Route 66 is 2 278 miles in Imperial measurement or 3 666 kilometres. Either way, it’s a long road to drive in an afternoon.
Not that you can actually drive it any more. I remember my first visit to the Smithsonian in DC some years ago, and I saw a slice of the Portland cement roadbed. Someone had cut out a cross-section of the old road and shipped it to the national capital, and in my innocence I imagined a bit of highway with a neat slice out of it, perhaps patched with gravel and tar.
Of course, it’s not like that. There are vast stretches of the old highway that no longer exist. Just lines on a map. Much of it is private property – in my research for Two Come Carrie I found a stretch that includes a two hundred metre long bridge, just sitting in a bit of private ranchland.
And much of it is buried under the Interstates that replaced it.
In the days when it was America’s main transcontinental highway – just one narrow lane each way – drivers had to stop frequently to rest, for toilet breaks, for meals, and just to get the kids out of the back seat and burning up some energy.
There were diners, cutesy roadside attractions, market stands, motels with neon signs bigger than the rooms, historic sites, and a million gas stations. All aimed at separating the driving public from their money.
Of course, like the old road, many of them no longer exist, and the old highway towns have vacant lots, some with weed-strewn cracked concrete foundation slabs, where once grand establishments served a thousand people a day.
And the ones that remain, they have internet sites and gift shops full of merch. CDs of Route 66 music, post cards, fridge magnets, key rings, calendars, shirts, caps.
I love this stuff. I love the old legends and stories of the Mother Road. And I love that one of my Twitter friends is driving it this week. Good luck, Brian! May you and your mid-life sports car have smooth roads and good weather, and lots of time to share photographs and videos and blog posts!
Me, I pay homage to the old road by having my fictional character Carrielle Watson copulate her way from Chicago to LA. I plan to make her adventures into a series of erotica shorts, and look forward to being a consultant on the movie.
Image by Britni Pepper