The Labor Day weekend is traditionally the end of the summer vacation season. I can remember a time when schools didn't resume classes until after the holiday, making it an extra special time for us kids as we realized our days of freedom were ending for another nine months.
Summertime trips, or family vacation, included trips to a local lake, the seashore, historic destinations, amusement parks or to visit relatives in other towns or cities.
Taking to the open road meant eating meals at Howard Johnson's restaurants, getting snacks at Stuckeys, enjoying a cold bottle of pop at gasoline stations, and stopping at roadside zoos and other attractions as an excuse for stretching our legs. As far as I know my parents never made reservations for lodging along the way. We just stopped in the early evening at any clean looking motel as long as it had a swimming pool.
Road trips today aren't too much different. Highways have been improved with added lanes and bypasses around congested city traffic allowing you to make better time getting to your final destination. There are no shortage of convenience store/restaurant/gasoline stations along the way and you can make a hotel room reservation from the road using your cellphone or iPad. Today's vehicles get such good gasoline mileage that refueling stops are fewer in between and roadside attractions are well off of the Interstate - you might pass them by if you don't see a sign for them at their designated highway exit. Paper highway maps and atlases are also things of the past as most modern vehicles are equipped with GPS devices.
I was recently reminded of the "good old days" of traveling when my wife, Karen, and I attended the Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Missouri. This weekend long car show rekindles memories of traveling the Mother Road between Chicago, Illinois, and Santa Monica, California. My wife and I traveled portions of the historic route a couple of years ago returning to Harrison from my daughter's then-residence in California. Route 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, but there are still sections that take you along the main streets of many towns.
Springfield has been accepted as the birthplace of “U.S. 66.” It was officially named via telegram at a meeting of highway officials including Cyrus Avery and B.H. Piepmeier held in Springfield on April 30, 1926, during a district Rotary convention. The meeting was held with representatives from Oklahoma highways regarding the federal highway numbering system.
The telegram was sent to the Bureau of Public Roads in care of Thomas H. McDonald in Washington, D.C. It reads: "Regarding Chicago LosAngeles Road If California Arizona NewMexico and Illinois will accept Sixty Six instead of Sixty we are inclined to agree to this change We prefer Sixty Six to Sixty Two Avery Piepmeier"
In 1992, on the Mother Road’s 66th anniversary, the Route 66 Association of Missouri designated Springfield as the official Birthplace of Route 66 with a placard, now located on the east side of Park Central Square.
The festival includes a parade, live entertainment and probably one of the largest exhibitions of classic automobiles in the country.