While in California, we ended up in Barstow on our way to Joshua Tree National National Park. We decided that it might be fun to drive a portion of the old Route 66 before turning south to the park, having driven portions of it in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona a few years previously.
U.S. Route 66 was established in 1926 and began in Chicago, Illinois, before traveling through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally California where it ended in Santa Monica, having covered 2,448 miles.
It became iconic for a number of reasons–from the song, (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 to the 1960s television series, Route 66, to its mention in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (Highway 66) in which it was a symbol of both escape and loss.
The Interstate Highway system eventually killed the popularity of U.S. Highways. U.S. 301, for example, once thrived, as Route 66 did, as travelers made their way to Florida. Like Route 66, one can still find abandoned motels and other tourist attractions along its length. Route 66 was officially “closed” in 1985, but it is still maintained in some sections from Chicago to Santa Monica.
Nat King Cole (King Cole Trio) was the first to record “Route 66!—” in 1946. Another version to reach the Billboard charts was recorded by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters on May 11, 1946, which rose to #14, also in 1946. The song has since been covered by a lot of singers including Chuck Berry, Glenn Frey, the Rolling Stones, Them, Dr. Feelgood, Asleep at the Wheel, the Manhattan Transfer, Depeche Mode, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Pappo, The Cramps, John Mayer, George Benson and Peter Tork & Blue Suede Shoes.
Here’s the original Nat King Cole version of the song: