Ever dreamed of cruising down the open road, wind in your hair, chasing adventure into the sunset? For over 90 years, Route 66 has captured that spirit of freedom and wanderlust for countless explorers.
From John Steinbeck to Jack Kerouac, some of history's most legendary road trippers have taken this iconic highway in search of America.
So buckle up as we unravel tales of the Mother Road's most fascinating celebrity travelers, from life-changing journeys to quirky characters. You'll discover why generations have been captivated by Route 66.
1. John Steinbeck
The famous American author John Steinbeck embarked on a cross-country journey along Route 66 in 1960 with his poodle, Charley.
This adventure inspired his travelogue "Travels with Charley in Search of America," where he chronicled his experiences and observations as he drove through small towns and interacted with people along the way.
2. Woody Guthrie
Beyond a mere soundtrack, Woody Guthrie's music was a soul-stirring echo of Dust Bowl migrants' struggles and hopes on Route 66. Though not his sole muse, the highway and its travelers profoundly influenced his songs, weaving tales of hardship and resilience that still resonate.
Even with "Tom Joad" inspired by another source and "This Land Is Your Land" soaring beyond road-bound stories, Guthrie's music is forever tied to Route 66. His birthplace near the highway and song references solidify their intimate history.
In case you want to go deeper into the Route 66 rabbit hole, check out: Route 66’s Forgotten Ghost Towns & Their Tragic History
3. Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley's 1967 film "Easy Come, Easy Go" may have you picturing him cruising down Route 66, but here's the Hollywood twist: while the film's poster and plot revolve around a road trip along the iconic highway, the actual driving scenes were shot on soundstages in Hollywood.
Still, we can't deny what this film + Elvis means to Route 66 art and culture.
The production team meticulously recreated Route 66's charm, complete with gas stations, diners, and roadside motels, all within the controlled environment of the studio. Though some exterior shots were filmed on real roads, they weren't on the actual Route 66 alignment.
4. Jack Kerouac
While not a household name at the time, Jack Kerouac became a literary icon with the publication of "On the Road." Though the novel's adventures span a vast network of highways across the United States, including significant stretches along Route 66, it celebrates the spirit of exploration and the open road that Route 66 embodies.
Kerouac's work has since inspired countless travelers to set out on their own journeys of self-discovery, often along the iconic Mother Road.
5. Bob Waldmire
Bob Waldmire was not a traditional celebrity, but he became an iconic figure along Route 66. He was an artist and a dedicated traveler who spent many years living in his converted school bus, traveling along the entire length of Route 66 multiple times.
Waldmire's detailed Route 66 maps and quirky drawings of roadside attractions became famous, and he is often considered a symbol of the road's enduring spirit.
6. Michael Wallis
Michael Wallis is a historian and author known for his deep knowledge of Route 66. He wrote the book "Route 66: The Mother Road," which helped revive interest in the historic highway.
Wallis's passion for the road and its history has made him a recognizable figure in the Route 66 community, and he has continued to promote its preservation and cultural significance. For more historical yet intriguing spots along Route 66, check out our list: 7 Haunted Spots Along Route 66 That Will Terrify You.
The Enduring Allure of the Mother Road
These known figures and their legendary journeys have contributed to the mystique and allure of Route 66, making it a symbol of American freedom, adventure, and the pursuit of the open road.
For over 90 years, Route 66 has captivated explorers seeking adventure and freedom on the open road. This iconic highway has endured wars and economic strife, refusing to be forgotten.
Route 66 stands as a marker of where we've been. Its fading paint lines serve as a window into history. Should you ever have the chance, take your own drive along the Mother Road.