The enduring attraction of Historic Route 66 is a worldwide phenomenon. Since Route 66 was ordained in 1926, the eight states Route 66 travels through knitted together the first national all weather highway system connecting industrial centers around Chicago in the Midwest with the farming abundance and beauty of the Pacific coast in the West. Since then, people have been getting their kicks on Route 66.
Today travelers from all over the world come to the United States to drive what has become a collection of highways and byways throughout eight states between the lake front in Chicago to the Pacific oceans in Los Angeles. Some people are repeat offenders.
Williams, Arizona was last town to be bypassed by the American interstate highway system. Residents of Williams fought a hard battle to keep I-40 from bypassing their town. Despite their legal efforts, on October 13, 1984, Route 66 was finally bypassed. Since then, Route 66 enthusiasts have made Williams the center of Route 66 preservation efforts. And preserve it they have.
Through devoted effort of local stakeholders across the eight Route 66 roadway states, it is estimated that 80-85% of Route 66 is drivable today. The alignments have changed but the route continues. Through hard and persistent work by the Route 66 corridor stakeholders Congress was encouraged to enact the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 1999 that recognizes the economic and cultural importance of Route 66. Through the guidance and financial support meted out through the National Park Service, businesses and icons are being restored. The enactment of this act has encouraged local and state investment as well.
The unique and charming finds that people make along Route 66 are as much the appeal today as was the allure of the bounty of the Pacific coast during desperate dust bowl days. The country’s wanderlust after the conclusion of World War II is not much different than today’s generations seeking the thrill of discovering quirky new things and reconnecting to their curiosity and sense of adventure right here in the United States.
Route 66 appeals to adventure, romanticism, curiosity and the innate desire to check in with history and reconcile with progress. The pace of life out on the interstates that replaced Route 66 is still no match for the thrill of Taking It Easy along the Mother Road on what is still America’s Main Street. It is hard to deny the appeal.