Monday, July 1, 2013

You get your kicks .. on Route .. 66 ..

On most days of the week, I spend at least a few minutes driving on “the Mother Road”, since part of the original Route 66 goes right through the heart of Flagstaff.

Route 66 was in the news recently, due to the fact that the State Highway and Transportation officials officially decertified the highway on June 27, 1985, bringing to a close its 59 years of service as a gateway to the West.

Much has been written about the road over the years, and numerous artists have performed their own version of the song that was pioneered by Bobby Troup in 1947. The The Rolling Stones did THEIR version in 1964.

Todd and Buzz, of course, brought fame to the road during the TV series that ran from October 7, 1960 to March 20, 1964, but public recognition of the route first came about due to the publication of “Grapes of Wrath”, a novel by John Steinbeck, in 1939, and the release of the movie with the same title a year later.

The 2006 Pixar film, Cars, brought the old road’s magic back again, but nothing that you’ve seen, or read, will ever answer a very basic question, which is how in the world did the direction of the route get selected?

The answer will surprise you, and it’s related to another tale that some people may consider to be far-fetched.

The solid fuel booster rockets that were used in the Space Shuttle were limited in size due to the fact that they had to fit through a railroad tunnel between their place of manufacture and the launch site. The tunnel was slightly wider than the standard railroad gauge of 4 feel and 8.5 inches. If we went far enough back in time, you’d discover that that peculiar measurement happens to be the width of the back end of 2 Roman horses. The “rest of the story“, of course, is that a major design feature of the most advanced transportation system the world had every seen was determined by the width of a horse's ass!

There’s an element of truth to the story, but it actually is just another one of those urban legends.

The story of the route of Route 66 seems just as far fetched, but it’s absolutely true.

In 1857, President James Buchanan appointed a former military general named Edward Fitzgerald Beale to build a 1000 mile wagon road from Fort Defiance, New Mexico to the border of California and Arizona. As an experiment, the survey incorporated the use of camels, which had first been proposed by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis in 1853. The survey team ultimately used a team of 25 camels imported from Tunisian, and the lead camel driver was a man named Hadji Ali, a Greek-Syrian convert to Islam.

The wagon road that Beale eventually got built became a popular immigrant trail during the 1860’s and 1870’s. The general route of Beale’s wagon trail was later followed by Route 66, the Sante Fe Railway, and Interstate 40.

In the final analysis, if you really want to thank the REAL founders of Route 66, you’d have to thank the Muslims, as well as the guy pictured below:

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