Western Trips

Western Trips

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TV Route 66 and the 1959 Corvette

1959 corvette
1959 Corvette
To many, Route 66 meant a fun western road trip. It meant a journey or vacation through America's heartland and to the beautiful southwest with it's mountains, mesas, desert and pueblos.

The very popular early 1960's television show Route 66 was a story of modern cross country travel and one of America's most famous highways. The show blazed a television trail also having been the first television series shot entirely on location. As you can imagine there wasn't a shortage of scenery. I also think beyond a doubt that the TV series gave the urge to many to take to America's roadways.

While it's stated that only some of the scenes were actually shot in towns along this historic highway, the show itself invoked a lot of adventurous feelings in those who followed it. After all, who hadn't heard of Route 66, the "Mother Road"? If nothing else, Route 66 let people go "somewhere". It was a ticket to adventure and travel.

The television series, Route 66", was based on two young men who traveled the country and ended up involved in a variety of intrigues and situations. Every week of course was a new adventure. It was said that when the series was in the planning stages, several TV executives doubted that sponsors would back a show that essentially showed two fellows traveling the roadways without jobs. In other words, who would sponsor a show about a pair of bums.

route 66 sign As it turned out, the sponsors did back the show and did very well. Ratings were quite good. I guess times were changing in the early 60's.

The TV series Route 66 ran for four seasons from 1960 to 1964. The show featured actors Martin Milner and George Maharis. Most people that remember the old TV series remember the Corvette convertible like the one shown above. You can just imagine what the show did for sales of Corvettes during it's run. There's no question that the historic nature of Route 66 and it's big part in luring people to the west helped the show's ratings.

The Beginnings of Route 66

Strong automobile sales in the early 1900's along with the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921, which called for the networking of roads, made Route 66 a reality. As history shows us, however, what made Route 66 possible in the first place eventually led to it's downfall. Route 66's popularity led to its downfall. The Interstate highway legislation of 1956 created the Interstate System. Today, there are some five Interstates that bypass some portion of old Route 66. During it's glory years, the historic highway allowed people to head west out of the dust bowl of the 1930's. During the 1950's it ushered in the era of driving out west on vacation.

1960 corvette
Route 66 at it's beginning was a patchwork of prior roads and trails. East of New Mexico for example the road was a combination of the Lone Star Trail, the Old Santa Fe Trail along with parts of the Ozark Trail. The Ozark Trail was a system of roads that ran from St. Louis, through the Ozarks, then across Oklahoma and Texas to El Paso. The National Old Trails Road which was from St. Louis to Los Angeles was picked west of Albuquerque New Mexico. It wasn't until 1938 that the entire highway was paved. The road was used extensively during World War Two for military transportation to the west coast.

Facts About Route 66

There's some very interesting facts about the old Route 66. First of all, the state of Oklahoma still retains about 400 miles of Route 66. In fact, Oklahoma has more of the original alignment of Route 66 than any other state.

The Interstate highway system did plenty to erase the historic highway. As an example, when you travel Interstate-40 through New Mexico and Arizona, most of the original highway which followed this Interstate is gone. There are bits and pieces of the roadway left and while traveling Interstate-40 you'll see the signs.

Another interesting fact is that when Route 66 was first established in 1929, the roadway went through Santa Fe New Mexico. The photo above shows a sign in Santa Fe which denotes where the road went through the city prior to 1936. The story of why Route 66 pulled out of Santa Fe in interesting and you can read more about it at this westerntrips link. When you visit Santa Fe New Mexico you'll see several of these signs. It's also a fact that the original Route 66 in several places did go through major realignments over the years.

1954 corvette
1954 Corvette
When Route 66 made it's way into New Mexico, drivers had their first look at the beautiful scenery that the southwest is so noted for. Today, in New Mexico, Arizona and California, Route 66 essentially runs along Interstate-40 with some original stretches of highway available to drive at various lengths.

To be sure, there's plenty of opportunities to hop off the Interstate and go through some smaller towns such as Seligman Arizona, between Flagstaff and Kingman.In Seligman, just as in several other old Route 66 towns, you'll see some structures dating all the way back to the highway's heyday years. While on Interstate 40 just a few miles inside New Mexico from the Texas border, there is an absolutely terrific vintage car museum inside of the large building of Russell's Truck Stop. It's a hidden gem in a remote part of the Interstate and very well worth the stop.

See our Western Trips article regarding the Old Spanish Trail Highway that ran from Florida to California and still exists.

route 66 in arizona
Rte. 66 west of Flagstaff
There are many interesting and historic parts of Route 66 still in existence and they can be found virtually all the way from Illinois to California. You'll even find some hotels and diners that are from the "Mother Roads" beginning years that are still in operation. When you're on the modern Interstates, make certain you keep an eye out for the signs that designate the old route's remaining sections. 

There are four sections of current day Route 66 which I've particularly enjoyed driving on while traveling on Interstate 40 in New Mexico and Arizona. The four are Santa Rosa New Mexico, Gallup New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona and Seligman Arizona. You may want to make these an item on your next western road trip planner.

(Article copyright Western Trips)

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