If you ever plan to motor West, travel my way; take the highway that’s the best.
During a long break that I had in graduate school, right after I passed my candidacy exam, I decided to take songwriter Bobby Troup’s advice and drive all the way from my home in Columbus, Ohio to Los Angeles, following the path of historic Route 66. Built in 1926 as a link between the Midwest and the West Coast, this road soon became the subject of songs, novels, and television shows, and has come to symbolize America’s fascination with auto travel. Even decades after being superseded by interstate highways and then officially decertified, the route continues to inspire the adventurous—as shown, for example, in the 2006 Pixar film, Cars.
Most of the old road is still drivable, and so I traversed the route from Chicago to Santa Monica over the span of twelve days, visiting tourist traps, staying in motels, and eating at diners, drive-ins, and dives along the way.