Take the Highway, That’s the Best
Start: Chicago, Illinois
Finish Line: Los Angeles, California
Length: 2,451 Miles
Not to Miss: Seligman Arizona, a well preserved example of a one-road Route 66 town thought to be the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the movie Cars.
Driver’s Note: Much of Route 66 has fallen into disrepair or been circumvented by more modern Interstates, be sure to check an updated map before setting out.
Main Street of America
Route 66 was one of the first completely paved highways in America, devised as a way to push trade west and to connect towns that before had no major thoroughfare. Today, it conjures Steinbeck-inspired images of Okies in jalopies held together by twine trudging westward with a cloud of dust at their backs. Route 66 was a time machine then, a place where the old and decrepit shared the road with the newly chromed, and it maintains that time-traveling effect in its history – the asphalt that has seen the height of American prosperity, the lows of exodus, and the cobwebs of disuse. Though it’s no longer possible to traverse the entire stretch from Chicago to Los Angeles, parts of the road have seen a revival, being entered into the National Register of Historic Places and still managing to support quaint, one-road towns.
Get your Kicks
Not to be cliche, but Route 66 really can offer a thrill; apart from its historical significance, the abandoned super-highway harbors vast stretches of lightly-patroled pavement, perfect for a more liberal application of the accelerator. But it’s more than a straight line, its topography shifts from flat plains to the dusty, mountainous twists of Arizona and New Mexico.
Get Hip for this Timely Trip
Maybe you’re not looking to leave two steaming trails of rubber behind you, maybe you’re just looking to see the sights through the open, pre-safety-regulations greenhouse of your vintage tourer. It is worth the rally. Great swathes of the road have been deemed National Scenic Byways, and for good reason; Route 66 is one of the most charismatic roads in America, traversing big sky country and the Rocky Mountain West, where even the summit of a short hill climb offers miles of unspoiled landscape. The route is long, isolated, and free of frost heaves. Who could ask for more?