Historic Route 66 – America’s Most Legendary Highway


The iconic road – from Chicago to Los Angeles through eight states and the heart of America, covering some 3,940 km (2,450 mi) – was nicknamed ‘The Main Street of America’, bringing prosperity to towns along the way and serving as the major route for westward migration during the Great Depression of the 1930s and industrial boom of World War II.

With vast distances and a well-developed railroad system, the USA had roads that were little more than local tracks until well into the 20th century. In 1919 the War Department’s first. Transcontinental Motor Convoy – an expedition that included the future. World War II Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower – took months to cross from east to west. When a Federal highway system was developed. Route 66 – established in 1926, signed in 1927 and fully paved by 1938 – was one of the first.


Subsequently, Route 66 was facilitated widely in literature (John Steinbeck christened it ‘The Mother Road’), films and popular music. But its death warrant was signed in 1956 by the aforementioned Dwight Eisenhower – by then President – when he put his name to the Interstate Highway Act, which led to today’s freeway network and made US-66 redundant, though it didn’t vanish from maps until 1985.

Many sections were incorporated into freeways, and it is now impossible to follow the original route, which anyway varied over the years. But happily, nostalgia soon set in and much of the old road has been designated – and marked – as Historic Route 66, with new sections constantly being added.


These may be found especially in Illinois, New Mexico and Arizona, and with the help of patience and specialist maps, those who warm to the romance of this famous road can still retrace much of its length – or simply drive individual sections for a reminder of the way America once travelled, not so long ago.

The best mode of Transport

By car/bike

Best time to visit

May to December

Duration of a journey

2-3 weeks


  • The historic Odell Standard Oil Gasoline Station in Illinois opened beside Route 66 in 1932 and is now restored to its original condition.
  • The National Museum of Transportation in St Louis, Missouri, with a huge collection of historic vehicles and memorabilia, including a unit from the old Coral Court Motel that once fronted Route 66.
  • The National Route 66, Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, allows visitors to recreate a journey along the entire length of Route 66.
  • The first-ever Big Mac was munched on 66 in San Bernadino and the site is now the glitzy Mcdonald’s memorabilia and home of the California Historic Route 66 Association, Two or one.

You should know

American fast food culture was born on Route 66 when Red’s Gaint Hamburgs in Springfield, Missouri became the world’s first drive-through restaurant in the late 1940s.


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