Why Route 66?

Growing up in the upper-left corner of the country, I didn't know what Route 66 was. I knew about the song-"Get Your Kicks on Route 66"-and the Route 66 t.v. show from the 60s. "It runs from Chicago to L.A." I knew that much. But I had no idea of the road's history or significance before I started this project. By chance I needed to get from Los Angeles to Chicago in March of 1998. I bought a couple of guidebooks, and I began to learn.

Route 66 is iconic Americana. But it's not just one America. It's this organic accumulation of histories dotting almost 2,500 miles of two-lane highway, created by lots of different people, all working away at their American dreams over more than half a century. What it became, and what survives, is not what any one person intended. Battered utility poles and broken concrete. The boarded-up remains of defunct businesses that were once thriving monuments to mom-and-pop capitalism. And a determination to keep going, to remember.

All put together, the pieces add up to a vision of the West, of our complicated love-affair with the open road, that no one could have imagined. And so it has been with these photographs. You plan and you plan and then you pull the little flap and see what happens.

Wes Pope

About Wes

Wes Pope grew up in Auburn, Washington. He learned to love the open road on long summer trips around the West in the family's propane-powered van-a passion that has never faded.

The sixth-generation northwesterner turned a University of Washington undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology into a newspaper career that took him from Washington to Alaska, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado, New York, Arizona, and California, working as a photojournalist for the Tacoma News Tribune, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Rocky Mountain News, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others.

Adding motion pictures to his story-teller's skill set, Pope earned a master's degree in Documentary Film and History at Syracuse University. He has documented the work of climate scientists on the Greenland ice sheet, co-founded Story Arc, a cinematic journalism workshop, and shared his knowledge of the art and technology of visual storytelling in classrooms and workshops across the country.

Pope is currently Co-Director of the Multimedia Journalism master's program in the School of Journalism and Communications at the University of Oregon, Portland.

Wes Pope

About Michael Wallis

It has been said, "Reading a Michael Wallis book is like dancing to a romantic ballad. He offers his hand and gently guides you across the floor, swaying to the song of the American West."

Michael is a historian and biographer of the American West who also has gained international notoriety as a speaker and voice talent. In 2006 Michael's distinctive voice was heard in Cars, an animated feature film from Pixar Studios. Michael is a co-founder of the non-profit preservation organization the Route 66 Alliance, and remains an advocate for all historic roads and trails.

A storyteller who likes nothing better than transporting audiences across time and space, Michael has published nineteen books, including the award winning Route 66: The Mother Road, the book credited with sparking the resurgence of interest in the highway. He also wrote The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times to the Golden Gate. Michael's latest book is the critically acclaimed best-seller, The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2017.

His work has appeared in hundreds of national and international magazines and newspapers, including Time, Life, People, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Michael has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize and was also a nominee for the National Book Award. In 2016 he received an Emmy Award for his work in the documentary film, Boomtown.

Michael Wallis