The Autry show brings together the lore and allure of the highway, known as America’s Main Street. The road ran from Chicago to L.A., as Bobby Troup’s song famously said (although the western terminus later moved from 7th and Broadway to Santa Monica).
In the 1920s, the American Assn. of State Highway Officials created the proposal that gave birth to the Mother Road.
As traffic picked up, enterprising businesspeople began to cater to travelers' needs with gasoline stations, restaurants and the quaintly named motor court. (Merriam Webster says the term first came into use in 1936. The motor court also was known variously as a motor lodge, tourist court and motor inn, ultimately morphing into "motel.")
It’s the story of the rise of car culture, which gave rise to the most American of traditions: the summer road trip. Goodbye, staycation, hello, vacation.
And then the dream began to die, in many ways a victim of its own success. Increased traffic required larger and safer highways, giving rise to the U.S. interstate system. The road began to disappear, literally — some parts were paved over — and symbolically. The road was decommissioned in 1985.
The museum is also hosting a plethora of programs on the history of the road, beat poetry and of course films, including "Cars," which introduced us to Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and the town of Radiator Springs, which once was — what else? — a stopover on Route 66 that was bypassed by the superhighway.