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
As one who adores vintage trinkets and history, I’ve long wanted to drive the so-called “Main Street of America” — Route 66. So, during our recent journey criss-crossing North America from Saint Louis as far east as Québec City, then on to Nevada, via Santa Fe, and the Grand Canyon, we decided it was essential to hop on what remained of this legendary roadway.
Without a historic map, we were not always quite certain how to find the “Mother Road” as many sections of it were devoured by Interstate 40 in past decades. When our nostalgic rides were rudely interrupted by “Road Ends” signs, we decided to consult Nat King Cole in his 1946 tune, “Route 66.” Nat’s smooth jazz crooning informed us that we could pick up well-restored sections of Route 66 outside of Flagstaff, well into western Arizona. So for a few hours, we enjoyed empty backroads seemingly inhabited only by prairie dogs and the occasional roadster or motorcyclist. We happened upon hotel rooms resembling teepees, mom and pop diners plentiful with burgers and root beer floats, and classic gas stations, such as Arizona’s Hackberry General Store, pictured here. There were also the occasional spotless Model Ts and Corvettes, as well as their long-forgotten counterparts, rusting along random stretches of the roadway, reminding us what happens when Mother Nature and time are left to tend to civilization.
It’s fun to imagine what 66 was like in its heyday, when today’s ghost towns – many now plentiful with dilapidated motels and diners – were bustling with road-trippers seeking new lives out west.
Route 66 existed from 1926 and 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.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.