URBAN LEGEND OF AMERICA
“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.”
― Erol Ozan
The route 66. There are no many global highways with such a famous name, with the myth behind and urban legends in the front of. When you say US 66, you almost open the door of pure imagination, hippy heritage, the spirit of unleashed freedom and the times which have passed by and will never come back. Even if you still keep empty bottle of the aftershave lotion with this name, you will not bring Will Rogers Highway into the life.
This Mother Road or the Main Street of America has been born in 1926 as the part of the U.S. Highway System and it was made with the purpose to connect one part of America with another one. The route started from Chicago, Illinois through Missouri,Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, ending up in sunny Santa Monica, California. The long journey covered about 2,448 miles (3,940 km) and brought wind from cold Chicago to warm L.A. Everyone who was chasing youth challenges back in 1960s, will never forget the popular song “Get Your Kicks On” as the color of the age of happiness and activism for peace, while drives old car, being sure that it must be the road to the whole world.
This route has been created because of the migrational and economical reasons. The new development of America had requested one infrastructural and reliable line so the people can be able to travel and to fluctuate in between the cities. America has never been so successful in land transport infrastructure so the US 66 was the answer on the prayer, final connection of businessmen, families, travelers and cities. That was final shaping of new American spirit, the framing of awaken labour interests and tourist hunger. The dollar has got the chance to travel from Illinois to California, conquesting all those places which have been on that long, dirty, red road.
But, today the route 66 is dead. After so many years of shining, attracting the hell riders, all modern Mad Max gangs, scared bar ladies, truck drivers and enthusiasts with small children in van, the route has died slowly like the bestselling book under dust in the basement. The famous American street is now the decommissioned U.S. highway,pretty crumbling and inaccessible.The miles of line which linked small, big and great cities have been turned into tourist history so the all west towns that have been feed on this reservoir of prosperity.The destiny of this route was to save the refugees of the Dust Bowl and the Depression,who tried to find better lives somewhere down the road. The US 66 helped them to drive into the new world, far away from ruined houses, empty pockets and the hopeless atmosphere. Americans were finally able to buy new cars, travel and to eat in small restaurants by the road while they are looking forward to meet totally dream life. Along with the route 66, the whole track of side towns were simply booming, trying to reply on demanding moving population and on desires of US 66:“During this period, from the late 1940s to early 1950s, American travel was more about the journey, and less about the destination. The road was not completely open for everyone, however; the exhibit includes brochures made for African-American travelers noting ‘sundown towns’—places to avoid getting harassed (or even killed) after dark. Still, this was a unique, brief time in tourism when an American vacation meant infusing time and money into small communities rather than corporations.” Then, in 1956 Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System bypassed famous American highway and later the increasing of aero traffic moved the most famous route into the history:“It was officially decommissioned by the federal government in 1985. Its legacy dwindled into trinkets from Americana stores and a line of denim from K-Mart”. In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed the National Route 66 Preservation Bill with the idea to provide funds to save the historic route and all landmarks on the legendary road. That was something very big for all because no one wanted to lose forever the beauty of the road into the American heartland. If it is expensive to conserve it, then money for it must be somehow be found and the US 66 must be preserved as American tattoo, the soul of the land of the free and home of the brave.
However, the mysteries about this route have not been gone even after the Interstate Highway System has eaten up the road’s unique nature. It is almost impossible to talk about route 66 without mentioning the experiences of people who have traveled and have seen the ghosts who were lurking in empty restaurants or demons who were hiding in old motel buildings. Every U.S. state which is on the route has something to share, especially about the hauntings. It is obviously that ordinary people do have good imaginations and writers have many good chances to make famed novels. Everyone can see everything what offers US 66 but there are some places which are simply known outside the USA, as the hook for potential tourists to get into the car and to start journey of life, using the Mother Road and visiting some of the notable stops:Gemini Giant,20-foot tall green space man with a rocket, in Wilmington, Illinois; the oldest recognized truck stop under the name Dixie Truckers Home McClean, also in Illinois;The Chain of Rocks bridge that carried our route over the Mississippi in Missouri and the famous dessert place in the same state-Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard in St. Louis; The beautiful Missouri hides the very well known cave system of Meramec Caverns Stanton as well as Texas is coming out with Cadillac Ranch Amarillo,made by strange millionaire Stanley Marsh III. You do not want to miss the oldest operating motel, Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico and after you are reaching the Black Mountains in Arizona, it would be great to pop in to Sitgreaves Pass(between Kingman and Oatman) just because of the spectacular view from above. If you haven’t been kidnapped by some angry ghosts on the long journey, you have a right to enjoy the sun and cold drink at Santa Monica Boulevard, the official end of the fairy tale known as US 66, American Dream Road.
Wherever you look at, it is a sign of timeless attractivity of route 66. The road collected so many broken dreams, sleepy hopes, forgotten loves, bankrupted jobs and tales that will last forever. Not only in tourist prospects they give you when you start your journey into the Middle land but in people’s heart. Maybe having everything in city called Nothing is simply kiss of the destiny and as one traveler wrote :”We briefly passed through the former settlement of Nothing, Arizona (population: 4), whose town sign once read: ‘The staunch citizens of Nothing are full of Hope, Faith, and Believe in the work ethic. Through the years, these dedicated people had faith in Nothing, hoped for Nothing, worked at Nothing, for Nothing.’Though abandoned by May ’05, Nothing now has a working pizza parlor, with hopes for future establishments.”
The American goverment has calculated over the necessity to keep the route 66 and to find financial and tourist ways to preserve it as a cultural heritage. People want 66 back because that highway is a real America, born to be wild, born to be remembered as a part of DNA of every American. The Will Rogers Highway is a captured treasure of old good times when country boys have been after pretty local good girls. Their children have tried to revoke the magnificent energy of the Main American Street, but they failed jumping over dollars lost in the middle of wrong political decisions.
I know it will sound pretentious, but personally I think that route 66 belongs to all of us, Americans and non-Americans, to all of us who share the feelings for all great old things shown in movies, expressed in songs and described in books, when anyone has a chance to become a storyteller after ran out of gas on legendary route 66.