Road trip across America on Historic U.S. Route 66, The Mother Road



Travel Guide to Historic Route 66: The Mother Road

Route 66 was one of the United States' first continuous stretches of paved highway, and served as a major path for those who migrated to the West.

"The Mother Road" was established on November 11, 1926, and ultimately stretched 2,448 miles (3,940 kilometers) from Chicago to Los Angeles. It became the shortest, year-round route between the Midwest and the Pacific Coast, and was also known as "The Main Street of America" and the "Will Rogers Highway". On that date, only 800 miles of Route 66 were paved, the rest being graded dirt, gravel, bricks, or planks of wood. It took 11 more years before the entire road would be paved.

From its beginning in Chicago, Route 66 headed southwest through Illinois and Missouri, and a small section of southeast Kansas.

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.

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During the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, the diagonal course of the Route 66 was the primary route for migrating farm workers from the Midwest to California. The migration continued during World War II due to job availability in California.

It linked small, rural towns to larger cities, and markets. The fact that it covered mainly flat areas and featured moderate year-round weather made it an attractive route for traverlers, and truckers. During this time, it also became one of the key routes for moving military equipment across the country.

Due to the efforts of the U.S. Highway 66 Association, Route 66 became the first highway to be completely paved, in 1938. In the 1950s, Route 66 became the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles. The traffic along Route 66 led to the opening of many "mom and pop" restaurants, motels, and service stations along the route to satisfy the needs of traveling motorists.

Alignments of the road changed often over the years, as improved sections of highway were constructed. In the early years many sections connected only one small town to the next, and had no official federal route number. Over time the route was formalized as a Federal Highway numbered as "U.S. 66".

The movie "Easy RIder" ... much of it filmed on Route 66
The movie "Easy Rider" ... much of it filmed on Route 66

We've had the pleasure of driving in all eight states along Route 66, The Main Street of America!

Included on this website are photographs, personal experiences, commentary and travel recommendations on the various segments of the Mother Road. We hope that this site will help with the planning of your next vacation or holiday, and get Route 66 checked off your bucket list of destinations in 2024!

The Lore of Route 66: The Main Street of America

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

It is popular lore in movies, songs, books like "The Grapes of Wrath", and TV shows.

The legendary highway was known far and wide for its variety of "mom and pop" motels, neon lights, drive-ins, quirky roadside attractions, flat tires, cars with no air conditioning, dangerous curves, steep hills, and narrow lanes.

Today, there are more than 250 buildings, bridges, road alignments and other sites along Route 66 that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The movie "Easy Rider" was filmed at several locations along Route 66. The move "Thelma and Louise" also featured Route 66 references and scenes.

The popularity stuck, and continues to grow today! So ... get out and explore Historic U.S. Route 66!


Route 66 Map from Chicago to Santa Monica

Map of Historic Route 66 from Illinois to California
Historic U.S. Route 66 Map from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California


Road Trip Travel Guides for Various States Along Route 66

Planning a road trip on Route 66 in 2024 or for the Centennial in 2026? Here are the travel guides and reviews by state...

Travel Guide for Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois Travel Guide for Route 66 in Missouri Travel Guide for Route 66 in Kansas Travel Guide for Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma
Travel Guide for Route 66 in Texas Travel Guide for Road Trips on Route 66 Across New Mexico Travel Guide for Road Trips on Historic U.S. Route 66 Across Arizona Travel Guide for Route 66 Across California



List of Route 66 Mileage by State (1926 Alignment)

State - Miles

Illinois - 301
Missouri - 317
Kansas - 13
Oklahoma - 432
Texas - 186
New Mexico - 487
Arizona - 401
California - 314

TOTAL - 2,448 Miles

It's time to stop for a "selfie"!
The arch in Grants, New Mexico on Route 66
The arch in Grants, New Mexico on Historic Route 66 ... a great place to stop for a "selfie"!

 

The Demise of Route 66

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

Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments during its lifetime.

The passage of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 sounded the death knell for the old road, and gradually segments were replaced with new, safer and faster superhighways.

Its final demise was the completion of the Interstate Highway System. The last town by-passed by the Interstate system was Williams, Arizona, on October 13, 1984.

Subsequently, U.S. Route 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985.

Route 66 was replaced by five Interstates: I-55 southbound from Chicago, I-44 across Missouri and Oklahoma, I-40 in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, I-15 and finally I-10 into Los Angeles.

Route 66 Today

Today, in 2024, several states recognize the historical significance of the road, and have it marked with "66" in the state highway number. "Historic Route 66 Associations" are active in several states.

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

Touring Historic U.S. Route 66 in the comfort of your own classic Chevrolet Corvette at the Crossroads of America

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

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

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!

Motorcycles at the Classy Ass, Oatman, Arizona, on U.S. Route 66
Motorcycles at the Classy Ass, Oatman, Arizona, on Route 66

A variety of motorcycle rental plans are available, such as those from Eaglerider Motorcycle Rentals.

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.

Read more about Route 66 on Motorcycle

TRAVELERS LOVE THESE ROUTE 66 FEATURES

Route 66 maps of all eight states The murals along Historic Route 66 The time to drive Route 66 from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California
Route 66 store: books, maps, clothing, memorabilia and more! Route 66 Facts and FAQs The giant "muffler men" of Route 66

Route 66: The Song

The Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, on Route 66
The Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, on Route 66

The song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" was composed by songwriter Bobby Troup in 1946.

It was first recorded by Nat King Cole, and sung by other singers over the years including Chuck Berry, Perry Como, and the Rolling Stones.

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 Bernardino.
Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
when you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

For the Route 66 TV series on CBS, the "Route 66 Theme" song was written by Nelson Riddle.


Route 66: The TV Show

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

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 Chevrolet Corvette for 116 episodes.

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.

Read more about the Route 66 TV series ... and those Corvettes!

The Chevrolet Corvette on the TV show "Route 66" Martin Milner on the TV show "Route 66" George Maharis on the TV show "Route 66"

ALWAYS POPULAR STOPS ON ROUTE 66

The Blue Whale of Catoosa on Route 66 in Oklahoma Standin' on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona, on Route 66 Wigwam Village Number 6 in Holbrook, Arizona
The Round Barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma on Route 66 Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo, Texas Meramec Caverns in Missouri near Route 66
Old Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Louis Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park in Oklahoma Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Jack Rabbit Trading Post on Route 66 near Joseph City, Arizona - Here It Is! Elmer Long's Bottle Tree Ranch on Route 66 in California Angel and Vilma's Original Route 66 Gift Shop in Seligman, Arizona

Chicago: The Route Begins

The beginning point for a Route 66 road trip could be either Chicago or Los Angeles, depending on the direction of the trip. Most travelers seem to start their journey on Route 66 in Chicago, and head westbound, the direction taken by those leaving the Dust Bowl and those seeking a new life in the West. That is the direction we take on this website.

Illinois was the first of the eight states through which Route 66 passed to have its segment of U.S. 66 paved, at a time when much of the route across the country was still a gravel or dirt road. Illinois Route 66 took over Illinois State Highway 4, a pre-existing, fully paved two-lane road between Chicago and St. Louis.

The beginning point of Route 66 in Chicago has changed over the years. Today, the starting point is at East Adams Street at South Michigan Avenue, and the end point is at East Jackson at South Michigan. One way streets in the area can be difficult to navigate for first-time Route 66 visitors!

While in Chicago, many Route 66 travelers seek out Grant Park, the Willis Tower, Chicago Architecture River Cruise, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Science & Industry, the Magnificent Mile, Lincoln Park Zoo and the lakeshore shopping areas.

Read more about Route 66 in Chicago

Chicago ... the beginning point of Route 66 when heading westbound
Chicago, Illinois ... the beginning point of Route 66 when heading westbound

Midpoint Cafe & Gift Shop in Adrian

Route 66 Roadside Attraction: Midpoint Cafe and Gift Shop, Adrian, Texas

Located at the exact geo-mathematical center of Route 66 ... 1,139 miles to either Chicago or Los Angeles.

Read more about The Route 66 Midpoint

Welcome to Adrian, Texas ... the midpoint of Historic Route 66

 

Santa Monica: The End of the Trail

The original terminus of U.S. Route 66 was at 7th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. However, over the years, and decades, Route 66 has had several “official” and “unofficial" ending points.

The route was later extended to the intersection of Lincoln and Olympic boulevards in Santa Monica, about one mile from the Pacific Ocean. This is often referred to as the official ending point of Route 66.

Read more about Route 66 in Santa Monica

Map showing the "official" and "unofficial" ending points of Route 66 in Santa Monica, California
(click image to open in Google Maps)
Map showing the "official" and "unofficial" ending points of Route 66 in Santa Monica, California

The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California (Staff Photo)
The End of the Trail ... Santa Monica, California

 

Travel Guides for States and Cities Along Route 66

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are trip planners for major segments and cities ... click any image for details!

ILLINOIS ROUTE 66

Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois

Route 66 road trip to Chicago, Illinois Route 66 Road Trip to Joliet, Illinois Route 66 Road Trip to Pontiac, Illinois Route 66 Road Trip to Bloomington and Normal in Illinois
Dwight, Illinois along Route 66 Route 66 road trip to Springfield, Illinois Route 66 road trip to Litchfield, Illinois

MISSOURI ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips in Missouri ... click for details!

Route 66 road trip to St. Louis, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Lebanon, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Springfield, Missouri
Route 66 road trip to Carthage, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Cuba, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Joplin, Missouri
Route 66 Road Trip to Sullivan, Missouri Route 66 road trip to Rolla, Missouri Route 66 Road Trip to Webb City, Missouri

KANSAS ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips in Kansas

Route 66 road trip to Galena, Kansas Route 66 road trip to Baxter Springs, Kansas

OKLAHOMA ROUTE 66

Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma

Route 66 road trip to Miami, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Chelsea, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Catoosa, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Chandler, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to Yukon, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Weatherford, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Clinton, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to Elk City, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Sapulpa, Oklahoma Route 66 road trip to Erick, Oklahoma
Route 66 road trip to El Reno, Oklahoma Route 66 Road Trip to Vinita, Oklahoma Route 66 Road Trip to Arcadia, Oklahoma
  Route 66 Road Trip to Claremore, Oklahoma

TEXAS ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips across Texas

Route 66 road trip to Shamrock, Texas Route 66 road trip to McLean, Texas Route 66 road trip to Amarillo, Texas
Route 66 road trip to Vega, Texas Route 66 road trip to Adrian, Texas Route 66 road trip to Glenrio, Texas

NEW MEXICO ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trip Across New Mexico

Route 66 road trip to Tucumcari, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Santa Rosa, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Route 66 road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Grants, New Mexico Route 66 road trip to Gallup, New Mexico

ARIZONA ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trips across Arizona

Route 66 road trip to Holbrook, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Winslow, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Flagstaff, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Williams, Arizona
Route 66 Road Trip to Ash Fork, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Seligman, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Kingman, Arizona Route 66 road trip to Oatman, Arizona

MORE CALIFORNIA ROUTE 66

Route 66 road trip across California

Route 66 road trip to Needles, California Route 66 Road Trip to Goffs, California Route 66 road trip to Amboy, California
Route 66 road trip to Barstow, California Route 66 road trip to Victorville, California Route 66 road trip to San Bernardino, California
Route 66 road trip to Pasadena, California Route 66 road trip to San Santa Monica, California

Popular Route 66 resources for your next road trip!

EZ66 Guide for Travelers (5th Edition)
by Jerry McClanahan


EZ66 Guide for Travelers ... buy at Amazon

Here It Is! Route 66 Series of 8 Maps
by Jerry McClanahan & Jim Ross

Here It Is Route 66 Map Series ... buy at Amazon
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The Route 66 Store ... click to shop now for books, maps, clothing, videos and more!

Route 66 Centennial: 1926-2026

Route 66 in 2026 ... celebrating 100 years of The Mother Road during the Route 66 Centennial

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

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

In 2026, the nation will be celebrating the Route 66 Centennial ... 100 years of the Mother Road serving the traveling public! Many states and organizations are planning special events and tours to highlight the Centennial.

Read more about the Route 66 Centennial