Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Before There Were Kicks on Route 66


By Suzanne Norquist

I never noticed the historic Route 66 highway until I moved to a town that's proud of its Route 66 heritage.

Now I see it everywhere. The animated Cars movies use a section of the old road for inspiration. There was a television series and a song about it. It was featured in The Grapes of Wrath. Even the Phillips 66 gas stations were named after the highway.

So, I looked into the history. Before there was a national network of numbered highways, various farm roads and trails connected towns. The idea of a cross-country highway system came earlier than I expected and from a surprising source.

In 1875, bicycle riders began to clamor for better roads. By 1892, they formed the National League of Good Roads.

Farmers joined forces with the cyclists. Better roads would allow them to bring goods to market. Surprisingly, railroads also supported the cause. People and goods needed reliable thoroughfares to get to the train stations.

In 1910, the Ford Model T hit the road, and by 1920, cars had taken over.

Cyrus Avery, an Oklahoma real estate agent and coal company owner, worked with John Woodruff, a highway proponent, to secure a route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Of course, the diagonal road went right through Tulsa, Oklahoma, Avery’s home town.

In 1925, the government executed its plan for national highway construction. In 1926, the Chicago to Los Angeles route was designated Route 66. By 1938, it's paving had been completed.


Towns on the route prospered. They had a way to bring goods to market. National highways offered freedom and mobility to anyone who could afford to own a car.

Tourist facilities sprouted up along the route; service stations, restaurants, and overnight accommodations.

Auto camps with roped-off spaces popped up. These evolved into cabin camps and motor courts, which became motels. Someday, I plan to stay at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona.

Route 66 was decommissioned in 1984. Interstate highways replaced some sections. Others remain as frontage roads through towns. Remnants of the infrastructure and culture provide reminders of an icon in American culture.

Wouldn't it be fun to drive the full historic route from Chicago to Los Angeles, just like the Griswolds in National Lampoons Vacation (although they don’t name the road)?



“Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection

Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.

Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist

Rockledge, Colorado, 1884

Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her farther away?

For a Free Preview, click here: http://a.co/1ZtSRkK


Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.

She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ Ph.D.


  1. Thanks for the post on Route 66. I've long been fascinated by the thought of seeking out the remaining bits of the famous road, but in this stage of life I really don't enjoy travel. We may try to fix that with shorter road trips now that I am retired, so I will still carry the thought of maybe seeing some of the road.

    1. There are some fun bits in Arizona. Guidebooks are fun too. You can be an armchair traveler.