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Stories from the Road

Henry Starr - Last of the Horseback Outlaws

On Saturday morning March 27th, 1915, everything seemed quiet as usual in Stroud, Oklahoma. Grocers began setting up their stalls, saloons bristled with the breakfast rush, and eight men tied their horses to the stockyard fence on 3rd Avenue. Three men went north to the First National Bank on 4th Street, while four men went south to the Stroud National Bank on 3rd Street, and one man stayed in the middle to guard the horses. They wore fine clothes that blended in with the townsfolk as they went about their morning errands.

The LA Chicken Boy

Muffler Men, larger-than-life iconic statues, were once commonly used – quite successfully we must add – as advertising ploys along Route 66. Muffler Men was the popularized name for one of these giant characters clutching a car muffler. These statues — which also included cowboys, Indians, lumberjacks, spacemen, women, happy halfwits, and even pirates — were commissioned by retailers to attract the attention of motorists and patrons.

11 Must Watch Movies

No American road is as iconic as Route 66. Starting in Chicago, Illinois, and snaking cross-country to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 originally consisted of 2,418 miles of highway, rich with neon-lit motels, quirky roadside attractions, and stretches of deserted landscape. With such a wealth of inspiration, it's no surprise that so many filmmakers have used Route 66 as a backdrop for their films. One of the pivotal scenes in the 1988 film Rain Man takes place at Route 66's Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma.

The Main Street of Canada

Often equated to America’s Historic Route 66, the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) threads across the south of the vast country, through all ten provinces, connecting communities from the east to the west coast. Every year, countless people travel this great transcontinental road. Those who trace the footprint of this great national highway as an attraction, rather than a long, boring stretch to be crossed in a hurry, are rewarded with small-town charm, fascinating history, and one-of-a kind roadside attractions.

Gem of the Ozarks

The saga of the mom-and-pop motor court, designed and located strategically to lure in the motorist of yesteryear, is truly an American story. Some courts have survived, evolving from a handful of simple cabins, to quaint cottages joined by garages, to multi-unit motels kissed with neon. Many courts have perished, perhaps to a fire, or simply abandoned to time and entropy after being bypassed by a newer, faster highway.

Route 66 Extraordinary Women

What does it take to be a Route 66 Extraordinary Woman, you ask? Well, it takes compassion, enthusiasm, and generosity. Route 66 Extraordinary Women are joining together to help support the businesses and attractions along America’s Highway that are owned and/or operated by special women.

Lauterbach Man - The Giant of Springfield, Illinois

When people think about Springfield, Illinois, they think about several things: it’s the picturesque state capital and most certainly the central hub for all things Abraham Lincoln. It is a fun, relaxed town that has a lot to see and do, but small enough not to overwhelm visitors. But one thing that not everyone knows, unless you’re driving Route 66 that is, Springfield is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant Mother Road stops on the old highway.

The Trees of Travel

The road trip spirit has always been one of freedom, spontaneity, and whimsy, and nothing demonstrates this better than the shoe tree. No, this is not a device to preserve your shoe’s shape or store them in your house - it is a living tree adorned with the cast-off footwear of intrepid travelers. It begins with a dreamer and multiplies into a blooming facade of rubber soles and knotted laces.

The American Civil War Glorieta Pass Battle

Just below the pavement along Route 66 near Santa Fe, New Mexico, lies the battleground of one of the most important and decisive encounters of the American Civil War: the Battle of Glorieta Pass (March 26-28, 1862). What at first appeared to be a Confederate victory ended up being a decisive triumph for the Union, accomplished through bravery, cunning, and sheer blind luck.

The Year of 1926 - Harry Houdini Dies of a Sucker Punch

Mother Road enthusiasts fondly think of 1926 as the golden year that birthed the legendary Route 66. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926, and the US Highway 66 was established later that year on November 11th. But what else was happening in 1926?

Little House: To the Prairies and Beyond

From the deep woods of Wisconsin to the rolling hills of South Dakota, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life defined the frontier experience. Meet the extraordinary women behind one of the world’s most beloved book series and discover the indelible mark that she made upon the American imagination.

The Queen of Kitsch

Found in a lonely area of eastern Arizona is Stewart’s Petrified Wood Trading Post – an oddity in an otherwise barren-desert- that is comprised of unique trinkets, human-eating dinosaur replicas and live ostriches. Nick Gerlich traces the story of the strangest place on 66, the people who run it, and finds there is much more to it than meets the eye.

Defining the American Dream, One Sign at a Time

Today, the Burma-Shave Company may be mostly known for its catchy roadside jingles, but the story behind this Minneapolis-born brand and its quirky advertising campaigns is as interesting as its catchy signs. Discover the inspirational, witty family behind Burma-Shave and the struggles that they faced on their path to success.

Ka-Chow!! - The Cars Story

There is perhaps no better, no more powerful metaphor of human progress than that of the windshield. That wide piece of glass is our eyes not only to what lays ahead, but also what lays within. It took a harried Pixar executive loading up his family for a cross-country road trip to figure this out and share the undeniable truth with the rest of us: life is a highway. Hot on the heels of blockbuster hits like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2, Director John Lasseter found himself in need of a new tale to tell. It took the stress of overlapping release and production schedules to cause his wife, Nancy, to insist that John slow down and enjoy his kids, before he woke-up one day and found them all grown.

The Blue Whale of Catoosa

The first thing you see when driving down a special section of Route 66 in Oklahoma is hints of blue through the trees. When you get a little closer, an image begins to take shape: the sharp lines of a whale's tail, a large gregarious smile, and a bright-blue rounded body topped with an adorable little hat. You are looking at one of Route 66's most famous attractions, the Blue Whale of Catoosa, a Mother Road icon that evokes childhood nostalgia and was born out of one man's love for his wife and his community.

A Stylish Lair

From the day construction was completed until the day the wrecking ball cast it asunder fifty- four years later, the Coral Court Motel stood as both an architectural masterpiece and a place of mystery and nefarious activities. Its reputation was brought to bear by the shadowy John Carr, who owned and operated it for forty-three of those years.

The Hottest Place in the Valley

Death Valley is famous for many reasons. It’s the lowest point of elevation in North America, but also within 100 miles of the highest elevation in the country, Mount Whitney. There are salt pans from long dried up lakes containing anything from common table salt to borax, and plants that somehow survive in the deadly heat of the desert summer. In 1913, the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth was measured at 134 degrees Fahrenheit at Furnace Creek. Today, however, Furnace Creek isn’t just the place where the world’s hottest temperature was recorded. It’s actually a great place to stop and relax.

The Year 1926 - The Lives of Bonnie and Clyde

Mother Road enthusiasts fondly think of 1926 as the golden year that birthed the legendary Route 66. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926, and the US Highway 66 was established later that year on November 11th. But what else was happening in 1926? This series takes a look at the cultural and social milieu from which Route 66 emerged - the famous, the infamous, the inventions, and the scandals that marked 1926 as a pivotal year. In this issue, we bring you the story of the notorious gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde.

The Year 1926 - Launch of the National Broadcasting Company

The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926, and US Highway 66 was established later that year on November 11th. But what else was happening in 1926? This series takes a look at the cultural and social milieu from which Route 66 emerged - the famous, the infamous, the inventions and the scandals that marked 1926 as a pivotal year. In this article, we bring you the beginnings of the National Broadcasting Company.

The Year 1926 - Bessie Coleman is Killed

As Route 66’s establishment in 1926 would come to pave the way for cars to carry passengers from the Midwest to the Pacific coast via asphalt, the air, without any highways, had been — for over twenty years — a prime and novel location for traveling, fighting and performing tricks via airplane. Yet, from amongst the growing number of aviators to populate the sky, one pilot stood out from amongst her peers. 1926 would see the tragic accidental death—caused by an unfastened seat-belt—of nationally celebrated pilot, Bessie Coleman.

The King

Elvis Presley is arguably the most “American” icon of all time. The classic rags to riches story of a poor country boy from Tennessee who became one of the biggest stars on the planet resonates with so many as the embodiment of the American dream.

6 Living Ghost Towns in Arizona that Deserve a Visit

The state of Arizona is packed with picturesque places to stop and stretch your legs while on a road trip or a longer visit. ROUTE offers some suggestions on a few of our favorite.

A Moment in Route 66's History - 1932 The Los Angeles Olympics

Many significant historical events have occurred along Route 66 over its long history, and the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics is particularly noteworthy: although the Games were put on during the Great Depression of the ‘30s, they functioned as a beacon, highlighting Route 66 in America and placing Los Angeles on the global map.

The Ghosts of the Goldfield Hotel

On a lonely stretch of Route 95, cast haphazardly against the sagebrush of Central Nevada, is the tiny ghost town of Goldfield. Home to only 268 people, its main industries are tourism and gold. To the south of town the “International Car Forest” is the main draw for travelers. But this is a recent attraction, for most of the town’s history, its showpiece was the legendary Goldfield Hotel. A four-story classical revival building built in 1908. The yawning façade still dominates the town’s main square. It caused a sensation upon its opening, as it was one of the first hotels in the west to use electric lights and supply running water to every room.

Bye Bye Bedrock

Before The Simpsons became the longest-running primetime animated TV series in history, this proud title belonged to The Flintstones. The Flintstones originally aired on ABC on September 30, 1960 with an episode titled “The Flintstone Flyer,” in which Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble fool their wives, Wilma and Betty, to avoid spending a night at the opera in favor of a trip to the bowling alley. And thus, America was introduced to the peculiar antics and never-ending sarcasm that defined one of the most successful animated series in television history.

Play Your Kicks - The Legacy of Route 66 Inspired Games

The winding roads, scenic vistas, and rich history of the Mother Road has inspired many individuals to create works that pay homage to her legacy. From John Steinbeck’s breathtaking novel, The Grapes of Wrath, to the 1960’s TV show, Route 66, the inspiration people have drawn from the iconic road has resulted in love letters as distinct and revered as the historic highway itself. In addition to this compelling tapestry of artistic endeavors, game designers have also been smitten by America’s Main Street, producing fun, Route 66-themed creations such as card games, board games, and even video games.

Route 66 Inspired Documentaries

At 2,448 miles in length and dancing across eight very unique states from Chicago to sunny Santa Monica, Historic Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and the Mother Road, has been the subject of fascination for travel enthusiasts, historians, photographers and filmmakers alike for close to a century. Over the past 30 years numerous films have been created, showcasing the unique and wondrous aspects of the Main Street of America. Here are some of our picks for must-see documentaries that take viewers down 66 via a fresh perspective.

9 Must Visit Roadside Attractions

Historic Route 66 is famous for its many eye-catching roadside attractions. Whether majestic or bizarre, these large structures have convinced millions of travelers to stop off the Mother Road and take a closer look. Whether it’s an 80-foot long concrete whale in a swimming hole, an art deco gas station lit up in neon, or the National Route 66 Museum itself, there’s never a dull moment when you’re travelling the Old Route. From Illinois to Oklahoma to Texas, and then out west to Arizona, these nine must-see roadside attractions are sure to help you get your kicks on Route 66.

STRANGE BUT TRUE - The Far Side of Route 66

Route 66 may be one of the most well-known highways in the world, but beyond the thousands of miles of asphalt lie a plethora of the strange, the unusual and the quirky. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, look no further. A road that sings, a body twisted in two and a deep lagoon that links states are just some of the more obscure elements of the Mother Road. Read on and prepare to be intrigued.

When Fred Met The Mother Road

The annals of business history are filled with many names still known today, the visionaries who shaped the world of commerce in which we find ourselves. Names like Penney, Sears, Roebuck, and Walton are frequently found beside American streets and thoroughfares, while Marriott and Hilton are commonplace both downtown and in the suburbs. But there was one man more than 140 years ago who quietly set the stage in both hospitality and retailing, and wound up with a ringside seat along Route 66 when its time came. His name, though, is long forgotten by many, prompting his one-day biographer, Stephen Fried, to candidly ask, “Who the hell is Fred Harvey?”

The Masterpiece

With its subtle color palette of soft, natural grays, black, white and Ganado red, and featuring traditional Navajo symbols and patterns, the Hubbell Rug is remarkable to behold. At 22 feet by 32 feet in size, and weighing in excess of 250 pounds, this gigantic specimen of the 1930s gives a rare glimpse into authentic Native American weaving. The Hubbell Rug is the world’s largest single loom Navajo textile in existence.

Carrying on Tradition

Early in the morning, as the sun begins to rise over the vast central plains of Kansas, Scott Nelson approaches the airy porch of a small red brick building. The first rays of light dance across the petunias and geraniums, spilling over onto an old flatbed cart by the entrance. Nelson unlocks the front door and sets about opening up the shop in the auburn glow, preparing for the morning rush.

Innumerable and then Gone - THE GREAT AMERICAN BISON

Around the time that Christopher Columbus made his famous arrival in the West Indies, an estimated 30 to 60 million bison roamed the vast plains of North America. During this time, Plains Indians, including the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Sioux tribes, made use of temporary teepees as they followed bison herds during their seasonal migrations. For these Native Americans, bison were an important resource. While bison meat was used for food, bison skins were used for clothing and teepees, while their sinew or muscle was used to make bowstrings and moccasins.

A Quiet Place

Wallace Rider Farrington, editor of The Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin and governor of Hawaii from 1921 to 1929, wrote that “Lives that live forever are lives of self-sacrifice.” What does a Hawaiian have to do with a sculptor from northeastern Oklahoma? Nathan “Ed” Galloway — the man behind the ninety-foot totem pole and the surrounding park — is one of those rare, selfless characters that Farrington was alluding to. He may have been a poor Oklahoman, but Ed Galloway had a rich vision to create something spectacular that would bring happiness to others and spent eleven years and countless hours to make it a reality.

12 Tracks to Get Your Kicks on 66

With its neon signs, rustic truck stops, and scenes of classic Americana, no other road captures the imagination quite like Route 66. Driving this highway through the heart of the country is the quintessential American road trip, and it deserves a rocking soundtrack to match. So, gas up the vehicle, roll down the windows, and press play on this collection of 12 perfect songs selected for your next trip on the Mother Road!

19 Must Stay Venues Along Route 66

A drive down fabled Route 66 is considered by many to be the ultimate road trip experience. This one single stretch of highway has seized the imagination of many an artist, musician, writer, photographer, filmmaker, and everybody else who has had the privilege of journeying across America down this scenic road. At ROUTE we know that a comfortable place to rest your head at the end of each day is paramount to enjoying the full intimate experience of this iconic highway. So, we have rounded up 19 venues with interesting backstories, unique heritage and undeniable charm. This ROUTE’s hotlist.

Get Your Culinary Kicks

Food brings people together, and there is an incredible network of eateries along Route 66 - from home-style grilling to upscale fusion - that make every pit stop more inviting and unforgettable than the last. In The Mother Road Odyssey Part One, we brought you the most iconic and memorable places to stay along Route 66, now, we present some of our favorite places to dine along Route 66: the historic, the high-end, the famous, and the infamous.

10 Best Hiking Spots Along Route 66

America is a land full of tremendous natural beauty, and for anyone who loves to throw on a pair of boots or sturdy sneakers and set out to experience nature in its perfect setting, Route 66 offers a large number of choice spots that will have you in your element.

Things to Keep in Mind to Make Your Route 66 Journey a Success

Planning a trip down Route 66 can be as easy or as stressful as you make it out to be. For many sightseers, putting locations into your smartphone and hitting the road is all the planning you think you need. But there’s more to road travel than just not getting lost.

The Loneliest Places Along Route 66

Route 66 often conjures up images of friendly small towns, hospitable diners, and famous landmarks. But what about the quiet places in between? During the Mother Road's heyday, there was almost a limitless amount of towns and roadside stops popping up to serve the traveling public. However, when Route 66 died out, decommissioned and supplanted by interstates, many of these small towns died with it. These hollow shells of past prosperity provide a haunting melancholic vibe and are tangible remnants of the boom and bust history of the great American road. While venturing along Route 66, take some time out to appreciate these long lost and forgotten communities and experience their ghostly aura.

Travel Route 66 By Any Means Necessary

While the majority of people tackle Route 66 via private vehicle or RV, there are many different ways to cross the country and to experience a jaunt down the Main Street of America.

The Resurrection of the Meteor City Trading Post

The iconic Route 66 landmark known for its giant roadside dream catcher and its geodesic dome design is getting a new lease on life.

Meet Me at the Monte V

With a history almost as colorful and interesting as the actual interior of the vintage venue, Flagstaff’s Monte Vista has a fascinating story to tell.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game … On Route 66

Few sports are as American as baseball, and few roads are as quintessentially American as the Mother Road. But it is fascinating to better understand the actual connection between baseball and Route 66 over the years.

Essential Books to Build Your Route 66 Library

There’s so much literature out there about Route 66 that it can be hard to pick the very best ones to build your Route 66 library, so we’ve tried to help. In this list, you’ll find history books to help you understand the context of the road and guidebooks to help you plan your travels. You’ll also find books focused on a specific part of 66, like ghost towns or photos of the highway. So before you set out on your trip of a lifetime, and get to see the best of America, grab these books. And when you get back home, you’ll be glad to relive your trip through your 66 book collection.

The International Car Forest

In a town noted for its otherworldliness, the International Car Forest of the Last Church stands out in Goldfield. Once the biggest town in Nevada, Goldfield is now a place people pass through, although not too quickly. The local police force is noted for its enthusiasm in enforcing the speed limit.

Route 66 Revival Underway in Tulsa

Tulsa is inching closer to being a major attraction on the red-hot revival of Route 66, perhaps just months away from construction of the much-anticipated Route 66 Experience and an explosion of growth along the 24 miles of Route 66 in our city.

Gone Too Soon - The Bob Waldmire Story

More than perhaps any other highway in the US, Route 66 has always been a road of opportunity. Whether they were escaping drought or boredom, the Mother Road has always fostered an “anything is possible” mentality amongst its pilgrims. Maybe it is the dramatic and diverse geography that paints the eight states that make up this iconic highway, or perhaps the mystery or opportunity that waits just around the next bend.

The Man Behind the Voice

ROUTE Magazine caught up with bestselling author and Route 66 ambassador, Michael Wallis, who shared on his enviable career as a writer, his famous book Route 66: The Mother Road, and his favorite places and people along the iconic highway. A well-respected and known persona on the Route, Wallis reveals some things that even those who know him best may be surprised to learn.

The Mystery of Shipshewana

In today’s hectic, busy world, where we are inundated with emails and phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages, FaceTime requests and a myriad of other stimuli, it is hard to take a break and simply check out, even on a road trip. But when life has worn you down and you decide to hit the open road, especially when that road is Route 66 and you are on your way, heading west to the Windy City, where The Mother Road traditionally begins, there is a gem of a stopover that welcomes everyone.

Friends For Life

The humidity hangs thin over southwest Missouri, near where the land starts to open up to the west, and things begin to dry out. It is lush and green most years, and always hot in the summer. It is the place of small quaint towns every few miles, with buildings constructed in the vernacular style of native stone and rocks. Families sit on front porches after supper, swatting flies and reflecting on the day’s events.

Here It Is

Anyone who recalls traveling on Route 66 in the 50s will fondly reminisce that one of the highlights that they remember the most were the mysterious Jack Rabbit signs that dotted the old road — huge billboards strategically placed all along the route that featured a black, almost sinister, jackrabbit silhouette over a bright yellow background, with the remaining mileage to the advertised ‘destination’. Travelers were intrigued. The destination was the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, an iconic stop on Route 66 in Arizona, that has become a living part of Route 66 history, and one that continues to capture the imagination and instill the thrill of traveling the Main Street of America.

Women On the Route

The history of the Mother Road can, ironically, often seem to be dominated by male protagonists and male storytellers. However, while less prominent in literature, women have certainly played an integral and fascinating role in the life and development of Route 66.

The Clown Motel

Tonopah's Clown Motel sits midway between Las Vegas and Reno, eerily cheerful against its muted desert backdrop. Clowns wave and smile strangely from the road; they line the lobby walls; they hang above the beds. An elephantine Ronald McDonald welcomes you at the check-in desk. Oh, and there's a cemetery next door that's home to 300 long-deceased miners.

The Saddest Trading Post on 66

Even in its heyday, Route 66 was not the continuous benign bright ribbon that some might imagine. Almost without exception, life was as hard as anywhere else – sometimes harder – and highway traffic was comprised not only of the military, the commercial traveller and the tourist, but of darker elements. Some places seemed to attract sadness and tragedy more than others, and one such place was Toonerville in Arizona.

Caretaker of Memories

California’s 314 mile section of Route 66 is home to some of the old road’s most vivid scenery and unique attractions. There is something about the moody desert atmosphere, with its numerous fading ghost towns and lost in time venues, that leaves a deep etch in the heart of intrepid travelers. Every dilapidated structure seems to have its own story, and it is not difficult if one closes their eyes and listens carefully, to hear the ghosts of yesterday. The desert has a way of opening the mind and nudging the spirit. Yet, perhaps even more memorable and captivating are the people of California’s Route 66. In many cases, true to Old West stereotypes, these are pioneers and dreamers, each with a destiny to fulfill and a heavy helping of true grit.

Elmer Land

“In 1962 my father got an old Willys Jeep. That was our ticket to going far out into the desert. We started collecting quickly on these camping trips. It was just an accident. We started bringing stuff home. One day he found a bottle, and that was it.” Most serious collectors have a genesis story like this. Hobbies seldom start out of volition. They just happen. Elmer Long, 72, is no exception. He did not find a hobby; it found him.

Castañeda: Act II

For a growing number of savvy travelers looking for a more authentic hotel experience, a restored historic hotel may be just the answer. And the restoration of La Castañeda — the Queen of Las Vegas — is poised to be just that. The venue’s restoration by the Winslow Arts Trust is set to put the classic venue back on top.

Bigger, Brighter - The History of Advertising on Route 66

One of the things that makes Route 66 so special is its uniqueness: there’s nothing else quite like it in the world, and its magic cannot be replicated. One of the key driving factors that formed the persona of the Mother Road was, as Oklahoma Route 66 Association member Rhys Martin put it, “the advent of station-wagon tourism.” The creation of the route coincided with the new wave of automobile culture. With the development of more affordable cars, beginning with Ford’s Model T in 1908, and the rise of expendable income after WWII, family road trips became the norm, and every business along the route was vying for these potential customers’ attention.

Cattlemen's Cafe - Where Cowboys Eat

You might not believe Joy’s full name the first time she tells it to you. When you initially ask her, she’ll say something like, “If I told you my name, you’d just die laughing.” You’ll probably think she’s making it up, but honestly, her full name is Joy A. Weed.

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