Traveling “The Main Street of America”
Kitschy and crumbling, luminous and darkened, the “Mother Road” is equal parts very much alive, as it is in decay. Spanning eight states, it presents a true slice of small town America, both past and present, connected and intersected by a long ribbon of road. Motor courts, gas stations, drive-ins, and restaurants, most emblazoned with neon signs, materialize along the highway and would have been a welcome site to travelers during this route’s hay day. The drive on Route 66 is slow, laid back and reminiscent of a simpler time and way of life. Absent of the rush of freeway traffic, it winds it’s way through both ghost towns and cities that are studded with Route 66 memorabilia. Hamlets where only rusted signs and sagging buildings remain, and cities with glowing lights and motels and restaurants still serving up home town hospitality. The life and death and rebirth of one of the most important roads in American history is slowly revealed with each passing mile.
Born in Springfield, Missouri, on April 30, 1926, Route 66 was officially established on November 11, 1926. The modern road system opened portions of the United States that had not previously been accessible. In doing so, it provided a pathway to those looking for a fresh start, as well as allowing for the relocation of America’s population during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. Pieced together from primitive, unnamed and unpaved roads, rapidly evolving into a 2,400 plus miles, it turned into one of the largest public works projects in history. In 1938, US 66 became the first completely paved numbered highway in the U.S., running from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean. Enduring for generations, thousands upon thousands of travelers have followed the Chicago to Los Angeles pathway since it’s inception some 92 years ago, even after it was officially decommissioned in 1985.
Traveling Route 66 had been on my bucket list for quite some time, and during the month of April, I completed the trip along with my co-navigator and travel companion. My Mom and I truly “got our kicks” with each passing day and mile and had an amazing experience. Our 12 day and 4,900 mile long journey, including a few side trips, would not have been complete without the many u-turns, missed turns, super windy days, laughs and lots and lots of donuts.
As there are many aspects of this journey that I want to share, especially our exact route, including a few side trips, recommendations and resources we used to make this road trip a success, the Route 66 post will be completed in a series of entries. To begin, I’d like to offer a glimpse of what Route 66 is all about by sharing a collection of photographs taken along the way.
Illinois – 300 miles (Chicago is where is all begins)
Missouri – 300 miles (Springfield is the birthplace of Route 66)
Kansas – 13 miles (Shortest Route 66 alignment and 2nd state to pave Route 66)
Oklahoma – 380 miles (Tulsa native, Cyrus Avery, coined the term “Main Street of America” and founded the US 66 Highway Assoc.)
Texas – 150 miles (2nd shortest Route 66 alignment)
New Mexico – 399 miles (First state to completely pave Route 66)
Arizona – 401 miles (159 miles of which are unbroken, the longest stretch remaining on Route 66)
California – 315 miles (From dry and desolate to sun-soaked beaches)
I hope that you enjoy these pictures and I look forward to sharing further photos, details and advice from my trip in future posts. If you have already driven Route 66 or want to drive it and have questions, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Safe travels!