Skip to main content

There is perhaps no American road more famous than Route 66. Created before the modern interstate system, Route 66 now provides a path to explore American history. But is the iconic road worth the time and fuel? Here’s what you need to know about Route 66.

The history of Route 66

In 1925, the U.S. government began building highways to unite the nation. Route 66 was established in 1926, which is where its name originates. Its purpose was simple: to connect rural communities in middle America to big cities on both coasts. 

From Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 passed through eight states, which helped farmers travel and sell goods in big cities. When cars became more popular, Route 66 became an easy way for people to move across the country, whether it was to find a new home or vacation for the summer.

Route 66 eventually became necessary. During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of Americans used the route to find greener pastures in California. This westward migration created new opportunities, as the government invested billions in California in part because of its popularity.

Businesses saw this opportunity, too. A huge variety of stores and companies sprouted up along Route 66. Whether gas stations, motels, or restaurants, those businesses and their employees owe their livelihoods to Route 66. 

Route 66’s interstate system

Despite being called the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck, Route 66 didn’t last forever. President Dwight Eisenhower, who led the Allied forces against Nazi Germany, was impressed by the German highway system when he visited the country. Eisenhower asked Congress to help improve the American highway system, which led to the end of Route 66. 

In 1956, the government began building the interstate system we use today. This system also became Route 66’s successor. By 1984, every segment of Route 66 had been bypassed by interstates, making many parts of Route 66 undrivable. Despite this, its general route, neighboring businesses, and legacy remain.

Is Route 66 still worth driving?

Driving Route 66 is still a great experience. It’s not an easy road trip, as the defunct nature of the route means you’ll need to be aware of some things. For example, since Route 66 is technically decommissioned, it won’t show up on GPS. TravelPulse recommends getting a map or a professional guide so you can experience the entire route safely. 

Furthermore, many businesses that Route 66 birthed are still thriving, and visiting them is still a treat. Historic motels dot the entire route and serve as an authentic way to drive along Route 66.

On top of that, due to how Route 66 stretches across the Southwest and Midwest, there are plenty of other major attractions not too far from Route 66. TravelPulse advises taking a detour to the Grand Canyon or the Lake of the Ozarks, for instance. Like anything else in life though, your mileage may vary. But if you enjoy American history, then Route 66 may be the right road trip for you.