It wasn’t long ago that if one wanted to find historic Route 66, vintage maps, old-timers and make plenty of guesses were required.
However, there are stretches of the Mother Road in which tourists get lost — especially ones without the maps or guidebooks. Perhaps a Route 66 road sign was stolen by souvenir hunters. Perhaps the road lies in a sparsely populated area. Perhaps there is an obscure alignment of Route 66 that few people know exists. Perhaps the town in which Route 66 goes through hasn’t jumped on the tourism bandwagon.
Rod Harsh of Visit66.com has a visitors’ center on Route 66 in Carterville, Mo. He says he regularly encounters tourists who become lost in southwest Missouri. (I can attest to problems while driving in Carthage, north Joplin and near Carterville.)
Harsh fears that wayward tourists will miss out the full Mother Road experience. Or worse, they’ll become frustrated and get back on the interstates.
Nearly all the Route 66 states have enrolled or are enrolling in the National Scenic Byways program, which will provide more funds for road signs. However, several states have a ways to go through the process. One state, Texas, has shown no interest. I suspect Route 66 eventually will be a contiguous byway, but it’s years away.
Harsh supports the Byways program, but has decided that something needs to be done sooner. He’s launched a Web site, SigntheRoute.com, and is taking suggestions for a grass-roots effort to sign the historic highway where it needs it.
He even enlisted a professional sign company to make a vinyl sign like the one at right. He says it cost only $25, and it would be even cheaper per unit if purchased in bulk. The sign is not reflective, but Harsh surmises that many travelers drive Route 66 in the daytime.
According to Harsh’s site:
Consider the sign to be a “temporary” aid to travelers, until better signage comes along. […]
The objective here is to first sign the locations where travelers are getting lost most often.
He has a page of signs that can be used, including the “painted shield on the pavement” option that’s growing in popularity.
For now, Harsh has a “How to Help” page where he’s taking suggestions. One of the ideas is an “Adopt a Sign” effort.
I think Harsh’s effort is commendable. He’s not trying to re-invent the wheel, but to improve the overall travel experience by filling in the holes.
And if those Scenic Byway signs start showing up en masse, there’s nothing wrong with a little redundancy to help you in road navigation.