An Oklahoma Highway Department truck heads west on 80-year-old original pink concrete of Route 66 outside Clinton OK.
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Many of these will guide you to others. A Blog entry or photo caption may contain additional information about anything here.
ATTRACTIONS BY STATE
The first listing is a Route 66 Association, the second a general tourism website. Individual businesses are listed if they appear in images, have general interest, and/or a Route 66 history. An official website is listed if one exists. Some museums etc. charge admission. Some businesses and attractions are seasonal, and many are closed on Sundays. The list runs east-to-west including within states.
Each "Day" listed is for a 2-week Route 66 trip outline. See "Trip Planning" below.
Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), Chicago www.theskydeck.com
Standard Gas Station, Odell www.il66redcarpetcorridor.org Day 1
Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, Pontiac www.visitpontiac.org Day 1
Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup, Funks Grove www.funkspuremaplesirup.com Day 1
Soulsby's Station, Mount Olive www.cruisinwithollie.org/66.htm Day 2
Henry's Rabbit Ranch, Staunton www.henrysroute66.com Day 2
Luna Cafe, Mitchell www.illinoisroute66.org/luna-cafe Day 2
Chain of Rocks Bridge (IL-MO) www.trailnet.org (Hours 9AM or earlier to dusk) Day 2
Gateway Arch, St. Louis www.stlouisarch.com (Not on 66)
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, St. Louis www.teddrewes.com Day 3
Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba www.wagonwheel66cuba.com Day 3
John's Modern Cabins, nr Arlington www.jmcnews.com Day 3
Devils Elbow area www.theroadwanderer.net/66missouri/elbow.htm Day 3
Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon www.mungermoss.com Day 3
Rest Haven Court, Springfield (No official website. Phone: 417 869-9114) Day 3
Gay Parita Station, Paris Springs www.garysgayparita.com Day 4
Cars on the Route, Galena www.facebook.com/CarsOnTheRoute Day 4
Welcome Center, Baxter Springs www.kansastravel.org/route66d.htm Day 4
Coleman Theatre, Miami www.colemantheatre.org (NOTE: theatre) Day 4
Blue Whale, Catoosa www.bluewhaleroute66.com (Hours 8A-dark) Day 4 or 5
Town of Depew www.depewoklahoma.com (Inactive) Day 5
Route 66 Interpretive Center, Chandler www.route66interpretivecenter.org Day 5
Round Barn, Arcadia www.thearcadiaroundbarn.com Day 5
POPS, Arcadia www.pops66.com Day 5
Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Clinton www.route66.org Day 6
National Route 66 Museum, Elk City www.elkcity.com Day 6
U-Drop Inn & Tower Station, Shamrock www.shamrockedc.org Day 6
Devil's Rope Museum, McLean www.barbedwiremuseum.com Day 7
VW Bug Ranch, Conway (No official website. Free, accessible 24 hours every day. North of Rt 66, I-40 Exit 96, Southwest corner.) Day 7
Big Texan Steakhouse, Amarillo www.bigtexan.com Day 7
Cadillac Ranch www.libertysoftware.be.cml.cadillacranch/crmain/htm (Free, accessible 24 hours every day.) Day 7
Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari www.blueswallowmotel.com Day 7
Motel Safari, Tucumcari www.themotelsafari.com Day 7
Teepee (or TeePee) Curios, Tucumcari www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM1AFO_TeePee-Curios Day 7
Route 66 Auto Museum, Santa Rosa www.route66automuseum.com Day 8
Santa Fe (General Tourism Information) www.santafe.org Day 8/9
Silver Saddle Motel, Santa Fe www.santafesilversaddlemotel.com Day 8
Albuquerque (General Tourism Information) www.itsatrip.org Day 9
Hiway House Motel, Albuquerque www.hiwayhousemotel.com Day 9
Monterey Non-Smokers Motel, Albuquerque www.nonsmokersmotel.com Day 9
Wigwam Motel, Holbrook www.sleepinawigwam.com Day 10
Jackrabbit Trading Post, Joseph City www.jackrabbit-tradingpost.com Day 11
Standin' on a Corner Park, Winslow www.standinonthecorner.com Day 11
Flagstaff (General Tourism Information) www.flagstaffarizona.org Day 11
Grand Canyon Railway, Williams www.thetrain.com Optional sidetrip
Snow Cap Drive-In, Seligman www.route66giftshop.com Day 11
Stagecoach 66 Motel, Seligman www.stagecoach66motel.com Day 11
Supai Motel, Seligman www.supaimotel.com Day 11
Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs www.gccaverns.com Day 12
Hackberry General Store, Hackberry www.hackberrygeneralstore.com Day 12
Powerhouse Visitors Center, Kingman www.kingmantourism.org Day 12
Oatman (General Tourism Information) www.oatmangoldroad.org Day 12
Goff's School House www.mdhca.org (Odd hours, arrange in advance) Day 13
Roy's Cafe, Amboy www.rt66roy's.com Day 13
Route 66 Mother Road Museum, Barstow www.route66museum.org Day 13
California Route 66 Museum, Victorville www.califrt66museum.org Day 14
Santa Monica Pier www.santamonicapier.org (Search: Parking) Day 14
Free on-line research of prospective rental vehicles.
CAR RENTAL (HIRE) AGENCIES
The American term is "rental"
www.carhire3000.com Especially of interest to non-North Americans
www.orbitz.com Search tool for several companies
CAR SHOWS AND EVENTS
Also see the listing above for Car Comparisons.
www.hemmings.com Standard reference source.
www.lov2xlr8.no Classic car literature. (URL means "Love To Accelerate...Norway")
www.oldcarmanual.com Sales brochures, owners manuals.
CONVERSION TO/FROM METRIC SYSTEM
Gas mileage, gas costs, even tire pressure. Enter one measurement, out comes another.
www.easysurf.cc Go to "Metric Conversion" and next "Driving."
Open at least seasonally on weekend nights:
Route 66 Drive-In, Springfield IL: www.route66-drivein.com
Sky View Drive-In, Litchfield IL: www.litchfieldskyview.com
66 Drive-In Theatre, Carthage MO: www.66drivein.com
Admiral Twin Drive-In, Tulsa OK: www.drive-ins.com/theater/oktadmi
NOT on 66, but very close:
19 Drive-In, Cuba MO: www.drive-ins.com/theater/mot19dr
Skyline Drive-In, Barstow CA: www.drive-ins.com/theater/catskyl
www.gasbuddy.com Information furnished by travelers. Type in a city and state for current/recent prices. Also useful for estimating before you go.
www.national66.org EZ66 Guide (5th Edition, 2023) by Jerry McClanahan. About $32. including shipping. (Older editions are available at much lower prices on Amazon, ebay etc.)
www.route66motels.com Recommended lodging, phone numbers etc.
www.michaelsmotorcycles.com Motorcycle museum on Rt 66 in St. Louis MO
www.route66vintageiron.com Motorcycle museum in Miami OK
www.legendsofamerica.com History, travel and background information
www.motelamericana.com Classic motels reference site (not for reservations).
www.route66magazine.com A printed magazine, published 4-times a year.
www.route66news.com A digest of daily happenings along the road.
www.route66university.com Travel and background information.
www.walmartatlas.com Walmart allows all-night RV parking except where prohibited by local ordinance.
www.shootingonlocation.com Photography-related weather information including hours of daylight, plus sunrise/sunset times. Registration/membership is not needed. Scroll down to "United States" and select state(s).
www.weather.gov US-government website. Short and long-range forecasts, plus seasonal conditions for cities en route.
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Hybrid car on Dirt 66 near Endee NM. A paved option exists if there's bad weather on your trip.
This section is written largely for first-time Route 66 travelers, especially those from outside North America. What-to-see information is available through websites above. But 66 also has much more--including ruins and fascinating bypassed sections. Also see the Blog for "Route 66: A Religious Experience."
Save time, effort and frustration during planning and travel with Jerry McClanahan's EZ66 Guide (5th Edition). It's listed above under "Guidebook" and available through the publisher for about $32. including shipping. The 200+ spiral-bound pages have highly-detailed maps. The EZ66 Guide is written for an east-to-west trip and much more difficult to use in reverse. (There are several apps as well, but I have no experience with them.)
Traveling Route 66 is entirely unlike taking the Interstates, where getting across OK involves only I-40 and I-44. The EZ66 Guide requires 30 pages including detailed maps. Crossing TX is even simpler: I-40 straight through. Route 66 in TX is about 150 miles (240 km) yet requires 15 pages. This is largely due to bypassing and upgrading that cut off old pavement and towns. But miss them, and you might as well use the Interstates.
A US road atlas may guide you to a motel or restaurant away from 66, which is generally not shown. State road maps are better, and free.
US distances are shown in miles: 1 km = 0.621 miles. An easier approximation: 5 km = 3 miles. (A mile is 61% longer than a kilometer.)
You cannot rely on Rt 66 signs and stencils! Sign placement is very spotty with important turns missing. Signs and stencils are useful only for reassurance (and photos).
A complete Route 66 vacation (holiday) outline is below, following the next photograph.
Route 66 is a 2,450 mile (3,950 km) time-capsule-and-adventure stretching from Chicago IL in the Midwest, to Santa Monica CA on the Pacific Ocean just past Los Angeles. It never was a coast-to-coast highway.
Rt 66 heads Southwest across IL (Illinois), MO (Missouri), KS (Kansas), and OK (Oklahoma). Then it goes West into TX (Texas), NM (New Mexico), AZ (Arizona), and finally CA (California). These standard abbreviations are used throughout this site. The odd loops in NM are older sections bypassed in the 1930s.
The number 66 was assigned in 1926, the era of the Model-T. Paving was finally complete by 1938 when it was "the Mother Road" for economic refugees heading to CA. World War Two brought heavy military use. Then, Route 66 became the vacation route of newly-prosperous Americans driving made-in-Detroit cars with V8 engines and fins. It's hard to work up much nostalgia about the 1930s or 40s...so the 50s, 60s and (increasingly) the 70s get all the attention.
Turnpikes and Interstate highways replaced Rt 66 in segments from 1953 to 1984.
The popular terms are Rt 66 and Route 66 (pronounced ROOT). Only foreigners use R or Rte. Technically, the name was US Highway 66. There is no connection with Interstate highway 66 (abbreviated I-66) which goes from Washington DC into Virginia.
ROUTE 66 TODAY
The old road has found new life and new meaning as a historic and scenic route. It reminds us how America looked generations ago--with some shiny new air-conditioned attractions added.
Unfortunately, it's also decaying and falling victim to graffiti and vandalism. The problem is especially acute in remote areas, where buildings have been abandoned. Images on the site generally show the road between 2000-2015, and some places have suffered significant damage since then. The gallery "Route 66: Going Going GONE" offers either a postscript or obituary.
But most of Route 66 can still be driven--sometimes on original 1920s or 30s concrete.
Route 66 is real America...warts, pimples and all. Just outside your windshield.
WEATHER AND BEST TIMES
Route 66 is highly seasonal. Peak travel is from May to September...the Northern Hemisphere summer. May-June and September are "Goldilocks" times--not too hot and not too cold--when everything should be open.
The summer includes car shows and drive-in movies, and no Route 66 trip is complete without them. See listings for "Car Shows" and "Drive-Ins" above. Both are generally weekends only.
These violent rotating air columns can accompany heavy thunderstorms. They can occur from the NM/TX line to IL and are most common from March-June.
Radio and TV stations are linked to the National Weather Service. Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm "Watches" and "Warnings" are issued by counties--not shown in the EZ66 Guide but pictured in a good Road Atlas or official state map. Some smartphones also warn of severe weather nearby.
You can get a generalized outlook the night before at your motel through www.weather.gov or The Weather Channel on TV. Also see caption notes about tornado dangers unique to Pops in Arcadia OK.
Hurricanes, which form over open water and plague the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, are generally not an issue because Route 66 is so far inland.
The peak of summer, especially July and August, can be uncomfortably hot from OK westward to just before Los Angeles. Areas around Flagstaff AZ and Santa Fe NM are exceptions--they're at or above 7,000 ft, 2,135 m altitude.
Typical daytime highs in July-August run 93F, 34C in Oklahoma City; 89F, 32C in Amarillo TX; and a whopping 109F, 43C in Needles CA. Some years are hotter--the record for Needles is 125F, 53C set in July 2005. And that entire long stretch from, say, Kingman AZ to past Barstow CA (250 m, 400 km) can be intense.
A hat, jeans and boots are recommended and will "work" throughout the trip. (Route 66 is very casual.) Sandals and flip-flops should be avoided for exploring between TX and CA because of desert plants, snakes and scorpions. A jacket is sometimes needed at night. Day-night desert temperature differences can be extreme.
The heat should not be underestimated if you are, say, from northern Europe. The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK is 38.5C, and in Germany 40C--both much cooler than the 43C on a typical summer day in Needles.
All that sun makes for long days. At the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo you get 14.5 hours of daylight at the peak in June, and 15 hours at the northern-most point on Route 66: Chicago.
www.shootingonlocation.com has information for cities en route and is also listed above.
Some attractions close or may have reduced hours from perhaps October to March. This information constantly changes, so use the websites above to check.
Year-to-year temperature and snowfall variations along the entire route can be extreme. And the days are much shorter. Snow and cold are routine from December-March except for CA. Because of high elevation, Flagstaff AZ receives 100 inches (2.5 meters) of snow in a typical year and only May-September are generally snow-free.
However, finding food or motels won't be a problem because places along the Interstates are still operating.
During and after a significant snowfall across the Western US, the Interstate may be closed--with gates blocking entrance ramps--until pavement is plowed. And 66 won't get cleared until later. Make a "Plan B" for any winter travel. Rear-wheel drive vehicles should be avoided. Front-wheel will help with traction in light snow. Beyond that, four-wheel (or all-wheel) is the way to go.
The best time is late May or early June. Snow is gone, days are warm (but not hot), and over 14 hours long--a few minutes shy of the peak around June 20th. September is the second pick. Temperatures are again moderating--but there's a greater loss of daylight than in May-June. You are also more likely to find desired motel accommodations than in the peak of summer, which is the third pick.
LICENSE TO DRIVE
Beside a valid driver's license issued by your home country--you may need an IDP or "International Driving Permit," basically a translation of your license into other languages. People from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do not need the IDP.
Check with the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country if unsure. If needed, the IDP must be obtained before your trip. And then you're legal in all 50 states. The US government website www.usa.gov has background information. Type in "Foreign Visitors Driving" to the search box. The IDP is NOT issued by the US after you arrive.
THE SUPERSLABS AND TRAINS
The Interstates get all the big trucks, so food and motel options abound at exits--sometimes very near Rt 66. If necessary, the Interstates can shorten a leg of your trip.
Tolls are charged on the two Turnpikes which are also Interstate 44 in eastern OK. If you need to use them, you will need cash, not credit cards. However I-44 is free through the Tulsa metro area. And all other Interstates that replaced Route 66 are free.
The US passenger rail system, Amtrak, is skeletal and doesn't run near the 40% of the road between St Louis MO and Albuquerque NM. To make up time, your only realistic option is driving the Interstates.
PAVEMENT ON RT 66
Some Route 66 pavement is original--one of the reasons for making the trip. This includes brick laid down before Route 66 was named, plus narrow concrete and asphalt from the 1920s and 30s. In many sections especially through western OK and TX you are actually on concrete used by Great Depression refugees...and folks a generation later in their shiny finned fantasies.
Pavement varies from "narrow-but-excellent" to "rough-and-getting-rougher." One example of pristine pavement is at the very top of this page. Bypassed sections with weeds and crumbling pavement can frequently be explored in an ordinary car.
There is about 20 miles of real mountain driving around Oatman in Western AZ. The road is well-maintained blacktop with stone barrier walls at critical points. It should NOT be attempted after-dark, and Oatman has no motels (or gas stations). Large recreational vehicles (RVs) and those towing a camper should avoid this section.
A few optional sections are unpaved--but a paved alternate is nearby. One unpaved section stretches 18 miles (30 km) from the TX line at Glenrio to just east of San Jon NM. A typical scene from "Dirt 66" is shown above. The road is used by the Postal Service, a school bus and locals.
Another bypassed section called "La Bajada" between Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM is a long-abandoned primitive stretch available for high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles...and hikers. Route 66 follows the Interstate through this area.
WHAT TO DRIVE
An ordinary car, either front or rear-wheel drive, is all you need in the warm months. An SUV or 4-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary. (Off-roading is not an integral part of the Route 66 experience.)
In winter, front-wheel drive is essential and four-wheel drive is highly recommended.
Most everything is gasoline (petrol) powered, diesel is limited to trucks and buses/RVs. Vehicles have automatic transmissions, except for some sports cars.
Convertibles are in limited supply, so book well ahead. (And note typical summertime temperatures above!) A Corvette or other low-clearance vehicle may limit exploring of bypassed sections. "Classic" cars generally cannot be rented for such a long trip...but if you have $7,500 check out www.blacktopcandys.com.
RENTING (HIRING) A VEHICLE
The website listing for Car Rental Agencies shows the largest nationwide firms. Many have airport facilities, others are nearby with shuttle bus service. You can rent at, say, Chicago's O'Hare Airport...drive all of 66...and leave the vehicle at Los Angeles International. Higher rates or special conditions may apply to drivers under age 25, and some high-performance vehicles will be off-limits.
Operating costs are MPG = Miles per Gallon. The best is around 50 MPG (21 km/liter) in a hybrid Toyota Prius. 35 MPG or so (15 km/liter) means a family hauler like a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. A big SUV (Sport-Utility Vehicle) can be around 20 MPG (8.5 km/liter) or lower.
A smaller lighter vehicle isn't always easier on fuel! The larger Camry gets slightly better highway mileage than the Toyota Corolla, both non-hybrids with automatic transmissions. Check www.fueleconomy.gov (also listed above).
Air conditioning is standard equipment. But its use in a compact or small hybrid will significantly lower the mileage. So will a trunk full of luggage. And the smaller engine may struggle in mountain driving of western AZ.
One-way rentals are much more expensive...but the alternative isn't appealing either. It's 2020 Interstate miles (3250 km) from Chicago to Los Angeles via the shortest route--Omaha, Denver and Las Vegas--frequently dicey in winter. Bringing a 40 MPG car back from the other end of Route 66 means two 17-hour days (4AM-9PM) of Interstate driving. Figure in gas and fast food and you're out $200 with fuel at $3, $250 at $4, etc. Motel costs are additional. Also make sure you aren't penalized for those extra miles!
MONEY, FUEL, FOOD AND LODGING
CASH OR PLASTIC?
The most convenient way to pay is with a credit card. MasterCard and Visa are universally used, Discover and American Express are widely accepted. This card can also be used before your trip to reserve motel rooms. Debit cards work in some cases but not others.
Gasoline pumps include built-in card readers in all but the most remote locations. Even then, cards are generally accepted. (Note a special consideration for non-Americans in "Fuel" below.)
Cards are universally accepted for food purchases. Even a $2 transaction is best handled this way in most places.
For fraud prevention, many card issuers now require you notify them by phone before out-of-state or out-of-country trips.
If you are coming from outside North America, check well ahead of time with your bank or card issuer to insure that its card will work in the US. New technology is being rolled out at different rates. And fees can be onerous, on a percentage basis, for small cash transactions.
In a handful of cases, gift shops or smaller restaurants may not accept cards. So having a limited amount of cash--perhaps $100--is a good idea. $20 bills are ideal. $50 and $100 bills should be avoided--along with travelers checks. ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) typically dispense $20s and are widely available at banks, supermarkets, etc. ATMs are close-by at every suggested nightly stop.
Gasoline (petrol) is a standard commodity, widely available even in the desert stretches. Most vehicles use "Unleaded Regular," "Unleaded" or "Regular" which is all the same thing and may be abbreviated "UNL" or "REG" on signage. (Leaded gasoline is no longer sold.)
Diesel is less available unless the Interstate is nearby. Some newer gasoline pumps also include a separate hose and nozzle for diesel or E85, a special ethanol fuel. Make sure you've got the right one!
Because of state taxes and other factors, fuel prices are relatively high in IL and highest in CA (but still cheap by European standards). The IL-MO difference is routinely at least 10%, and the AZ-CA gap has been $1.50 a gallon. So cruise into St. Louis MO on fumes, and top off your tank in Kingman or Topock AZ before venturing into CA. Nightly motel stops shown below will generally offer the best chance for filling up. But on most days you won't need to.
Fuel is not one of the bigger costs--but you can estimate a fuel budget, and check out places to fill-up en route through the free website www.gasbuddy.com also indexed above. ALL taxes are included in the pump price.
(Note for non-Americans): Gasoline pumps with card readers are increasingly adding a security feature: "Enter ZIP Code" before allowing a credit card purchase. The best solution is to pull up to the pump, and bring the card inside with your picture ID. A clerk can run the transaction from there.
Fast food places (hamburgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, french fried potatoes and soft drinks) are often combined with gas stations. But getting healthy food is much more difficult. Subway and Wendy's, two of the larger chains, have some nutritionally-sound options. These include egg-whites, salads and selected sandwiches. Both have nutritional information on-line.
You won't go hungry anywhere on Route 66! Beside the fast food operators, there are many unique small-town restaurants. The curb appeal says a lot. Also take note of how many locals are inside.
Drinks and desserts enjoy high prices and profit margins--know the cost before you automatically order them. After a reasonably-priced lunch, a slice of pie can almost double the bill.
Consuming instant coffee, breakfast bars, self-made sandwiches, carrots, apples etc. would cost less than $5. a day.
WATER, COFFEE AND TEA
If you go in the recommended times, you will consume quite a bit of water. This will increase as you head west, especially if you are physically active in the sun.
Supermarkets typically sell water in gallon jugs. Motels have tap water and many offer free ice. In stores a small chilled bottle can be $3.50!
Packing granola bars, water and a Thermos of coffee is recommended. You stand an excellent chance of getting stale coffee at travel centers and fast food places after 10AM. Hot tea is almost unknown.
Trip plans below mention classic Route 66 motels when possible. The site listed above under "Motels (Classic)" has more information plus options in other cities.
All rooms have heat, air conditioning, and an adjoining private bathroom with sink, toilet and bathtub (or shower). Soap, towels and toilet paper are provided.
Breakfast may be furnished, it varies widely. Check beforehand.
Among motel chains, the cheapest with a national reservation system and a widespread nearby Interstate presence is Motel 6. It's usually a clean spartan room with a bed, toilet, tub or shower and free coffee (not breakfast) in the morning. In 2022, the iconic Blue Swallow motel in Tucumcari NM was priced half-way between Motel 6 and the upscale Fairfield Inn there. The Blue Swallow offers a comfortable and eclectic experience, but was built as budget lodging in the Great Depression, 1939. The room is small and the bathroom is tiny. This and other classic motels are reminders that we have experienced "lifestyle creep" since the days of Route 66.
Motel pricing can fluctuate almost like airfares, and these are merely three data points. But you can enjoy a classic Route 66 motel (with free neon) for slightly more than a basic room. You can also easily pay twice as much. Taxes and misc. local charges are additional, generally not a flat rate but a percentage of the room charge. Figure on 10-15%.
Reservations are strongly recommended, especially for Shamrock TX and Tucumcari NM, plus non-smoking rooms anywhere.
With an unfamiliar motel, inspect the actual room BEFORE paying. If they won't allow it, walk out.
Wireless Internet access is widespread even in small towns. Motels, McDonald's, public libraries, and Interstate Travel Centers should have it. But it's not universal and there may be a purchase requirement.
CRIME AND/OR EVIL
Some urban stretches have decayed greatly in 50+ years since 66 was bypassed. Abandoned motels, Gas-n-GONERS, and rusting neon mean you must be aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.
Chicago's downtown Loop area is okay, but then comes the grim and uninteresting four mile (6.5 km) Ogden Avenue segment, traversing what has been a violent high-crime district. Many shootings have been random and unpredictable, with a summertime peak, frequently on nights and weekends. I recommend seeing downtown, then taking S. Lake Shore Drive South to I-55 (Stevenson Expressway) South. At Exit 286, go North on Cicero Ave. then West on Ogden Ave. You rejoin Route 66 (Ogden Ave.) in the suburb of Cicero IL.
If you decide to take Ogden Avenue from downtown Chicago, travel only in daytime, lock your doors, don't venture onto side streets, and don't leave the vehicle. The only point of interest along this stretch is the former Castle Car Wash--a glorified gas station.
In St. Louis, alignments of 66 are various, confusing, and not very interesting. There's high crime as well. Urban St. Louis can simply be avoided, except for perhaps the Gateway Arch downtown and a dessert at Ted Drewes--both in okay areas.
At the (Old) Chain of Rocks and McKinley Bridges, park only in free provided lots on the IL side. Car break-ins have been common on the MO side. Chain of Rocks is closed to traffic and can be lonely in off-hours, including weekday mornings. (McKinley carries traffic.)
Tulsa and Albuquerque are big enough to have blight along scattered parts of 66. In and around Los Angeles, 66 goes through areas ranging from okay to posh.
Always lock your vehicle with windows completely up. Hide camera cases, purses, luggage etc. in the trunk. Don't park in poorly-lit areas. You can be victimized outside a nice restaurant, or in the parking lot of an upscale motel.
Prostitution is illegal in the US except in parts of Nevada (which is not on Route 66).
If you encounter problems, 9-1-1 phone service is universal.
PHOTOGRAPHY EN ROUTE
Attorney and photographer Bert Krages offers an excellent one-page summary "The Photographer's Law" (available for your printing) from his website www.krages.com. To quote him briefly: "The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place...(B)asically anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy."
Note this is unlike laws in France, Hungary and some other countries. (The "Street Snaps" gallery demonstrates what is legal in the US.)
Trespass laws vary somewhat by state. As a general rule, if a building, ruin or property is posted with "No Trespassing" signs, purple paint, or fenced off, it's illegal to enter. If you stay on a sidewalk, shoulder, ditch or grass outside the fence-line ("Public Right of Way") then photographing that scene is legal, as noted above.
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A favorite Route 66 spot featured in several images on this site: ruins of Montoya NM at sunset.
TWO-WEEK ROUTE 66 TRIP
You can drive Route 66 in a week. But seeing it is another matter entirely and takes at least twice as long.
So here's a scenario that fits conveniently into a two-week vacation. Including the adjoining weekends this is 16 days. Subtract a day at either end for flying and you have 14 days available for Route 66 travel.
A typical first-time tourist can make--and enjoy--this trip in May-September when daylight ranges from 12 to 14.5 hours. Stops of general interest are listed each day. Explore them beforehand through their websites above.
Scenery and attractions are not equally distributed along the road. Cities also vary greatly in their scenic interest. Santa Fe NM has perhaps 100-times the visual interest of Oklahoma City--which is much bigger! So on days when there is more to see and enjoy, there is less to drive.
Several iconic Route 66 attractions are unimpressive during the day and should only be experienced lit up at night. They include Pops at Arcadia OK, the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn at Shamrock TX, and Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM. This trip plan includes nightly stops nearby, allowing them to be enjoyed for several hours after dark.
No day is devoted to merely "getting there" because they average 160 miles, 255 km. The longest is just 230 miles, 370 km. This outline was planned around the nightly stops, and can be used going either way.
It can easily be modified or extended. (Branson MO and the Grand Canyon AZ are each within an hour of Rt 66, and Las Vegas NV is within 2-hours.)
All nightly stops will put you in a city with a choice of restaurants. You will also have motel options from basic to mid-range, or higher. On many nights you can enjoy a classic motel with neon...or even a teepee.
TWO WEEKS ON ROUTE 66
Day 1: Chicago to Springfield IL (200 m, 320 km) Downtown Loop district/Chicago, drawbridges/Joliet, Standard station/Odell, Rt 66 Hall of Fame & Museum/Pontiac, Funks Grove.
Day 2: Springfield IL to St. Louis MO (165 m, 265 km) Includes both routings of 66 Springfield to Staunton, plus time for walking the Chain of Rocks Bridge. Soulsby's Station/Mt. Olive, Henry's Ra66it Ranch/Staunton, Luna Cafe neon/Mitchell, Chain of Rocks Bridge/IL-MO.
Day 3: St. Louis to Springfield MO (200 m, 320 km) Overnight at the classic Rest Haven Court. Ted Drewes/St. Louis, Wagon Wheel Motel & murals/Cuba, John's Modern Cabins/nr Arlington, Devil's Elbow area, Munger Moss neon/Lebanon, Rest Haven neon/Springfield.
Day 4: Springfield MO to Tulsa OK (210 m, 340 km) Gay Parita Station/Paris Springs, Cars on the Route/Galena KS, Marsh Arch Bridge/nr Baxter Springs, Coleman Theatre/Miami OK, Sidewalk Highway/Narcissa-Afton, Afton Station/Afton, Blue Whale/Catoosa (or Day 5), Tulsa.
Day 5: Tulsa to Oklahoma City (125 m, 200 km) Blue Whale/Catoosa, Art Deco buildings/Tulsa, The Original "Radiator Springs"/Depew, Rt 66 Interpretive Center/Chandler, Round Barn/Arcadia, Pops/Arcadia (at nightfall).
Day 6: Oklahoma City to Shamrock TX (170 m, 270 km) Lucille's/Hydro, Oklahoma Rt 66 Museum/Clinton, National Rt 66 Museum/Elk City, U-Drop Inn + Tower Station/Shamrock, Magnolia gas station/Shamrock. (NOTE: Only 500+ rooms--make reservations! Backup: Amarillo 90 m, 145 km, ahead then backtrack.)
Day 7: Shamrock to Tucumcari NM (205 m, 330 km) Overnight at the 1939 classic Blue Swallow Motel (NOTE: Only 12 rooms) or the 1959 classic Motel Safari. Devil's Rope Museum/McLean, VW Bug Ranch/Conway, Cadillac Ranch/Amarillo, near-ghost town/Glenrio, neon/Tucumcari.
Day 8: Tucumcari to Santa Rosa then Santa Fe NM (175 m, 280 km) Overnight at the classic Silver Saddle Motel. Ruins/Montoya, ruins/Newkirk, Cuervo Cutoff, Rt 66 Auto Museum/Santa Rosa, architecture/Santa Fe.
Day 9: Santa Fe to Albuquerque NM (60 m, 95 km) Overnight at the classic Monterey Non-Smokers Motel, classic Hiway House Motel or possibly others. (NOTE: See "Crime" section.) architecture/Santa Fe, view/hike La Bajada, architecture-neon/Albuquerque.
Day 10: Albuquerque to Holbrook AZ (230 m, 370 km) Overnight at the classic Wigwam Motel.
Day 11: Holbrook to Seligman AZ (165 m, 260 km) Overnight at the classic Stagecoach 66 Motel or classic Supai Motel. Jackrabbit Trading Post/Joseph City, Standin' On a Corner Park/Winslow, Snow-Cap Drive-In/Seligman.
Day 12: Seligman to Needles CA (160 m, 255 km) Grand Canyon Caverns/Peach Springs, Hackberry General Store/Hackberry, Powerhouse Visitor Center/Kingman, restored mining town/Oatman.
Day 13: Needles to Barstow CA (160 m, 255 km) Goff's Schoolhouse complex/Goffs, Roy's Cafe/Amboy, Rt 66 Mother Road Museum/Barstow.
Day 14: Barstow to Los Angeles and Santa Monica (155 m, 250 km) California Route 66 Museum/Victorville, Pier/Santa Monica.
Add a day either side for flying to Chicago, and from LA back home--and it's a full two-weeks.
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NATIONAL ROAD COMPANION TRIP
The National Road (or Cumberland Road) is the route settlers in the early 1800s used to reach the wilderness that became the Midwest. In a sense, it was America's first interstate highway. This can make a nice addition to a Route 66 trip, giving you a taste of American travel across two centuries.
The road is now generally called U.S. 40. The starting point can be either Baltimore or Cumberland MD, two-hours to the west. States en route are MD (Maryland), PA (Pennsylvania), WV (West Virginia), OH (Ohio), IN (Indiana) and IL (Illinois).
The National Road twists crossing the mountains, then heads almost straight west from Wheeling WV to Vandalia IL. From Vandalia, where the National Road officially ends, Route 66 is less than an hour away!
History and scenery on the National Road are front-end loaded. Wheeling WV is a time-capsule place with a great bridge worth planning a night around.
Attractions are far fewer west of Columbus OH, although US 40 is pleasant and goes through countless little towns. I-70 is also conveniently nearby if you want to make up time. Columbus to Vandalia is 350 miles, 560 km.
Allow at least three full days for a National Road trip starting in Baltimore or Cumberland MD, with nights in Wheeling WV, Columbus OH and Edwardsville IL (population 25,000) or a city nearby. There are national chain motel options each night.
Then you're in position the following morning to pick up Route 66 around Edwardsville, and head North to Springfield IL on one of the two routings 66 took over the years.
Later, coming back from Chicago, take the other routing of 66 from Springfield IL south--and you won't have missed a thing.
On-line resources for the National Road include:
www.wheelingcvb.com (Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau)
www.nationalroad.org (State group in Illinois)
An interactive map of the 1913-1926 New York City to San Francisco highway is available at www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/map
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