On June 27, 1985, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials decertified US 66 and voted to remove all its highway signs. So, officially Route 66 doesn’t exist. And yet an argument could easily be made that today that storied highway is more popular than at anytime in its history.
US 66 was a mere highway that connected Chicago, Illinois with downtown Los Angeles, California when it was certified in November 1926. But almost from inception, marketing and promotion ensured it was in a class all its own. It quickly evolved from highway into an icon that came to symbolize the quintessential American road trip.
In the spring of 1927 the US Highway 66 Association was formed to lobby for having the highway paved from end to end, and to market the highway. In essence it served as a sort of chamber of commerce for the linear Route 66 community.
One of the associations first initiatives that branded the highway as the Main Street of America. This tagline was borrowed from a marketing campaign for the National Old Trails Road, predecessor to Route 66 in the southwest, launched in 1913.
The Transcontinental Footrace along Route 66 that garnered international media coverage in 1928 gave he highway a promotional boost. Likewise with a promotioonal campaign that linked Route 66 with the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. And of course there was The Grapes of Wrath, the book and the movie, the song and the television program as well as movies such as Easy Rider.
As Jim Hinckley’s America has as its foundation the sharing of America’s story, and telling people where to go, it isn’t surprising that many of the adventures that we share are linked to Route 66, especially as we draw closer to the centennial in 2026. We inspire road trips and bring history ot life through podcasts and programs, social media network and YouTube channel videos, books and feature articles, tourism development work and educational programs.
For 2023, aside from custom programs for events or organizations, we have created a fun filled, fast paced, trivia filled presentation about the dawning of the American road trip. We are currently booking for spring and summer, and are making plans for a Route tour this coming fall.
And we are taking the Car Talk From The Main Street of America podcast in a new direction. Yes, we will still be inspiring road trips and talking about, and with, interesting people. And we will be sharing fascinating stories about the dawning of the American auto industry.
But the emphasis will be placed on steam and electric automobiles. The goal being to counter myth with fact, and highlight these vehicles role in the past, the present and the future of the auto industry.
We are also making plans to take the Jim Hinckley’s America show on the road. In the first engagement for 2023, nearly every seat in the house at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction, Arizona was full for the Route 66 in Arizona program. This was my first program made on behalf of the Arizona Lecturer Series.
On the weekend of February 11 at the Route 66 Info Fair in Needles, California, I will be speaking about Edsel Ford’s epic journey along the National Old Trails Road in the summer of 1915. And,of course, I will also be telling people where to go as we give assistance with their Route 66 travel planning.
It is shaping up to be quite a year. We hope to see you on the road this year. In the meantime, get out there on the road and dsicover America.