My sons and I are just back from our biennial spring break trip, and this time we drove old Route 66 across Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
I was a teenager when the last of Route 66 was decommissioned – that is, no longer considered part of the national highway system. At about the same time, Hot Rod magazine sent a couple guys out to follow old 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in a vintage Corvette. They found it difficult to follow in many places because various Interstate highways had interrupted or overlaid the route. They published a story about the trip, showing photos of truncated and abandoned sections of the old highway. I was incredulous that perfectly good road would be left essentially to rot! The photos excited me, and I credit them for sparking my interest in the old roads. I chalk it up to arrested development that it took more than 20 years for me to make my first road trip, and nearly 30 years before I finally explored the Mother Road itself.
In the photo, I’m crouched on a segment of Route 66 about 30 miles west of El Reno, Oklahoma. This concrete pavement was poured in about 1930 and saw constant traffic for decades before I-40 was completed, replacing Route 66 in this part of Oklahoma. Today, it’s a very lonely road. But I was very happy to be there, imagining a time when it was choked with traffic.
In the days to come I’ll share the best sights and stories from our four-day trip along Route 66.