They call it America’s Main Street: Route 66, which traces a 2,248-mile paved path from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, is the archetypal American highway. It’s been hailed in song (get your kicks in cool jazz style here from the guy who wrote the road’s signature tune, Bobby Troup); in literature (John Steinbeck memorably called it “the mother road, the road of flight” in The Grapes of Wrath); and in movies (although Radiator Springs does not exist outside the Pixar universe).
Ever since the Route 66 mystique got its start in 1926 as part of the then-fledgling U.S. highway system, it has been defined by motor vehicles. Even its decline was the result of a motoring trend: the rise of the modern interstate system. Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, and today survives only as a patched-together shadow of its original self, stubbornly traced by countless nostalgic enthusiasts.