Thursday, December 22, 2011

Main street of America

Historic Route-66, also known as "Main Street of America" and  "Will Rogers Highway" is a nearly 2,400 mile or 4000 kilometer long road in USA, from Chicago in Illinois to Los Angeles in California. It was considered as "Main Street of America" in view of its importance for development of trade and commerce in the early decades of twentieth century. It was also known as "Will Rogers Highway" in recognition of Oklahoma's favorite son, Will Rogers, American cowboy, humorist, comedian and film actor. The road from Chicago to Los Angeles passes through Springfield, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Flagstaff and was also refereed as the "Great Diagonal Way".  It passes through three time zones and eight states; Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The route was commissioned in 1926, by picking up as many bits and pieces of roads as possible of the then existing roads. When it was commissioned, only 800 miles out of the 2400 miles was paved.  It was paved end to end only by 1937.

Cyrus Stevens Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma is considered as the father of Route-66. The route connected rural farmers in the mid-west to the cities in the north like Chicago and the west coast cities like Los Angeles. Many books have been written about Route-66 and there are Route-66 clubs to protect its heritage. Inter State routes replaced the historic route and it was officially decommissioned in 1985. Current maps do not show Route-66. But anyone traveling in the areas served by this road is reminded of the famous Route 66 by the various items sold in the shops carrying Route 66 memorabilia. Route-66 was also the name of a popular TV series run during 1960 to 1964. There was also a hit song on Route 66 written by Bobby Troup and performed by legends like Chuck Berry and Rolling Stones. The great role played by Route-66 in the economic growth of the areas it served is a part of history.

We had an occasion to travel on a part of this famous route in the in June 2005. After visiting Grand Canyon, we started our long journey towards St. Louis by road, which was to be covered in three days with halts at Tucumcari (New Mexico) and Tulsa (Oklahoma).  On the 25th June 2005, we started after an early breakfast and traveled on the famous Route 66 from Williams all the way up to St. Louis, covering the distance in 3 days. At one place we stopped to visit an Indian shop by the roadside. It was a shop displaying many rare items relating to American-Indian culture and items found in the Grand Canyon and Badlands area.  Some of the petrified stone blocks were quite big and were shining like polished granite and marbles.

Petrified wood are remnants of giant trees from ancient forests of the Triassic period, over 200 million years old and these logs turned from wood to rock after the trees were buried under the layers of sand and silt. In some petrified rocks, microscopic structure of the wood was preserved during the process and is visible on close examination while in some others the cellular structure of the wood is completely lost.  Petrified wood displays a variety of colors resulting from the minerals it contains – pine quartz for white and grey, iron for the reds and yellow, brown, blues and green, and carbon and manganese for the black.  There is a "Petrified Forest National Park"  in north-eastern Arizona, near to Grand Canyon, where the legacy of petrified forests is preserved and it affords wonderful sight seeing including petrified desert, wild life and plants. Above photo (taken from Internet) gives a view of the petrified wood crystals and a testimony to the nature's abundant surprises for us.

We took some photos of the petrified wood displayed in the Indian shop and continued the journey with the usual lunch and coffee stops and reached Tucumcari by evening. We stayed overnight there and resumed the journey next day. We  passed through the beautiful Oklahoma City. Journey was enjoyable and we reached Tulsa by evening of 26th. On 27th June we left Tulsa after breakfast and continued our Journey along the Route-66.  On the way we had snacks in the world's largest McDonald's in Vinita, Oklahoma. This outlet is also known as "McDonald's Glass House Restaurant". Located on the Will Rogers Turnpike of I-44, this 29,135 square feet large outlet has a beautiful building with a statue of Will Rogers. A board in the outlet claims that it is the largest McDonalds outlet in the world and the second and third biggest are in Beijing and Moscow respectively.  We also visited a huge factory store next to the McDonald's. Above photo (taken from internet) shows the statue of Will rogers in front of the McDonald's Glass House Restaurant.

As we neared St. Louis it started raining very heavily and visibility was not even up to a few feet. Large pieces of ice were falling on the car and the road and the hailstorm continued for more than an hour. Nature showed us its limited fury when we where in the middle of the highway and cleared after a few jhalaks!  We reached St. Louis by evening, had supper and rested for the day. Had the rain not interrupted the journey, we could have taken a look at the famous Steel Arch of St. Louis in the evening, but it had to wait for the next day. Journey from Tulsa to St. Louis was of about 700 kilometers and was covered in about 8 hours despite rain interruption.

Our journey of 2400 kilometers along the famous Route-66 took about 20 hours of actual driving, net of stops for rest and refreshments in between. It ended in St. Louis  as we moved away from the famous route on the next day, towards Indianapolis.

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