Were you aware that John Steinbeck mentions Route 66 in the Grapes of Wrath?
Yes, that’s right, Route 66 is mentioned in the classic Steinbeck novel the Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck writes,
Pa scratched the dry earth with his forefinger. “I kind a got a notion Tom’s right,” he said. “It ain’t goin’ ta do no good all of us stayin’ here. We can get fifty, a hunderd miles on ‘fore dark.”
Ma said worriedly, “How you gonna find us?”
“We’ll be on the same road,” said Tom. “Sixty-six right on through. Come to a place name’ Bakersfield’. Seen it on the map I got. You go straight on there.”
“Yeah, but when we get to California an’ spread out sideways off this road—?”
“Don’t you worry,” Tom reassured her. “We’re gonna find ya. California ain’t the
Chapter 12 is his description and worth the read. Here are some excepts:
“HIGHWAY 66 IS THE main migrant road. 66—the long concrete path across the country, waving gently up and down on the map, from the Mississippi to Bakersfield— over the red lands and the gray lands, twisting up into the mountains, crossing the Divide and down into the bright and terrible desert, and across the desert to the mountains again, and into the rich California valleys. 66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads.”
“66 is the mother road, the road of flight. Clarksville and Ozark and Van Buren and Fort Smith on 64, and there’s an end of Arkansas. And all the roads into Oklahoma City, 66 down from Tulsa, 270 up from McAlester. 81 from Wichita Falls south, from Enid north. Edmond, McLoud, Purcell. 66 out of Oklahoma City; El Reno and Clinton, going west on 66. Hydro, Elk City, and Texola; and there’s an end to Oklahoma. 66 across the Panhandle of Texas. Shamrock and McLean, Conway and Amarillo, the yellow. Wildorado and Vega and Boise, and there’s an end of Texas. Tucumcari and Santa Rosa and into the New Mexican mountains to Albuquerque, where the road comes down from Santa Fe. Then down the gorged Rio Grande to Las Lunas and west again on 66 to Gallup, and there’s the border of New Mexico.
“And now the high mountains. Holbrook and Winslow and Flagstaff in the high mountains of Arizona. Then the great plateau rolling like a ground swell. Ashfork and Kingman and stone mountains again, where water must be hauled and sold. Then out of the broken sun-rotted mountains of Arizona to the Colorado, with green reeds on its banks, and that’s the end of Arizona. There’s California just over the river, and a pretty town to start it. Needles, on the river. But the river is a stranger in this place. Up from Needles and over a burned range, and there’s the desert. And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in the distance. At last there’s Barstow, and more desert until at last the mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it’s over.”
The story is telling about road travel back then. Published in 1939, the story illustrates a distant time when things weren’t as prosperous in the United States. You might want to read it before driving Route 66.