We are on the Road! We just placed one of our markers at a rest area in McClean county, IL. There were other markers nearby including a patinated series of figure silhouettes of the family that built one of the first “hard roads” in Illinois near a syrup farm called Funks Grove. Isaac Funk arrived in the area in 1824 and began the road to simplify travel to nearby Bloomington. His grandson later built the first automobile in the area to drive on his family’s road. As America began connecting the named roads in the twenties, This stretch was one of the oldest sections of the infamous “mother” road. We labeled marker number 4 with Katie’s wordpress address. You can find our location on Google Earth. https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/jesandberg/66%20Ghosts.kmz
Our last reading was very interesting in the sense of history and perceived culture. We have been dealing with that a lot in our discussions about our journey. Every time we ask someone about Route 66, they respond with the diddie from the song or they ask us if we are driving an old car. I believe that this is related to America’s perception of Hawaii. People think palm trees, beaches, Lu’uas, and Hula girls. We lazily assign images to subjects and constantly recall these symbols as opposed to learning more about the person, place, event, etc. I think of Dog the bounty hunter. That could have been L.A., Vegas, Detroit or Atlanta but it was Hawaii. A much different Hawaii than most people thought. It was one of drugs, strip malls, trailer parks and a complete list of all things that most Americans do not consider when they think of Hawaii.
We have also compared our path to its uses. To dispel this myth that Route 66 was created in the mid- twentieth century so that guys with nice hair could put the top down and sing to the oldies, we have been working on a more complete history. Route 66 became the mother road for two main reasons. First, was the fact that small cities were becoming connected with permanent roads. America had a lot of River corridors in the East to provide transportation at the time. Second, the Western half of the States still relied on wagon trails to get to the West Coast. Natives were sent westward to their new homes on these paths in the 19th Century as well as the goldrushers. The trails were used for cattle drives to Saint Louis and Kansas City up into the 20th Century. Rails and business began to cater to all of these travelers creating the need for a continual paved road West and was prioritized through the WPA. From these two reasons, other factors assisted in the actual location and use of the highway. Local politicians fought, wrangled and gerrymandered the route continuously for nearly fifty years adjusting it through different cities and sometimes entirely different corridors.
Like Hawaiian tourism, The history that created the reality was later stripped of its local issues and referred to only by its symbols. We do not always have control over image but must always remind ourselves and others to get past the advertising and search for something more in our travels. Learn about the people and the culture. Find out why a certain place came to be important. Check back often. We will be covering a lot of ground this week!