It was John Steinbeck who named Route 66 “the Mother Road” and for countless tens of thousands from roughly 1926 through the early 60’s, it was THE way west, a 2,000 plus mile journey through eight states.
In the 1930’s, when Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, it was the road refugees from the dust bowl used to flee their dried up farms in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. But in the ensuing years, it was fun, adventure, tourism and the classic road trip experience the lured most folks and local communities built thriving businesses that served them – motels, drive-in restaurants, gas stations, tourist shops and hokey made-up attractions like the world’s biggest ketchup bottle, or the world’s biggest rocking chair to lure the tourists in.
Then, the interstate highway system bypassed most of Route 66 and interstates like U.S. 55 and U.S. 40 siphoned off the once-steady streams of Route 66 traffic. It was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985. Communities which once bustled with business shriveled up and almost died.
Over the past 20 years or so, many small towns have worked hard to restore as much as they can of the historic old route and while it meanders and stops and starts in many places, it’s once again possible to drive most of the route. It’s not a route for those who are impatient. There lots of stop signs, stop lights, road improvements. small towns and photo ops along the way.
To adequately do the entire trip from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., you really need about three weeks.
You don’t have to do it all at once, of course. You can do segments or whatever areas you want, spending whatever time you want.
Jennifer and I have been on it all week. As I write this, we’re about to cross into Arizona.
We started in Chicago and have slowly made our way down the iconic highway, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and the Main Street of America.
We found ourselves with lots of other Route 66 pilgrims. But here’s the weird thig: Except for two women from Pennsylvania, every other Route 66 tourist we met was from Europe. We met people along the way from England, Finland, Norway, France, Germany and Dubai.
I asked a trio of Finns we met at the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas, why there were so many Europeans out here. “Because in Europe, we have nothing like this,” said one of them. “We can drive across most countries in a day. There’s nothing like this and we have heard so much about it.” The three Finns were a father and two sons said Route 66 has been on their bucket list for years.
A couple of days ago, back in Illinois, we met 29 motorcyclists from Norway. A Chicago comany specialzes in Route 66 tours by motorcycle. It provided brand new Harleys for the Europeans. They were delighted to see Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound.
“Look, an Elghund,” one of the cyclists said to his wife, poitning out Tai. He confirmed what we had heard before, that in Norway, Tai is known as an Elghund. Elg means moose. Americans, hearing the name, somehow though it was Elk. Hence Elkhound. But Tai is actually a Moosehound.
You’d never know it when we camped at a KOA west of El Reno, Okla. Next door to the campground was a big fenced in area with two bison. Tai tried barking them down. He thinks he’s a BuffaloHound.
The photos illustrating this post were all taken with my iPhone 6 Plus smartphone. I started out using my Canon 5D Mark III DSLR and had some great photos along Route 66 from our start in Chicago up to the Missouri border. But just before we crossed the Mississippi into St Louis, while we were out of the vehicle having dinner, thieves somehow got into our locked RV and stole that camera, along with my video camera, our computers, and much more.
But we were not going to let them stop this trip. So, until I can get a replacement camera shipped out to me, I’ve been using the iPhone.
Helping us find all the fun stuff along this route are two guidebooks that I can highly recommend. The first is the Route 66 Adventure Handbook: Turbocharged Fourth Edition, by Drew Knowles. We also like the Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers – 3RD EDITION, by Jerry McClanahan and The National Historic Route 66 Federation.
These books give lots of fascinating history and details on the route, which, after traveling it, Jennifer and I think should be on every RVers bucket list.
There are lots of campgrounds along the entire route.
We left the route at Albuquerque, headed south on U.S. 25 to I-10 and then into Tucson, where we are to get an Internet satellite system for our Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL.
Here are some of our photos. Hope you enjoy…