Friday, 22 January 2010

Oklahoma - Route 66

If the Trail of Tears has come to symbolise the pain and suffering of the various Native American tribes that were settled in Oklahoma in the 19th century, then perhaps Route 66 symbolises the conquest of the Wild West by the White man - it existed as the ultimate symbol of the west being open.

A 2,448 mile route from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 channeled the energy and dreams of the mid-West, providing a link to the new settlements of California, providing an escape route in hard times for farmers in search of work, getting away from the infamous 'dust bowl' in search of a better life.

It's been superceded now, of course, by the faster and more efficient Interstate Highway System, a ruthless conveyor of enterprise which casually by-passes major towns along the way, diverting much-needed revenue from those who can only watch the motorcars zoom by.

Even a foreigner like me can sense that there is a certain amount of nostalgia for the 'Mother Road'. With Route 66 came some of those aspects of American life that are typical for a casual observer, the ubiquitous gas stations, fast food restaurants, motels and what Americans call 'Mom and Pop' stores.

Passing through Oklahoma, the capital of Route 66 definitely had to be Tulsa. The route was championed by Tulsa businessman, Cyrus Avery, and very much owes its existence to some of those things Oklahoma has come to represent. Although it is much less used these days, the route has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, with parts of it being converted into a national scenic byway, literally, the scenic route!

Coming from a country as small as Ireland, where roads are frustratingly winding and none are big enough to merit an identity, the whole concept of a road having its own mythology and culture really fascinates me. To top it all off, Route 66 even has its own song, written by Bobby Troup and covered by artists such as Nat King Cole and the Rolling Stones.

I'm going to leave you with Depeche Mode's cover version, partly because it was so unusual for Depeche Mode to cover another artist's song, but also because I like the video that accompanies their version.

Well, if you ever plan to motor west . . .

Image Credits

The Image of Route 66 is borrowed from flickruser swiv (a.k.a Hannah Swithinbank) who is a PHD student, originally from Cornwall and now living in Scotland (two places I absolutely love!).  Check out her profile at She also has a really cool website (I'm dead envious Hannah!) it's
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