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“THEY COME INTO ROUTE 66 FROM THE TRIBUTARY SIDE ROADS, FROM THE WAGON TRACKS AND THE RUTTED COUNTRY ROADS. ROUTE 66 IS THE MOTHER ROAD, THE ROAD OF FLIGHT” writes John Steinbeck in the “Grapes of Wrath” about the crush of humanity fleeing the dust bowl…

Over the years Archie Wilson has accumulated acres of old cars and toys in Moriarty NM.

Few people can testify to America’s Route 66 experience better than Archie Lewis. Early TravelersFor decades Archie has crawled over those roadways, through the nooks and crannies, in old barns and lofts collecting acres of Americana til now he runs the Lewis Antique Auto and Toy Museum off Route 66 (Interstate 40) in Moriarty, NM. His collection of cars that “made it this far and not a foot more…”, all cars that represent another way of life. The history of the automobile and transportation unfolds across Archie’s acres of scrap metal and artifacts.
Crosley Wagon built from 1939 through 1952 a visionary car with a 4 cylinder engine capable of 30-50miles per gallon<
For some it was a world of chrome and heavy steel and for others, a world of muscle, those cars were nothing like our cars today, those cars once kicked ass. They could move in a 0-70mph world and they ruled. Restored muscle-cars fill Bono’s Route 66 Car Museum in Santa Rosa and many more restored cars from the fifties and sixties show up at other Route 66 roadsides all across the country from Chicago to California.
Old Trucks that brought produce and goods to market along the famous Route 66 lie still baking in the hot sun. The architecture of the period, oddities like the Wig-Wam Motel in Holbrook, AZ or garages like JR’s Tires in Moriarty NM built in 1937 and are both still serving passing motorists with tires, oil changes and repairs and a place to stay. Still open for repairs and oil changes. A owner of seven or eight motels, Charles E. Lewis saw his first Wigwam Motel in Kentucky and decided that he would like to build a Wigwam Village of his own. At that time, franchises were unknown, the original motel owner Mr. Redford was more interested in sharing his plans than making money. So Lewis and Redford came to an agreement that radios would be placed in each Wigwam that would play for one half hour for a silver dime. Mr. Redford would then receive the dimes from the radios for a period of some years in payment for the use of his plans. There were seven of these Wigwam Villages built from the 1930’s to the 1950’s from Florida to California, this one in Holbrook, may be the best known because it is on Route 66.

U.S. Route 66 known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road or The most famous road in the world was a highway within the U.S. Highway System Route 66 it was established on November 11, 1926. One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926. Sixty-six originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at the pier in Santa Monica, California covering a total of 2,448 miles.
Tumacori, New Mexico
The staple of life that brought Route 66 alive and to which it clings yet today, the Mother Road as John Steinbeck called it in the “Grapes of Wrath” was a pathway to opportunity. I0000c9S.wrtzxeM It was an escape from the life folks knew and during the depression there was much to leave behind and California was a beacon of hope, so the towns and communities along Route 66 created an economy from interstate travel; with garages, cafes, travel-lodges, motels, dime-stores, groceries stores and roadside oddities. Any reason to stop and stretch your legs, whole communities took their identity from a single oddity or claim to fame, each town was the birthplace of every kid in town.

Code Talker Memorial in Gallup, NM in front of the Gallup Cultural Center, formerly the Santa Fe Depot, and now the historic Route 66 structure is used for community discussions and lectures. Native American dancing can be seen there nightly during summer months. Today there are websites and state-wide organizations from the eight states touched by the road who have car shows, rallies and planned weekends to celebrate each year the blessing of Route 66. Historical organizations take their hard earned funds and make donations to historic structures along the route who need cash to hold on to the history.
Laguna Pueblo on Route 66 attracts motorists and tourist can often over run the ancient pueblo, some residents sell pottery and baked goods.
Laguna Pueblo Church asks no pictures be taken inside the chapel. It is accepted practice to ask if a person would mind being photographed.
Indian Roadside Village attracts tourist dollars and begs the tourist to bring their cameras whereas the Laguna Pueblo attracts lots of visitors from the highway and the constant pressure on the centuries old pueblo from outside influence is mitigated by new attractions and casinos in the area that welcome the traveler and their smartphone cameras and their business.
Willis Motor Court in Geronimo, AZ is a good example of the early motor court with customer parking, which is disappearing everywhere like these historic structures. TwoGuns
Places like the Route 66 Motel in Kingman, Arizona has been serving Route 66 travelers since 1963. It’s iconic sign has been featured in National Geographic (September, 1997). Diners at the Ariston Cafe still enjoy the dining ambiance of this family-run eatery. The Chicken Basket has been serving its famous fried chicken since 1946. In historic times, the owner would flood the roof in winter and hire youth to ice skate on top of the building. The owner received more than $10,000 matching funds to repair the Route 66 Motel Sign whose towering red and yellow sign remains a beacon for travelers on dark nights and has been for more than 50 years it now will continue to serve as an important Route 66 landmark in Kingman, Az.

Local communities spruce up their connection with Route 66 or build on it like in Williams, Az there is the Cruiser Drive-In for shakes and burgers with a hot rod on the roof, Elvis Presley graces the doorway of one novelty shop and every business have Route 66 souvenirs. >Just off I-40 Williams, Az exit (one turnoff to the Grand Canyon) is a drive-thru animal safari featuring black bears, called Bearizona, and white buffalo, several species of wolf, mountain sheep and mountain goats, south west burros and a fine raptor show. I0000B3jgOPTefpwWilliam’s also has the Bill Williams Wilderness and nearby lakes are a big tourist draw but all the smart money in town is invested in Route 66, the mystic and history that evolves around the road that once built it’s own TV series, had it’s own theme song and slogan: “Get your kicks on Route 66”. It is a story that repeats itself in every little town or village that was “once touched” by Route 66 over the years new alignments, bypasses, new roads have replaced the highway that once brought America together. Route 66 was born in a whirlwind love affair with the automobile, freeing us from the tracks laid down by railroads and opening the west to investigation by the masses. The road trip was born and the roadside attraction came shortly thereafter. “are we there yet” chorus came from the backseat and home-cooking was a big attraction and towns all across the US managed to pull in a few dollars from gas, food and lodging developing enough economy to encourage, nurture and develop the heartland of America after the Depression.

Built in Flagstaff, AZ to showcase animal heads to tourist passing on Route 66 at one time the largest log cabin in the United States.

The Museum Club built in Flagstaff, AZ by unemployed lumberjacks hired to build “the biggest log cabin in Arizona” built by a taxidermist to showcase his lifetime collection of stuffed animals, six-legged sheep, Winchester rifles, Indian artifacts, two-headed calves, and more than 30,000 other items. Operating as a museum, taxidermist shop, and a trading post, scores of Route 66’rs stopped in to visit Dean and his collection during the five years that he operated the museum. Before long, locals dubbed the museum “The Zoo.” Today the popular Flagstaff nightclub offers refreshment to weary travelers seven day a week. I00007tCV.7TzdNEAfter World War II a thankful America elected General Eisenhower who had seen the Autobohn in Germany during the War and knew the important role it had played in the national security of the countries of Europe, so he wanted one. For decades Main Street America fought the Interstate Highway Act but slowly and surely Route 66 was replaced by Interstate Roadways that stopped for no one, no town, nothing–toll roads had their own gas stations and convenience marts–it took time to hop off the interstate and go into town. Slowly but surely those towns on the blue highways dried up and Route 66 became more of a state of mind, a place in time, a TV Show, a period of discovery and growth, simple times that once defined America as a land of opportunity made up by hard-working individuals who had yet to meet their match…in America anything was possible !

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John Steinbeck wrote of the dust bowl immigrants in his controversial book “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1939. No one knew of the impact this story would have on Route 66 when it first came out. It established the mythical Joad family in the American psyche, connecting them with the highway itself. It chronicled a vast migration along a road of flight. Steinbeck described Route 66 as “the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership . . . they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight”.

Starring Route 66 is an American TV series in which two young men traveled across America. Route 66 was the first TV show shot entirely on location starring Martin Milner,George Maharis I0000Q8yFrqyjaoswhose moodiness was later replaced by smiling Glenn Corbett. Some of today’s biggest stars launched their careers on the Route 66 TV Show. Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Alan Alda, Stephanie Powers, Suzanne Pleshette, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorie, Walter Matthau, Martin Sheen, Leslie Nielsen, Ronny Howard, Edward Asner, Jack Warden, Deforest Kelly, Inger Stevens, Julie Newmar, Barbara Eden and more…

In late September the InterNational Route 66 Mother Road Festival celebrated its 10th Anniversary with over a 1000 restored classic cars cruising downtown on a friday night. Seventy Thousand spectators are expected in the heart of Springfield’s Illinos historic downtown each year for a weekend of family fun, non-stop live music, entertainment,food and don’t forget friday night’s Mickey Thompson Tires BURNOUT Competition in Horsepower Alley. The prior weekend the Route 66 14th Rendezvous held each year in San Bernardino, CA celebrates the Highway and in early August MEET ME IN ST LOUIS on Route 66 celebrates for three days.

In the early days of Route 66, 1926 through 1937, the old alignment of Route 66 left Santa Rosa to continue on towards Santa Fe, the capitol of New Mexico then drop back down to Albuquerque. In late 1937 Route 66 was straightened out to go directly to Albuquerque and by pass Santa Fe completely. During the 1930’s it was estimated 65% of international westbound traffic and 50% of the eastbound traffic used Route 66. Today the longest remaining section of this famous highway is the 140 mile stretch that runs I0000Af0SZY9RU9I from Seligman,AZ to Topock, AZ passing through Kingman, and the old mining town of Oatman.
Today it is easy to drive Route 66, each state has it’s own website and you can work Route 66 celebrations into your trip and visit car show or visit with other folks nostalgic for the old days. And secretly wonder if that magnificent looking GTO is the one you sold back in the 1970’s when the Iranian Gas Shortage made it impossible to work if you needed gas to do it.


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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Old Route 66 – A Brief History | The Lodge Winslow

  2. Pingback: Vintage American Cars. Good Golly Miss Molly! « An Sionnach Fionn

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