My husband Eric, always game (to date) for every travel adventure I’ve pulled him into, and I are about to start out on our next “big” vacation – a road trip that includes most of the first half of old Route 66. We’ll start in Chicago and stop at Oklahoma City for the historic part of the trip, hopefully returning next year to finish OKC all the way to L.A. and the Santa Monica pier. Given that the “Mother Road” was decommissioned from the 1970s through the 1980s and technically no longer exists, it’s not surprising that planning this trip has been an adventure all its own. Here’s a few things I have learned:
- …That folks around the metropolitan DC area, where I live and work, confuse old Route 66 with Interstate 66 all the time. I can’t blame them, but the sad fact is that it’s the interstate highway system that “killed off” Route 66 and other roads like it. I-66 has the number 66 because that number was up for grabs once the old route was decommissioned.
- …People wonder how on earth I’ll drive on a road that doesn’t exist anymore. Once again, I can’t blame them for asking, because I worried about this myself. The route isn’t in your average map, atlas, or GPS. But my second lesson learned is that there is a TON of great information out there including enthusiastic travel guides, turn-by-turn directions, and painstakingly hand-drawn and illustrated maps. Which brings me to my third lesson …
- …People LOVE America’s “Mother Road”! It’s not just something that seems kind of neat to learn about if you’ve read The Grapes of Wrath or On the Road or watched the movie Cars or heard the famous song about “getting your kicks”. There is an entire community of roadies devoted to this road, there are clubs and organizations dedicated to its preservation, and there are authors who eagerly pen their own travel guides and publish gorgeous books full of pictures and memories. Folks run websites and blogs and fundraisers, and they eagerly get the word out about all the mom-and-pop businesses that have survived the years, as well as the new ones that have arrived more recently. Visitors from around the world ask “old-timers” on the forums what to plan, where to stay, and how to rent cars and buy gas/petrol in the U.S. Every year, there are travelers coming from all over the world to tour Route 66 and see our big beautiful America this way – it’s a legendary bucket list trip for many. Isn’t that amazing? You could say the road technically breathed its last breath back in 1985, but it’s for sure not dead!
For more information on the old route, check out the following for starters:
- Historic Route 66 Guide website for some great articles and information
- Route 66 News blog for all the latest news
- Historic Route 66 website for turn-by-turn directions and a great forum
- National Park Service’s Route 66 site
- Michael Wallis’ wonderfully written and photographed book Route 66: The Mother Road … a delightful read!