Road Trip Bucket List #1

U.S. 66 - Route 66; The Mother Road - Was there any doubt this would be THE number 1 pick for a road trip aficionado like myself? Only the storied history and mystique of this world reknowned route could beat out U.S. 83, "The Road To Nowhere" for number 1 on my Road Trip Bucket List.

Established November 11, 1926 making it one of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 served as a major avenue for those thousands of people who migrated west during the 1930's Dust Bowl. This migration helped established mom-and-pop roadside business such as service stations, restaurants, and motor courts which sprung up to service the motorists. In 1939, author John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was published and help to popularize U.S. 66. It remained a major route west in World War II for people traveling to California for jobs manufacturing war materials. In the 1950's it served as the main road for vacationers going to Los Angeles. Probably one of, if not the most well known and popular routes in the world, Route 66 has been immortalized in a hit song written by Bobby Troup and sung by the likes of Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Manhattan Transfer, and DePeche Mode. It also starred in the Route 66 television series in the 1960's and is the setting for the popular animated movie "Cars."

Starting on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, the road used to travel 2,448 miles through 8 states and concluded in Los Angeles. But in 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act and the decline of Route 66 began. It was officially removed from the highway system on June 27, 1985 as it was decided the route was no longer relevant due to being replaced by the interstates. After decommissioning, some sections of the road became a business loop for the interstates, some became state roads, local roads, or were entirely abandoned.

In 1987, Arizona founded the first Route 66 Association and Missouri followed in 1989. Soon, the other states U.S. 66 passed through joined in with their own Route 66 Associations. Museums began to open, "Historic 66" road signs began to mark the road, some sections of the old road have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and some have been named on the National Scenic Byways list. There are now many preservation groups trying to buy, restore, and save many of the old buildings and signs along the road. In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the National Route 66 Preservation Bill which provides $10 million in matching funds for preserving and restoring historic features along the route. In 2008, the World Monuments Fund added Route 66 to its World Monuments Watch. This fund helped the National Park Service develop the Route 66 Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary.

With its popularity continuing to grow, there is more and more demand to add more road signs, repave long abandoned sections, and make it once again a continuous road from Chicago to Las Angeles. It is still not possible to drive the entire original Route 66, but with careful planning, a GPS, and a good guide book, most of the old route can still be taken. And that's exactly what I plan to do. I'll let you know what I find!