Historic US Route 66, also called the Will Rogers Highway, has been active since 1926. It stretches across middle America from Chicago, Illinois to San Diego, California. The highway as a whole no longer exists, but many stretches can still be enjoyed by the traveler seeking adventure.
Off the Beaten Path
Whether the traveler starts in San Diego or Chicago, long stretches of Route 66 have been preserved as part of a national treasure. Beginning in Chicago most of the Route has been replaced by I-55, however, there are plenty of things to see on the remaining portions of the two-lane road. Some sights at this point would include Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois or the Swinging Foot Bridges. Passing through eight states on the way to the Pacific, Route 66 is worth going off the main highway in each state.
Know the Road
Because much of Route 66 is considered backroad travel, the prepared traveler will want to do their homework. Any lengthy car trip can come with road dangers, and this trip is no exception. Since it’s a long stretch, tire blowouts are big risk at any stage, but especially where the road isn’t as maintained. As preparation, it would be wise to make sure you have an accurate hard-copy road map or guide and a good spare tire. Road trips should probably also include extra water, snacks, and a basic emergency kit. Enjoy yourself but keep your cautious hat nearby.
Museums Along the Way
Since the original 1926 Route 66 covered over 2000 miles, merchants, small towns and volunteers have worked hard during the intervening years to keep the historic elements alive. Each state along the way has at least one museum to commemorate an era long gone. In Illinois, you could start with the Route 66 Hall of Fame in Pontiac. Dust Bowl history is on display at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The New Mexico stretch includes many Native American sites such as the Acoma Pueblo west of Albuquerque. From Seligman to Kingman, Arizona the original road itself becomes a pristine, living 159-mile museum. Road dangers are common on the desert parts of Route 66, so use common sense during this part of the trip.
Some of the greatest road dangers along Route 66 involve weather. In the winter parts of the road can become quite icy, even impassable. During summer, it cannot be stressed enough how oppressive the desert heat can become. Also, likely, cell data connection can be iffy. The prepared desert traveler would be wise to carry lots of water and always keep the gas tank between half and full. If you pull over for photos, and you will want to, it is best to stay close to the car and avoid trekking into unfamiliar landscapes.
The key to an enjoyable time along Route 66 is to plan your travel, prepare well and maintain an adventurous spirit. Wherever you choose to start this historic trek, chances are you will not be disappointed. Go on, start getting your kicks on Route 66.
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