It wasn’t the first transcontinental corridor. It’s not the oldest or longest road either. So what’s the fascination with Route 66? Why has it become known as the “Mother Road,” with people from all over the world flocking to the States to try to reconstruct its route for their own road trip? From a practical aspect, at the time, it was the shortest, year-round route between the Midwest and the Pacific Coast (others were seasonal). From a romanticized viewpoint, “Route 66 spans the heart of America, symbolizing mobility, freedom, and pursuit of the American Dream.” Though decommissioned in 1985, it continues to be immortalized in shows, movies, songs, and books and remains a steadfast icon of American road trip culture. The National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provides preservation information about the more than 250 buildings, bridges, road alignments, and other sites along Route 66 that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including an itinerary! This, along with an abundance of other physical and online resources, stirred a desire to see a little slice of this Americana.
Since I was already in the area, I figured I’d ride the St. Louis to Chicago segment of Route 66. I spent 5 days exploring this roughly 300 mile section, and in no way saw everything that this historic portion had to offer. I’ll tell the story of these 5 days through photos and their captions. All information in quotation marks (and much of what’s not) comes from the National Park Service website: Route 66: Illinois Places, unless otherwise stated.