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Take a ride on the Route 66 and experience a bit of history

Added April 2, 2019
Route 66 logo painted onto a black top road

Where will you ride this year? Remember, it’s the journey—not the destination. If ever there was a road that beckons to the adventurous spirit of motorcycle riders across our nation, it’s Route 66.

There’s so much history in Route 66, you could spend months reading books and studying maps—making it the perfect prep for planning a road trip to get your kicks on historic Route 66.

Route 66: Gone but not forgotten

This epic road is woven into the fabric of American road culture. It’s even recognized around the world as a symbol of America—just like motorcycles, hot dogs, and apple pie. So, what happened to this famous road once known as the Main Street of America?

Route 66 was removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985 after it had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. But the Main Street of America couldn’t be replaced by just one interstate highway. And even though some sections of Route 66 are gone, the Mother Road still lives on in more than just our collective memories.

The birth of a legend

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. Route 66 itself was born on November 11, 1926, as part of the new U.S. Highway System, and wasn’t fully paved until 1938.

Along the way, there were disputes and compromises in the finalization of the route and even the route number. This was normal during the period when “auto trails” became officially designated U.S. Highways. A highway meant connection to the rest of the country. It brought prosperity to the communities they passed through. But Route 66 would mean so much more to the nation.

The route

The Route 66 map traced a journey from Chicago westward to Santa Monica, California, covering 2,448 miles while passing through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

It became the route of westward migration during the dust bowl era. John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” seared it into the collective consciousness as a road of escape from great loss in a dire period of our history. In 1946, Bobby Troup got his kicks on Route 66 and penned the famous Route 66 song, after driving on Route 66 headed to Los Angeles seeking fame and fortune. The 1960s “Route 66” tv show also introduced the Mother Road to new generations. 

Seek, and you’ll find Route 66

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.

That means the Mother Highway is still alive and is waiting for you to find her. Head out on it, ride parts of the original road, and find the landmarks that’ll help you explore the route’s rich history. To learn more about Route 66, check out the National Parks Service website.

Till next time, ride safe! 

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Enjoy other historic, scenic rides—including the Lincoln Highway, the Loneliest Road in America, the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop, and California’s Rock Store.