John Steinbeck called Route 66 “The Mother Road” in his book The Grapes of Wrath. The highway has come to symbolize the movement west by people looking for new beginnings. Bobby Troup composed his classic “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” while driving to Los Angeles in search of fame and fortune. A few years ago, I made the pilgrimage.
Using Michael Wallis’s book, The Mother Road, as my guide, I started out in Chicago, doing my best to follow the original alignment, much of which had been paved over by interstate highways. Funks Grove near Shirley Illinois is a mandatory stop on the route. The Funk family has produced their “pure maple sirup” – yes, “sirup” – since the nineteenth century. Their shop was closed when I came through, but Gladys Funk, the family matriarch came out of her house to chat. Our conversation turned to their being featured in the book. Mrs. Funk told about her meetings with the author and said I should look him up when I got to Tulsa. She went inside and came back out with Mr. Wallis’s phone number.
Michael Wallis was more than gracious when I called. He must have figured if Gladys Funk had sent me, I was probably okay. He invited me to his home in Tulsa and we spent a couple hours talking about his research for the book and others he was working on. He autographed my book and offered some recommendations for road-trip dining.
This long introduction is a lead-in to a photographic essay on some of the faded highlights of Route 66.
If traveling two-lane highways appeals to you, Road Trip USA should be your companion.