I wish I’d taken more photos, but was otherwise doing a similar thing back then. A friend and I took a long road trip in 1985 mainly to ramble through small towns and see what there was to see. Things like old country stores on lonely 2 lane highways, I remember one that was closed, through the window we could see the calender from 1981 still up, old soda signs, abandoned 1950s car behind the shop rusting. Did similar solo jaunts in 86/87, when touring with bands in the 90s/early 2000s would take any excuse to route us through 2 lane state highways. I agree that it was fast disappearing, though not sure I’d go as high as your 95% estimate. But what little remains is also rapidly vanishing. As an example, driving through Blythe California about four years ago at night, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mid century coffee shop, an old-time variety store in the once ubiquitous white front/yellow front/orange front vein, Fosters Freeze Drive in with the original sign, old motels, liquor stores, greasy spoons, all still open for business. Made the same drive the following year and over half had been shuttered.Around the time (and a few years before) that Nick-at-Night started rerunning "Route 66," I was somewhat paralleling the experience, driving around the old state highways and obscure farm/ranch roads, shooting photos of those remaining visual remnants of roadside Americana. Diners, motels, feed stores, gas stations, etc. Still a lot of fascinating relics around back then, going back to 1920s/30s/40s/50s-era businesses still in service, especially along the more rural, isolated byways. It was so easy to really feel like you were stepping back in time with each journey. And much like "Route 66" liked to show, all the areas seemed to have their own individual character/culture. But within a few short years, maybe a decade or so, it seemed like about 95% of it was gone. I'd return to the same small towns and highway relics that I shot photos of years earlier, and note how everything had closed up, been torn down, or otherwise stripped of its vintage aura. All replaced by a landscape of fast-food chains, banal quickie-marts, and generic big-box architecture. It was awfully depressing, and my photo hobby withered to nothingness, and I lost the urge to continue such explorations.
But at the time, those "Route 66" reruns propelled my interests in seeking out and getting a taste of what Tod and Buzz's journeys might have been like. The series remains an all-time favorite of mine, if not my top favorite drama series. Although, I do sometimes start to wince a bit at the series' over-tendency towards psychological drama and purple-stained soliloquies. A trend of its time.
And to prove that I’m on topic, this afternoon I watched the episode “Good Night, Sweet Blues”