Route 66 Group Tours & Travel
Route 66 evokes America, frontier-ship and a sense of adventure but how did a road come to take on such symbolic importance? We’ll explore the origins and development of this famous stretch of highway and look at how it’s become a part of the American story. The best way to understand its allure and experience one of the world’s greatest journeys is by riding the route yourself. On the Coyote Trip, we take Route 66 between Flagstaff and Los Angeles and you can let yourself be imbued with the spirit of this great nation.
America in the late 19thcentury was a country still developing and the westward migration of peoples was extending the coast to coast nature of the nation. Often, cities would spring up around boom products such as gold or silver. People would hear of new opportunities and seek a new life. Of course, before the 20thcentury, migration was slower and was initially opened up through the development of the railroad. This helped extend the possibilities for economic development and gave Americans the freedom to explore. At the start of the 20thcentury, the automobile became increasingly prevalent. It was in America that common usage of these vehicles really started with Henry Ford’s company making the cost of owning a car much more possible for the average American. He largely did this through his production model which caused car prices to rapidly decrease and expansion to rise. As part of this- the government had to start thinking of how the country could be connected by road.
In 1925, after several years of discussion, Congress enacted a significant act around national highway construction. This supported the efforts of entrepreneurs, Cyrus Avery and John Woodruff’s dream of linking Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1926, this route was given the number 66 and was designed to become a major east-west link. This route was to transform the potential of small towns along the route who had hitherto been fairly disconnected from the rest of the country. The route therefore took on a not exactly linear approach as it attempted to link farming communities who could then transport their grain. This had transformative effects on the lives of thousands of people living in the rural mid-west.
The Route appears in literature and was the main feature of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. The novel follows the Joad family in their struggle to escape poverty and their migration to California in search of a better life. The Joads were a symbol of hundreds of thousands of Americans who had been forced to look for work elsewhere following the spiralling impact of the Wall Street Crash. The Dust Bowl made much of the mid West un-inhabitable and therefore people sought their futures out West. Route 66 became known as the “road of opportunity” although the reality was pretty bleak as jobs were few and far between and there was a huge amount of hunger. 210,000 people made the journey along the route to California.
Work did begin to appear in the 1930s followed the election of Franklin Roosevelt. Unlike his predecessor, F.D.R sought to spend the country’s way out of ruin and set out thousands of programmes to both create jobs and improve infrastructure. Amongst these was the paving of highways and between 1933 and 1938- thousands of unemployed men were put to work and by the end of this time- the route between Chicago and L.A was continuously paved. Not bad for a route which was only conceived of a couple of decades prior!
Due to this development- the government was able to utilise California as a major base during the Second World War. It was ideal for training exercises due to its isolation and dry weather and the route was used to transport huge numbers of men from the rest of the country, out West, to train for war. This led to a big development of towns and industries in California.
Following the war, huge droves of people who had either experienced or heard about California opted to move there prompting another wave of internal migration along Route 66. This prompted the infamous line: “Get your kicks on Route 66” in Nat King Cole’s 1946 recording. It also created a huge number of jobs and industries along the route. There was suddenly a demand for more and more road-side businesses to deal with the people heading along the route.
The Coyote Trip stands in a long line of tourists who have used the magic of this route to inspire travellers. The first wave of tourists prompted the developments of both motels and cabin camps. These camps offered not only accommodation but also shops, restaurants and sports facilities and became as much a part of the experience as the destination itself. In the 1960s there was a whole TV show dedicated to the route, imaginatively titled – “Route 66” which showcased the route.
The nature of the route may have changed but there still remains a magic and much like the migrants throughout the last century, the prize at the end is as alluring as ever. California remains a sunny beacon of hope and is filled with many of the country’s delights. We explore these delights on the Canyon to California tour, West Coast Adventure and The Full Coyote.
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