Route 66 is affectionately known as “The Mother Road,” truly an icon of American road culture. It may very well be the most famous road of all time. It’s alive in the collective consciousness of motorcycle riders everywhere, yet officially it no longer exists as U.S. Route 66. In 1985, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials decommissioned U.S. Route 66, relegating it to the pages of history books. Today, however, sections of the road that grew to be affectionately dubbed the Main Street of America can still be found if you look for them.
A Bit of History
The U.S. Highway System grew out of a need to organize American roads, which evolved from what was known as “auto trails.” The history of building roads in America is fascinating. It’s filled with intrigue, competition and controversy. In the early days of creating the U.S. Highway System, the road that probably stirred the most contention was to become U.S. Route 66. It was officially designated on April 30, 1926 making it one of the original highways when the U.S. Highway System plan was approved on November 11, 1926. This seminal American road was around long before motor vehicles and highway numbering systems. Construction on the first section began in 1857 as a government-funded wagon road. There is so much history in Route 66 that it makes the perfect cabin fever cure. You could spend all winter reading books and studying maps, which makes the perfect prep for planning a road trip to “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.”
Route 66 traced a journey from Chicago westward to Santa Monica, Calif. It covered 2,448 miles, passing through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Serving as a route of migration during the dustbowl era of the 1930s, it was the road taken by the Joad family in Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” The popularity of Route 66 as a path for westward migration also served as an economic engine of recovery from the Great Depression. Today sections of the road that pass through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway lovingly called Historic Route 66.
Get Your Kicks
You could easily spend a two-week vacation exploring the remnants of Route 66. The American landscape it passes through is vast, varied and beautiful. The history of the road, the towns and the people who made their lives along it are the stuff of endlessly compelling stories. The best time to take this journey is during the prime motorcycle season, May through October. Any trip in search of Route 66 is best preceded by some good research and planning. A good place to start that is the Historic Route 66 website. The road is such a captivating icon in Americana that you might be drawn to spend multiple vacations getting your motorcycle kicks along Route 66.
Till next time, dream of Route 66 and ride safe!