In today’s video Doodle, you’ll go on the ultimate American road trip, a trip down Route 66. The legendary roadway connects Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California, and is famed for its retro eateries, odd hotels, eclectic art pieces, and breathtaking scenery. The name “U.S. 66” was first proposed for the cross-country route on this day in 1926.
Both the 1946 hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the Route 66 television series, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964, helped to popularise it. The road “Highway 66” signified escape and loss in John Steinbeck’s famous American novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
US 66 was a major route for people migrating west, particularly during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and it helped to support the economies of the villages it passed through. People doing business along the route prospered as the highway grew in popularity, and those same people eventually campaigned to keep the highway alive in the face of the new Interstate Highway System’s threat of bypassing it.
Built in 1926, at the dawn of mainstream car ownership, U.S. Highway 66 made cross-country travel possible for the first time. During the Dust Bowl, it also functioned as an escape route for displaced families. In the 1930s, when catastrophic dust storms destroyed the Great Plains, more than 200,000 migrants boarded Route 66 in search of a better life in the West. John Steinbeck was one of these truckers, travelling along Route 66 at the time in search of inspiration for his novel The Grapes of Wrath.
Over the course of its existence, US 66 experienced numerous modifications and realignments, but it was officially withdrawn from the United States Highway System in 1985 after being completely replaced by elements of the Interstate Highway System. Parts of Route 66 in Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been classified as a National Scenic Byway, and the designation “Historic Route 66” has been reinstated on some maps. Several states have incorporated substantial bypassed sections of the former US 66 as State Route 66 into their state road networks. The corridor is also being redeveloped as part of the United States Bicycle Route System, which was created in the 2010s.
When the American economy recovered following WWII, Route 66’s popularity skyrocketed. Millions of people travelled along the roadway to see incredible sights like a 50,000-year-old meteor crater in northern Arizona and graffiti-covered Cadillacs buried upside down in Amarillo, Texas.
The artwork on display today honours the historic significance of one of America’s first national highways, as well as how it became a symbol of a changing country.
If you’re a Route 66 fan, honk!
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