Cover image courtesy Destination Lancaster

In 2014, the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the National Geographic Channel met up on a desolate stretch of old eastbound Route 66 that lay between Albuquerque and Tijeras, NM. Their mission was two-fold: NMDOT was looking for a way to get travelers to slow down and take in some of the surrounding scenery. And as part of their Crowd Control television series, National Geographic wanted to help by creating a sort of road-trip soundtrack for travelers on Route 66 road trips. 

And so, between mile markers four and five outside of Tijeras, the organizations worked in harmony to teach the old Mother Road how to sing.

Traffic Jam Session

So, how did they get the road to sing? Well, it actually took a fair amount of engineering. As you might remember from science class, sound is created by vibrations moving through the air. For example, a vibration moving at 330 times a second creates the musical note “E.” These vibrations can be made by a guitar string, vocal chords … and even car tires.

With this in mind, the NMDOT and National Geographic teams created “rumble strips” on that stretch of Route 66 spaced apart just enough that they caused passing tires to vibrate and create specific musical notes when traveling over them at just the right speed (45 mph). After creating a series of different notes this way, they turned 1,300 feet of the Mother Road into a musical instrument that played America the Beautiful.

“America the Beautiful” on Route 66

I Hear America’s Main Street Singing

Photo by Rex Covington, aka The Lone Star Rider

The road-trip song was an instant hit and people traveled from as far away as Australia to sing along with this little strip of the Mother Road. In fact, some even doubled around to make the highway sing again and again.

Unfortunately, the road has fallen into some disrepair in the last couple of years, and the signs that once touted this sing-as-you-drive-along stretch of highway have been recently taken down. Though there are no plans to renovate it, some road trippers have reported a portion of the song is still playable for now — so it’s probably best to include it on your next Route 66 road trip itinerary. However, if you do happen to miss it, don’t worry. Just make your way to California …

Groovy Road, Man!

Out of the six countries in the world with singing roads, America is lucky enough to have two of them (the others being located in Denmark, Hungary, Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea). And though Route 66 may be the most famous one, another one located in California was actually first.

The singing road in Lancaster, CA was originally built on a quarter-mile stretch of the city’s Avenue K as part of an advertising campaign by Honda in 2008. Instead of metal rumble strips, engineers used a machine to cut grooves in the road. These grooves were spaced so that, as a series of “notes,” they play part of Gioachino Rossini’s famous “William Tell Overture” when a car drives over them at 55 mph.  After Honda launched the campaign on October 12, both the commercial and the road proved to be a big hit – though not everybody was pleased.

It seems that local residents who lived around the “groovy” part of Avenue K weren’t too keen on the theme from The Lone Ranger being played over and over again by passing motorists. They filed a noise complaint against the city. As a result, the city paved over the quarter mile stretch of the singing road and created a new one on the more-remote Avenue G.  It’s still there today, waiting for you to drive over it and hum along. So what are you waiting for? “Hi-ho, Silver, away!”

“William Tell Overture” on Avenue G in Lancaster, California.

Now you’ve got your road tunes all mapped out, be sure to also pick up some of your favorite road trip snacks at America’s favorite roadside stop – Stuckey’s. From our Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to your favorite classic candy, Stuckey’s has the perfect road trip treats for everyone. 

Stuckey’s is also your one-stop shop for your favorite road-trip souvenirs, so be sure to get some Stuckey’s branded t-shirts, caps, and coffee mugs for the folks back home.

No Stuckey’s on your way? Simply order online and have it sent to your house before your next road trip. Visit stuckeys.com.

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!