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Route 66 Trivia, Facts and Figures

Trivia about Route 66

U.S. 66 has a long history and strong ties with American culture. It spans the nation from Chicago to LA, here we provide some interesting facts, curious data, trivia and more. Enjoy these fun facts on Route 66.
 

Route 66 fun facts & trivia.

Below we detail interesting information on Route 66.

History Trivia

Route 66 was commissioned in 1926.

It was going to be named U.S. 60 but was changed to 66 as it did not run coast-to-coast.

Cyrus Avery was part of the Committee that laid down the U.S. highway system. He drew it from LA to Chicago, in 1926, passing through his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is known as the Father of Route 66.

The moniker Mother Road was coined by John Steinbeck in his novel "Grapes of Wrath" (1939).

Cyrus Avery created the other moniker: America's Main Street in 1926.

The worst stretch of Route 66 in the 1920s and 1930s was the muddy Jericho Gap in Texas.

The whole Route 66 was fully paved by 1938

The Interstate system that would replace it was created when US 66 was merely 30 years old (1956).

Route 66 was decertified as a U.S. highway in 1985 (before its 60th birthday).

The last town to be bypassed by the Interstate system was Williams, AZ. In 1984 (I-40).

Ribbon Road: You can still drive down a narrow (9 foot wide) stretch of the 1920s road between Afton and Miami in Oklahoma.

Its original alignment went through Las Vegas and Santa Fe in New Mexico, but an irate governor re-routed it to bypass them in 1937 to punish politicians in Santa Fe.

San Miguel Mission, also known as San Miguel Chapel, is a Spanish colonial mission church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by Route 66. It was built between 1610 and 1626 and, with four hundred years of age, it is the oldest church in the United States.

The segment across San Bernardino County in California from Needles to Upland with 244 miles (393 km) is the longest segment within one county of the whole route and is 20 mi. longer than the distance between London and Liverpool in the UK.

American History

The decisive American Civil War Glorieta Pass Battle was fought on what is now Route 66 in New Mexico.

Zuni Pueblo just south of Route 66 in NM, was the place where Europeans and Native Americans first met (1540) in what later became the U.S.

The The expedition led by Lt. Edward Fitzgerald "Ned" Beale (1822 - 1893) to survey and build a wagon road from New Mexico to California, followed the 35th parallel, its course was later followed by Route 66. He used camels, imported from Tunis as pack animals. Though hardier than mules, the camels scared both horses and mules. The Army decided not to use camels in the future.

Geographic Trivia

Route 66 crosses the San Andreas fault in a place known as Blue Cut in the Cajon Pass, CA

It passed through Eight States: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.

The Kansas segment is the shortest of the whole Route 66: barely 13 miles long.

The New Mexico segment is the longest of them all: 392 miles.

The route is over 2,000 miles long: 2,448 miles in 1926

Contemporary mileage is 2,278 mi.

There are several Dead Man's Curves on Route 66, these are some: one near Carnuel in NM, another between Mesita and Laguna in NM the other in Towanda, IL.

Route 66 crosses the Mississippi River at Saint Louis, Missouri

It crosses the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahoma

It crosses the Colorado River in Topock, Arizona, and enters California.

Highest point on Route 66: at Continental Divide near Gallup, New Mexico at 7,245 ft. - 2.209 m.

When you drive down Route 66 you will go through the namesake: Miami, OK; Atlanta, IL; Milan, NM; Cadiz, CA (beside Chambless; Also the ancient town namesakes of: Jericho, TX and Carthage, MO. Country namesakes: Lebanon and Cuba both in MO. And also Yukon, OK. And pass near the "other" Las Vegas in New Mexico, not Nevada.

There are Two of each of these towns on Route 66: Springfield (MO, IL); Conway (TX, MO); Mc Lean (TX, IL).

It crosses the Mojave Desert in California.

After Santa Monica, CA, which is at sea level, the next lowest point on Route 66 is not found west of the Rockies, Chicago is 579 ft., St. Louis is 466 ft. Instead it is found on the Colorado River, between Arizona and California: 456 ft. - 139 m, in Topock.

Passing Flagstaff (Exit 190) is the Arizona Divide with 7,335 ft. (2.237m) the highest point of the road in Arizona and all of Route 66. After the Continental Divide, the next highest part is east of U.S.285 and west of Santa Rosa in NM: with heights over 6,750 ft.

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge Ill., Mo. Historic Site. Public Domain

The "bent" Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis Mo., is a cantilever through-trussed bridge, 5,353 feet long and 24 feet wide, built in the 1920s. It was named for the rocky rapids in the Mississippi River which were difficult to navigate. It had a bend, near the center of the bridge, that was added to make navigation easier through the dangerous rapids.

Arts and Route 66

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Hollywood stars of the 1930s and 40s, spent their honeymoon in Oatman, Arizona.

Bobby Troup wrote the hit son Route Sixty-six with its famous "Get your kicks on Route 66" line, in 1946.

The song "Route Sixty-six" mentions the following towns: Saint Louis, Joplin, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Gallup, Flagstaff, Winona, Kingman, Barstow and San Bernardino.

The route was dedicated in 1952 to a famous movie star who played cowboy roles in the 1920s and 1930s, Will Rogers, (1879 - 1935). His tragic death in an aviation accident led to his name being given to many public works.

I-44 in Oklahoma, which runs along the U.S. 66 alignment, is the Will Rogers Turnpike.

Wigwam Motels. There was a motel chain with rooms designed to resemble an Indian teepee. Two of these motels survive, one in San Bernardino, CA, the other in Holbrook, AZ.

Jack Kerouac's road trip book On the Road is said to have inspired the 1960s hit TV series "Route 66". In the series Martin Milner and George Maharis play two young travelers who ride Route 66 in their Corvette. Hip youth seeking adventure on America's Main Street.

Barbara Eden (best remembered for her starring role of "Jeannie" in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie) was Tod Stiles fiancée in route 66 (Tod was played by George Maharis).

Fun Stuff

Phillips 66 service station at McLean, TX
Historic Place: Phillips 66 service station at McLean TX. Photo:

Phillips Petroleum chose the town as the location of its first gasoline station in Texas and all of Route 66, which it built in 1927, which stands to this day on 218 West First St., McLean

 

Phillips old company logo

Phillips The Phillips brothers discovered oil in 1905 but their company (Phillips Petroleum Co.) did not open its first gasoline station until 1927, when it purchased a small Texan refinery.

Phill'er Up. Their first service stations opened in Wichita, Topeka, Salina (Kansas) and Bartlesville (Oklahoma) and were located close to the railway because gasoline was transported in tank cars.

The gas stations were designed to blend in with the local neighborhoods, which were residential and that was the origin of the "cottage" look.

The company developed a high-octane gasoline in 1927 and ran a test drive along the brand new U.S. Highway 66. The car reached a cruising speed of 66 mph so inevitably the fuel was named Phillips 66®. The highway's shield shaped road sign inspired the company logo.

First Mc Donalds restaurant

First McDonalds Restaurant in San Bernardino, CA. 1948, by Yoel King

The very First ever McDonald's opened on Route 66 in California: it was located on 14th and E Street in San Bernardino, CA. It opened on December 12, 1948. The McDonald brothers sold 15 cent hamburgers using a "Speedee Service System".

There is another McDonalds in Upland California with two arches, one on each side of the building, a rare 1950s design used until the early 1960s.

Route 66 was not the longest U.S. Highway, the honor goes to U.S. 20, which spans 3,365 miles (5.415 km) making it the longest road in the United States.

A World War II Prisoner of War Camp was located near Exit 146 on I-40 2 miles east of McLean, Texas. It operated between 1943 and 1945 and housed over 3,000 German prisoners.

Some records

76 ft. (23 m) tall, the Golden Driller Statue in Tulsa, OK, is said to be the largest free-standing statue in the world.

The Tallest Mural on Route 66 is painted on a wall in Davenport, OK.

The world's First Spherical Tank for storing gas was built in Davenport, OK.

The World's Largest Totem Pole is located in Foyil, OK.

The Williams' Store (Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store) in Riverton is the oldest continuously operating store on Route 66: its been open since 1925.

The Historic Canadian River Bridge, near Geary, OK., is the longest bridge on Route 66, it was built in 1933 and measures 3,944.33 feet or about 3⁄4 miles (1,203 m).

The World's longest map of Route 66 was located at the Meteor City Trading Post in Arizona. Now it is in ruins so the honor of displaying the Worlds longest Route 66 map goes to the 1939 El Trovatore Motel, on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona.

Sources

Image by Yoel King, The First McDonalds. Fair Use.

Our History, Phillips 66 Gas. Phillips 66® and its respective logos are registered trademarks owned by Phillips 66 Company.

Image by David Spigolon adapted under its CC BY 2.0 License.

Image, Public Domain.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License.