This map plots the settings and references in The Grapes of Wrath

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Route 66
Route 66
Creative Commons AttributionRoute 66 - Credit: OliBac, Flickr

 US 66 led from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California, passing through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico amd Arizona. In all it covered 8 states, 3 time zones and 2,448 miles.

The idea for a Chicago-California highway was first suggested in Springfield, Missouri; on November 11th 1926 it came into being, joining up a number of existing roads.  Cyrus Avery, an Oklahoma businessman, played a big part in the creation of the highway. He chose the number 66, as he thought it would be memorable.

Route 66
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRoute 66 - Credit: Gabriel Millos

Shortly after its creation, the highway saw a steep increase in its traffic.  The Dust Bowl forced many people west, and the highway provided the quickest route.  Traffic continued into World War 2, with many wartime industries flourishing in California. After the war, the highway was popular with vacationers as it swept through a wide range of landscapes. 

US 66 has been known by a variety of names, but the most famous are probably the 'Main Street of America', the 'Mother Road' and the 'Will Rogers Highway', after 'Oklahoma's favorite son'.

 

Route 66
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRoute 66 - Credit: Vicente Villamón

During its 60-year lifespan, the road was regularly re-routed and bypassed. From the 1950s it fell into decline, and it was eventually removed from the Highway system in 1985 when the I-40 was deemed a more sensible route.  Some parts of the 66 remain in use but others were completely abandoned.  It's now impossible to drive the route uninterrupted, but you can still visit original parts of the road where historical markers stand.

US 66 has drawn the attention of organisations such as the the World Monuments Fund and National Register of Historic Places.  The road has an important place in American history, and even though it is now defunct it has been immortalized in this novel.

Listen on Spotify: Route 66 performed by Nat King Cole