The Iconic Route 66 is the quintessential American road-trip having been established in 1926, this 2,448 miles of road was the first all-weather highway to be built in the US and links Chicago to Los Angeles. With the North Coast 500 growing in popularity, it is often being toted as Scotlands (and Britains) answer to this world famous American route.
Here’s all you need to know about Route 66…
What Is Route 66?
Route 66 runs across the width of the United States, connecting Chicago to Los Angeles, crossing 8 states. 3 time zones and taking you the better part of 3 weeks in the process. Along the way you’ll find neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck shops, traditional American diners and reptile parks.
Starting on the city street of Chicago, while driving the route, road trippers pass diverse landscapes from the Grand Canyon to the heartlands of Oklahoma and the boardwalks of Santa Monica, taking in small town America and some great attractions along the way.
Whats the history of Route 66?
The history of this road started 15,000 years ago when people made the first trials across the land which were later used by the Indians as foot trails and later in 1800’s were used by the European pioneers to reach the Mississipi River.
The section of the route from Rolla to Springfield, Missouri is also the same path that was used by the Cherokee Indians during their forced relocation in 1830 and was named the Trail of Tears.
The route was established in 1926 with the automobile boom and was one of the first national highways in the United States. This had a significant impact on the communities and businesses along the road.
The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl, a severe drought in the 1930’s, forced families to leave their homes and drive west along the route with limited belongings in search of a better life, and new opportunities in sunny California giving it the nickname the “road of dreams”. The 1939 novel, Grapes of Wrath which recorded the hardships of the families who lost their farms during this time and coined the name “Mother Road”, this and the 1940’s movie helped cement Route 66 into American culture.
During the 50’s, after the years of hardship and suffering were gone, holiday makers packed up their RV’s and motorhomes and headed out on roadtrips celebrating their freedom and life. The Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest in the West brought the crowds as they also came to see the wild lands of the Cowboy and Indian territories of the Far West.
However, in 1956 a bigger, faster 4-lane highway bypassed Route 66 and was the start of the end for the route, which by 1985 was decommissioned and officially ceased to exist.
Although only 85% of the road still stands, non-profit organisations and US National Park Service have raised funds and made efforts to restore, look after the route and promote the route.
Why is Route 66 so popular?
Route 66 is part of America’s pop culture with songs being written about it and many a Hollywood movie being filmed along the road which pulls in the crowds looking to experience this iconic route. Authentic and historic motels and diners dot the route as well as a host of diverse attractions from Craters to art installations.
Since being decommissioned, Route 66 no longer exists on modern maps which creates an air of mystique around it and with the lack of signage in some places as well as it’s unpaved and almost impassable areas road trippers are drawn to the challenge as well as wanting to tick it off their must-do road-trip lists.
The route also encompasses some of the most beautiful scenery in America and has a number of interesting attractions such as the Sedona’s red rocks and archaeological sites featuring relics from early settlers and Native Americans. It’s also home to some strange and wonderful places to visit.
What is there to do along Route 66?
The route takes drivers through the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Some of it’s most popular attractions are:
- Hackberry General Store – filled to the roof with every piece of Route 66 memorabilia that you could imagine.
- Meteor Crater – 2.4 miles in circumference, this giant crater was made my a meteor impact more than 50,000 years ago.
- The Cozy Dog Drive-in – Established in 1949 and where the hot dog on a stick originates from, the drive-in is still serving customers over 50 years later.
- Cadillac Ranch – Commissioned in 1974, the installation is 10 old Cadillacs, nose-down, sticking out in the ground. Built to honour America’s love for the open road and is one of the most popular attractions.
- Petrified Forest National Park – 52,000 acres of desert and designated as a National Landmark in 1906, look out for dinosaur fossils, learn about the archaeological sites and see the remains of petrified trees.
Why is Scotlands North Coast 500 compared to Route 66?
With it’s sharp rise in popularity and authentic route through some of Scotlands most beautiful scenery, the North Coast 500 is offered referred to as Scotlands answer to Route 66. Tourists are welcomed, and the small towns are now a hive of activity in the summer months and there is plenty of natural attractions, walks and Scottish culture for visitors to take in.
It’s so well admired and enjoyed that its on almost every ‘top 10’ and ‘must-do’ road-trip lists you’ll come across.