Hey if you ever plan to fly out west
Travel my way, that's the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well it winds from Chicago to LA
More than two thousand miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route 66
Well you go through Saint Louis, Joplin, Missouri
Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty
You'll see Amarillo, and Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino
Route 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles for much of the Twentieth Century, dying the death of a 1000 cuts as slowly its span was replaced by Interstate highways, in some cases leading to the old 66 suffering the indignity of being nothing more than a frontage road. In many cases the old road still exists, but comes to an abrupt halt at a river, where an old bridge has long since collapsed or been dismantled. In other places the old Route 66 is a neglected country lane still serving a community that has shrunk since the transient traffic went away.
Even before the arrival of the new freeways Route 66 went through many route changes over the years, so there is not a single definitive Route 66. For example, at one time it passed through Santa Fe, but was subsequrently routed 50 miles to the south, passing through Albuquerque instead. These changes to the route are known amongst Route 66 geeks as alignments. Some of the old alignments have completely disappeared, but it is possible to follow many of them and to plan a route that by and large follows one or other of the old historic roads.
There are some incredibly scenic roads in the USA, and roads that go from coast to coast or from the Canadian Border to the Mexican Border - some of which still exist. Route 66, however, stands out because when it was first built it captured a safe and convenient vision of the American Dream; of going West across the Great Plains to fulfil your destiny. However instead of the privations of wagon trains and the danger of attack, this vision was married to the convenience of modern automobiles with gas stations, diners and motels located along the way. In addition to the roadside attractions of Route 66, the road also passes close to, or is associated with, many iconic American locations, such as the Grand Canyon.
Route 66 is a character in the Steinbeck novel, "Grapes of Wrath" wherein "Okies" took what Steinbeck calls "The Mother Road" to escape the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. I don't know if I will get to traverse the whole 2500 miles (4000km) length of the route, but I plan to visit some of the best preserved sections and soak up the spirit of the venerable road.
Although the middle of Route 66 lies in the Texas Panhandle, the very heart of the road is the stretch through Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Nob Hill in Albuquerque, New Mexico is possibly the most interesting urban stretch, and my favourite small town on the route is Shamrock, Texas.