Riding Route 66 Through the USA and History
Historic Route 66 recalls the golden era of automobile travel. Small towns unfolded as families took to the highway. Motels, and attractions popped up along the sides of the road. Today major highways have supplanted much of the route, but more and more of the towns time left behind are burnishing their road-history for visitors.
IllinoisIllinois is, for most of us, the state that's the start of the Mother Road. It offers vintage sites and nostalgia. In Joliet we found the totally deliciously over-the-top Rialto Square Theatre with impossibly high ceilings carved and gilded and huge mirrored walls. It's actually a restored vaudeville movie palace which opened in 1926. And Route 66 afficionados visit for a chance to see Odell’s Service Station on West Street. Mt. Olive because of the Soulsby family and their restored Shell gas station, truly another 1920s jewel, tiny Mt. Olive has a union history as well. Wandering along the roads, trying to stay on the ofttimes elusive Route 66, we found the Union Miner Cemetery and discovered that Mt. Olive is also the final resting place of Mother Jones, union organizer and general troublemaker in the best sense of the word.
MissouriCrossing into Missouri, we found charming Cuba, another small town bypassed by the passing of the Main Street. But Cuba has earned new fame as Route 66 Mural City. Rolla (pronounced RAH-lla) has little Route 66 history left, but it does have the remains of the homage by Cherokee Trail of Tears memorial created by Larry Baggett. Read more about Attractions Route 66 Through Illinois and Missouri
OklahomaSoon after we started it became apparent that there was no way to see everything. It could take us half a day just to see one town. We began to pick and choose, and to rely on serendipity. We got off the interstate in Miami (pronounced My-AM-a) because there was reputed to be an interesting restored theater with a café somewhere. We never found the café described in the book but we did find great barbeque, and a true gem of a restored theater. The Coleman, all gilt and plush, opened six months before the 1929 Depression devastated the economy of the country. As the fortune of the country In Tiny Foyil we stopped to admire Ed Galloway’s native American inspired folk art fantasy, Totem Pole Park. The famous Blue Whale of Catoosa and much more attract roaders to Oklahoma.
More OklahomaTraveling Route 66 is a throwback to a time when the journey was probably as much or more as the destination, said Mike Hickey, Oklahoma Route 66 Association president. Route 66 helped usher in America’s unique auto travel industry. It’s lined with mom-and-pop eateries, service stations and motels in the form of flashy structures and bright signs all intended to lure passersby. A function they still perform today.
Travelers today get a wide taste of Route 66 in Oklahoma. There are long stretches of countryside, solemn relics of days gone and landmarks glorified and integrated into the modern landscape. Each town on Route 66 has a distinct character and its own story.
TexasIn Texas, go Irish with the town of Shamrock established by an Irish sheep rancher. Next along the nostalgia trail is McLean, sitting about two hours from the midpoint of Route 66. The main streets are quiet, even during the day during the week. The tiny town proffers the Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean/Alanreed Area Museum, and a beautifully restored Phillips 66 gas station. Stop in the town of Vega to see another of the original gas stations along Route 66. In Adrian stand at the true mid-point of Route 66, halfway between Chicago and Los Angeles, and visit the Mid Point Café with delicious pies in a charming vintage luncheonette atmosphere. Read more about Attraction of Route 66 Through Oklahoma and Texas
AmarilloOften called the Capital of the Panhandle, Amarillo survived the death of Route 66. Today it straddles the upstart highway I-40. It’s also an example of one of the difficulties faced by drivers seeking to follow historic Route 66 – multiple alignments. Since the path of Route 66 often involved using already existing roads, town planners sometimes "moved" the route by moving the signs, effectively rechanneling traffic. Each time the road "moved" it became an alignment.
Amarillo has two different roads both with the legitimate claim to be Route 66. Amarillo Boulevard (also known as Business Route 40, and even Route 60) is one of the alignments. Actually the second incarnation of Route 66, it takes you a bit north of the rest of Amarillo which now spreads out south.Read about Amarillo's Route 66 Heritage and Attractions
New MexicoNew Mexico boasts two rather different versions of Route 66, including a spot in the middle of Albuquerque that is the crossroads of both - the corner of Route 66 and Route 66. Start with Tucumcari a town still rich with Route 66 living nostalgia, including the politically incorrect Teepee Curios with its large teepee entrance, and the 1940s Blue Swallow Motel. New Mexico also has its abandoned town -- Cuervo. Relics of the cafes, motels, and sights linger in the small town but vibrant town of Santa Rosa. Called the City of Natural Lakes, folks coming for a visit for the Blue Hole – an 80-foot-deep spring known for its clear blue water. But since we were on a Route 66 trip, we visited the Route 66 Auto Museum which is a gem of nostalgia. Read about Route 66 Through Albuquerque and New Mexico
ArizonaThere are several great Route 66 stops in Arizona, but Williams, Arizona offers new life for some of its historic sites.
CaliforniaLast, but certainly not least, on the westward tour of Route 66 is California. With stops in towns like Needles, Daggett, Calico and a bunch of other "asphalt kicking" towns, California is certainly a Route 66 pleasure. Read more about California's Route 66 Have a Route 66 memory you'd like to share? Like us on Facebook - OffbeatTravelCom and post your comment.