The myth of the Road

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Document 1 : A one-woman road-trip

The day I decided to embark on a cross country road trip, I was almost immediately greeted by support by my husband and my best friends with whom I shared the plan. To those who knew me well, sure, it seemed borderline radical, but not at all out of character. I had set off on trips before to Europe, Mexico and all around the South. Fact is, I was born with wanderlust1 in my veins. Must have inherited it from all my ancestors three generations ago who endured long boat rides across the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life in America.

A lot of people have asked me why I’m traveling by myself across the country. Why not take my best friend Why not wait until my husband could go with me What about one of my sisters The ­answer is simple and yet complex. I wanted time to myself. I wanted an adventure for myself. I wanted a trip that was wholly mine. I wanted empty two lane highways through Arkansas and random sightseeing in Kansas. I wanted to give into my wanderlust and just go and see. By myself.

Traveling across the country is something I’ve wanted to do again after my aunt and I drove from Pittsburgh to Seattle over three and a half days in 2010. Before then, I didn’t understand how vast this country is. Sure, traveled the East coast more times than I could count, but that didn’t compare to the emptiness of Iowa, the jagged mountains of Wyoming and Montana where I fell in love with everything I saw around me.

When I was in high school, I read Sabrina Ward Harrison’s Brave on the Rocks: If You Don’t Go, You Don’t See and got it into my head early that if I didn’t witness the world around me, I would never know anything beyond myself. […]

I know very well I may come back the same person as when I left, just with new experiences and stories to tell. I don’t expect the road to have some profound impact on me because I know that the fundamental truth of travel: That it’s just that. Travel. But it’s an important experience to document. Because there is nothing that compares to the hundreds of miles spent driving, wind blowing with the windows down and the radio blasting.

Courtney Mirenzi,, May 31, 2013.

Road Darling is Courtney Mirenzi’s personal blog.

1. wanderlust: urge to travel.

Document 2 : Route 66 today

John Steinbeck famously called Route 66 the “mother road.” But today it’s more of an impoverished great-grandmother.

The 2,400-mile highway, which starts in Chicago and passes through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and ­Arizona before ending in Los Angeles, will turn 83 this year‒and it’s not aging gracefully. Derelict gas stations, restaurants and trading posts, often vandalized, line its rural sketches, their neon signs long since dimmed. Developers are bulldozing quirky motels to make room for generic high-rises. And in places where traffic was once so thick it took ten minutes for a pedestrian to cross the road, you can spread a cloth and have a picnic, says Michael Wallis, a leading advocate for the preservation of the route.

[…] Route 66’s popularity led to its downfall, with traffic ­swelling1 beyond its two-lane capacity. In 1956, legislation created the Interstate System, and over the course of three decades, five separate interstates bypassed segment after segment of Route 66. Its signature black-and-white shield markers2 were taken down, and in 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned.

[…] Most supporters of the preservation of Route 66 agree that the highway needs money, awareness and a national voice that can speak and act on its behalf. The World Monuments Fund named Route 66 to its Watch List of endangered sites in 2008, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation included its motels on a list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in 2007. Representatives from the eight state Route 66 associations are in the process of forming a national nonprofit called the Route 66 Alliance to help with fundraising.

“It’s a tremendous cross section of American history along those 2,400 miles,” says Kaisa Barthuli, the Preservation Program’s manager. “If we lose those stories, we’re really losing a sense of ourselves.”

Megan Gambino, Smithsonianmag online, March 2009.

1. swelling: increasing.

2. shield markers: (here) road signs.

Document 3 : McLean, The heart of Old Route 66


ph © Witold Skrypczak / Alamy Stock Photo

A mural, proclaiming McLean, Texas, “The heart of Old Route 66” over a depiction of Elvis, a Chevrolet, a waitress and teenagers dancing at the height of the rock’n’roll era, covers much of one wall on a rundown shop on the main street.


Document 1

1 Copy out the right answer.

a) The narrator is a teenage girl.

b) The narrator is a married woman.

c) The narrator is a single woman.

2 Using elements from the text, explain what the narrator plans on doing.

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L traiteront la question 3.

3 1. Copy out the three adjectives that best describe the narrator’s personality, and justify each choice with a quote.


2. Is the following statement true or false Answer, then justify with two quotes.

Her family and friends are shocked, and disapprove of her project.

4 Using three elements from the text, explain what the narrator’s personal motivations are.

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L traiteront la question 5.

5 Quote two experiences from the narrator’s past explaining her desire to carry out this project.

6 “I was born with wanderlust in my veins” (l. 6).

1. Give an example of her “wanderlust” in the first paragraph (l. 1-9).

2. Why does she say “in my veins”

7 Explain in your own words how the narrator’s trip illustrates aspects of the American spirit.

Document 2

8 Quote three elements from the text showing that Route 66 is ­neglected today.

9 Explain in your own words why cars no longer use Route 66.

10 What was done to preserve Route 66 Quote three elements from the text.

11 What does the writer mean when she says: “The highway needs […] awareness and a national voice” (l. 20)

12 According to the article, why is it important to preserve Route 66 Explain in your own words.

Document 3

13 What image of Route 66 does this mural give Justify.

14 What possible functions could this mural have Give two functions.

Documents 1, 2 and 3

15 Use the three documents to explain the mythical dimension of the road in America.

Seul(e)s les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traiteront la question 16.

16 Use the three documents to show that Americans have a sentimental relationship with the road.


Les candidat(e)s de la série L traiteront le sujet 1 ou le sujet 2. (250 mots, +/- 10 %)

Les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traiteront le sujet 1 ou le sujet 3. (300 mots, +/- 10 %)

Les candidat(e)s de la série L traiteront le sujet 1 ou le sujet 2. (200 mots, +/- 10 %)

1 You are Emma/Phil Wilson and you work for the Route 66 Preservation Association. Write an e-mail to important Californian businessmen to convince them to support your cause.

2 “[…] if I didn’t witness the world around me, I would never know anything beyond myself.” (Document 1, l. 27-28). How important is travelling to understanding the world

3 “If we lose those stories, we’re really losing a sense of ourselves.” (Document 2, l. 30-31). Discuss.

Les clés du sujet

Document 1


Courtney Mirenzi (1987- ) est une blogueuse américaine. Cette passionnée de mode a commencé son blog en 2010  elle y décrit ses voyages et y donne des astuces beauté.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

Dans cet article de blog, Courtney raconte pourquoi elle est passionnée de voyages, ainsi que l’attitude de ses proches face à sa décision de partir, seule, à travers les États-Unis.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

Greet (l. 2) : saluer  borderline (l. 4) : (ici) limite  to inherit (l. 7) : hériter  wholly (l. 14) : entièrement  sightseeing (l. 15) : le tourisme  jagged (l. 23) : déchiqueté  to witness (l. 27) : être témoin de, (ici) voir  beyond (l. 28) : au-delà de  blasting (l. 35) : (ici) à fond.

Document 2


Megan Gambino (1984-) est journaliste pour Elle écrit des articles qui explorent les points communs entre l’art et les sciences.

The Smithsonian Institution est un groupe de musées et de centres de recherche créé en 1846, dans le but d’améliorer et de partager le savoir.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

L’extrait raconte la fin d’un mythe : celui de la « Route 66 ». Après des années de gloire et de popularité, elle est maintenant désertée, au grand dam de beaucoup d’Américains. Une association a été créée afin de préserver cette route mythique et son histoire.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

Impoverished (l. 2) : appauvri  to turn + age (l. 5) : (ici) avoir + âge  derelict (l. 6) : abandonné, en ruine  a trading post (l. 6) : un commerce  to line (l. 7) : aligner  dimmed (l. 8) : (ici) éteint  quirky (l. 8) : excentrique  a high-rise (l. 9) : un gratte-ciel  to spread a cloth (l. 11) : étaler une nappe  downfall (l. 13) : chute, déclin  an interstate (l. 16) : une autoroute  to bypass (l. 16) : contourner  to decommission (l. 18) : démanteler  awareness (l. 20) : prise de conscience  on one’s behalf (l. 21) : au nom de  tremendous (l. 28) : formidable  cross section (l. 28) : (ici) échantillon.

Document 3


L’auteur de ce « mural » n’est pas cité dans le document. Cette peinture se trouve sur un vieux mur de la ville de McLean, au Texas. Ancien marché aux bestiaux, McLean était devenue une ville commerciale importante du temps de la splendeur de la Route 66. C’est la dernière ville à être contournée par l’autoroute. Elle est maintenant presque abandonnée.

Pour en savoir plus :

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

rundown (l. 4) : délabré.

Les points de convergence

Les trois documents s’intéressent au mythe de la route aux États-Unis.

Dans le premier, l’auteur a l’impression de réincarner l’esprit de ses ancêtres, venus aux États-Unis pour conquérir le continent, et souhaite suivre les chemins qu’ils ont parcourus. Le document 2 décrit une route mythique, maintenant abandonnée, mais qui a eu son heure de gloire pendant les années rock’n’roll, comme on peut le voir dans le document 3.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Pistes de recherche

Afin d’inciter les entreprises locales à soutenir votre projet, il faut expliciter comment ce soutien peut être bénéfique pour eux. Pensez à aborder l’idée de patriotisme et d’héritage. Dans ce courriel professionnel, veillez à la mise en forme : destinataire, objet, registre de langue.

Vocabulaire utile

To raise money (recueillir des fonds)  to raise awarenesss (sensibiliser)  to look worse for wear (avoir l’air un peu écorné)  straightforward (évident)  to spread the word (prêcher la bonne parole).

Le sujet d’expression 2

Pistes de recherche

Afin de comprendre l’autre, il faut déjà se comprendre soi-même, mais cela ne suffit pas. Voyager est l’occasion de vivre des expériences inédites, de voir la vie d’un autre œil. Tout voyage implique un échange : entre ce qu’on peut apporter et ce qu’on peut en sortir.

Vocabulaire utile

What the world has to offer (ce que le monde peut nous apporter)  vivre une expérience (to experience something)  beneficial (bénéfique)  ­rewarding (enrichissant).

Le sujet d’expression 3 (Candidats LVA uniquement)

Pistes de recherche

Cette citation parle de l’histoire des États-Unis représentée par la Route 66. Pensez à l’importance et à l’influence de l’héritage historique sur l’identité américaine. Vous pouvez prendre d’autres exemples : les Amérindiens, la conquête de l’Ouest…

Vocabulaire utile

Cultural identity (identité culturelle)  customs (coutumes)  the Wild West (l’ouest sauvage).



Document 1

1 The narrator is a married woman.

2 The narrator plans on travelling across the United States by herself without her husband or her friends (l. 10-12) in order to have some “time to [her]self” (l. 14).

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L.

3 1. She is

determined: “I decided” (l. 1) “I wanted” (l. 13-16)

independent: “by myself” (l. 17)

unconventional: “it seemed borderline radical” (l. 4).

2. False. “I was immediately greeted by support by my husband and my best friends” (l. 1-2), “To those who knew me well … not at all out of character” (l. 3-4).

4Courtney is motivated by her “wanderlust” that she thinks she must have “inherited” from her ancestors, she wanted “time to herself (l. 13) and by a book she read when she was a high school student, that made her think that she had to experience the world (l. 27-28)

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L.

5 Firstly, a road trip she made with her aunt in 2010 and secondly, a book she read in High School: Brave on the Rocks.

61. She has already travelled a great deal: to Mexico, to Europe and around the South.

2. She uses this figure of speech to convey the idea that she thinks it is a genetic trait [that] she inherited from the original settlers that came over to the USA from the UK.

7 The reference to her ancestors who crossed the Atlantic to settle in ­America is a classic in American culture. Besides, the Americans are conventionally known to be a nation on the move. American history was made by pioneers who had to move from place to place to conquer the continent. Courtney’s road trip embodies this spirit of freedom and conquest.

Document 2

8 There are “derelict gas stations, restaurants and trading posts” (l. 6-7), the neon signs are “dimmed” (l. 8) and there is little traffic “places where traffic was once so thick … you can spread a cloth and have a picnic” (l. 10-11)

9 Everyone is in a hurry today and people want to get where they are going as quickly as possible. Now there are interstates, it is much faster to get from a to b. Also the road is in bad repair: there are not many restaurants or places to stop along the way.

10 It was placed onto the “Watch List of endangered sites” on the World Monuments Fund, secondly its motels were on a list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” (l. 24) and lastly different associations are “in the process of forming a national non-profit” (l. 26).

11 Someone, or an organization, has to speak on behalf of Route 66 to make people aware of the situation and to work together to save the road.

12 Route 66 is part of American heritage and represents more than just a road. It symbolises the idea of freedom and independence. Route 66 crosses the country and therefore encounters many different people from many different backgrounds. It is symbolic of the USA as a whole.

Document 3

13 The mural depicts a kind of Golden Age in the United States: that of the 1950s. Success is represented by Elvis and the Chevrolet and a kind of ­freedom of speech through the rock’n’roll images.

14 The mural could attract tourists to come and visit the town of McLean. It could also be seen as a reminder of the former popularity of Route 66 through a generation of people with worldwide notoriety such as Elvis, in order to try to restore it.

Documents 1, 2 and 3

15 Traditionally, Americans have always been travellers: firstly as immigrants, then as pioneers. Roads are the modern equivalents of the trails that pioneers made and followed to cross and conquer the continent. Courtney wants to take the time to follow the steps and spirit of adventure of those pioneers. Route 66, in the 1950s, somehow followed the mythical Frontier that pushed the limits of America from East to West and embodied the power of the automobile civilisation, which had its mythical apex during the rock’n’roll years depicted on the McLean mural. The mural shows how glamorous it could be. It is symbolical of a part of American history, and as such deserves to be ­preserved. It still attracts people today, even though it is far less used than before.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA.

16 In the first document, the blogger is attracted by a road trip because she has a kind of romantic vision of travelling by herself and experiencing this new vision of the world. This romanticised aspect is also shown in the mural, which brings us back to the 1950s and conveys a feeling of nostalgia for better times. But the road is also outdated: it is more of a symbol, a landmark, than something really meaningful or useful nowadays.


1 Guidelines



Object: Save Our Road!

Dear Sirs,

I’m writing with reference to a new association that I’m sure will be of great interest to you and your respective companies. As I’m sure you are aware, Route 66 has officially been decommissioned since 1985 and now just over 30 years on we are hoping, with your help, to do something about that.

The “Route 66 Alliance” hopes to raise money and awareness about that mythical road. It is a major historical site which has influenced generations of artists, from Jack Kerouac to Chuck Berry. Unfortunately the poor mother road is looking a bit worse for wear and thanks to companies like yours we can change that.

You may be wondering why we have decided to contact you specifically in California. Los Angeles is the final destination on that mythical road that runs all the way across our beautiful country from Chicago. It passes through every kind of landscape: mountains, deserts, cities and it is the ideal way for you to invest in your state and your heritage.

Your next question I’m sure is straight-forward: how much is it going to cost We are asking not only for monetary donations but also for volunteers to spread the word, for advertising space on the sides of buildings. No form of participation is too small!

So if you are interested in getting involved in the project and through your business making the American dream come alive again on Route 66, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for us to assess how we can help each other.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you very soon so we can work together on this fabulous and extremely worthwhile initiative.

Kind Regards,

Emma Wilson.

2 Guidelines

Today’s world is an amazing place: full of different people and new experiences and the best way to discover the diversity the world has to offer is to travel.

Travelling can be beneficial in so many ways: most importantly it helps us to understand the world we live in: first, from a cultural point of view then, from a more personal angle.

The only real way to understand people from different cultures is to experience life from their perspective: live with them, work with them, visit their country and witness their traditions and ways of life. What better way to learn tolerance and acceptance that spending some time with people who come from a completely different background from your own. Cultural immersion is a highly interesting and rewarding way to travel.

On the other hand, travelling is also a very personal experience. Human behaviour and the interaction we have with others affect not only the way we see ourselves but also the way we see the world and the way we understand it. By spending time abroad we get to know others but also get to know ourselves better.

Trying to understand the world from the comfort of our homes and our computer screens is just not good enough. Looking at photos and reading reviews can never replace actually visiting a place.

Overall, we can say that travelling is the key to understanding the world around and becoming a more tolerant person. It should be a compulsory part of everyone’s education to travel abroad in order to make the world a better place.