Also known as The Main Street of America, Route 66 was, for a long time, one of the main roads of the USA, crossing the entire American continent, from east to west. Starting from Chicago, it crosses the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, stopping in Los Angeles, after 3 940 Km (2 448 miles). From its construction in 1926 until its inactivation in 1985 it was travelled through by thousands of vehicles and contributed to the establishment of the world's biggest nations
When it was opened to traffic, most of its extension was pebbledash or dirt, until it was paved, in 1938. Because of its flatness, it immediately became popular amongst trucks and other vehicles. During the Depression, it was travelled through by many families of farmers searching for land in California, as a consequence of the Dust Bowl. Along its way, economy bloomed, shyly, through small, family businesses (restaurants, service stations, etc). It was the craddle of drive-through restaurants and fast-food chains - the first McDonald's opened in San Bernardino, where the highway passed through.
When it was closed, it gained the title of "Historic". Not undeservingly so. Aside from its economic importance, Route 66 has an almost mythical place in American culture. It is the symbol of an era where the car had a leading role. In "Grapes of Wrath" (set during the 1930s), John Steinbeck pays tribute to it and calls it The Mother Road. Recently, the Disney/Pixar movie Cars has the famous highway as a background, paying it homage, in its own way, as well.
Route 66 has become a stereotype, deeply rooted within Americana, associated with such images as transcontinental trucks, the Corvette or the Choppers. These images have been widely used in movies. When we watch movie like Paris, Texas, Easy Rider or Duel, a tv movie by Steven Spielberg, or, indeed, any movie set in rural America, it is hard not to think of the mother of all roads...