But of course, the legendary Route 66. Built in 1926, it’s an icon of America. Countless songs have been written about it, countless shows and books have featured it. Stretching for nearly 2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, the highway is now more about lore and legend than anything else. People drive it because of the stories or the history.
In recent years, it’s sort of become even more popular, with people from across the world coming to drive stretches. There’s even an official drive that puts hundreds – if not thousands – of people together with groups starting in California and Illinois, and meeting in the middle somewhere in Nebraska.
As small-town America has declined over the last several decades, so too has the highway. Much of it is now wasteland, inhabited by the few who’ve stayed behind to struggle and make it in towns that no longer exist. Some of these people have been here for generations. Others simply came to get away from it all.
Since we drove it in California and Arizona – from Barstow to Flagstaff – we saw much more of the ‘get away from it all’ than the ‘we’ve been here and we’re staying here.’
View Larger Map
It was actually quite depressing, driving through towns that are barely hanging on, ones that have ten times more tumbleweeds than people, ones that are nothing more but ghost towns, and ones we couldn’t even locate proof of existence.
Old Route 66 is some of the original road and some that was redone a long time ago. The route has shifted several times over the years, and we stayed on the first version as much as we could.
We even dipped into some dirt roads that our car rental company would certainly frown upon.
But hey, when you’re in search of the past, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Aside from the occasional car, or the tractor-trailer that was taking a shortcut, we really didn’t see many people at all. 99% of what we ran into was abandoned, and even the towns with 25, 50, or 100 people gave us nothing outside of our imagination.
Given that this part of Route 66 has not been reinvigorated by tourism like stretches in the Midwest, I suppose that’s not very surprising.
Either way, we loved driving it and letting our brains run wild, racing freight trains and dodging crosswinds while doing our best to avoid the countless potholes that most certainly have it out for the integrity of your vehicle.
Frankly, it was a few days of downright ruin porn.
While many don’t particularly like what’s happening with that in Detroit – the current love-and-hate-fest of such terms – it does make for some damn good pictures.
But it’s way, way beyond that. It’s not all about the downfall of humanity and the destruction of history.
It’s about looking into the past and appreciating what once was, what made a particular place what it is, and how each point in time affects its state or nation today.
It’s about imagination, understanding, recognition, and the continuation of a story that too many people forget.
And in this case, it really is about the “Fabric of America.”
So, here we go. We hope you enjoy the rest of our pictures from our experiences, most of which are “life after people” buildings, ghost towns, and landscapes that stretch for what seems like infinity.
But hey, donkeys!
Want more? Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and Flickr.
Have you ever driven any of Route 66? Any thoughts about it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!