Saturday, September 19, 2009

Route 66, Music, Memories

Historic U.S. Highway Route 66 in San Bernardino, California is having a 20th year anniversary "Rendezvous" celebration this weekend. Good food, contests, and entertainment are on the agenda. The event is limited to 1,900 vehicle entrants of "pre-1974 classics, customs, hot rods and any year Corvette." The participants have an assigned parking space during this 4-day event where aficionados can engage in technical car talk and fans can simply marvel at the colors, sheen and styles. Drivers are also invited to cruise the 35 blocks of downtown where up to an expected 500,000 spectators will be admiring their vehicles.

The promotion for this event caught my attention as I've noted what seems to be an increasing interest and nostalgia for "The Mother Road"(map link) which runs from "Chicago to L.A." as a famed song lyric goes. I travel portions of this road regularly since it runs through my home area of Southern California where a long segment is called Foothill Boulevard.

My husband in his single days back in the '50's drove that route with his bachelor buddies on a whirlwind summer round trip vacation from the Midwest to the West Coast. Their adventure stories were always filled with humor and accounts of the unexpected. They had very little money to start and none by the time they returned home. What's a trip for young single male college students without meeting some like-minded adventurous college girls with whom to play car tag across some of the miles, especially if there's time to work in a side trip to Las Vegas.

He was fascinated by the changing countryside from Ohio's green flat land with rolling hills with which he was familiar, to the long stretches of summer brown landscapes emerging west of the Mississippi. Then on to some western desert area with never-ending vast blue skies. The land of towering date palms began to emerge evolving into miles and miles of citrus tree orchards and finally sandy beaches reaching out into the Pacific Ocean. Long periods of steady trade-off relief driving kept them on the road a lot. Still, he could never quite understand how one buddy could be content to sleep so much between departure points and destinations with so much new and different to be experienced.

Two of these travelers were musicians but all were well-acquainted and appreciative of a tune written in 1947 by Bobby Troup and first recorded that year by Nat King Cole. Here's a later YouTube video performance of Nat and his quartet:

Years later The Manhattan Transfer popular vocal quartet's recording became one of their signature tunes as in this YouTube video:

When we met and wed years later, even before and after we moved West, we took extensive driving trips that included some side jaunts on still existing segments of the original Route 66. Freeways and new highways have long since bypassed some of the old road's communities. Many landmark motels and businesses have long since closed. Some establishments have survived. There is a resurgence of old and new businesses along existing Route 66 with new travelers joining those who come to reminisce. Signs are increasing in number announcing the location's recognition of this significant highway in the historical lore of our country from another time.


  1. I have always liked that song, no matter who sings it, but I am particularly fond of Manhattan Transfer.

    Mr. kenju traveled that route after college, with 3 buddies, and has lots of stories to tell. I have never driven it, but I'd love to someday.

  2. Ah yes, get your kicks on Route 66. I traveled the Western part of it in 1944 on my way to California and all I remember is getting snowbound in Albuquerque and going through the desert and seeing a Saguaro for the first time.

  3. Yep, Route 66....I'm not sure if I've ever really traveled it myself (I'm sure I must have in my younger days); but what a great song....and I love The Manhattan Transfer.

  4. Joared--What nostalgia you invoke in writing about the 1950s! You must have hundreds of tales in your head. Thanks for sharing a few with us, your blog friends.
    Cop Car

  5. I like that road also and drive parts of it when we are going back and forth between Tucson and the farm. Some was cut off by 'progress' but there was a lot of symbolism of the way things were. I also liked the TV series with George Maharis and Martin Milner. It was fun. My mom and were rockhounding in southern Oregon, an area they liked very much and they met Milner out there with his wife and I think it was their motorhome. Nice people.

  6. Hey, all you Mother Road travelers. I enjoyed your comments.

    Rain: I liked that Route 66 TV series, too. It ran from 1960-64, I believe. I think it was the first I heard of the road, never dreaming one day I'd travel it. Much less when I finally did I couldn't have imagined one day in the future I'd live so near to it.

    Neat story about your mom meeting Milner while rockhounding. I did some of that rockhounding primarily in the Tucson area when I was young. One family member found this huge rock from which he chipped a piece not recognizing what he had. He found out it was amethyst then went back into the desert but could never find that rock again. Mostly think we found agate -- moss type, etc. and I remember finding a piece of jasper.

  7. Hi Jorad....

    Gosh, as long as you and I have been floating around in Cyberspace I don't think I have ever dropped by?

    I was 'clicking' thru Ronni's Elder Blog listing and here I am luck would have it you have a post about old Route 66.

    I just added Route 66 to my "Bucket List" a few months ago. Had been seeing a lot about it on television and it conjured up a bunch of old memories. I want to take a cruise from about Tulsa out to Flagstaff and back.

    Great post and I am a fan of both Nat & The Manhatten Transfer.

  8. What a trip down nostalgia lane, on Rte 66. I always thought how neat it would be to travel down Rte 66. The song is playing in my head right now.


  9. Alan G: Welcome to ATW! Just came back from your blog and concluded I should have visited there earlier. Guess there's just so much out here on the Internet and in the blogsphere we can't always get to all of it.

    That trip to Flagstaff sounds inviting. Locale is a favorite area, out to the Grand Canyon and down to Sedona, Cottonwood and the once vacant old mining town Jerome -- well populated now, or was last I was there. Much more in the area. Route 66 drive should be interesting now.

    Chancy: I wish I could have traveled Route 66 when my husband did and it was in it's heyday.

  10. I have traveled Route 66...And it is everything Nat King Cole sang about it--that was my favorite recording, though I really appreciate Manhattan Transfers! Also, as to the TV show "ROUTE 66"....George Maharis was an old friend from the 1950's...! (Lord, that is a long time ago.....) He was so talented...I'm not sure what happened with his career...But, I LOVED that series....!

  11. I meant to comment back to you about Acting on Soap Opera. It is more like the Stage than one would think, because there are no re-takes---it is happening in "real time" and in that sense it is not like working in film, at all....
    Frankly, I think it is the hardest "acting" work one can do....60 and 70 pages of dialogue each day...That is Brutal! And interestingly so very many STAGE actors have done Soaps. Especially the Soaps tht come out of New GUIDING LIGHT, AS THE WORLD TURNS, ALL MY CHILDREN, etc.

  12. I’m going to be particularly self serving here, but I did a piece on the music of Route 66 over at Ronni’s great blog recently. You can find it at

    Peter Tibbles

  13. OldOldLadyoftheHills: A couple of Internet posted interviews quote George Maharis at 79 yrs living in Beverly Hills, saying life-threatening medical problems (hepatitis) necessitated his leaving the TV series. A few years later Wikipedia reports he returned to acting, but is retired now, 8l yrs, focused on his investments and art; lives in New York.

    He reportedly acted in Soaps during his career. I can see having to learn so many lines in such a short time, repeatedly, could be demanding -- good exercise for the brain, though, especially as we age.

    Peter: Welcome to ATW. Enjoying your music pieces at TGB. I recommend anyone reading this go over there and read your piece on Route 66 and all the other music columns you've written.