As someone who fancies vintage style and history, I’d long wanted to drive Route 66, the so-called “Main Street of America.” So when Shawn and I criss-crossed North America (from Saint Louis to Québec City, then on to Nevada, via Santa Fe, and the Grand Canyon), we declared it essential to hop on what remained of this legendary East-West roadway.
In past decades, Interstate 40 has devoured many sections of Route 66. As a result, we were not always certain how to find the “Mother Road,” especially since we didn’t have a historic map in hand.
When our cruising was abruptly interrupted by “Road Ends” signs, we decided to “consult” Nat King Cole in his 1946 tune, “Route 66.” Nat’s smooth jazz vocals informed us that we could pick up well-restored sections of Route 66 outside of Flagstaff, well into Western Arizona.
And so we enjoyed empty backroads seemingly inhabited only by prairie dogs and the occasional roadster or motorcyclist. We happened upon hotels resembling teepees, mom-and-pop diners offering greasy burgers and refreshing root beer floats, and classic gas stations like the Hackberry General Store in Kingman, Arizona. We also spotted lovingly-restored Model Ts and Corvettes, as well as their long-forgotten counterparts. Equally sad as they were picturesque, the vehicles sat rusting along random stretches of the route, reminding us what happens when Mother Nature has been left to her own devices.
It’s fun to imagine what Route 66 was like in its heyday, when these ghost towns—many now replete with dilapidated motels and diners—were bustling places filled with road-trippers chasing dreams out West.
Established in the 1920s, Route 66 was removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985. A recent feature in the Cars films has contributed to an infusion of youthful energy for this classic roadway.
Here’s hoping it won’t change too much, though.
If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
It winds from Chicago to L.A.,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six…
-Route 66 lyrics
Where in the World?
- Are you planning on motoring along Route 66? Check out the National Park Service’s site for maps, itineraries and fun spots to explore along the roadway. Don’t forget to have your favorite version of Route 66 at your fingertips too!
- Also, explore the National Historic Route 66 Federation.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.