ODYSSEY 2017: HISTORIC ROUTE 66

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HIstoricRoute66

ROUTE_66_signRoute 66 was (and remains) the highway we simply cannot forget. From the very beginning it has occupied a special place in the American conscience. It epitomizes (and cuts right across) the heart of America, the very soul of this great nation. From the skyscrapers of Chicago, through the cornfields of Illinois, the lush Ozark hills, the heartland of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the southern reaches of the Rockies, the pine forests of Arizona, the desert Southwest, and on to the golden shores of the Pacific, Route 66 winds its way through a marvelous cross section of America. It passes by small towns in the Midwest, the arid Native American lands, the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon, as well as the bustling streets of Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. It embodies the core values of America, of those “good old days,” with its mom-n-pop service stations, motor courts, diners, souvenir shops and trading posts. Historic Route 66 is, in itself, an icon of American culture. It truly is America’s Main Street.

Historic Route 66 lives on to tell a thousand stories–of hope and heartbreak, of love and hate, of starting over, of new dreams found around the next bend, beyond the hazy blue. Route 66 is our story; it embodies what makes us a great nation. Like so many of our old 9382033406_b2e9419108_btrails/roads of the past–the Oregon, Santa Fe, Pony Express–Route 66 will live on in our collective memories. Ah, and isn’t it interesting that no other culture has ever experienced this type of love affair with the open road–indeed, with freedom.

 

The story of Route 66 had its beginning nearly two centuries ago, when our young country began migrating westward. The vast unexplored lands beyond the Mississippi River fired the imagination of the American people. Out of the ruts of the National Old National_old_trails_association-usdotmapTrails Road, which was laid down over the traces and trails blazed by our early explorers, mountain men, trappers, missionaries and pioneers, Route 66 was born. It became the twentieth century version of the Oregon Trail, the golden road to the Promised Land. The early years of Route 66 coincided with unparalleled economic strife and global instability, yet it hastened the most comprehensive westward movement and economic growth in U.S. history. Like the early, long-gone trails of the nineteenth century, Route 66 helped spirit a permanent mass relocation–west. Known affectionately throughout the years as The Mother Road, Main Street of America, and the Will Rogers Highway, to this day does Route 66 live on in our collective memories–as an experience, a feeling, a perception, a marvel of sight and sound, and a mystery that can only be least appreciated and understood by traveling it.

Historic Route 66 passes through eight states, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Traveling (or hiking) the remains of this old highway today provides a glimpse into the past, a simpler, more laid-back time, the way America was before the rushing hell of our  interstate highways. Back then, road travel was not the monotony of endless miles. Instead, it was a journey in itself, through towns arizona-398686_960_720and little villages with their motor courts, eye-catching signs, diners and bars with odd names, and lots of souvenir shops and trading posts–an amazing diversity of people and landscapes. Over the 50 or so years of its existence, the road underwent many improvements and realignments, which changed its path and overall length. By 1970, nearly all segments of the original road were bypassed by modern four-lane highways, and by 1984, the remaining vestiges of Route 66 were either given up or paved over by the interstate. Route 66 was finally decommissioned in 1985–and the familiar Route 66 markers came down.

No highway in the history of our nation is as fabled as Route 66. It has been immortalized in song, literature; there was even a TV series. In 1946, Bobby Troup, former pianist with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, composed a song with the catch phrase “Get your kicks on Route 66.” John Steinbeck, in his 1939 novel, Grapes of Wrath, called Route 66 the Mother Road. His book, combined with the 1940 film of the epic journey of the Joad family during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression, served to immortalize Route 66 in the American conscious. “Route 66,” a popular television series during the early 1960’s, drove into the living rooms of America every Friday evening. The theme song for the series “Open Highway” made Billboard magazine’s Top-30. “Cars,” a computer-animated (Route 66) comedy-adventure was released by Disney in 2006. The original production, plus retail merchandise sales topped ten billion dollars. Known as “The Verse by the Side of the Road,” Burma-Shave was a brand of brushless shaving cream that was sold from 1925 to 1966.  The company became known for its innovative advertising campaign, which included rhymes posted all along the nation’s roadways. Typically, six small fencepost-supported signs were erected, the first five containing a line of verse, and the sixth displaying the brand name. Here are a couple that I remember seeing along Route 66: IN THIS OLD WORLD – OF TOIL AND SIN – YOUR HEAD GROWS BALD – BUT BurmaShaveSigns_Route66NOT YOUR CHIN – Burma-Shave and BIG MISTAKE – MANY MAKE – RELY ON HORN – INSTEAD OF BREAK – Burma Shave. And who hasn’t visited or heard about Meramec Caverns? The caverns became well known early on through another unique advertising technique–barn murals. Although advertising signs on barns aren’t permitted in most states today, those along Historic Route 66 that promoted Meramec Caverns–many of those still exist, defying time.

Route 66, the nostalgia and romance surrounding it, continues to capture the imagination of people around the world. Though it long ago ceased to be, Route 66 has retained its mystique. Steeped in history, nostalgia and romance, the highway has become an American icon, pure Americana, celebrating the golden age of the open road.

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So, folks, that’s a bit of history about Historic Route 66. I can remember the old highway, the way it was, as I had the pleasure of motoring stretches of it back in my youth–in my ’53 Ford. That was during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the heyday for the old highway. It was THE highway back then. To this day, does it beckon me still! Ah, and now on to Odyssey 2017, Nimblewill’s adventure along Historic Route 66:

Beginning July 27th, from downtown Chicago (eastern terminus of Route 66), I’ll shoulder my meager pack and head for Santa Monica. This journey is destined to take some 124 days, covering around 2,300 miles. Maps for this odyssey, plus my itinerary are posted here. So, along with daily journal entries and photos, you’ll be able to track me and follow along. And please do–Your support and encouragement has always provided great energy

[Nimblewill]

“Route 66”

38 Comments on “ODYSSEY 2017: HISTORIC ROUTE 66

  1. Nimblewiil,
    my son and i saw you on 10/1 just outside of Tucumcari while we were driving back from my son’s wedding near Tulsa. i saw you were in Tijeras yesterday (a day ahead of schedule!) and heading to Albuquerque today (where we live). it’s probably too late to stop at the only spot on Route 66 where it crosses itself! the original Route 66 used to come down from Las Vegas NM and went north and south in the early days. it’s at the corner of 4th Street and Central at the Kimo theater. good travels!

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  2. Hey Nimblewill , Hope you are well and happy, I did some of the Rhode Island NST with Rick Guhse’. Home now and going to ALDHA in a few. Sale says hi too. MNS

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  3. Sonny, hope you’re doing well. I don’t see my original post from when you were in Bois D’Arc, Missouri. You should be getting close to Texas by now. Go west young man!

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  4. It was Awesome meeting you Nimble Will in Sherman Illinois.
    You are an Inspiration to many including myself. Prayers Up for Continued Safe Travels. You are an American Hero !
    ~ Hotrod Travels

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  5. I have been following your journey since reading about your journey on the Historic66 forum. I hit the road Oct. 5 from Amarillo to Santa Monica and judging by your itinerary, I am going to miss any opportunity of seeing you, because we are going up the Santa Fe route and our itineraries do not cross paths until I am enroute back home on the 17th.
    Thank You for sharing your experience in words and pictures. They enhance my excitement to begin my own journey, which has been long in the planning. Safe travels and I look forward to more entries from your excursion.

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  6. Hi sonny good to see you are doing well and meeting lot of good people. Elizabeth and I keeping track of your hike.

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  7. My grandparents took me and my little brother across Route 66 back in the summer of ’67. I had just finished 6th grade. We left the day after school was out in June and returned the day before school started in September. My brother was 10 and I was 12. We spent 12 weeks and drove 14,000 miles in a ’66 blue Chevy pickup with a camper top, traveling across America and seeing the Great American West before heading up into western Canada, returning through Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, the Tetons, Badlands and back to our starting point in Lorain, Ohio.. Route 66 memories were burned into my childhood memory for all of my days. I hope your journey is full and rich and warming you with wonder.

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  8. Hi Sunny – my nephew Little Wrangler remembers you from the PCT briefly. It was good talking to you yesterday in Claremore – good hiking for the 66 Odyssey. Cathy

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  9. Hi Sunny, we Met you today at the Blue Wale on your 39th walking day on Route 66. we were so deeply impressed by your energy, openess and your “Sunny ” mind. Good luck, get your Kicks on Route 66

    Your sincere Harley Riders from Switzerland

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  10. Sonny, it was fun to meet you today in front of Ron’s Hamburgers in Claremore, Ok. Good luck on your travels. Prayers for the journey.

    Patty

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  11. I met you and staunton and you stayed at my house was wondering where you are and how you have been

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  12. Glad to see you on this amazing journey! Love all of the stories and pictures…Shelley

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  13. Hey Nomad, keep on trekking! You’ve always got a place to stay in Alabama when you need it.

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  14. We have never met. You met my daughter Jessica and granddaughter Emily just notth of Carlinville, you have picture with them. I have two curiosity questions. Where do you get the eill to do these walks? And I was wondering about your wife, Sharon? Hope you find time to answer. Safe travels, my words to you mow and when you was walking north of Carlinville and I yelled it from red pick up window.

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  15. Hello Sunny! I met you on my way home this past Monday just east of Sullivan, MO…in my 2010 Mustang….(Gidyep, Remember?) It was such a real pleasure to meet you. As I told you, my wife, who loves to read, read an article about you. We were traveling home from the Missouri State Fair on Sunday morning when she told me about your adventure on Route 66. She mentioned how wonderful it would be to meet you. She hoped we would spot you on Route 66 near our home. I thought to myself, ah, it would be almost impossible to meet up with you………and then….on my way home from Sullivan, MO, I spotted you out of the corner of my eye walking Route 66 near the I-44 highway. I have to say I appreciate you taking the time for me to take a picture of you with my Mustang. Even though I only met you for a few minutes, I immediately sensed your warmth and kindhearted personality. Best wishes to you on your journey!!

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  16. Hi, we met today when you stopped by my shop to avoid some heavy rain. I’m really glad I got to meet you. I didn’t realize when you told me that you are “hiker trash” just how much walking you have done. Really cool. Thank you for walking into my life. You are welcome here any time.

    Danny

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  17. We met you right around Staunton Illinois.. my son and I stopped when we saw you after hearing about you from Henry at the Rabbit Ranch, we gave ya a bottle of Iced Tea and talked for a bit.. we were on our own trip down Route 66… we only did Illinois and Missouri.. but what a great experience meeting you!! It was probably the highlight of the trip for us.. good luck from Mike and Gehrig!

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  18. If you need a place to stay in Kansas, please let me know. I have a B&B in Baxter Springs and would love to have you. We’re just a block and a half off the route.

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  19. My hat’s off to you, sir. I walked the Route 66, East to West, like you’re doing, just last year at age 62. I thought I was doing good.

    Godspeed, and safe journey.

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  20. Sunny!!! I will always remember your Wise words, thank You! Have a safe journey!
    Remember when you see a rainbow, the rain is over… 🎵🌈🌧

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  21. Best wishes to you. I just saw you on the news and I want to follow you. I wish you the best.

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  22. And so it has begun, stay safe and watch out for sidewinders.
    U da man,
    Pathfinder

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  23. You are a national treasure. Have most enjoyed all your travels and best wishes truly!

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  24. Sunny, Patsy and I are following your exciting venture. You know how we feel about you and cherish the time we visited with you. Be safe. C and P

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  25. Hello!!! I just got caught up on your travels so far. It sounds like you have met some wonderful, caring folks along the way. I’m so happy to see these pictures of you looking so happy and heathy, and with your new friends!! I hope people continue to look out for you as you travel. I miss you so much, but I’m glad that you are getting to make this journey. Be safe, stay cool and God bless you my dear friend.
    Love,
    Robin

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  26. It was such a pleasure meeting you at the post office in Atlanta, Illinois this morning! I look forward to following your adventure on here. Praying for you!

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  27. 8-1-17
    Hey Sunny Boy,
    We would probably have never met had you crossed the street to avoid all the ‘panhandlers’ at Kicks in Towanda, IL. Sure glad we were both thirsty at the same time today! Good luck and safe travels.
    Bob Rocket

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  28. Best wishes for this trek. I’ll be in Ca having Thanksgiving with my son…not all that far from you. Say “hello” to Ludlow, Ca for me….have had lunch there many times.

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  29. Hoping you find cool shade and constant breezes as you start this long trek today… and many new friends along the way.

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  30. That is a long trip this summer. Good luck to you and may the good Lord be with you Nimblewill. We will be tracking you as you go. DJ

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  31. I have been to many sites of the route 66…I remember Oakman, Az. And wild donkey’s. .. .I am from Prescott, Az. Route 66…what a memory for me…Friar Rodney Burnap

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