Route 66. We’ve all heard about it, read about it, even fell in love with animated Cars. People all over the world are attracted to this highway, including fans in Australia who have their own Route 66 Fan Club and touring packages.
The lure of this highway seems to be constant and indifferent to age, sex, race, or cultural heritage. However, driving this historic highway can be a daunting experience. Especially if you’re not well prepared and loaded with patience. Route 66 traverses’ over 2,400 miles, through eight states, urban and rural areas, and a seemingly endless variety of landscapes.
Furthermore, what’s a road trip without the opportunity to test your navigation skills? You’ll find Route 66 is not well marked because its historic signs have been removed mostly by souvenir hunters. The regional interstates also add to your adventure, as they don’t provide consistent directions for exits, even though it parallels and crosses them over much of its distance.
However, these navigation challenges are really not obstacles. They provide a fabulous opportunity to slow down to take in the sights, sounds, and tastes along the highway. It’s like an unplanned outcome of the drive. Without this, you could be driving along, feeling confident of your direction and schedule, but then driving through Galena, KS and missing the inspiration for Tow Mater. Or even worse, miss Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, MO.
There is help before you start the journey. It is not in short supply, and includes well established Route 66 associations. On October 13, 1984, Interstate 40 was officially opened and the small town of Williams, AZ had the distinction of being the last Route 66 town bypassed by the new Interstate. Even before this date, and the future of Williams, AZ was changed; local, city, and state agency representatives from various cities and towns along the highway began to meet. They began forming organizations and alliance’s with a common goal “to preserve, educate, and promote the heritage of The Mother Road.”
For example, in February of 1987, The Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona was formed by a small group of residences from Arizona Route 66 communities. Later that year, as a direct result of the efforts of these residences’, the State of Arizona dedicated the highway from Seligman to Kingman as Historic Route 66. This same designation was later bestowed upon all of Arizona’s former U.S. Route 66.
Another example is the The Route 66 Association of Illinois, formed in February of 1989. Like others, its purpose is to preserve, educate and promote Route 66 – while enjoying its past and present opportunities. Expanding beyond the state borders, the association takes part in cooperative national efforts including preservation efforts, fairs, and other public events along the historic route.
Today each of the eight state’s along Route 66 have associations – each having their unique set of goals and objectives. However, they all share a common love of the highway and a common mission.
When planning your drive, be it for a day though Illinois, or taking a week to drive the distance, you’ll want to check out these associations. They contain a wealth of information about the highway as a whole, and especially about their individual state. These sites provide map information, where to eat, sleep and what to see. Events, festivals, car shows and more are listed. And many include links to local and regional chambers for even more information.
In short, these Route 66 associations are your starting point. Then once your journey begins, be sure to unplug. Take in the scenery, enjoy the food and sights of this historic highway and create your own history. Everything else can wait. Because as you know, we here at American Open Roads believe to experience Route 66, one must drive Route 66.
Here’s a list of predominate Route 66 associations: