“66 is the mother road,” wrote John Steinbeck in 1939, “the road of flight.” With those words, he bestowed upon Route 66 its most enduring nickname, the Mother Road; a fitting nom de guerre for the legendary throughway that once bisected America and sent many wanderers to the West in search of fame and fortune.
But Steinbeck was not the only author captivated by the mythology of Route 66. Beatnik folk hero, Jack Kerouac, also felt a kinship with the Mother Road. His most enduring novel, fittingly named On the Road, is a semi-autobiographical journey from the East Coast to the West, as he searches for God and himself along the way.
These days, you don’t have be suffering under the weight of an existential, mid-youth crisis to get your kicks on Route 66; it can make a pretty splendid road trip with a few of your favorite friends. Despite not officially existing anymore, the general route can still be travelled.
Launching in Chicago and tracing the heartland of America all the way through to the bright lights of Hollywood, California, a journey through Route 66 can be anything you want it to be. Log on to BUCKiTDREAM and check out any other would-be Kerouacs who have made the cross-country journey, then keep your BUCKiTDREAM planner handy as tell you how to make the most of your bucket list road trip!
Know Your Route Although Route 66 is an improvisational kind of trip that most rewards when you go with the flow, it can still be prudent to do a little pre-planning. Bear in mind that the route, or U.S. Highway 66 as it was once known, doesn’t exist anymore; signs are scarce at best, with the actual route not being marked at all, aside from a few historical signs and memorabilia.
If you opt for the full route, you’ll be going through eight different states in three different time zones – Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally, California. It’s a good idea to keep some maps handy and know which big city you’re heading for next; that way, if you get off the beaten track, you can easily realign with a quick consultation. The general consensus is that a Route 66 trip can take between two weeks and a month, depending on your schedule.
Pick Your Weapon If you really want to do Route 66 like Kerouac, you should walk and hitchhike it; there’s no better way to get into the mythical ‘Beat Generation’ spirit. However, as that is neither prudent nor safe in 2017, we don’t recommend it at all. So, your choices come down to motorized transport.
Obviously, the most awesome way to see America is from behind the sun-bleached windscreen of a Mustang. However, if you’re with your pals, there’s the issue of limited seating space, so pitching in for an RV might be the answer (also bear in mind you’ll be passing through New Mexico, i.e. Walter White country).
A pretty cool alternative is to rent that eternal mother-worrier, the motorbike. You’ll be grateful for the breeze as you whip through some of the warmest states in the U.S., but obviously only do this if you’re comfortable on and around bikes.
Follow the History Any trek across the U.S. is bound to be a lot of fun, but there is one significant reason for following Route 66; you get a pretty comprehensive and fascinating timeline of 20th century America while you’re doing it. Evidence of the short, yet tumultuous history of the country can be felt everywhere along 66, which displays a stunning variety of quintessential American pastorals.
Your journey will take you through golden corn fields, sun-cracked deserts, Rockwell-esque one-horse towns and eventually, land you in the Dream Factory of Los Angeles, California. There’s so much to experience here, and you can pick and choose which areas you want to spend time in.
Soak in the Americana Taking its rightful place as the quintessential American road trip, Route 66 deserves to be explored and plundered for all its worth. After all, the pleasure is in the journey, not the destination. There are endless motels, truck stops, restaurants and diners lining the two thousand-plus miles of the Mother Road, all waiting to be snapped and Instagrammed.
Don’t miss staying in the old-time Blue Swallow Hotel, in business since 1939, and a perfect example of vintage Americana. It also has one of the best neon signs along 66, and looks like something from a Tarantino movie.
Address: 815 E Rte 66 Blvd, Tucumcari, NM 88401
With so much to see and experience, Route 66 is the road trip of many people’s dreams (although these 6 Classic American Road Trips are just as epic). But it doesn’t have to remain a dream for long! It’s a relatively cheap entry to cross of your bucket list, so there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t start planning your own beatnik adventure today. Go forth and make Jack Kerouac proud! Though, do stop short of succumbing to crippling alcoholism like the man himself.