Route 66 used to be the road from Chicago to Los Angeles. I’ve posted the song that goes through the whole route, by Nat King Cole, and don’t feel the need to post it again, but you can listen to it yourself, if you want.
Route 66 is legendary. It could be because of the song, or because of the TV show that starred Martin Milner and George Maharis (and Glenn Corbett in the final season). I think it’s neither. I think it’s because it was a drive through the desert Southwest, nothing but a ribbon of highway with the occasional restaurant, hotel, or service station along the way.
Route 66 was about freedom, about being in your car driving on a road through miles and miles of nothing. It passed through towns, certainly, but mostly it went through nothing. It was also about hope, about going somewhere and making your dreams come true. I wonder how many budding actors and actresses drove to Hollywood on it, or how many people, tired of being where they were, got on it to go somewhere else, to set up a new life for themselves.
The Interstate system of highways spelled the end of Route 66. The Interstates were faster, wider, better maintained, and had amenities like plazas where you can have a meal and fill up your tank. Eat and get gas, as my brothers and I used to say. Route 66 is now a series of Interstate highways that either run alongside or close to the original highway. There is no official US Route 66 anymore.
And yet, it continues to run through the hearts and minds of people. Why is that? Nostalgia for a simpler time, perhaps. A desire to recapture the feeling of being free, on the road to one end or the other. Like Ithaca in Constantine Cavafy’s poem; the joy is in the getting there.
Linda Hill runs Stream of Consciousness Saturday, and you can find the rules and the pingbacks of all of the other entrants at her blog. This week’s prompt was “route/root.”