Hello again, fellow roadies! Have you shaken off the dust of winter yet? It’s Memorial Day weekend, when the Route 66 cruising season here in Illinois begins in earnest, and we have an updated events calendar for you below. Bring out those convertibles and dust off those bikes, because it’s time to hit the road! Even if you only warm up locally to start. Which can be fun. Just remember to buckle up wherever you go, because the Smokies will be out in force this weekend on all the major highways across the nation, making sure you use your seat belts and handing out stiff fines if you don’t. Better safe than sorry, right? Right.
Happy natals, Route 66! It’s your birthday week, and we here at the CuriousTraveler66 blog will raise some discussion this week about the past, present and future of the former U.S. Route 66 – now Historic Route 66, that most iconic American road, now recognized by the World Monument Fund and an official National Scenic Byway in Illinois – especially here in Chicago at the eastern terminus. The route was born on November 11, 1926 and was decertified in Illinois in the 1970s when the last part of it here was replaced by I-55. Today, the National Park Service has a U.S. Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to support this historic highway. We could spend today’s installment recapping the history of how the route came to be and how it got its name(s) and number designation, but we’ll leave that for later next week. Today, we’re going to do something different: provide you with an analysis of the condition/visibility of the route in Chicago, present you with a proposal of how the route should be marked in the city (because it really isn’t, except for a rare highway sign now and then), and explain how and why we’d like to see the city step up and capitalize on the presence of the historic road.
In other words: think of this as a discussion about what would help to preserve and popularize your favorite road trip. It’s overdue, and the route’s 88th anniversary this week (which went completely unnoticed by the city) is the best opportunity for this timely discussion. And since the city of Chicago is always scrambling for more money to put its budget back in the black and attract more tourism – especially the international kind – it’s time for city officials to finally pay attention, too.