By: Kathy Manney/Around Our World
America’s first motor highways were “auto trails.” Rather than numbers, they were issued names.
Route 66 was the first paved transcontinental highway between Chicago to Los Angeles. It conveyed adventure, leading to a popular TV program known simply as “Route 66.”
Route 66 was synonymous with red booths and gleaming chrome in mom-and-pop diners and service stations along the road. It opened the Western states to America’s fledgling car-motoring way of life. Then new faster highways began bypassing old highways.
Many towns sitting along the fabled old route corridor are a graveyard of abandonment; little more than orphaned buildings - forgotten and boarded-up. Some towns cling to life with gift shops showing weathered tin roofs and original wood floors. Inside, you see a page of Americana.
Buildings with western facades from another century, gas stations, diners and auto courts; many Main Street’s offer a snapshot of pre and post-war America. The residents consist of an array of colorful characters who are content to watch the world pass with no inclination to follow and relocate.
The most popular section is Winslow, Arizona to Topock, California. The last 160-miles of the route is the longest surviving stretch of the original 2,400-mile highway. The earliest route was traveled in the 1850s by a military expedition that followed an ancient Indian trail.
They trekked it with 44-men and 25-camels from Tunisia and created the first federally funded wagon road across Arizona - from Fort Defiance to the mouth of California’s Mojave River. Route 66, westbound from Albuquerque actually began as a camel trail.
After decommissioning as a U.S. highway, Congress established the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. The National Park Service is that protector, but due to recent budget cuts, will likely have their funding revoked.
The program brought life back to many of the small towns and landmarks. Sadly, for some, historic Route 66 is expected to lose its Conservancy and could soon disappear from the Americana scene.
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