It’s not often a freeway becomes internationally renowned for its cultural significance, but you’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Route 66. Take a look a look at our guide to the start of Route 66″¦and why it’s still worthy of a road trip today.
The historical road covers thousands of miles across the United States – from Chicago to California through Missouri, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. But it all began in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the inspired brainchild of local entrepreneur, Cyrus Avery, the legendary road was part of his on-going campaign to link Chicago with California, via his beloved hometown.
What stands out instantly is Tulsa’s diverse and intriguing architecture. Having somewhat unusually prospered during the “˜20s and “˜30s due to the area’s seemingly bottomless sources of oil, there are many art deco buildings spread across the city that demonstrate this period of economic growth.
The distinctive symmetry of these buildings is somewhat offset by the occasional example of Italian Renaissance styling – including the iconic Philbrook Museum, a striking villa surrounded by stunning gardens. Architect Cesar Pelli, meanwhile, brilliantly combined all the influences of Tulsa’s unique aesthetic in his 2008 BOK Center, a stadium hosting countless sporting and musical events.
Of the 2,451 miles that Route 66 covers, 400 miles are to be found in Oklahoma. There are three dedicated museums to the Mother Road to check out: the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma’s Route 66 Museum in Clinton and finally the Route 66 Interpretive Center in Chandler.
Driving down America’s Main Street, the kitschy Americana flies past the window at almost every milepost. There are diners galore, from Waylan’s Ku-Ku Burger in Miami (a chain straight out of the 60s) to the Rock Café in Stroud (first built in 1939), and the 14-seat Robert’s Grill from back in 1926. Then there’s the more modern POPS with a 66ft high soda bottle outside the filling station and a selection of over 600 different sodas in the high-tech Jetsons-esque restaurant.
Filling stations have definitely been a “˜thing’ since the start of Route 66 – as you might imagine they were the early waypoints on the road across America. There’s the famous Blue Dome Service Station built in Tulsa in 1924, and Lucille’s Service Station located just outside Weatherford (built in 1929), while the Threatt Filling Station in Luther is probably the oldest of them all, dating from 1915.
But it’s not all food and gas – there’s nature too in abundance in the form of State Parks (Twin Bridges, Foss and Red Rock Canyon), and Native American culture at the Totem Pole Park, the Easter Trails Museum, and the Cheyenne Cultural Center.
Still bored? There are cowboys and coyotes, wineries and air and space museums, art galleries and giant milk bottles.
Whether you’re a motor head, or just engaged with Americana culture, Route 66 is still fuelled with historical and cultural significance. From Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath to Pixar’s 2006 animated movie Cars, the importance of the route is still prevalent in today’s world. Tulsa’s Cyrus Avery certainly achieved what he set out to do.
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How much do you know about the start of Route 66? Have you driven this iconic road? Let us know in the comments section below.