So many dreamers, hard workers, and Globetrotters have traveled this road. So many artists found a great source of inspiration in the landscapes it passes, the atmosphere it has and the stories it carries.
Route 66 Road Trip
Route 66 is more than a highway; it’s a historic site and one of America’s best attractions. Known as the Main Road of America or the Mother Road, it was established in 1926 as the first highway of its kind. It connected the American cities with remote, rural areas, creating a bridge between different realities. During the Great Depression, people who had to leave their homes used the route to search for a better life. Later on, the highway itself brought prosperity to many incredibly creative entrepreneurs. It became popular, so people who were doing businesses along the road were often successful. The more tourists traveled along the road, the more mom-and-pop shops, tepee-shaped motels, reptile farms, frozen custard stands, kitschy bars and other quirky businesses got open.
Then after a period of fame and glory, the road became forgotten. In 1956 Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act. The new interstate highway bypassed Route 66, and that was the beginning of its end. Parts of it were abandoned, the tourism boom finished, until eventually in 1985 the road was removed from the United States Highway System. Around 85% of it survived though and had returned as the Historic Route 66. Travelers hit the road again; the spirit’s still there. Wanderers from all over the world come to the States to enjoy its breathtaking views and extraordinary, old-style attractions. That’s why here’s a list of 6 tips for all the lucky lovers who’re going to take a Route 66 road trip.
Give yourself enough time to enjoy the trip. Route 66 is a long and legendary road, it covers nearly 4000 kilometers, and all along the way, there are plentiful attractions. Countless museums, restaurants, places of historical value and fantastic sites, plus all the optional side journeys – it’s hard to see and do it all anyway, but the more time you have, the more in-depth the experience will be. This applies especially to the travelers from outside of United States for whom it’ll be harder to repeat the Route 66 road trip in the future. Don’t leave too many sights “for later.” Try to organize the journey the way so that you’d have at least two weeks.
Plan the trip
Before you hit the road, read a bit about the attractions it offers and picks what interests you the most. Since the things to see on the way are so numerous, you should set some priorities. It’s good to know what you want to visit and where it’s located. Otherwise, you might lose some of the best spots. It’s great to do be spontaneous and adventurous, yet still, gathering some basic info is recommended. The route is so long, landscapes so diverse and highlights so unique; you’ll constantly get astonished anyway. The website historic66.com is an impressive source of information. It’s the oldest site dedicated to the route, filled with all sorts of useful stuff, from guides to detailed descriptions of the roadside attractions.
Books are excellent as well, such as Jerry McClanahan’s Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers or Route 66 Adventure Handbook by Drew Knowles. You should also consider reserving accommodation. There are lots of original, quirky lodgings and old-school motels along the way, like the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri that features Route 66 theme rooms and offers a trip back in time, or the charmingly kitschy Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California. To avoid staying in big chain hotels, check out what kind of unique places you’ll have on your way and, to do not miss a chance of staying there, book in advance.
Prepare yourself (and your car) for the journey
Even though it’s not the 60’s anymore, it’s still an old road, and parts of it are quite isolated. There will be times you’ll drive, and drive, and drive, and nothing but the desert will surround you. Take some food and, most of all, water. Cars need to be fed as well, so a bit of extra fuel might come in handy when there’s not a gas station nearby. A repair service is a rare sight in the western half of the route, so before you start the journey, make sure your car is in good shape and, just in case, take a spare tire. Because it can get boiling at times, a car with air conditioning is the best choice for a sizzling Route 66 road trip.
Take a good map
The Mother Road isn’t one route, it got realigned a few times, and that’s why you’ll have to make choices as for where to go. It might happen you’ll arrive at a town and see several signs, all of them pointing the Route 66 – it’s not a mistake. It only means it’s the moment to decide which alignment you want to follow. Besides, sometimes the signs are just missing because someone thought they’d make a lovely souvenir. It can be confusing, but that’s when a good map saves you. The best you can do is taking the point 2 seriously and planning your Route 66 road trip, which means taking a look at the map even before you get on the road. On the way, you’ll surely still need it again. Just keep the map in the car. One good example is the Rand McNally Road Atlas.
Travel the Old Road
The oldest parts of the Mother Road, dating back to 1920’s, are the most fascinating. The narrow streets adjusted to small American cars and little automobile traffic, the hand-laid brick and unfortunate bits of crumbling concrete, it all reminds of how old the road is and how many have driven it.
Talk with the locals
The Route 66 is not only made of asphalt and roadside bars. It’s the characters of its people that make it so unique in the first place. Pay attention to the hard-working folks who have spent all their lives living in the strange, remote parts of America. Be open and talk with them, many will be happy to share their incredible stories. Nowadays the route is also attracting lots of creative entrepreneurs who try to wake up the spirit of the old times with their young energy. The Mother Road is full of interesting individuals – don’t miss them.