U.S. Route 66, the road-trip that will wake up your wild side
Legendary, U.S. Route 66 is the most mythical road in the United States. To go through it gives you a taste of the American dream. For years, it has been a road that has seen a succession of travellers, caravans and adventurers. It excites our imagination, and remains engraved in our heads by the clichés of Hollywood cinema. This is the road you can imagine yourself on in a Harley Davidson, a Van, an XXL camper, or a Cadillac. For those who want to see the deep America, land of cowboys and Indians, U.S. Route 66 is an absolute must. All you have to do now is rent your holiday in the USA.
- A journey that can be appreciated over time
- The main points of interest on U.S. Route 66
- New Mexico
- Santa Fé
A journey that can be appreciated over time
To fully appreciate U.S. Route 66 (or The Mother Road), you should not go as fast as possible. The secret of this mythical itinerary is to take the time to discover each stage. To immerse yourself in its atmosphere, and above all, not to hesitate to think outside the box.
If, like Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on their choppers in Easy Rider, you want to feel as free as the air, the ideal is to plan to make the trip in a month.
Most of the tours sold are done in two weeks. Which is quite correct to see the main points of interest on U.S. Route 66. But to make the most of this road-trip, you shouldn't hesitate to plan much more time. Remember too that you will be travelling nearly 4,000 kilometres.
After all, it's a trip you usually only take once in your life! So make the most of it, let go and fill your photo album with memories.
The main points of interest on U.S. Route 66
U.S. Route 66, which has been used since 1857 to connect Chicago, the central United States, and California, enjoyed its heyday between 1926 and 1985. To travel this legendary road is to cross no less than 8 states. It is also a journey through the landscapes seen on a big screen.
Your journey begins in the famous city of Chicago, Illinois. This is where your plane will land, and this is also where you will pick up the rental vehicle (which you thought about booking well before your departure).
Take advantage of your visit to Chicago, the city of gangs and prohibition (as it was kwown to be that before), to enjoy its architecture, history, musical culture, or even do a little shopping before heading out on the road.
Allow one to two days on site to visit the city and recover from jet lag.
You are now on your way to Springfield. On the way, not far from Chicago, take a walk through the city of Joliet. You can admire its European-style theatre, and above all its prison, now closed, which served as the setting for the famous Prison Break series.
To get back on U.S. Route 66, go through Wilmington. You will see the giant mascot of the Launching Pad restaurant. It's a bit of a foretaste of what awaits you along your journey.
You are now crossing McLean. This village is famous for its Dixie Trucker's Home (now Dixie Travel Plaza), which was one of the very first establishments to welcome travellers on U.S. Route 66.
You arrive in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and the home of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. You can stop to visit his house, or go to his grave.
A little further on, you absolutely must stop at Auburn. This is a mandatory stop, since it is where you will see the remains of the authentic road. You can admire the two kilometres of red brick road, which are listed in the register of historical monuments.
You leave Corn Belt, the name given to the vast plains of Illinois, to enter Missouri, and directly into the city of Saint Louis.
The latter has become a legend, since it is the historical border between the Far-West and the East of the country. Its famous Gateway Arch is the symbol of this.
Take the time to visit the city centre and its famous museums. Cross the reputed Mississippi by taking the equally well-known Chain Of Rocks Bridge. This bridge, which is now a pedestrian bridge, was once part of U.S. Route 66. It has the particularity of forming an angle at 30° in its centre.
Be careful: do not confuse this with the New Chain Of Rocks Bridge, which is newer, accessible by car, and has no 30° angle.
You are now leaving St. Louis for Oklahoma. You begin to see the unique landscape of Missouri, between vast wild plains, forests and grasslands.
On the way, and since you pass by Stanton, you can visit the Meramec Caverns. They are open to the public, and are famous for having served as a den for Jesse James and his gang. Inside, you can admire stalactites and stalagmites that are several million years old, as well as a huge mineral waterfall.
Continue your road trip through Missouri to Lebanon city. On the way, don't miss the Devils Elbow, the legendary bridge on U.S. Route 66.
Once in Lebanon, you will see the Munger Moss Motel. This motel is one of the oldest motels on U.S. Route 66 still in operation. You won't be able to miss its huge brightly colored sign, characteristic of the idea of American motels.
Take the road back to Oklahoma until you reach Joplin. There, you can find a drive-in cinema dating from 1949. And since it is still in operation, if you are there on a weekend evening, you can watch a movie.
U.S. Route 66 makes a short quick tour through Kansas, including the city of Galena. It is located in an almost abandoned mining region.
What makes it interesting is that it is here that an old rusty recovery truck inspired Pixar for one of Cars' characters (I let you guess his name).
A little further on, you will pass through the Rainbow Bridge, a bridge built in 1923 especially for U.S. Route 66.
Oklahoma, the emblematic state of U.S. Route 66, has the largest and best preserved portion of it. You can enjoy the vintage gas stations and the famous "diners" that follow one another along the road.
Just before arriving in Tulsa, you will continue on U.S. Route 66 until you find the giant statue of a blue whale, located on the edge of one of the ponds in the city of Catoosa. It is one of those symbols of the time of the renewal and development of U.S. Route 66.
Now you're in Tulsa, which likes to call itself the "world oil capital". Take advantage of this stopover to see the famous statue of the Golden Diller.
On your way to Texas, make a stop at Elk-City. You can visit the national museum of U.S. Route 66.
You are now arriving at the Far-West. It's time to put on your santiags and your Stetson. You are about to cross the territories of the Indians, but also of Jesse James.
In Texas, The Mother Road is full of curiosities. In Shamrock, you will come across the U-Drop-Inn, an art-deco style building built in 1936. It was also used as a model for the creation of one of Radiator Springs' buildings (still for Cars by Pixar).
Further on, you will come across a giant cross, presumed to be the largest cross in the United States. Then a leaning water tower, like a tower of Pisa. And finally, in the middle of the desert, the famous Cadillac Ranch with its 10 cars lined up and sunk into the ground.
Finally, you finish your crossing of Texas by the ghost village of Glenrio. Located on the border of New Mexico, it is registered in the National Register of Historic Sites.
New Mexico, with its red rocky landscapes, welcomes you in its turn. This is the spirit of U.S. Route 66, far from any civilization, with its semi-arid landscapes, wooden bridges, dirt tracks, and strong Amerindian culture.
Of Spanish inspiration, Santé Fé is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the Western United States. It is also known for its art. So take the opportunity to stop and discover its jewelry, sculptures, paintings...
If you can, discover the Pueblo de Taos, a world heritage site located in the heart of an Indian reserve.
Continuing along the Turquoise Trail, you arrive in Albuquerque. U.S. Route 66 crosses it for 24 kilometres. If you are there at the beginning of October, you will have the chance to attend the International Balloon Fiesta. On this occasion, the city becomes the world capital of hot air ballooning.
Continue your journey, and enjoy the view of the valley of Indian territories and the Rio Grande.
Just before leaving New Mexico, is the city of Gallup. It dates back to 1881, and is famous for its large Indian population. This is an opportunity to put an end to the clichés propagated by American cinema.
Many films have been shot in Gallup. You can also visit the hotel El Rancho, which has hosted many actors during the various shoots.
Take the road again, and enter Arizona.
Arizona, a famous desert area, quickly puts you in the mood. Indeed, just a few kilometres after your arrival in Arizona, U.S. Route 66 plunges you right into the middle of Petrified Desert National Park, and also gives you a glimpse of Painted Desert National Park.
Petrified Desert is famous for its tree trunks so old that they are transformed into stone (we speak of 225 million year old trunks).
Painted Desert, as its name suggests, is known for its rocks of different colors.
A few miles further on, you arrive at the Meteor Crater. It is a huge hole (1,200 metres in diameter) dug by a meteor that crashed 50,000 years ago, destroying with it all life within a 150-kilometre radius.
You then arrive in Flagstaff, a small town worth a visit, because it has kept the atmosphere of The Mother Road.
Then you go through Williams. It is from here that you can take the train to the Grand Canyon. This is obviously a must-see visit of the American West.
Finally, to get to California, you will cross many small towns such as Seligman, Hackberry or Kingman. They have all been marked by the atmosphere of the great time of U.S. Route 66.
If you have a few days, and before you go to California, you cannot fail to go to Sin City. Las Vegas is less than two hours from Kingman, it would be a shame not to enjoy it.
Far from the glitter of Hollywood, California welcomes you with its 40,000 km² Mojave desert. When passing through Needles, remember to fill up on gas and food. Indeed, you will not have many shops and gas stations until Ludlow.
In Newsberry Springs, you will come across the Baghdad Café where the film of the same name was shot. The real Baghdad Café, the one that inspired the film, was located in the city of Baghdad about 100 kilometres away, and was destroyed in the 1960s.
Continue on to San Bernardino, which was founded by the Mormons in 1851, is in the heart of a region renowned for its citrus fruits. You can also see the mythical California Theater.
Here you are in Los Angeles, and you are getting close to the end of your road trip. The Mother Road takes you through Hollywood and Beverly Hills, taking you to the famous Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard.
At the end of Santa Monica Boulevard, along the Pacific Ocean, on Palisades Park and Ocean Avenue, there is a plaque commemorating U.S. Route 66.
The Mother Road is taking its leave, and you can now take a few days to visit the sprawling City of Angels.