Thinking of getting those bucket list kicks on Route 66 this summer?
Here’s the thing: Route 66 doesn’t exist anymore! Well, at least, not in the traditional, one highway incarnation that Nat King Cole crooned about in 1946. The romantic idea of dropping the top on a Ford Mustang and hitting the tar to take in the original route through the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri & Illinois was truly something. What’s stopping you from creating your own route, taking in those states and seeing sights, old and new, along the way this summer?
Route 66 started in Santa Monica – still a great starting point to collect your Mustang and make your way to Victorville to take in the California Route 66 Museum.
Some of the best stretches of the original Route 66 are in Arizona so enjoy these while making your way to Kaibab Plateau. This places you north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and rewards you with some spectacular scenery.
New Mexico & Texas
Route 66 skirted Santa Fe and ran through Albuquerque, in New Mexico, but it has now made way for the I-40. The state is quite the little surprise package and Mr Hudson Explores can uncover some of sights to see and activities in the Land of Enchantment. One of those highly recommended is the longest aerial tram in the US – the 15-minute journey will allow you to spot some 17,000 miles of countryside and take you to around 2 miles closer to heaven.
If honoring the original Route 66 as closely as possible, you aren’t going to take in a whole of Texas, just skimming the northern most part, so, let’s hop, skip and jump to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma & Kansas
Besides being the center point of your journey, Oklahoma has the longest stretch of the original Route 66. Look for the iconic, neon Route 66 sign outside the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton and take a peek into history.
Pops 66 in Arcadia, is your perfect re-fueling stop for nostalgia junkies and soda fans – over 700 varieties to confuse and choose! A good, old-fashioned burger will hit the spot and keep you satisfied until our next stop in Tulsa. Keeping the dream alive, there has been a renaissance of the old Route 66 in Tulsa, with solid patronage of the traditional Mexican food favorite, El Rancho Grande, established in the 50’s on 11th Street.
The shortest stretch of Route 66 is through Kansas, at a little over 13 miles. You will literally scoot across the south-eastern corner of the state before announcing your arrival into Missouri.
The I-44 has replaced the traditional Route 66. Legend would have it, American Civil War era outlaw, Jesse James (who was born in Missouri), hid in the Meramec Caverns, beneath the ground, in St Louis. Tours of the miles of passages are commercially operated and are well worth the time.
Chill out afterwards with a famous Ted Drewes Frozen Custard – a tradition of over 80 years in the making.
A timely visit to Springfield, Illinois (early to mid-August) will allow you to celebrate the end of your road trip with the Route 66 Festival featuring cars, parades, exhibits, entertainment and more.
If you wish to continue to the truest end of the old Mother Road, then head to Chicago and straight to Lou Mitchell’s on W. Jackson Blvd for a self-proclaimed World’s Finest Coffee. So, what now? Round up your besties. It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime.