If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the Highway, that’s the best…
The Mother Road was built in 1924 to connect rural communities across the American Midwest and the West to the urban centers of Chicago and Los Angeles. It not only revolutionized the American economy and infrastructure, but it also created a new way for Americans to get to know their country. Suddenly, families could travel the long distance with relative ease, turning a once-hard journey into a vacation opportunity. By the postwar years of the 1950s and 1960s, anyone with a car could travel America’s greatest highway to see the amazing sights, enjoy iconic roadside attractions, and make fast friends with the hotel keepers and rest-stop owners across the country. Route 66 became the heart and soul of the USA.
The starting point of Route 66 is right here in our beloved Chicago. Whenever we see those signs downtown marking the start of the adventure, we want to ride the Mother Road again and see what is left of those fabulous mid-century boom years. Along the way, we’ll make new memories and keep the old places alive.
Hitting the Road
In our dream Route 66 vacation, we’ll start in Chicago, of course wearing a pair of our Star Wall stud earrings to show that we’re ready for fun and adventure. Then it’s time to head south, towards the beautiful fields and towns of Downstate Illinois. From rolling cornfields to Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, the excitement begins almost immediately. We stop for a picture at the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, loop through Pontiac to see all the fabulous vintage murals and save room for dessert at the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield.
Staying the Night
The 50s and 60s were the days of hot, vinyl backseats, being crammed together with siblings and maybe being lucky enough to listen to the radio. The best songs weren’t the Top 40 hits, but the family sing-a-longs, no accompaniment needed! The luggage was strapped to the top of the car, a comic routine for dad to unload each night at the motel, whether we were stopping at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona or the romantic Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
As we drive back through these towns today, it’s incredible that these same motels continue to welcome visitors, some old and some new travelers on the Road. At Munger Moss in Lebanon Missouri, Ramona still greets guests, many of whom have been come back year after year since she and her husband took over the motel in 1971! The pieces of our Graymoor Lane Light collection would look just as classy then as they do today.
Seeing the Sights
Route 66 in the postwar years became a family route, full of fun roadside attractions, many of which still entertain visitors today. In Missouri, travelers have been exploring Meramec Caverns for generations. And while Route 66 only curves through about 12 miles of Kansas farmland, a stop at Eisler Brothers market is a must. Famous sites like the Giant Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK, the World’s (now-Second) Largest Rocking Chair in Fanning, MO, and Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX are just a few highlights.
Even gas stations have their place along the Route. In the 50s, families might have filled up at the Richfield Service Station in Cucamonga, CA or the Conoco Station in Commerce, OK, while today’s families just stop for photos. Some buildings decay and stand derelict on the side of the road. Others, like the iconic Conoco station in Shamrock, TX, have become museums and shops and are treasured pieces of the community.
As we pull into California, in many ways, it feels like coming home again. People still love Graymoor Lane today for the street’s beautiful mid-century modern architecture, so it is no surprise that Palm Springs is one of our favorite stops on the Mother Road. The mid-century modern capital of the west coast, Palm Springs sprawls across Route 66 with jaw-dropping ranchers with big, open, glass eaves, gleaming white walls, and – one thing we don’t have in Chicago – palm trees. It was these same Palm Springs homes that inspired the Graymoor Lane Star Wall collection, so it’s even more exciting to see them up close!
When you feel the need to travel west, we encourage you to remember how they did it in the 50s and 60s. Drive back in time, slow down and take the long way, off the new super-highways, and down the long stretches of mid-century asphalt. And don’t forget to pack your favorite Graymoor Lane jewelry to channel a little of bit of that mid-century Americana as you make your own unforgettable memories. Adventure through the cornfields, past the shadows of forgotten towns, and thriving little corners of history. As the song says, get your kicks on Route 66.