Sooner State Seldom Seen on "Route 66"
Route 66, the famed Mother Road, runs right through the heart of Oklahoma. But judging from four seasons of the namesake 1960s TV series, hip sojourners Tod Stiles and Buz Murdock (and later Linc Chase) barely ever motored through the Sooner state.
The closest the Corvette-cruising pilgrims of “Route 66” ever seemed to come to Soonerland was during the show’s third season (whose 31 episodes are just out on DVD), and then only in a glancing way.
Episode four of season three sports the promising title, “Ever Ride the Waves in Oklahoma?” But, in fact, there’s nary a glimpse of the state’s waving fields of wheat as the story takes place in Huntington Beach, Calif., and focuses on a contest between Buz and the arrogant king of the local surfing subculture.
Over its four seasons, 1960-64, “Route 66” followed the adventures of two hunky travelers in a spiffy, sky-blue Corvette (although the show ran in black and white) as they roamed the country, holding down a mind-boggling array of odd jobs and soulfully searching for their rightful places in the world.
Tod (Martin Milner) was the thoughtful, fair-haired Yale drop-out, and Buz (George Maharis) was the volatile, brooding blue-collar hunk in the lineage of James Dean. The show, coming a few years after the publication of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” was informed by a willful restlessness and anti-establishment rebelliousness that neatly tapped into baby-boomer ethos of the era.
In its time, the show was hailed for its willingness to tackle difficult, compelling social issues and for a production wanderlust that matched its protagonists’ urge to move on down the road. Originally pegged to the iconic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles (as promotional ads touted, “the route the Okies traveled”), the show soon wandered far and wide, ranging through locations as diverse and off-track as Toronto, Canada; Astoria, Oregon; Crystal River, Florida; Poland Spring, Maine; Youngstown, Ohio; Butte, Montana; Pittsburgh; Boston; Baltimore and an array of such far-flung locales. About as close as the boys came to encountering Okie soil was a stay-over in Dallas and a stop in rural Missouri, “a couple of hours out of Kansas City.”
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