In June 2005 Paul Staso and his then 11-year-old daughter,
Ashlin, had a bedtime discussion about the fitness level of
kids today. Ashlin wanted to do something to help get the
kids in her class more fit, so she and her parents created a
virtual trek across America that the 4th and 5th grade
students at Russell Elementary School in Missoula, Montana
did during the 2005-2006 school year (visit
Both classes successfully completed the
3,260-mile run/walk across America. As a result, in 2006
Paul Staso kept his promise to them... to actually
run the kids' route for real, coast to coast, if they could
accomplish the trek during the school year (visit
These two journeys set the stage for the 2007 creation of
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation (Promoting Active
Children Everywhere) and the development
of this fitness and learning journey along historic Route 66
for the 2007-2008 school year.
The purpose of each virtual trek is for elementary students
to run and walk toward greater fitness while at the same
time learning about the locations that they virtually travel
through. It's through this combination of fitness and
learning that students experience places beyond their
playground in a unique and challenging way. This web site, developed by Paul
Staso, acquires visitor
traffic from around the world. Also, the
site from 2005-06 still receives thousands of visitors
Route 66, better known as "The Main Street of America,"
offered those in the Midwest a chance at new life in sunny
California and brought soldiers home from war. Most of all,
it brought families out on the road to travel the route
with the slogan
Get Your Kicks On Route 66. Also known as "The Mother
Road", Route 66 passes
Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois and winds its way to sunny Santa Monica,
California (near Los Angeles). In all, it reaches across
2,278 miles and crosses 3 time zones. It passes through town
after town; therefore, nicknaming it the "Main Street of
America." For many who lived near the historical road, it
became their livelihood. Shops and other road side
attractions sprung up along the route depending on the
thousands of tourists to buy their goods. To fully
understand how this road became so well known, we must take a look back in time.
Route 66 began as a set of trails the Native Americans used
to travel throughout the Midwest. In the late 1840's, a
trail was needed to reach California after the discovery of
gold, then in 1853 a survey was taken for a railroad. The
largest step towards Route 66 came in 1857 when Lieutenant
Edward Beale came into the picture.
Lieutenant Beale, in charge of the railroad survey, designed
a wagon road that cut across the west. This trek was
specifically unique because he used camels to aid in
construction. It was thought that the hot southwest was too
much for any traditional animal used in manual work. The
camels ultimately turned out to be a nuisance since they
were not as obedient as hoped. Beale's road stretched from
Defiance, New Mexico to Los Angeles, California and was
completed in 1859.
In 1853, a railroad was built through the southern US and
ran virtually parallel to the existing Beale Wagon Road. It
wasn't until the early 1900's that it began to become clear
that the existing wagon roads were unsuitable for the newly
In the 1920's, the roads that existed were built for wagons
and very crudely structured. At best they were gravel; more
likely, they were nothing but worn tracks in the landscape.
As a result, the public desire for passable roads began.
In 1926, the Ford Company forever changed the nation by
lowering the price of cars. The pressure began to mount for
highway development. By this time, a man by the name of
Cyrus Avery was on the scene. He was a leader of the
American Association of Highway Development. At a meeting in
1924, Cyrus Avery was appointed a consulting highway specialist
and responsible for designing what would become the United
States Highway System. In short, he was in charge of
preparing a map that showed where all of the primary
highways of the United States should lay.
Avery began by examining all of the existing marked trails
and connecting them in a fashion that would accommodate a
highway system. The highway commissioners decided to assign
the roads numbers instead of names to avoid confusion. The
roads running east and west were to be assigned even
numbers, and the roads running north and south were to be
assigned odd numbers.
Originally, Avery and
his associates assigned the highway
running across the southern United States to the Pacific
Ocean the number 60. However, some officials on the east
coast had also chosen that number for another highway. As a
result, an argument started. Both sides insisted on using
the number 60. Eventually, Avery and his associates gave in
and began searching for a new number.
Upon looking through the list of possible numbers, they came
across the number 66. Cyrus Avery liked the way the number
sounded and Route 66 was born.
In 1926, Route 66 became official. The route ran through 8
states; Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New
Mexico, Arizona, and California. At the time, approximately
800 miles were paved. The remaining road was dirt, gravel,
brick, or wooden planks. It wasn't until 1937 that the road
was completely paved.
The next step after creating the road was to get people to
drive it. Route 66 associations began to sprout up in the 8
states it ran through. The goal was to promote use of the
road. An advertising campaign began with ads in national
magazines and newspapers. Billboards were also used along
the route to promote the grandeur of the road. The public's
attention was caught and enthusiasm grew as did traffic
along the route.
In 1928, an annual advertising scheme took place to promote
the road. A foot race from Los Angeles to New York was to
take place and Route 66 would be the main road used. Each
contestant was to submit $100 to secure a spot in the race.
The towns along the route grew with excitement and the race
succeeded in getting publicity. The newspapers were
plastered with information on the runners' progress.
In the end, 55 of the 275 who started the cross-country run
crossed the finish line. Andrew Payne of Oklahoma won the
race. He went on to become an American hero and will
forever be associated with Route 66.
Approximately 3 years after Route 66 officially opened, the
economy began to bottom out and the nation headed for the Great Depression. However, Route 66 did not lack in
travelers, for around the same time a great drought began in
the Midwest and would go on to last for several years
sending thousands of people fleeing in search for better
opportunities. These people came to be known as "Okies" and
Route 66 was nicknamed "The Road of Flight." For many,
California was their destiny in hopes of finding fertile
land and the promise of work. Their struggle was documented
in the well-known book, Grapes of Wrath.
Eventually, our economy began to heal and rain covered the
plains. However, World War II had begun filling Route 66
with soldiers and convoys of trucks heading to military
bases across the country. After the war, Route 66 took on
clutters of vacationing families.
More and more automobiles were being produced and the
economy soared, making cars affordable to many more people
than ever before. Route 66 became jammed with traffic and
a common phrase was "Get Your Kicks on Route 66". America had
fallen in love with Route 66.
Tourist traps began to appear everywhere along the route. A
tourist could buy Indian jewelry, visit a snake pit, or
explore mysterious caverns. Neon cluttered the main street
In the late 1950's, it became clear that Route 66 has grown
too popular for its own good. President Eisenhower signed
the Federal Highway Act which spelled out guidelines to
build a National Interstate Highway System. Slowly, but
surely, towns along Route 66 began to be bypassed by new
interstate highways. On October 13, 1984, the town of
Williams made history by becoming the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by the new Interstate 40.
Route 66 survived
years of the depression, the dust bowl, war and much more.
Due to the dedication of individuals, state associations and
the National Historic Route 66 Federation, Route 66 remains
an exciting and wonderful way to have a road trip adventure.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of an old Route 66 motel
sign in Illinois... from how it looked after years of
neglect to its current restored appearance. Route 66 is
slowly being preserved. Be sure to see pictures of Route 66