Tag: Route 66

The Cruise Control Culture by Michael Vecchione

Unfortunately, in the electric powered, climate controlled, and pine tree air-freshened vehicles of today, the drive has taken a backseat to the destination. In the movie Cars, a 2006 Pixar Animation Studios production, the history of Route 66 is used as a teaching tool to relate the common roadway to a place of freedom. The main character of the film, Lightning McQueen, is a racecar accustomed to the loose lifestyle and the fame that accompanies being a top competitor in the World Grand Prix. Lightning McQueen is introduced to the idea that it is important, when on the road, to slow down and enjoy the ride that the road offers as much as the destination it is leading to.

Sally, another main character of the film and a Route 66 local, already possesses this appreciation for the road. In an attempt to pass this appreciation on to Lightning McQueen, she states that before highways were constructed, “Cars came across the country a whole different way…The road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land…it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.” The film does an excellent job of comparing how roads were used before June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, and how they were used after. Prior to the passing of this piece of legislation, from which came the construction of major highways, driving was not seen as a nuisance or a task that had to be completed before progress could be made on something more significant.

Driving, and the emotions, feelings, and sights that the act produced, was done by many citizens living in the United States for leisure and enjoyment. When interstates and highways became more prevalent in the country, the act and purpose of driving was transformed.  Driving was given a new definition. In the work “Landscape in Sight,” author, publisher, instructor, and sketch artist in landscape design John Jackson claims that the road developed into a place of, “managed authoritarian system of steady, uninterrupted flow for economic benefits” (Jackson 192). With this new purpose, driving became something done as a step to achieve something greater or more pleasurable. The focus of the driver was directed towards to destination and no longer what the journey itself had to offer. Contemporarily, this mindset is overwhelmingly what drivers in the United States have when they enter their vehicle. Whether driving to work, school, or a vacation, most drivers want to know the easiest and fastest way to get to their destination and not necessarily the most scenic or adventurous.

Cars. Perf. Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2006. Film.

Jackson, John Brinckerhoff, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz. “The Road Belongs in the Landscape.” Landscape in Sight: Looking at America. New Haven: Yale UP, 1997. Print.

“What Exit?” by Meredith L Pymer

What exit are you from?” If you are from New Jersey, I don’t have to specify that I’m looking for the exit you take on the New Jersey Turnpike. Being from Pennsylvania, this obsession with exits made me furrow my brow and wrinkle my nose. I’m not even sure what exit I take to get off at home. However, having dinner with my friend’s family, in which exit 98 merchandise was distributed, I knew that the exit you took in Jersey was apart of your identity as a resident.

Living in New Jersey, you constantly get tourists and vacationers traveling through your state to get to ‘the shore’. Hence the lingo of ‘Shoebe’ and phrase, ‘Benny, go home!’ New Jersey natives struggle with their own identity in the midst of being a popular summertime destination. Other than calling the next New Yorker you see as a Benny, the use of “What exist?” also tries to distinguish a native from a tourist, promoting community.

Unlike New Jersey and their use of exits, Route 66 has gone from being the means of travel to the destination itself. Andrew Wood writes in Two Roads Diverge “After all, this notion of seeking the ‘real’ through travel, and the presumed inauthenticity of tourism whether related to the American roadside or to the broader process of global tourism” (Wood, 70). Wood discusses how Route 66 has become its own tourist attraction where the ‘authentic experience’ is being replicated by the businesses that inhabit the area, and the people themselves who work there. Wood speaks of finding the “efforts to recreate the road by simulation and simulacra that call to question the very authenticity that Route 66 represents”  (Wood, 70). In a sense, the tourists have taken over the once traveled road, that itself was not a destination but a means of getting there.

In contrast Route 66, tourist attraction, thinking about the use of exists in New Jersey residents’ identities can mirror the use of roads to the authenticity of New Jersey. The claim of being from Jersey can easily be supported by proudly proclaiming what exit you take. The road signifies a sense of authentic nature for New Jersey; one may use the turnpike to get to the beach. Tourists are not able to claim their stake of the road, for the exit they take is not inherently relevant to them. In this sense the use of the road aims to limit and reject tourism in New Jersey unlike Route 66, the destination itself.

Historical Website on New Jersey and its Turnpike: http://www.jerseyhistory.org/what_exit/index.html

Sources:

Wood, Andrew. “Two Roads Diverge: “Route 66″ and the Mediation of American Ruin.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 27:1. (2010). 67-83.

Life is a Highway by Carlee Cantwell

From the earliest stages of childhood, I was exposed to the idea of the road. At just a few months old, I took my very first road trip to the Jersey Shore. Ever since then, every road trip I’ve ever taken has represented a different milestone. Whether it was the first vacation I took without my parents, the first time I drove a car, or my travels across Ireland and Europe, the road has always represented more than just a journey between physical destinations, but more so a journey in my personal growth. A song that immediately jumps into my head when I think about my journeys is “Life is a Highway”. Although originally a Tom Cochrane song, the version I connect most with is the one done by Rascal Flatts for the movie, “Cars”. In particular the lyrics, “Life’s like a road that you travel on…”, and “Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long”, speak to the connections I find between the road and its representation of journey and personal growth.

I believe that many people see the road as a representation of a pathway to achieving their goals. They’ll “hit the road” and get out of their town to achieve bigger and better things. In the movie “Cars”, which draws a lot of its imagery from the stereotypical ideas of Route 66, Lightening McQueen, a young race car is traveling across the country to get to California for a big race. However, he runs into the town of Radiator Springs, an old town that lost all its visitors when the new highway was built. From traveling this stretch of road, McQueen learns that life isn’t just about all his shiny trophies, but about enjoying the road you’re on and embracing the journey itself. In the movie, some of the secondary characters like Mater the Tow Truck and Doc Hudson fondly reminisce on the old times in Radiator Springs. While the road holds old memories for them, like many roads do for people today, they also recognize that their memories aren’t how things will be forever. In the end of the movie, the town recieves a revival after McQueen brings his crew through it, providing the typical children’s movie happy ending, just as Route 66 has achieved its own “happy ending” as a tourist attraction. While the people who travel the roads are on physically and personal journeys, the roads themselves take journeys as well. Route 66 for example went from being the route to get you places to being THE place to visit. Old popular roads are replaced with bigger, newer highways. Towns whole landscapes shift because of the use of one road or another. Some people may say a road is just a road, but I think the roads we travel play an integral part in our own stories and experiences. As we travel along the fast-paced highway of life, the exits we choose to get off at dictate our direction, and when old places and memories are replaced it can feel like a part of our journey is gone forever.
Image: Original Cars Movie Poster (2006)