The highway has changed; has the spirit of Route 66 changed, too?

Quick notes:

  • Route 66 connects road trippers to Mid-20th century American history.

  • If you go, you’ll find some unusual stops and side trips

  • You can find one of a kind accommodations when you stop for the night.

If you’re deciding on a road trip destination that will show you an iconic view of America, you might be considering a drive across Route 66.¬†Sure, some people find that perhaps the drive is overhyped. They’ll say that certain parts of the highway are more interesting than others and that some of the original attractions have disappeared along with parts of the original route.

However, plenty of people disagree. While it is true that over time, the road and its attractions have changed, there’s a strong argument to be made that the experience of the original highway has endured.

You can immerse yourself in the history of Route 66 and early auto travel

The highway is routed from Chicago to Los Angeles and was one of the first to stretch across state lines. As it snaked across the country, it eschewed a direct route and instead connected a series of small towns that otherwise would have experienced greater isolation. Partly because of this, it held a prominent place in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath where the author called it the “mother highway.” Steinbeck’s characters, like many Americans of the time, used the road to head from the dustbowl to a better existence in California.

While you drive it today, you get to share in their experience of the drive and the stops they made.¬† As the miles add up and you experience unavoidable stops for lunch or to view interesting places, you also learn about the country’s geography, culture and food, and extremely local history.

There are unique stops along the way

Pixabay

When you take a drive across Route 66, you’re set up to experience some unusual and iconic vacation destinations that you probably didn’t know you needed to see. Are you a fan of the Eagles? Winslow, Arizona, from the song “Take it Easy” is on Route 66. When you’re in Illinois, it is possible to visit the Route 66 museum and take a photo in front of the world’s largest Route 66 shield. When you’re in Texas, you can stop at the Midpoint cafe which was the inspiration for Flo’s V8 Cafe in Pixar’s Cars.

The route features many “one of a kind” accommodations

A road trip on Route 66 isn’t just about where you go during the day, it’s about where you stop for the night. As you plan your road trip, find that you have the opportunity to stay in some incredibly unique places including neon motels that seem to have jumped off of film screens and onto the roadway in front of you. The Blue Swallow Motel with its classic neon sign in Tucumcari, NM is just one example. There are plenty of others.

Route 66 Travel Tips

  • Travel times: The best time to go is between early May and late September.
  • Map it out: Get to know the original route versus the existing highway that is left and is well-traveled.
  • Consider side trips: Jump off the road from time to time. The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and other attractions are within an easy drive.
  • Use online tools: Once you decide on the route you’re going to take, spend time pre-planning your overnight stops using both travel guides and services like Airbnb or VRBO.
  • Get ready to use your camera creatively: Be ready to use the special features or filters on your camera They’ll be plenty of opportunities to take unexpected, beautiful photos.
  • Stop early: Don’t push yourself to take too long on the road. If you stop early in the day you can relax and get to know the town you’re in.

A deeper dive — More from the 101

Create the best road trip with a scientific algorithm: Vacation 101
How does your idea of a perfect road trip compare with what a computer says it should be?

Tikaboo Peak: The closest you can get to Area 51: Vacation 101
Get right up next to the secretive military site.