Established in 1926, U.S. Route 66 was the first and only major automobile thoroughfare across the United States for nearly 60 years. Coined “The Mother Road” by John Steinbeck, a person only needed to follow one highway to travel the 2,451 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, as the wheels of progress marched forward, efficiency was the death of the “Will Roger Highway.” The Interstate Highway System, speedy and direct with no small-town stoplights or out-of-the-way bridges, replaced the meandering Route 66 in its entirety by 1985.
While the interstate may have outgrown Route 66, the mosaic of communities along the “Main Street of America” – such as Cuba, Mo. – still embrace the essence of dreams from a bygone era and echo the timeless desires for connection, community, and celebration. Traveling the road today is more than just a physical meander across Small Town America. Route 66 wavers between past and present, a journey through time as well as space. Colorful neon still lights up at night, mannequins are eternal, and local people gather at friendly diners. The town of Cuba, Mo. was a child of this road and Route 66 continues to preserve and connect the town’s present context to its historical past.