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GEOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY OF ROUTE 66 THE MOTHER ROAD

Note: Rt 66 includes two separate, three credit courses and students must register for both. Thus this title and course description applies to both, though only Dr. Moore's section entails the course fee.

Rt 66: The Interaction of Landscape and Culture Along the Mother Road 
Troy Lovata, lovata@unm.edu, Jason Moore, jrm@unm.edu

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best,
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
-Bobby Troup

Route 66 was designated in 1926 as one of the original pieces of the US Highway System. It deeply affected how people traveled, how they settled on the land, and how they viewed the world around them. It stretched over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to California's Santa Monica Pier before it was officially decommissioned in 1985. Yet this was neither the beginning nor the end of the flow of humanity down this iconic corridor. Route 66 follows the course of the Santa Fe Railroad, which traced the route of the camel-surveyed Beale Wagon Road, which intersects with and parallels both the Spanish-era Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe and the Zuni-Hopi trail that Coronado followed in search of the Seven Cities of Gold. Even after it was decommissioned, the road did not die. Portions of the route and sites along the way have been designated National Historic Sites, thousands continue to visit and travel the road each year, and the idea of the American Road continues to shape people's consciousness. Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, christened it the “Mother Road” and Route 66 continues to provide insight into both historic and modern American life, culture, and landscape. Why has this swath of the North America drawn and fascinated travelers since the first humans settled the continent? In this course we will follow in the footsteps, camel trails, railway tracks and tire treads of those generations of past explorers and try to understand the genesis and evolution of this corridor (reaching back millions of years) and how that interacts with our experiences of the Mother Road today.


This course is an interdisciplinary, experiential geological and archaeological study of land and place. We will study the road in general and in Albuquerque in particular at weekly meetings during the first half of the semester. Then we will spend Spring Break 2018 traveling Route 66 through New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas in order to experience the life and land along the road first-hand. Students will travel to the Grand Canyon, Arizona the first weekend of Spring Break and begin a multi-day drive in vans back to Albuquerque along the historic road. After spending a night at home mid-week; they will start again in vans heading East along Route 66 to Santa Fe, Eastern New Mexico, and West Texas. Following Spring Break students will prepare and publicly present research projects on their travels.

READINGS AND TEXTS

Route 66: The Mother Road by Michael Wallis

A series of readings available on UNM Ereserves including: Excerpts from “The Geology of the Route 66 Region” NMGS 64th Annual Field Conference Guide; other NMGS field conference guides covering the eastern portions of Route 66; and selections from Anthropology, Archaeology, and Cultural Geography peer-reviewed journals about landscape and place.

A field/workbook available for purchase from the Honors College

 

FILMS AND OTHER COURSE MATERIALS

N/A

 

COURSE FEE (if applicable) & BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HOW FEES WILL BE USED

$575, to cover transportation, lodging, entrance fees, and some food while in the field.

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

Students are required to register for both Route 66 courses—one with Dr. Moore and one with Dr. Lovata—for a total of 6 credits. Students will meet 6-8 times prior to Spring Break to prepare for their travels, spend approximately 6 days traveling Route 66 during Spring Break, and meet approximately 4 times after Spring Break to discuss findings, observations, and experiences and synthesize the different perspectives they have gained on Route 66. Students will complete a series of readings and related reading guides before traveling. During their journey, at cultural and geologic sites along the road, students will make observations and collect data in a field/workbook. Students will complete a research project after their travels and present their findings to others.


There is a required $575 course fee that covers transportation (primarily vans, possibly trains), lodging (we will be staying at historic hotels and motels as well camping at three National Parks/Monuments along the road), some entrance fees at sites visited, and some meals.

 

 

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTORS

Dr. Moore is in his fifth year as a full-time faculty member of the Honors College, and enjoys combining his scientific background with other disciplines to address complex real-world problems. He took his undergraduate degree in Earth Sciences from the University of Cambridge, where the classical geology program provided him with the tools to interpret and understand the deep time histories of diverse landscapes. Courtesy of 18 years of experience carrying out fieldwork in the American West, he has gained experience, and an affinity for the amazing stories told by the rocks and landscapes therein. He looks forward to integrating his perspective on the landscapes of Route 66 into this class.

Dr. Troy Lovata is a tenured Professor in the Honors College, where he has taught courses on landscape, culture, and place for more than a dozen years. He graduated cum laude with a Bachelors in Anthropology from Colorado State University and earned Masters and Doctorate degrees in Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from The University of Texas. He is especially interested in how people from prehistory through the present conceive of and mark their landscape and the paths people etch on the land in their travels.