Route 66: The Mother Road

Route 66 was one of the country's first continuous stretches of paved highway, and served as a major path for those who migrated west.

"The Mother Road" was established on November 11, 1926, and ultimately stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles.

From its beginning in Chicago, Route 66 headed south through Illinois and Missouri. From there it turned in a more westward direction through Oklahoma and Texas, with the final stretches in New Mexico and Arizona before its termination point in Los Angeles.

We've had the pleasure of driving the entire length of Route 66, The Main Street of America! Included on this website are photographs and commentary on the various segments of the Mother Road.

The Lore of Route 66: The Main Street of America

Vintage postcard showing the location of Route 66, The Main Street of America

Route 66 became one of the most famous roads in the country, outdistancing others such as the Lincoln Highway.

It is popular lore in movies, songs, books, and TV shows. It was known far and wide for its variety of "mom and pop" motels, neon lights, drive-ins, flat tires, cars with no air conditioning, dangerous curves, steep hills, narrow lanes.

But the popularity stuck, and grew!

Route 66: The Song

The song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" was composed by songwriter Bobby Troup in 1946. It was first recorded by year by Nat King Cole, and sung by other singers over the years including Chuck Berry, Perry Como, and the Rolling Stones.

Here we are on ... Route 66

If you ever plan to motor west,
travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.
It winds from Chicago to LA,
more than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
and Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.
Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
when you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

Route 66: The TV Show

A popular television show during the early 1960s bore the road's name: "Route 66". Starring George Maharis as Buz, and Martin Milner as Tod, the two young adventurers drove the road in their Corvette for 116 episodes.

Buz and Tod of the TV show Route 66Buz and Tod
(By CBS, or Screen Gems)

Despite the name of the series, most episodes did NOT take place on the historic road, but in 25 different U.S. states.

The show was filmed mostly on location, and became known for its cinematography. A long list of well-known actors and actresses appeared on the series.

The show ran from October, 1960, through March, 1964, and created a huge following.

The interest in the show continues today by "Baby Boomers" who remember the original showings, and new generations of viewers fascinated by the show who watch it on DVD.

Route 66: Miles by State (1926 Alignment)

  • Illilnois 301
  • Missouri 317
  • Kansas 13
  • Oklahoma 432
  • Texas 186
  • New Mexico 487
  • Arizona 401
  • California 314
  • TOTAL 2,448

The Demise of Route 66

Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments during its lifetime. The passage of the Federal High Act of 1956 sounded the death knell for the old road, and gradually segments were replaced with new, safer superhighways.

Its final demise was the completion of the Interstate Highway System, and Route 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985.

Route 66 was replaced by five Interstates: I-55 from Chicago, I-44, I-40, I-15 and finally I-10 into Los Angeles.

Route 66 Today

Today, several states recognize the historical significance of the road, and have it marked with "66" in the state highway number.

The road is also a major tourist attraction, so many states openly market attractions and lodging along the old route.

The old road still traverses dozens of small towns with vintage gas stations, quirky tourist attractions, diners, "Mop & Pop" motels, historic sites, stunning vistas, and gift shops.

Attractions and Cities Along the Mother Road

Along the length of Route 66, there are hundreds, probably thousands of attractions. And there are dozens of cities and towns.

Different travelers have different interests, so we can't list everything ... but here are a few favorites!

Let's get on the Road ... in Chicago, Illinois

Shea's Gas Station Museum - Springfield, Illinois

Chain of Rocks Bridge - Madison, Illinois to St. Louis

The murals - Rolla, Missouri

National Route 66 Museum - Clinton, OK

Route 66 - 6th Street Historic District - Amarillo, TX

Cadillac Ranch - Just west of Amarillo, Texas

Route 66 Auto Museum - Santa Rosa, NM

Route 66 Monument - Tucumcari, NM

Downtown Seligman Arizona on Historic Route 66
Blue Swallow Motel - Tucumcari, NM

El Rancho Hotel - Gallup, NM

Wigwam Village Motel #6 - Holbrook, AZ

Angel & Vilma Delgadillo's Route 66 Gift Shop & Visitor's Center - Seligman, AZ

Standing on the Corner & the LaPosada Historic District - Winslow, AZ

Powerhouse Route 66 Museum and Visitors Center - Kingman, AZ

Ghost towns, like Glenrio and Cuervo

End of the Trail ... the westward end of Route 66
in Santa Monica, California
Feed the donkeys - Downtown Oatman, CA

Harvey House Railroad Depot - Barstow, CA

Wigwam Village #7 - San Bernardino, CA

The End of the Trail - Santa Monica, CA

Touring Route 66 by Auto, Bus, or RV

Different people choose different modes of transportation to tour the Mother Road. While some elect guided bus tours, or drive their own vehicles, others seek new destinations in their RV or motor home.

And for those that don't own an RV yet, companies like Cruise America, El Monte RV Rentals, Road Bear RV Rentals, and Camping World offer a variety of RV sizes and rental plans.

Touring Route 66 by Motorcycle

Buz and Tod of the TV show Route 66Motorcycles at the Classy Ass, Oatman, Arizona, on Route 66

Get your motor running! Get out on the highway!

Many travelers on Route 66 rent motorcycles to seek new open-air adventures on their USA road trip! A variety of motorcycle rental plans are available, such as those from Eaglerider Motorcycle Rentals, Harley-Davidson, and California Motorcycle Rental.

Out West, your motorcycle can be picked up at a number of rental locations in Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. If you are starting your Route 66 trip further north, motorcycle pickup locations in Illinois are available.

Model options are plentiful, and cycles from manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson and Indian are available. Trikes can also be rented.

If you don't want to ride independently, choose from one of many guided motorcycle tours. Self-drive tours often include rental of the motorcycle, hotel reservations and detailed tour route information.

Some companies offer one-way rentals, hotel pickups, luggage storage, helmets and other amenities.

Our Coverage of Various Segments of Route 66

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are the major segments ...

Route 66: The Mother Road - Introduction

Route 66: Chicago to Missouri

Route 66: Across Oklahoma to Amarillo

Route 66: Amarillo to Santa Fe

Route 66: Santa Fe to Gallup NM

Route 66: Gallup NM to Seligman AZ

Route 66: Seligman to Kingman AZ

Route 66: Kingman to Oatman AZ

 

Photo Highlights from Our Road Trips Along Route 66

We have included below a sampling of the original photographs taken by our staff. We are working to post more photographs and reviews from our road trip archives to this website over time.

Shea's in Springfield Illinois, along Historic Route 66
Shea's in Springfield Illinois, along Historic Route 6

Murals on the wall in downtown Cuba, Missouri, on Historic Route 66
Murals on the wall in downtown Cuba, Missouri, on Historic Route 66

Abandoned service station in Glenrio, Texas, on Historic Route 66
Abandoned service station in Glenrio, Texas, on Historic Route 66

Historic Route 66, Glenrio, Texas near the New Mexico border
Historic Route 66

Angel & Vilma's visitor center and shop in Seligman, Arizona, on Route 66
Angel & Vilma's visitor center and shop in Seligman, Arizona, on Route 66

Historic Edsel on Historic Route 66 in Arizona!
Historic Edsel on Historic Route 66 in Arizona!

Water town in Kingman, Arizona, the Heart of Historic U.S. Route 66
Water town in Kingman, Arizona, the Heart of Historic U.S. Route 66

The Powerhouse museum and attraction in Kingman, Arizona, on Route 66
The Powerhouse museum and attraction in Kingman, Arizona, on Route 66

Elvis and friend take a break along Route 66 in Arizona
Elvis and friend take a break along Route 66 in Arizona

Standin on a Corner, in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see, on Route 66
Standin on a Corner, in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see, on Route 66

The Classy Ass in Oatman, on U.S. Route 66
The Classy Ass in Oatman, on U.S. Route 66

 

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