U.S. Highway 66, popularly known as "Route 66" is significant as the first all-weather highway linking Chicago to Los Angeles.  What sets this segment of national highway apart from its contemporaries is that it remains the shortest, year-round route between Chicago and Los Angeles by more than 200 miles, which made Route 66 popular among thousands of motorists who drove west insubsequent decades.

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The often romanticized highway represents an outstanding example of the transition from dirt road to super-highway.  Not only does Route 66 underscore the importance of the automobile as a technological achievement, but, perhaps equally important to the American people, it symbolized unprecedented freedom and mobility for every citizen who could own and operate a car. In response, the federal government pledged to link small town U.S.A. with all of the metropolitan capitals.

As a component of the federal network, Route 66 linked the isolated, rural West to the densely populated urban Midwest and Northeast.  Chicago had long served as a transshipment point for goods that were transported to the West.  The creation of Route 66 ensured the continuation of this vital socioeconomic link.  The appearance of U.S. Highway 66 came at a time of unparalleled social, economic, and political disruption and global conflict, and it enabled the most comprehensive movement of people in the history of the United States.

Perhaps more than any other American highway, Route 66 symbolized the new optimism that prevaded the nations postwar economic recovery.  For thousands of returning servicemen and their families, Route 66 represented more than just a highway.   "It became," according to one admirer, "an icon of free-spirited independence linking the United States across the Rocky Mountain divide to the Pacific Ocean."

Route 66 is many things to many people.  Each person tends to experience the road differently.  There is a spirit, a feeling, that resides along this highway.   The spirit of Route 66 lives in the people and their stories, the views and structures, and travelers' perceptions of them along the route.  To gain an understanding of Route 66 and the spirit of Route 66, there is no substitute for driving the highway.

When Route 66 was decommissioned and its signs were removed, the ability of drivers to easily find Route 66 was lost.  To help people locate the road, several states have installed Historic Route 66 signs along portions of the road.  These signs do not typically appear on interstate highway exits, do not usually give directions, and are often stolen for souvenirs.  Finding Route 66 can be an adventure and a challenge requiring a good sense of direction, several maps and guidebooks, a navigator, and patience to decipher the highway's various alignments.  Recently published guides to the highway and publications by state Route 66 associations are available.

The experience of Route 66 is formed by the travelers and the people, sights, sounds, and tastes they encounter.  The surroundings are constantly changing, and there is a sense of mystery about what lies around the bend.  Regional differences in rural landscapes and natural features figure prominently in the experience, as do small towns and cities.  However, the Route 66 experience lies less in the individual scenes than in their association with the road.  The following is only one of many possible experiences and interpretations of the people, places, and vistas that can be found driving Route 66.

Starting at the interstate off-ramp, Route 66 transports drivers into the countryside, where they slow down and become aware of the road's texture and rhythm.  The scenery comes into focus the shape of the land, the plants, the farms, the industry, the communities, the people, the life.  The road follows the natural topography of the land, which makes the horizon appear closer and more intimate.  The driver is both spectator and participant, ready for the road.


Route 66 was stamped on the American public's consciousness in 1926.   that was the year the fabled highway was christened.  Through the decades this remarkable road has been celebrated in song and literature.  Route 66 became an excape route for the dust bowl pilgrims,  a through-fare for troop convoys bound for war, and the most popular highway in the country for droves of tourists.

A ribbon that tied the nation together, Route 66 concrete and asphalt pavement snaked across eight states.  It was known as America's Main Street.

Route 66 is not for everybody.  It is not for people in a hurry... Or for people used to homogenized food and drink...  Or for people that shy away from anything old-fashioned.

Route 66 is for people willing to sample chili from a stranger's pot... Or for people that like to slurp root beer floats from a frosty mug...  Or people that are willing to tackle a burger that requires at least a dozen napkins to sop up the grease.

Route 66 is for people that will always be suckers for neon lights and home cooked meals.

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