All Time Favorite Road Trips in the US – Route 66
Looking for Adventure: The Mother Road
The Historic Route 66 is affectionately called "The Mother Road". Before there were highways with cars flying 70 miles per hour, the best way to cross the US by car was along Route 66. Like the famous song describes, "It winds from Chicago to LA/More than two thousand miles all the way".
Route 66 was the country’s main east to west artery for only 30 years, but the route holds fascination still for travelers who love to discover the people and places along the way from a time when the roads took you into towns instead of around them. You may recognize if from the 2006 Pixar movie, “Cars”, which found a fancy racecar stranded in a small town that was left behind when Route 66 was abandoned in favor of the new interstate highways.
Today, it's a great piece of Americana and a boatload--or carload-- of fun for those who want to retrace the old routes using maps cobbled together by die-hard Route 66 enthusiasts. The original Route 66 doesn't appear on modern maps so it's best to get yourself a good solid guide with driving directions and a GPS.
Numerous websites and even Wikipedia offer historical information and some descriptions of routes. There are even travel books that will help you "get your kicks" on Route 66.
Some states embrace the heritage of the motor route more than others. Illinois for example has signs and historic markers to help you find your way even along the older "almost forgotten" alignments.
A brief history of Route 66:
It was commissioned in 1926 using as much existing roadway but wasn’t completely paved in 1937. It spans eight states and three time zones for a total of almost 2500 miles. Conventional wisdom says it runs from east to west, Chicago to Los Angeles.
Before Route 66 travelers used Lincoln Highway, Ozark Trail, and the Pontiac Trail among others to traverse the nation.
In the 1950's with the implementation of the interstate highway system, Route 66 was by-passed and many of the small towns that relied on traffic for its businesses died away. The US government officially decommissioned Route 66 in 1985. Today you can only drive part of the "Mother Road", as some sections are completely gone.
You could drive Route 66 in about four days if you drove straight through, but what would be the point of that? To fully experience it you should give yourself more like 10 days. If you have less than 10 days just focus on a shorter section, you'll have more fun. Be sure leave enough time to stop along the way, take pictures and talk to people.
Some great sights to see along the way are:
· The Grand Canyon
· Las Vegas
· The Albuquerque balloon festival in early October
Best Route 66 Website: http://www.historic66.com (They sell good maps.)
National Scenic By-ways Program http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2489/
Route 66: The Mother Road 75th Anniversary Edition by author Michael Wallis
Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen