Before the Road
Long before Route 66 was ever conceived, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Edward Beale set forth on a journey along the same pathway. It was 1857 when the expedition set out, with the aim of establishing a safe route to gold-rich California.
Beale convinced the military to source camels from Tunis for the journey, believing them to be better equipped for the desert portions of the expedition than the horses and donkeys that were also being outfitted. The problem was that the camels were so large and aggressive they spooked all the other animals, which is partially why it was the last time US armed forces used them.
After Beale’s successful expedition, wagon trains and then cowboys herding cattle further established the trail that would be the blueprint for Route 66.
Pop Culture Icon
Route 66 has been huge in popular culture in the United States and even beyond. The “Main Street of America” has been the topic of quite a few songs, including one written by Bobby Troup that’s been performed by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Nat King Cole and Check Berry.
In recent times, the faded glory of Route 66 was central in the plotline for the Disney Pixar movie Cars. A number of jokes and references to the road’s history are sprinkled throughout the film, making it fun for enthusiasts to watch.
The TV series named Route 66 wasn’t even about the road, interestingly enough. Instead, it followed two guys as they traveled to different parts of the United States, mostly nowhere near the iconic road. The name was used to avoid a copyright battle with another production studio.
Finishing the Pathway
Until 1938, sections of Route 66 weren’t paved, but instead were plain dirt. Thanks to the Great Depression and large groups of young men who were unemployed, the government got the idea to finish paving the road, starting in 1933.
You could basically say that the worst economic times in the United States gave birth to the most iconic road, which later was used to celebrate the social mobility of the middle class and the cars they proudly owned.View on One Page