Route 66 is a historic highway in the United States that is perhaps most famous for its role in the American road trip. The road stretches over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, and it was one of the first highways built in the United States. It was officially established in 1926 and was decommissioned in 1985, but it has remained an enduring symbol of American culture and the open road.
The origins of Route 66 can be traced back to the early 20th century, when the United States was in the midst of an economic boom and the automobile was becoming more and more popular. At the time, there were very few roads that connected the country’s major cities, and many people who wanted to travel by car had to rely on dirt trails and local roads.
In response to this need for better roads, the federal government began to invest in highway construction. One of the first of these projects was the National Old Trails Road, which was created in 1912 and ran from Baltimore, Maryland to Los Angeles, California. This road was later expanded and became part of Route 66.
As more and more people began to use automobiles for long distance travel, it became clear that a more efficient and modern road system was needed. In 1921, the U.S. government established the Bureau of Public Roads, which was tasked with building a network of federal highways that would connect the country’s major cities.
One of the first highways that the Bureau of Public Roads built was Route 66, which was officially established in 1926. The road was designed to be a more direct route between Chicago and Los Angeles, and it passed through a number of small towns and cities along the way, including St. Louis, Missouri, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Over the years, Route 66 became an important artery for commerce and travel in the United States. It was used by tourists, truckers, and families looking to relocate to new parts of the country. Many small businesses, such as gas stations, motels, and diners, sprung up along the road to serve the needs of travelers.
Route 66 was also an important cultural touchstone, and it was featured in a number of books, movies, and songs. One of the most famous of these is the song “Route 66,” which was written by Bobby Troup and recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946. The song became a hit and helped to solidify Route 66’s place in the American imagination.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Route 66 began to decline in popularity as the U.S. interstate system was developed. The interstates were faster, more efficient, and often more direct than Route 66, and many travelers began to use them instead. As a result, many of the small businesses that had relied on Route 66 for their livelihoods went out of business.
In 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned as a U.S. highway, and it was replaced by the interstate system. However, the road has remained an important part of American culture, and it has been designated as a National Scenic Byway. Today, people can still drive the entire length of Route 66, and many do so as a way to experience a piece of American history and culture.
Overall, Route 66 is an important part of American history and culture. It was one of the first highways built in the United States, and it played a crucial role in the development of the country’s transportation system. Today, it remains an enduring symbol of the American road trip and the freedom and possibility that it represents.
If you are looking to take an automotive road trip this summer, consider some of these interesting attractions along Route 66. We’ve put together a list of some of the best along this amazing and historic route to help you get started.
1. Mother Jones Grave – Mount Olive, Illinois. As you head west from Chicago through Illinois, you will pass many historic markers and pieces of Illinois and United States history. At Mount Olive, the Mother Jones Memorial is a must-see. Mother Jones was an advocate for the common American blue-collar worker, and worked tirelessly until her death at 100 years of age to improve treatment of coal miners. She was also involved in several mine wars and riots. She is buried in the Union Miners’ Cemetery along Route 66.
2. Mark Twain National Forest. When you get to Missouri, you may want to camp out overnight before continuing westward. The Mark Twain National Forest was established in 1938 and lies in the southern half of Missouri. The forest encompasses miles of beautiful hills and forests, and provides visitors with a calm place to relax and enjoy nature.
3. Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge. This single-span concrete arched bridge crosses Brush Creek just two miles west of Riverton, Kansas. It is the last surviving Marsh arch bridge on Route 66, and has recently been restored. When you travel the 13 miles of Route 66 in the Sunflower State, this beautiful structure is definitely something you want to stop and photograph.
4. J.M. Davis Arms Museum. Continuing into Oklahoma, you’ll travel through both Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Just outside of Tulsa is Claremore and the J.M. Davis Arms Museum. Whether you are a gun enthusiast, a history buff or just want to see something amazing, this is a must-see. The museum contains over 50,000 firearms and other historic pieces, and boasts the largest private firearms collection in the world. You won’t be able to see everything in one day, but it will sure be fun to try!
5. Cadillac Ranch. Next up is Texas, and as you go through Amarillo, take the time to stop by the famous Cadillac Ranch which Chris Ledoux memorialized in his song of the same name. The Cadillac Ranch began as a Cadillac museum and art gallery and has grown over the years. It’s definitely a stop you don’t want to skip.
6. Grand Canyon Caverns. In Peach Springs, Arizona lies the Grand Canyon Caverns, 230 feet below the ground. The caverns are massive and have not fully been explored. You can take tours during the day and see the different areas, as well as provisions that the government stored in the caverns during the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis to sustain local citizens in case of an emergency.
An automotive road trip along Route 66 is a great way to spend some time with family and friends. This vacation is inexpensive and laid-back; you won’t have restrictions on your time or a schedule to keep.