Why Route 66 became America’s most famous road

  • Published: 16 August 2019
  • Route 66 is iconic. Why?

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    Route 66 has gained a reputation as the United States of America’s most famous road. How did that happen, and why does it still matter?

    In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the history of the road and the textures of its present, from the road itself to the roadside attractions along the way, to the people who enjoy its diversions and those who help maintain them. It reveals a road that’s changed a lot over the decades but remains vital in unexpected ways.

    When Cyrus Avery helped found Route 66 in the 1920s, he strived to create a road that would connect the Midwest to the West, and he resorted to promotional tricks and wheeling and dealing to get it done. The road quickly became a key route for migrants escaping the dust bowl and depression, forming its early reputation as “the Mother Road.”

    That’s because it’s a road that’s more than a strip of concrete (or gravel, or dirt). It’s a historical document of everyone who’s traveled on it — as the many contributions from Vox’s YouTube subscribers show, that keeps it going even as the interstates run alongside it.

    The number of Route 66 resources out there is huge, but we found these particularly helpful.

    Check out Ron's site!

    The Curt Teich Archives
    You won't find essays here, but you will find a treasure trove of postcards that we used in this piece, including tons of Route 66 arcana.

    Route 66: The Highway and Its People
    I got to speak with Quinta Scott about her gorgeous photographs of Route 66, as well as the interviews she recorded with coauthor Susan Kelly. This book is a pleasure to look at and is packed full of information and interviews that you just can’t get any more.

    The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership
    If you’re curious about Route 66 preservation and revitalization, this group is one of the strongest interstate partnerships searching for new ways to promote and improve the road.

    Our video about the Green Book, a critical resource for black Americans wanting to travel across the country on Route 66 and beyond in the mid-1900s. teamrock.pro/user/watch?v=b33PN2NB2Do

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Comments • 1 321

  • furfie
    furfie  6 days back

    wow look at vox being all wholesome :)))

    • Andaman Production
      Andaman Production  1 weeks back

      I remember driving past that Texas steak place. Feels weird

      • Ernesto Jaime
        Ernesto Jaime  1 weeks back

        ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Akhilesh Saravanan
          Akhilesh Saravanan  1 weeks back

          Guys they made Route 66 from Cars into a real thing.

          • Matthias Lanzoni
            Matthias Lanzoni  2 weeks back

            The pictures at 14:40 are so beautiful

            • Magpie Mailer
              Magpie Mailer  3 weeks back

              I know the yellow house! It hosts a salon nowadays, in a corner of the parking lot of Safeway (the only grocer in Williams). Our family does a traditional trip to the Dairy Queen next door each time we camp up at Whitehorse Lake. I love Williams and I'm so glad to see such a tiny little landmark mentioned as a piece of someone's history <33

              • RedPat
                RedPat  3 weeks back

                Good narrative. 💥👍

                • welshdragon2008
                  welshdragon2008  3 weeks back

                  ok.. fair enough

                  • Oscar DeGus
                    Oscar DeGus  3 weeks back

                    Creepy intro

                    • Ante Žarko
                      Ante Žarko  4 weeks back

                      The real reason why its popular. The time has come execute order 66

                      • Rowan Karavangelos
                        Rowan Karavangelos  4 weeks back

                        10:40 I really thought I got a text 😂

                        • Agnes K.
                          Agnes K.  1 months back

                          3:00 Uhh... How much in metric, please?

                          • Jane Thomas
                            Jane Thomas  1 months back

                            the fact that the movie cars was not mentioned in this video is a disgrace

                            • martyisabeliever
                              martyisabeliever  1 months back

                              Take note the Route 66 shield has 6 points on it Route 666.

                              • Jim The EDC Guy
                                Jim The EDC Guy  1 months back

                                Tell a bunch of hipsters no one goes there, then you'll see a sea of Volvos going down it.

                                • Nelson Swanberg
                                  Nelson Swanberg  1 months back

                                  Get your kicks on Route 66.

                                  • lea wink
                                    lea wink  1 months back

                                    and PCH might be the 2nd famous? I guess....

                                    • SwiPia Sci
                                      SwiPia Sci  1 months back

                                      I came here to hear about Pixar’s Cars
                                      Anyone else?

                                      • Moris Sombre
                                        Moris Sombre  1 months back

                                        But what about route 69?

                                        • Jason Learakos
                                          Jason Learakos  1 months back

                                          It's an important piece of history. Neon signs, diners, drive-ins, motels, roadside attractions, the many streetcars and interurbans that followed it, etc

                                          • CACC Bresnahan
                                            CACC Bresnahan  1 months back

                                            The bridge at 14:14, that goes in to Oro grande a small town in California that has one of the best pizza places I’ve ever been to and me and my freinds still go there all the time. My school is there as well so I cross it literally everyday. Strange to see something I see everyday on a video

                                            • Amelie Xoxo
                                              Amelie Xoxo  1 months back

                                              If you ever.. plant to mayor west...
                                              Travel my way take the highway that’s the best.
                                              Get your kicks
                                              On Route 66!

                                              • Amelie Xoxo
                                                Amelie Xoxo  1 months back

                                                If you ever.. plant to mayor west...
                                                Travel my way take the highway that’s the best.
                                                Get your kicks
                                                On Route 66!

                                                • Cory R
                                                  Cory R  1 months back

                                                  a long forgotton section of the road lies outside of my town, it sees very little travel due to how roads went around it and still have a few miles of original road left falling apart. Sometimes travelers show up in town looking for how to get to it.

                                                  • John Smith
                                                    John Smith  1 months back

                                                    "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

                                                    • Elmo Missing!!!
                                                      Elmo Missing!!!  1 months back

                                                      Rte 66: I am the mother road
                                                      Rte I-80: *“Am I a joke to you?”*

                                                      • Quix
                                                        Quix  1 months back

                                                        11:27 This stands in Japan wich I believe is NOT suoth east asia.

                                                        • Holiday Bread
                                                          Holiday Bread  1 months back

                                                          As someone who has lived like than 500FT from the mother road in a small town just located west of OKC, ive never really thought about the sentimental value the road has to The world. My town even has a little roadside attraction, two flour mills one on each side with a large glowing sign reading "Yukons Best Flour" and it litterally is a state landmark. Ive been as far west on 66 as new Mexico visting The Cadillac Ranch, Big Texan Steak House. And as Far east as Uranus to visit the fudge packing plant. There are so many more hidden jems that I havent been to, when I get done with my contract and head home I'll probably drive the Mother Road.

                                                          • Samy
                                                            Samy  1 months back

                                                            Whats the name of the song at 5:16 ?

                                                            • Allicia C
                                                              Allicia C  1 months back

                                                              "very very close apart" 17:04

                                                              • Michael Inglis
                                                                Michael Inglis  1 months back

                                                                Unfortunate name...

                                                                • SuicideBunny6
                                                                  SuicideBunny6  1 months back

                                                                  I didn't even know Route 66 wasn't a thing anymore

                                                                  • aarblg
                                                                    aarblg  1 months back

                                                                    As someone from a city being forgotten this brings me hope, that one day they will see it how I do.

                                                                    • Kanoshe
                                                                      Kanoshe  1 months back

                                                                      oh god a vox video? i left the room i didn't mean it go away vox you wil NOT have ad revenue

                                                                      • Niks Eris
                                                                        Niks Eris  2 months back

                                                                        Because of the pixar movie Cars (duh) but yeah _childhood days_

                                                                        • Bora Gul
                                                                          Bora Gul  2 months back

                                                                          I crossed it in Arizona just two weeks ago. I was in Seligman. It’s awesome

                                                                          • Adonis Top of Men
                                                                            Adonis Top of Men  2 months back

                                                                            good documentation …….

                                                                            • Noey Tindol
                                                                              Noey Tindol  2 months back

                                                                              I couldn't understand the lady in Magnolia. What did she say was in the gas station?

                                                                              • Jonathan Madi
                                                                                Jonathan Madi  2 months back

                                                                                someone flip that 6 making it route 69

                                                                                • GershwinDecoBeck
                                                                                  GershwinDecoBeck  2 months back

                                                                                  My city o' Tulsa!

                                                                                  • مولانا أكبري
                                                                                    مولانا أكبري  2 months back

                                                                                    The Rolling Stones.

                                                                                    • Pedro Provan
                                                                                      Pedro Provan  2 months back

                                                                                      May the road rise up to meet your wheels

                                                                                      • Elias Chen
                                                                                        Elias Chen  2 months back

                                                                                        Amazing video! You guys should over America’s loneliest road in Route 50 in Nevada!

                                                                                        • Edo Ragadna P Saragih
                                                                                          Edo Ragadna P Saragih  2 months back

                                                                                          What a great video

                                                                                          • IEJ7to1 *IEJ7654321*
                                                                                            IEJ7to1 *IEJ7654321*  2 months back

                                                                                            But taking route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica is slower than what Google maps recommends.

                                                                                            • aman deep
                                                                                              aman deep  2 months back

                                                                                              I am going there one day.

                                                                                              • Marshall Cohen Carter
                                                                                                Marshall Cohen Carter  2 months back

                                                                                                *Cars enters chat*

                                                                                                • jesust_is _bigmac
                                                                                                  jesust_is _bigmac  2 months back

                                                                                                  *causally drives near a cow*