Rediscovering the Beat Generation: Roadtripping across Route 66
The Beat Movement is one of the most famous literary and cultural movements in American history. So, if you’re into your literature or American culture, then finding out more about it is a brilliant basis for a holiday – especially as an amazing road trip is involved!
For that matter, you could easily turn that statement on its head – if you’re looking for a great road trip, taking a little inspiration from the Beat Generation could be a good way to go. Why? Because you can follow historic Route 66 – one of the US’s most historic highways and one of the best road trip destinations on the planet.
You’ll need to fly over to the US, of course, before your adventure can get started, so it’s best to arrange to hire a car from the airport, giving you the freedom of your own wheels as soon as your plane touches the tarmac.
About the Beat Generation
Before we take a closer look at Route 66, let’s get to know the Beat Generation a little. A term coined by author Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation refers to thinkers who, after the second world war, took a fresh look at the world. The Beats believed that contemporary society was too prudish and focused on materialism, which they thought was destructive to the human spirit.
The founding members, if that’s not too formal a term, of the Beat Movement were Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who met at the University of Columbia in the 1940s, and the rest is history.
What has the Beat Generation got to do with Route 66?
So, what has the Beat Generation got to do with Route 66? Well, if you read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road you might have a clue – though the historic highway doesn’t actually feature in the novel that much. Route 66 was viewed by the Beats as a kind of symbol of their movement, and acted as an artery for its followers to travel down.
So, by hitting Route 66 you can follow in their footsteps – and it’s also worth bearing in mind that you can get a taste of history here too. After all, Route 66 was the route many Oklahomans took to escape the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which had catastrophic effects on local farming.
Discovering Route 66
Now you know a little more about the interest behind Route 66, let’s take a closer look at the road itself. While no longer officially a highway, Route 66 has its place as one of the US’s most important roads firmly cemented in history, and has been immortalised in books, films and songs.
At 2,448 miles long, it is truly gigantic, running all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica, crossing three time zones and eight states. Today, it is no longer the key artery in the US highways network that it once was, but it is a major draw for travellers from all over the world.
If you do decide to drive along a portion – or, if you’re feeling ultra-ambitious – all of Route 66, make sure you plan some stops at a few of its museums which are, unsurprisingly, fabulous places for finding out more about the road and its history.
Among the best options is the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, which you’ll find in Illinois. A particular highlight for Beat fans is seeing the VW hippie van, but there’s much else to discover; in fact, one of the best things about this museum is that it really does cover the road from all angles, from how it was built to famous spots along it.