Route 66 is 2,278 miles in length from its starting point in
Chicago, Illinois to its ending point at the Santa Monica
just west of Los Angeles, California.
The mileage for Route 66 in each state it passes
through is as follows:
California (318 miles);
New Mexico (392 miles);
Texas (189 miles);
Kansas (13 miles);
Missouri (313 miles); and,
Illinois (289 miles).
Current maps do not include old Route 66. The last stretch
of the road disappeared from "official" maps in 1984.
A famous national museum, nowhere near Route 66, has an
exhibit that includes an actual piece of Route 66 pavement.
Entitled "America On the Move," the piece of the Mother
Road (as Route 66 is often called) is at the
Smithsonian's National Museum in Washington D.C.
Route 66 was commissioned in 1926, picking up as many bits
and pieces of existing road as possible.
Route 66 crosses 8 states and 3 time zones.
In 1926 (the year it opened) only 800 miles of Route 66 were paved.
Eleven years later, in 1937, Route
66 got paved end-to-end.
Because of a change in alignment of Route 66 in 1937, there
is an intersection where Route 66 crosses itself at Central
Ave. and 4th St. in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Here, you can stand on the corner of Route 66 and Route 66.
Bobby Troup wrote the song, Get Your Kicks on Route 66
in 1946. It has been performed and remixed by several
musicians, including Nat King Cole, who first recorded it in
1946 scoring a major hit, the Rolling Stones, and Depeche
The old round barn in Arcadia, Oklahoma is the most famous
and most often photographed barn on Route 66.
The numerical designation 66 was official assigned to the
Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926.
The Corvette auto has become a Route 66 icon.
On the corner of Route 66 and First Street in Tucumcari, New
Mexico is a Texaco Station that is
the only service station
to have operated continuously through the Route 66 era to
Kansas has the shortest section of Route 66 with only 13
miles. However, three historic Route 66 towns are located on
this short segment, including: Baxter Springs, Galena and
As a publicity stunt in 1928, promoters of Route 66 held a
coast to coast foot race that included the entire distance
of Route 66, and then some. The race kept right on going far
beyond Chicago all the way to New York City.
In 1984, Route 66 was officially decommissioned as a federal
highway. However, daily use of the road had been gradually
replaced in earlier years by the Interstates. The road was
decommissioned due to public demand for better
transportation as the old road deteriorated after World War
Route 66 is also know as "The Mother Road", "The Main Street
of America" and "The Will Rogers Highway". 85% of the road
is still drivable.
During all of its life, Route 66 continued to evolve,
leaving many abandoned stretches of concrete, still waiting
to be found by the more adventurous traveler.
Cyrus Stevens Avery from Tulsa, Oklahoma can be called the
father of Route 66. Mr. Avery lived in Tulsa. Conveniently,
the new highway ran right past his own filling station and
Elvis Presley used to like staying at the Best Western Trade
Winds Motel in Clinton, Oklahoma.
91% of the original Route 66 is still in use in Texas.
Lou Mitchell’s Café has been providing breakfast for those
beginning the long journey on Route 66 since the beginning.
Opened in 1923 at 565 W. Jackson Street in Chicago,
breakfast is still served all day at Lou Mitchell’s Café.
Most of Route 66 was replaced by five interstate highways,
including I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15 and I-10, but still a
surprisingly high amount of old road is waiting to be found
by the more adventurous traveler.
When is a corn dog not a corn dog? When you're at the
Cozy Dog Drive In along Route 66 in Springfield, Illinois.
This first fast food of the road was introduced by Ed
Waldmire at the 1946 Illinois State Fair. In 1950, he opened
the Cozy Dog Drive In. This Mother Road icon still
stands today at 2935 So. Sixth Street in Springfield,
Illinois. If you go there be sure to try their "Cozy Dog".
Don't call it a "Corn Dog".
You cannot count on the road to be marked with road signs.
Though some states and organizations have posted signs,
these often disappear with souvenir hunters. Others are
simply never posted.
Driving Route 66 from west to east is historically wrong,
and a lot harder, as all available documentation goes the
which is east to west.
John Steinbeck in his novel, Grapes of Wrath,
published in 1939, was the first to refer to Route 66 as
Old Route 66 originally began in Chicago at Michigan Avenue
and Jackson Boulevard. After the 1933 World’s Fair, the
start of the road was moved to Lake Shore Drive at the
entrance to Grant Park.
George Maharis and Martin Milner were the stars of the CBS
television series Route 66, which debuted on October
7, 1960. In the show, the stars drove brand new baby-blue
Corvettes, though the audience wouldn’t know that because
the show was in black and white. The show continued for 116
episodes, finally ending on March 13, 1964. Ironically, the
show was filmed on locations all around the USA, but rarely
near the real Route 66.
Cyrus Avery, the father of Route 66, was the first to refer
to Route 66 as “The Main Street of America” in 1927.
The last original Route 66 road sign was taken down in
Chicago on January 17, 1977.
The famous KiMo Theater along Route 66 in Albuquerque, New
Mexico is said to be haunted by the ghost of a six year old
boy by the name of Bobby Darnall who was killed at the
theater in 1951 from a boiler explosion. According to
legend, the spirit of the child causes the performers
problems by tripping them and creating a ruckus during
performances. To appease the spirit, the cast leaves
doughnuts backstage, which are said to be gone the next
The oldest hotel on Route 66 is the Eagle Hotel in
Wilmington, Illinois. Though sitting empty today, the 1836
hotel that once serviced stagecoach travelers has plans of
The first McDonald’s restaurant was located in San
Bernardino, California in 1945 on Route 66. The site is
currently home to the McDonald's Route 66 Museum.
Adrian, Texas is said to be the “geo-mathematical” center of
Route 66. However, many argue that this claim is actually in
Vega, Texas. They're probably both right depending upon
which alignment a traveler might have taken.
Oklahoma has more miles of the original Route 66 than any
You can own or adopt a stretch of old Route 66.
Arizona has the longest stretch of the historic highway
still in use today.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri was used in
the filming of the 1981 movie “Escape From New York.” The
bridge was repaved for John Carpenter’s film and appears at
the end of the movie when Kurt Russell rescues Donald
Pleasance from certain doom. Though closed to vehicle
traffic today, the Chain of Rocks Bridge remains open as the
world’s longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge.
Quapaw, Oklahoma, the first town on Route 66 in Oklahoma, is
famous for "spooklights", bouncing bright balls of white
fire that have been reported as far back as the 1700s.
Tucumcari's Tee Pee Curios is the last curio store on
Route 66 between Albuquerque and Amarillo in Texas. By the way, a
"curio store" is a place that contains curious and/or unusual items.
Route 66, better known as "The Main Street of America,"
offered those in the Midwest a chance at new life in sunny
California and brought soldiers home from war. Most of all,
it brought families out on the road to travel the route
with the slogan
Get Your Kicks On Route 66. Also known as "The Mother
Road", Route 66 passes
Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois and winds its way
to Santa Monica,
California (near Los Angeles). In all, it reaches across
2,278 miles and crosses 3 time zones. It passes through town
after town; therefore, nicknaming it the "Main Street of
America." For many who lived near the historical road, it
became their livelihood. Shops and other road side
attractions sprung up along the route depending on the
thousands of tourists to buy their goods. To fully
understand how this road became so well known, we must take a look back in time.
Route 66 began as a set of trails the Native Americans used
to travel throughout the Midwest. In the late 1840's, a
trail was needed to reach California after the discovery of
gold, then in 1853 a survey was taken for a railroad. The
largest step towards Route 66 came in 1857 when Lieutenant
Edward Beale came into the picture.
Lieutenant Beale, in charge of the railroad survey, designed
a wagon road that cut across the west. This trek was
specifically unique because he used camels to aid in
construction. It was thought that the hot southwest was too
much for any traditional animal used in manual work. The
camels ultimately turned out to be a nuisance since they
were not as obedient as hoped. Beale's road stretched from
Defiance, New Mexico to Los Angeles, California and was
completed in 1859.
In 1853, a railroad was built through the southern US and
ran virtually parallel to the existing Beale Wagon Road. It
wasn't until the early 1900's that it began to become clear
that the existing wagon roads were unsuitable for the newly
In the 1920's, the roads that existed were built for wagons
and very crudely structured. At best they were gravel; more
likely, they were nothing but worn tracks in the landscape.
As a result, the public desire for passable roads began.
In 1926, the Ford Company forever changed the nation by
lowering the price of cars. The pressure began to mount for
highway development. By this time, a man by the name of
Cyrus Avery was on the scene. He was a leader of the
American Association of Highway Development. At a meeting in
1924, Cyrus Avery was appointed a consulting highway specialist
and responsible for designing what would become the United
States Highway System. In short, he was in charge of
preparing a map that showed where all of the primary
highways of the United States should lay.
Avery began by examining all of the existing marked trails
and connecting them in a fashion that would accommodate a
highway system. The highway commissioners decided to assign
the roads numbers instead of names to avoid confusion. The
roads running east and west were to be assigned even
numbers, and the roads running north and south were to be
assigned odd numbers.
Originally, Avery and
his associates assigned the highway
running across the southern United States to the Pacific
Ocean the number 60. However, some officials on the east
coast had also chosen that number for another highway. As a
result, an argument started. Both sides insisted on using
the number 60. Eventually, Avery and his associates gave in
and began searching for a new number.
Upon looking through the list of possible numbers, they came
across the number 66. Cyrus Avery liked the way the number
sounded and Route 66 was born.
In 1926, Route 66 became official. The route ran through 8
states; Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New
Mexico, Arizona, and California. At the time, approximately
800 miles were paved. The remaining road was dirt, gravel,
brick, or wooden planks. It wasn't until 1937 that the road
was completely paved.
The next step after creating the road was to get people to
drive it. Route 66 associations began to sprout up in the 8
states it ran through. The goal was to promote use of the
road. An advertising campaign began with ads in national
magazines and newspapers. Billboards were also used along
the route to promote the grandeur of the road. The public's
attention was caught and enthusiasm grew as did traffic
along the route.
In 1928, an annual advertising scheme took place to promote
the road. A foot race from Los Angeles to New York was to
take place and Route 66 would be the main road used. Each
contestant was to submit $100 to secure a spot in the race.
The towns along the route grew with excitement and the race
succeeded in getting publicity. The newspapers were
plastered with information on the runners' progress.
In the end, 55 of the 275 who started the cross-country run
crossed the finish line. Andrew Payne of Oklahoma won the
race. He went on to become an American hero and will
forever be associated with Route 66.
Approximately 3 years after Route 66 officially opened, the
economy began to bottom out and the nation headed for the Great Depression. However, Route 66 did not lack in
travelers, for around the same time a great drought began in
the Midwest and would go on to last for several years
sending thousands of people fleeing in search for better
opportunities. These people came to be known as "Okies" and
Route 66 was nicknamed "The Road of Flight." For many,
California was their destiny in hopes of finding fertile
land and the promise of work. Their struggle was documented
in the well-known book, Grapes of Wrath.
Eventually, our economy began to heal and rain covered the
plains. However, World War II had begun filling Route 66
with soldiers and convoys of trucks heading to military
bases across the country. After the war, Route 66 took on
clutters of vacationing families.
More and more automobiles were being produced and the
economy soared, making cars affordable to many more people
than ever before. Route 66 became jammed with traffic and
a common phrase was "Get Your Kicks on Route 66". America had
fallen in love with Route 66.
Tourist traps began to appear everywhere along the route. A
tourist could buy Indian jewelry, visit a snake pit, or
explore mysterious caverns. Neon cluttered the main street
In the late 1950's, it became clear that Route 66 has grown
too popular for its own good. President Eisenhower signed
the Federal Highway Act which spelled out guidelines to
build a National Interstate Highway System. Slowly, but
surely, towns along Route 66 began to be bypassed by new
interstate highways. On October 13, 1984, the town of
Williams made history by becoming the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by the new Interstate 40.
Route 66 survived
years of the depression, the dust bowl, war and much more.
Due to the dedication of individuals, state associations and
the National Historic Route 66 Federation, Route 66 remains
an exciting and wonderful way to have a road trip adventure.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of an old Route 66 motel
sign in Illinois... from how it looked after years of
neglect to its current restored appearance. Route 66 is
slowly being preserved. Be sure to see pictures of Route 66