I WAS FIVE years old when my family moved from Illinois to California along Route 66. It was 1953 and Route 66 was a very busy road, with many families traveling for vacations, as well as to hoped-for plentiful jobs in sunny, magical California. My father built a homemade camper on the back of our pickup truck, complete with a chicken wire top, which held gunnysacks of our clothes and other necessities. He covered the wire with canvas that had roll-up sides, both to protect against the weather and to provide ventilation to my three brothers, me, and the two hunting dogs who filled the back of the truck. He, my mother, and my younger brother occupied the cab of the truck. With children and canvas flapping in the wind, we set off for our big adventure! We camped out along the way, sleeping in and under the truck at whatever pull-offs my father could find. This trip made such an impression on me that I have become a Route 66 enthusiast and, among other things, have taught a course about the road, as well as conducted a survey of international visitors to determine what brought them to America to travel Route 66.
In 1926 construction began on an American institution--Route 66. Upon completion, the highway "reached across more than 2,400 miles, three time zones, and eight states" 1 from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. In time, Route 66 became a symbol of America's heritage of travel and of our desire to make a better life for ourselves by moving west. The road was especially important to rural areas. Many small, sleepy towns came to life as the road snaked its way through them. Restaurants, gas stations, truck stops, and other businesses sprang up along the road to accommodate Dust Bowl refugees, business travelers, and vacationers who traveled Route 66. As America grew, with the resulting demand for faster and safer roads, the original two-lane road was replaced by a four-lane highway that closely paralleled the first, but skirted the towns. Some businesses moved closer to the road; others counted on the "Business Route 66" signs to funnel traffic off the new