The more you know!
History shared some pretty interesting facts about Route 66, so let’s take a gander!
1. The “Father of Route 66” lived in Oklahoma
Cyrus Avery (1871-1963) earned the name the “Father of Route 66” as a result of his hard work in establishing the road. Growing up, Avery and his family moved via covered wagon from Pennsylvania to Missouri, before officially settling in Indian Terrority. Throughout the years, Avery went on to work in oil, farming, and real estate. He also was an active participant in the Good Roads Movement, which focused on the improvement of American roads. Avery also was the chairman of Oklahoma’s highway commission, and also played a vital role in getting Route 66 to pass through Oklahoma. As one last act, he also made sure the entire route was paved, which was accomplished in the late 1930s.
2. An epic race took place on the route.
One might think a race on a road the size of Route 66 would take place in a car, but nope! In 1928, 199 men began a race nicknamed the “Bunion Derby,” running from Los Angeles to New York. Out of the 3,400 miles, Route 66 made up about 2,400 of those miles. The race was a taxing 84 days, and only 55 participants successfully completed it. In the end, 20-year-old Andy Payne took home the $25,000 prize.
3. President Dwight Eisenhower played a role in its demise.
While he was participating in a U.S. military motor convoy from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, Eisenhower became aware of the need for a better highway system. Then, during World War II, Eisenhower noticed the effectiveness of the German turnpike system and began advocating for a better one for the U.S. during the Cold War. Seeing the benefits of a well-structured highway for both military operations and economic growth, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. This went on to establish Interstate 40, and Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985.
However, thanks to the tireless efforts of various non-profit groups, much of the original Route 66 remains driveable to this day.
4. John Steinbeck gave Route 66 its infamous nickname.
The classic 1939 book, The Grapes of Wrath, tells the story of the fictional family, the Joads, as they traveled out west in search of new opportunities after losing their farm in the Dust Bowl. Author John Steinbeck dedicated a chapter to Route 66, in which he called the iconic highway “The Mother Road.” Ever since then, the name has stuck as one of the most well-known nicknames.
Bonus: Although it’s widely believed, Steinbeck never actually traveled with migrants out west to gather research for his novel. But, he and his wife did drive west on Route 66 in 1937!
5. A former Marine wrote the classic Route 66 song.
Everyone knows Nat King Cole’s 1946 hit, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” But, did you know it was written by Pennsylvania native Bobby Troup while he was in college? After completed the song, Troup went on to serve in the military and decided to drive to Hollywood with his wife to try to make it as a songwriter. Once he was in California, he met Cole, and the rest is history.
The song has since gained widespread popularity, and has been covered by numerous artists such as Bing Crosby and the Rolling Stones.
Did you know any of these? Tell me which one was your favorite in the comments!