Route 66: An Insight into America’s Most Famous Highway

Strong Tie Insurance January 14, 2021 Our Blog

Little did Americans know that what started as a route from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California would one day become an iconic road, forever memorialized in books and songs.

Truckers welcomed the road that was the shortest, year-round route from the Midwest to the coast of California. Affordable commercial trucking insurance was evident by the number of trucks taking to the fledgling highway.

The Beginning of Route 66

In 1926, the construction began on the highway that would one day curve its way through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before its final destination in Los Angeles County. For the first time, a major east-west artery connected the small rural and urban communities, enabling farmers to transport their produce. By 1930, the trucking industry rivaled the railroads in America’s shipping industry.

The Great Depression and World War II

On October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression had begun. In 1932, President Franklin Roosevelt promised the “New Deal” and the Works Progress Administration was put into effect, creating jobs for thousands of people. These men were put to work paving the final stretches of Route 66 which was declared “finished” in 1938.

During this same time, massive dust storms began pummeling the Midwest and the Southern Great Plains, brought on by a severe drought. Known as dust bowl refugees, some 400,000 migrants sold what they could and headed to California on Route 66.

John Steinbeck’s classic book, The Grapes of Wrath, portrayed the epic odyssey that proclaimed Route 66 the “Mother Road.” In 1940, the well-read book became a movie, and the story of a family’s journey as they made their way from the Oklahoma dust bowl to Los Angeles along Route 66 gained global fame.

World War II arrived in 1939, and the Great Depression was over. Now the historic road was used in the nation’s war efforts, as military training bases began popping up in California with a large portion in Los Angeles.

Route 66 Reached Celebrity Status

The end of the war in 1945 signaled a new beginning for America and Route 66. The ribbon of asphalt and concrete that coursed 2,448 miles became the “road of opportunity” and the way to a better life. Some headed west to leave the harsh winters of the east behind, while others simply wanted to experience a road trip and the freedom and love that Route 66 offered.

Stores, gas stations, restaurants, motels, and their neon signs began popping up along Route 66. The famous catchphrase from Bobby Troup’s song became the route’s national anthem, “Get your kicks on Route 66.” Truckers with cheap commercial insurance shared the road, known as the Main Street of America, with tourists heading to the Grand Canyon, across the Rocky Mountain divide, and through the eight states that laid claim to parts of Route 66.

Route 66 Today

Excessive truck use and the rise of the automobile industry left the country’s highways in disrepair and danger. In the 1950s, sections of Route 66 that passed through the small towns of the United States began being bypassed, section-by-section, as interstate highways were completed.

By 1984, the last portion of highway was completed, and the Mother Road was no longer needed as a route from east to west. Route 66 was officially decommissioned. Today, it is known as Historic Route 66.

Diners and motels without an interstate exit survived in memory only. Before all the features and structures along Route 66 were gone for good, the Route 66 Study Act of 1990 passed, recognizing Route 66 as a vital piece of America’s history and the symbol of opportunity for those seeking a better life.

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program went into effect, leaving bits and pieces of the famous road left for the adventurous and free-spirited to explore.

While truckers with affordable commercial trucking insurance have long taken to the interstate highways, some of the many landmarks that made Route 66 famous are still in existence. For those wanting to take a road trip back in time, here are a few of the sections that have survived on old Route 66.

The Beginning of Route 66

Those with a historic bent may want to start their epic journey at the beginning. Signs still designate the beginning of Historic Route 66 in Chicago, Illinois.

Don’t forget to stop in for a cup of the “world’s finest coffee.” Lou Mitchells’ neon sign has invited travelers passing through Chicago for breakfast and lunch since 1949.

The Longest Stretch of American History

Northwestern Arizona now lays claim to the longest remaining stretch of the once-famous highway. The 159 miles traverses from Seligman to Kingman, featuring the Arizona Route 66 Museum and Visitor Center.

The little town of Seligman, just 6.4 square miles, fought to maintain its place in American history. After being bypassed by Interstate highway 40 back in 1978, the city convinced Arizona to dedicate their old portion of Route 66 as a historical highway.

A Trip Through the Ozarks

From the Mississippi River in St. Louis to the World’s Largest Rocker in Fanning, Missouri holds much of the history of the old highway. Route 66 State Park on the Meramec River encompasses 419 acres.

A stay at the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, in Springfield, Missouri, completes the experience with a lobby and rooms that take you back to the 1950s.

The Oldest Store

Kansas is home to the oldest continuously operating store on Route 66, the Old Riverton Store in the small town of Riverton. Disney-Pixar filmed part of their animated feature, “Cars,” at the historic site. Travelers can see the Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge, another historic marker to include in your trip along old Route 66.

Nine Foot Wide Ribbon Road

Oklahoma boasts several historic landmarks along their piece of 66 route. One of these is the famous Ribbon Road that was paved between 1921 and 1922 and ultimately became a part of Route 66. As it skirts through Tulsa, it passes iconic gas stations and classic motels for weary travelers to stay at.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas

As every Texan would agree, everything is a little bigger in the second largest state in the nation. Route 66 will get travelers by the Big Texan and oversized bull as well as the Cadillac Ranch.

The Oldest Church in the U.S.

Travelers making it to New Mexico experience a strong Native American presence. Maisel’s Indian Trading Post in Albuquerque was a historic staple for visitors traveling through the 66 route until COVID-19 struck and the historic post was closed in April 2020.

Today, travelers can still see the San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe, the oldest church in the country.

Of course, driving along Route 66 would not be complete without a stay in Tucumcari, a small ranching town with a street filled with neon signs. For over 70 years, the Roadrunner Lodge Motel, in its many names and styles, has been a place for those driving Route 66 to lay their weary heads before heading to the next town.

For the not faint of heart that would like to start their historic journey in Chicago and end in Santa Monica, TheRoute-66.com has put together a “One Week Route 66 Road Trip Itinerary.”

Travel Through Route 66 Safely with Strong Tie Insurance

At Strong Tie Insurance, we’ve been protecting people, their possessions, and their businesses for 20 years. Call us for a no-obligation quote. We cover all your insurance needs, from bobtail trucking insurance to motor truck cargo, trucking and non-trucking liability, workers compensation, and more.