US Route 66, also known as The Will Rogers Highway, was one of the original federal roads, established in 1926. It originally ran from Chicago, through St Louis, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, before ending in Los Angeles 3939 kilometres later.
It underwent many improvements and realignments, one changing the endpoint from Los Angeles to Santa Monica. It didn't ever run all the way to the ocean, but terminated at the intersection of what is today Lincoln and Olympic Boulevards.
Route 66 was a major migratory path west, especially during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. Farming families, mainly from Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, headed west for agricultural jobs in California. The route supported the economies of the small towns it passed through. People became prosperous thanks to the highway's growing popularity, and mom-and-pop businesses, such as service stations, restaurants and motels, appeared. Those people fought to keep it alive with the growing threat of the new interstate highway system.
All of this was very timely for Henry Ford and his new invention, the Model T. The first affordable automobile "put America on wheels", and Henry's innovation of using assembly line production, cars were purchased as quickly as they could be manufactured.
Much of the highway was gravel or graded dirt and could be quite dangerous. One section, through the Black Mountains of Arizona, was full of sharp, hairpin turns, and many travellers hired locals to help them navigate their way through.
War-related industries meant more migration west. By then the route was fully paved, became one of the main routes and served for moving military equipment.
A well-known piece of the road's history is the Bobby Troup song, composed in 1946. He came up with the idea while driving west from Pennsylvania and the lyrics celebrate the romance and freedom of automobile travel. Cities and towns are mentioned in order St Louis, Missouri; Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Winona, Arizona; Kingman, Arizona; Barstow, California and San Bernardino, California.
It was first recorded by Nat King Cole the year it was written, and plenty of others have followed, including The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Depeche Mode, Manhattan Transfer and Chuck Berry. It was also used on the soundtrack for the 2006 animated film "Cars'. The highway has also been the inspiration for many other popular songs.
St Louis, on the banks of the Mississippi is home to the 192 metre Gateway Arch. Built in 1959, it's the largest monument in the United States and gave 66ers heading west a landmark to remember.
Delmar Boulevard is a place where music is a way of life. Blueberry Hill is a restaurant a bar, and Chuck Berry still performs there occasionally in the Duck Room.
Anyone who has been to St Louis will tell you what a culinary must Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is. The store opened in 1929 and has been serving travellers ever since. 'All Shook Up' is custard, blended with peanut butter and banana.
Next town was Tulsa, Oklahoma, the second largest city in the state. Once dubbed 'America's Most Beautiful City', the name remains as a tribute to Tulsa's heritage in art, art deco architecture, 2500 hectare park system and location in the lush Ozarks area.
Tulsa is a God-fearing town and is home to Oral Roberts University, a learning centre for religious studies. Named after the extremely successful television evangelist, it is a must-see, even if you are not spiritually inclined. The retro-futuristic architecture is highlighted by 18 metre, thirty tonne bronze Praying Hands gracing the main entrance of the University. The upward-spiralling Prayer Tower serves as a visitor centre and its observation deck represents the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ. An eternal flame represents the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Another Tulsa institution is Cain's Ballroom. Just about every big name in country music in the mid-20th century played there. It has kept up with the times and attracts groups such as Wilco, Interpol, The Bravery and Hanson, who come from Tulsa.
The rectangular sandstone and brick building is classified as an American Movement of the Late 19th Early 20th Centuries. The historic, spring-loaded, curly maple dance floor, laid in a concentric square pattern, measures 24 metres x 27 metres. The white drop ceiling is ornamented with painted red diamonds, and the walls are covered with pictures of famous performing artists.