Na­tional Trea­sure: Route 66

A road less trav­eled but still full of kicks

Albuquerque Journal - Parade - - FRONT PAGE - —Writ­ten by Diana Reese; nom­i­nated by Ellen Lo­ef­fler, Chicago, Ill.

Stretch­ing 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los An­ge­les across eight states and three time zones, Route 66, also known as the Main Street of Amer­ica or the Will Rogers High­way, has in­spired and in­trigued through the years. John Stein­beck de­voted a chap­ter of his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath to “the Mother Road,” a nick­name that stuck. In the post­war 1940s, Bobby Troup penned the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” then in the 1960s, the ground­break­ing TV show Route 66 hit the air­waves. More re­cently, a new gen­er­a­tion dis­cov­ered Route 66 with Dis­ney/ Pixar’s Cars movies.

“Route 66 rep­re­sents Amer­ica be­fore we be­came generic,” says Michael Wal­lis, who voices the role of Sher­iff in the Cars films and is au­thor of Route 66: The Mother Road and co-founder of the Route 66 Al­liance (route66al­liance.org). The road was de­com­mis­sioned in 1985 af­ter in­ter­states took over. Since then, Wal­lis’ group and other non­prof­its, such as the Na­tional His­toric Route 66 Fed­er­a­tion (na­tional66.org) cre­ated by David and Mary Lou Knud­son, have joined forces to pre­serve this slice of “the real Amer­ica.”

To­day, the Mother Road isn’t on many maps, but the star of books, films and TV still draws vis­i­tors—many of them in­ter­na­tional tourists—who ap­pre­ci­ate the route’s orig­i­nal (and some­times re­stored) neon signs, mo­tels, gas sta­tions and road­side at­trac­tions. ( Visit Pa­rade.com/route66 for 10 don’t-miss stops.) “It’s the clas­sic Amer­i­can road trip, but it’s not pre­dictable,” says Wal­lis. “There’s the pos­si­bil­ity of ad­ven­ture around ev­ery bend.”

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