Chicago - Chicago
Chicago - Springfield
Depart the “Windy City” west on I-55 (built atop and, at times, alongside the original RT 66) to pick up the ‘Pontiac Trail’ section of RT 66 (today Hwy 53) for Joliet and Wilmington, with its “Gemini Giant” rocket-man outside the Launching Pad Drive-In. Then on to Pontiac, where we’ll stop at the RT 66 Museum to really get in the mood for our fabulous journey ahead. We formally pick up “Historic Route 66” outside McLean and arrive in Springfield, IL, the state capital and former home of Abraham Lincoln.
Springfield - St. Louis
Today we really feel like we’re in the heartland of America as we pass miles of cornfields and traverse small towns such as Litchfield and Mt Olive, with their American flags waving outside little bungalows. We arrive mid-day in St. Louis, our arrival announced by the 190-meter-tall “Gateway Arch.” We’ll cross the Mississippi via the New Chain of Rocks Bridge, running parallel to the old bridge (now closed to traffic) that carried RT 66. We’ll ride through downtown retracing the old RT 66 to enjoy a sundae or shake treat at Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, an iconic stop for drivers (and riders) since 1941. After checking into our hotel, we’ll have the balance of the day free to explore and to enjoy the vivacious nightlife.
St. Louis - Carthage
From St. Louis we head southwest, following the I-44, which was built atop the old RT 66 or alongside it (with the original “Mother Road” still running parallel to I-44 in patches), with plenty of old world motels and gas stations to remind us of yesteryear. We’ll stop outside Stanton to explore Meramec Caverns, with its underground river and fantastical dripstone formations (it was once used as a hideout by outlaw bandit Jesse James). Our route becomes more interesting as we begin to snake through the rolling hills of Missouri’s Ozarks to arrive in Springfield, MO. The idea for RT 66 was birthed here in 1926. A short distance west of town, we’ll call in at Gay Parita’s Filling Station, an iconic RT 66 way-stop dedicated to “Mother Road” lore. Then on, following today’s MO 96—the old RT 66—into Carthage, where we’ll overnight at the iconic Art Deco Boots Motel and perhaps enjoy a movie at the 66 Drive-In theater.
Carthage - Oklahoma City
From Carthage, RT 66 winds into Joplin and briefly cuts across the southeast extreme of Kansas—a mere 20-km stretch that will have you, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, saying “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Nonetheless, Galena’s Main Street is a the official “Kansas Route 66 Historic District,” with a huge wall mural. We then zigzag along the longest stretch—more than 650 km—of the original RT 66 (including sections that are only one lane wide) of our entire route as we ride through the rolling hills of Oklahoma via Miami, Afton and Vinita. We’ll stop in Vinita to visit the Eastern Trails Museum, where exhibits focus on the “Trail of Tears”—the forced relocation of various Native American tribes to Oklahoma in the 1830s. Just three blocks away, Clanton’s Café is a RT 66 icon and a great place for lunch. Continue via Foyil and Claremore to Tulsa. We’ll ride on through the heart and soul of RT 66 country via Chandler to enter Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City - Amarillo, Tx
Depart Oklahoma City via the Overholser Bridge—a RT 66 icon—and run along an excellent stretch of the old road to Hydro, where we’ll take a break at Lucille’s Famous Rt 66 Gas Station (built in 1929) to buy a soda, postcard or other RT 66 memento. Continuing across plains once roamed by vast herds of buffalo (we’ll ride a section of the old “Chisholm Trail”), we reach Clinton—site of the fantastic Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Our route is lined with old motels that once supported the traffic on RT 66, which unfurls into Texas. We pass through Shamrock, with its iconic Conoco Tower gas station; and sleepy, frozen-in-time Maclean (headquarters of the Texas Historic Route 66 Association), with its Phillips 66 gas station. Arriving in the cattle stockyard town of Amarillo (once a major oasis along the “Mother Road”), we’ll take time to roam the US Route 66 6th Street Historic District, then dine at The Big Texan Steak Ranch.
Amarillo - Santa Fe
First stop today is the world-famous Cadillac Ranch, where ten spray-painted Cadillacs are halfburied, nose-first, in the ground alongside RT 66. A short distance further, a roadside sign in Adrian marks the geo-mathematical mid-point of the old “Mother Road.” We then cross into New Mexico, whose 700-plus kilometers of RT 66 are lined with dozens of yesteryear diner, motels and other roadside “Mother Road” Americana. Immediately beyond the state border, in Glen Rio, we’ll visit Russell’s Truck & Travel Center, boasting an astounding historic car museum. Passing the iconic Blue Swallow Motel, in Tucumcari, we’ll leave RT 66 at Clines Corner and climb up out of the great plains through a rugged landscape of mesas, cactus, and gorgeous mountain vistas for two nights in Santa Fe.
Santa Fe - Santa Fe
Santa Fe - Gallup
This morning visit nearby Los Alamos, setting during WWII for the ultra-secret Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs. After touring the historic sites, visitor center and fascinating museum, we descend from the Sange de Cristo Mountains to rejoin RT 66. Passing through the sprawling city of Albuquerque, we cross the Rio Grande into a scenic desert wilderness studded with “ghost towns” and dramatic sandstone mesas set against distant pineforested peaks. Our stops today include Laguna Pueblo, with its early Spanish Mission; and, nearby, Acoma Pueblo, an ancient Native American pueblo dramatically perched atop a massive mesa. We end the day in Gallup for a night at the iconic Hotel El Rancho, which in decades past hosted such luminaries as Gregory Peck (room 111), Humphrey Bogart (213), John Wayne (100), and Ronald Reagan (103)
Gallup - Grand Canyon
GALLUP, NM to GRAND CANYON, AZ (OR CHINLE, AZ) West of Gallup, most of the original “Mother Road” now lies buried beneath the I-44 freeway, which passes into Arizona through the Petrified Forest National Park—out first stop today, to marvel at the fossilized prehistoric trees and stunning multi-colored landscapes of the Painted Desert. Continue west via Holbrook (and its famous 1950s era Wigwam Motel) and Winslow— and “don’t forget Wiwona”—plus Meteor Crater (a massive, perfectly preserved crater caused by a meteorite impact some 50,000 years ago) to Flagstaff. It would be criminal to bypass Grand Canyon National Park, so we’ll divert north on AR 89 to spend a night near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon - Las Vegas
After enjoying the sunrise over the canyon (and a hearty breakfast!), descend again to Williams and the RT 66. Passing through sleepy Seligman, a legendary and charming place lined with RT 66 icons, the “Mother Route” diverts away from I-44 and is at its most authentic as we loop through the Hualapai Reservation (a sovereign nation of the Hualapai Indian tribe) via Peach Springs and Hackberry, with its iconic General Store and gas station. At Kingman, we divert to marvel at the Hoover Dam and enjoy a night on the town in Las Vegas, NV.
Las Vegas - Victorville
We’ll return to RT 66 via NV 95 and the former gold-mining boomtown of Searchlight. We again pick up RT 66 west of Needles, in California. Our full day takes us through the desolate heart of the Mojave Desert—a day full of dramatic scenery, and a taste for what traveling across the desert was like in the days before air-conditioned cars and cellphones. A highlight is the iconic 1950s-era Roy’s Motel Café & Gas Station, in Amboy, with “Historic Route 66” painted on the highway. The landscape hereabouts is pitted with volcanic cones and lava flows. Temperatures permitting, we’ll hike to the top of Amboy Crater before continuing into Barstow. From here, a 36-mile section of the “Old Route 66” is perfectly preserved, running through Helendale (stopping to photograph Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch) and Oro Grande to Victorville, with time to explore the California Route 66 Museum.
Victorville - Santa Monica
Today we follow the course of the old road (parallel to the fast-paced and six-lane-wide I-15 freeway) steeply downhill through Cajon Pass. Beyond lies San Bernadino and endless miles of urban sprawl of the San Gabriel Valley, with only the faintest hints of the “Mother Road.” We forsake this by turning west at Cajon Junction to take the Angeles Crest Highway—one of California’s supreme motorcycle rides—as it snakes through the San Gabriel Mountains. We drop down into the lovely city of Pasadena and pick up Historic Route 66, which from here is almost entirely intact all the way to the “End of the Trail” sign on Santa Monica Pier. Enjoy a farewell dinner.
Santa Monica - Los Angeles
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