III. The Early Days


“Route 66 is a giant chute down which everything loose in this country is sliding into Southern California.”

Frank Lloyd Wright, American Architect, 1867-1959

In its early days, Route 66 crossed terrain still very much untamed and undeveloped. Because of this, patches of the road remained unpaved until the mid-1930s. The infamous bank robbing duo of Bonnie and Clyde–immortalized in Arthur Penn’s 1967 film–used 66 as a get-away route as they fled Joplin, Missouri, in 1933 after a shootout with police. Because it wound through largely unpopulated and inhospitable areas, Route 66 was the ideal road for outlaws, but that did not discourage the numerous adventurers who, more and more each year, took to 66 as they traveled.

Route 66 grew, in part, from a series of paths that were used long before auto clubs petitioned for their improvement, and their unification into a single road was not accomplished overnight. As both roads and roadmaps became more standardized, production of auto club guidebooks continued, offering an entirely different take on travel than the accordion-style oil company maps that were produced at the same time.