Route 66

As a brand new 2nd Lieutenant, I drove from Wichita to Barstow, CA in 1967. I drove part of the way west on US-54, but at Tucumcari I picked up what was the last remnants of Route, US-66. It was mostly a two lane highway and had pieces of the new Interstate thrown in where it was convenient to just pave out a four lane quickly. Back then, the economy of some of the small towns in Arizona and New Mexico were so fragile that the Interstate came to a halt and you were forced off and made to drive through towns to put money into the small businesses.

For a kid from Kansas, it had to be one of the most beautiful trips I had ever taken. It was a trip where the green of Kansas transformed into the semi arid landscape with honest to god background scenes from the cowboy movies of my youth. Across the painted desert and by the Petrified Forest exit on the highway it was one pretty place after another. The only thing missing was having someone to drive part of the time so I could really enjoy the scenery.

Nearer to the California line, there was one small section that just dismayed me. Somehow a stretch of the old highway had been newly paved and went along a river through some of the prettiest gulches and bluffs I had ever seen. The most amazing thing to me was the fact that there was almost no traffic and I drove for what seemed an hour and was the only car out there.

By the time I got home from Vietnam in early 1969, most of the old Highway out in the west was replaced by that Super slab I-40. It got you there fast, but it just didn't take you through the small towns and things just rushed by and took all of the fun out of seeing "Genuine Indian Jewelry/Pots along the side of the road.

The most amazing thing to me was the fact that for most of my life we drove 70 on those little two lane roads and out there in California the four lane was limited to 65. It was a precursor to the 55 MPH speeds imposed later on.

In a week or so, Barb and I will drive out to the west and visit some of the scenery you don't see today. I hope to see some of the small two lane roads out across no where and back (I Hope).

have a great week.


1 comment:

  1. I made the US 66 trip a couple o' times in the '50s as a child with my USAF father, in transit from one base to another...west to east and back... and again as a young three-striper in '68... out and back to Mississippi from California.

    The thing I remember most about those trips was the Radio Desert in west Texas, NM, and AZ... nothin' but static or WLS out of Chicago on a skip... IF you were lucky. Well, that and drivin' like a bat outta hell in my '67 SS396 Chevelle. ;-)

    Short sections of 66 remain as a sorta "blacktop" museum in certain parts of NM and AZ, but they're pathetic little things with no traffic and absolutely NO life left in 'em. Sad for us geezers to see.