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Transportation

The End of America's Love Affair With Route 66

For a brief time in American tourism, travel was about the journey. Here's how it came to be about the destination.
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Road sign, “East 66 / West 66,” Williams, Arizona, circa 1970s. (Collection of Steve Rider)

Today, Route 66 is yet another decommissioned U.S. highway, mostly crumbling, partly inaccessible. Yet the 2,400 miles winding from Chicago to Los Angeles once connected hundreds of the West's small towns, opening them to travelers like never before. What brought the decline of "America's Main Street"?

On view through January 4 at L.A.'s Autry Museum, the exhibit Route 66: the Road and the Romance reveals a complicated story with extraordinary objects, from Kerouac's original On The Road scroll to a jukebox filled with 120 renditions of "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66."