This is a light and enjoyable look at Route 66. The series includes 12 episodes, 4 of which filmed in the early 90s, another 4 in 2002, at the time of the 75th anniversary of the Mother road, and another 4 in about 2007 around the time of the 80th anniversary. I get the sense this show was made to be broadcast as a syndicated show on TV stations along Route 66 and whatever additional markets would be interested in showing this. NO doubt there are DVDs of this show for sale at the myriad Route 66 museums along the road. According to the end credits the show was produced in cooperation with the historic route 66 historical societies of each of the 8 states the highway traversed.
As a result, this is a very homey and nostalgic series. What I enjoyed most were the trips across Route 66 in the early 90s and early 00s and seeing how the road and various towns, businesses and tourist attractions had changed over that timespan. Some of the characters profiled were interesting though I didn’t find all of them of interest, but such is life.
Episode 10 is my favorite episode because it touched on the darker side of Route 66—the accidents caused by uneven grade, the Dust Bowl families using the road to get to the so called promised land of California during the Depression, the checkpoints California set up at the border ostensibly for Agricultural inspection, but really to discourage the “Okies” and “Arkies” from entering the state. I wished there had been more history and less nostalgia in this series. It would have made for a more substantive viewing experience for me. Among topics I would like to have seen explored:
1-What was traveling Route 66 in its hey day like for African Americans? Did certain businesses we see in the series not serve African Americans prior to the end of Jim Crow? Were any of the towns on the route “Sundown towns”, that is, towns where Blacks were expected to clear out by sunset?
2-How did the highway vary in its design/engineering? Were there divided 4 lane stretches? If so, in what areas? I would like to have heard more about how rough Route 66 was in New Mexico and Arizona before certain stretches finally received pavement.
3-The series mentions when the final stretch of interstate replaced 66 in Williams Arizona, but how long did it take for 66 to be replaced by interstate? What state was first to do so? I remember in 1975 my dad driving me and my sister down to Kansas on I-55 in Illinois and certain parts of 55 gave way to 66 which was much different in feel than I-55. It would have been interesting to hear from those who traveled on these hybrid 66/interstates and their feelings as the old Mother Road was slowly being replaced.
4-Finally the series emphasizes how nostalgic Route 66 makes its travelers feel and the interstates are constantly derided as Concrete slabs. Fair enough. But it seems many drivers abandoned 66 for the interstates. What are the conditions that led to this? Maybe most drivers didn’t really care for 66 and preferred the speed and convenience of the interstate?
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the series for what it is: a warm nostalgic and folksy meditation on Route 66 and how it represents the best of Americana. I certainly now want to get out to Oklahoma City, rent a car and drive west and see the sights Route 66 has to offer in the Great plains and high dessert. Hopefully someone someday will either write a book or film a documentary about the full history of Route 66 rather than evoke the nostalgia of the Mother Road. If someone reading this user review knows of one, feel free to tell me in a comment/reply to this review.