It was the ultimate open road, so American. Most of us knew it simply as Route 66 …
U.S. Route 66 was one of the greatest driving roads you’ll ever see on the North American continent, possibly the world. It was officially designated and open for travel on November 11, 1926 and decommissioned on June 27, 1985, when its last remaining section was replaced by the Interstate highway system. It began in downtown Chicago but a few blocks from Lake Michigan and went through eight states before terminating near the Pacific shore in Santa Monica, CA and was the first winter-safe cross-continental road linking Chicago and Los Angeles. It was variously known as The Main Street of America, The Mother Road (a name given it in 1939 by author John Steinbeck in his novel The Grapes of Wrath), and the Will Rogers Highway (a federal designation that came much later, but nobody outside of Oklahoma and maybe California ever really used that). While it existed officially, Route 66 captivated travelers and embedded itself so firmly in the hearts and imagination of the American public that devotees of the historic highway have since managed to resurrect parts of it as National Scenic Byways in some states (Illinois is one of them). For us, it’s still the Dream Road.
The CuriousTraveler66 blog is about our upcoming book, The Curious Traveler’s Guide to Route 66 in Metro Chicago, what’s still here on this section of the original 1926 path of the route, and what we’re learning as we write the manuscript. There’s more out here than even diehard Route 66 fans think. We are: Maria R. Traska, author, editor, independent journalist, webdiva, astronomy and physics buff, jazz fan and occasional swing DJ (aka DJ SweetMarie); Joseph D. Kubal, geographer, data analyst, fellow fan of astronomy and particle physics, and fellow reader of hard sci-fi; and Keith Yearman, geographer, finder par excellence of aerial photos, all-around tech guy and assistant professor of geography at College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL. Marie is our designated writer, editor and blogger, but we all write, research, photograph and contribute.
We are all of us amateur historians, researchers, Chicagoans, unapologetic foodies and avid fans of Route 66, especially in our neck of the woods, which is the six-county area known as greater Chicago. We also know that the front end of Historic Route 66 – between downtown Chicago and downtown Joliet – is one of the most skipped over sections of the Mother Road, and unjustly so. Which is why we’re writing a book on it: so that everyone else learns what there is to see, eat and do out here near the famous highway’s point of origin (then again, maybe we just wanted an excuse to eat our way down the road … ).
Bottom line: Route 66 fans just wanna have fun. Welcome to our blog!