National Treasure: Route 66
A road less traveled but still full of kicks
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.”