L.A. and has been deemed”the most famous highway in the world”. Here are 6 facts about Route 66 that you might not know.
1.) Steinbeck’s inspiration.
“The Grapes of Wrath” was the product of inspiration for John Steinbeck on a 1937 drive from Chicago going west. He called it the “long concrete path” and in the novel it was referred to as the “Mother Road”.
2.) Route 66 was not always a tourist attraction.
Its original purpose was to link linked hundreds of mostly rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas to Chicago; thus enabling farmers to transport grain and produce for redistribution.
3.) The Great Depression paved Route 66.
From 1933 to 1938 thousands of unemployed male youths from all over the U.S. went to work as on road gangs, paving the final stretches of the road. Because of this tremendous endeavor, the Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway was recorded as “continuously paved” in 1938.
4.) You won’t find Route 66 on a current map. The road was decommissioned in 1985.
It is the only national highway to be decommissioned from the original 1926 grid, as it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System.
5.) Route 66 alomst didn’t have a song.
“Get Your Kicks on Route 66” was the suggested title for the well-known song from Bobby Troup’s wife, Cynthia who had travelled the long route, ending in L.A. Troup had the song only half written and met Nat King Cole at the end of the Mother Road, where they worked on completing the song, which was later recorded by Cole.
6.) Will Rodger’s Highway.
Besides the names “America’s Main Street”, “the Mother Road”, and”the Road of Dreams”, Route 66 is properly co-designated “the Will Rogers Highway.” Rogers, the most widely read newspaper writer of his time, spent his younger years in and around Route 66 communities. After his death in a plane crash in 1935, radio stations throughout the country went silent for 30 minutes out of respect for their most beloved broadcaster.