US Highway 66, more commonly known as “Route 66” or the Mother Road is a throwback to a different, simpler time. The historic route holds a special place in America’s heart as at one time is was America’s most important road and the first all-weather highway built to link Chicago and Los Angeles. The 2450-mile route established on November 11, 1926 served the nation for over 40 years, acting as the preferred route for migration to the West. It was famously used for the migration West away from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s when refugees were fleeing their drought-stricken farms in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. The route has always been an attraction and the allure of an unforgettable road trip, adventure and fun drew many and local communities responded by establishing various businesses to cater to their needs—from shops, gas stations, drive-in restaurants and motels to hokey made-up attractions like the world’s largest rocking chair and ketchup bottle to make them come back.
Route 66 was slowly put out of active use by a newly established Interstate Highway System and a large number of the businesses faded away gradually, their ruins making up the magic that can now be found along the route. The route is also littered by the wreckages of the vintage cars that used to prowl the road. Today the once bustling road is quiet except for the small towns that can be found along it as one makes their way to either Chicago or Los Angeles. Most of the road is now drivable owing to restoration efforts by local residents and authorities but it needs patient and careful planning as there are a lot of photo ops, traffic signs, road rehabilitations, and small towns. Funnily enough, these are the very things that make for an RVs paradise.
The empty route 66 now mainly attracts tourists, adventurers, and RV’ers looking to take a peep into modern America’s past. With that, just like in its prime when Route 66 was the heart of American trade and commerce and brought immense economic gain to the nation and local communities, the route is still an economic success as its rich cultural heritage has created a booming tourism industry. The National Trust for Historic Preservation states that Route 66 brings in $67 million to businesses on main streets, $27 million to museums, and $38 million in cultural heritage tourism every year. This is a significant impact as every tourist on the route usually spends between $1,500 and $2,000. Today it is common to find outdoor enthusiasts on Harleys and tour vehicles dabbling in the joys the route has to offer. Driving the entire route takes about three weeks, making it especially ideal for RV’ers.
Indeed, Route 66 has always been intimately related to RV’ing, which can even be seen by the several wreckages of old and self-made RVs found along the way. Much of this relationship has been due to how the offerings along the route match every RV’ers desires. RV’ers are always interested in seeing a magical outdoor and this entails visiting natural attractions, historic sites, parks, cultural places, rare structures, memorable experiences, and interesting adventures and Route 66 has always offered these things in plenty. No wonder it takes three weeks to traverse in its entirety! The route has always attracted RV’ers because it has always managed to stay unique. First it was the only all-weather highway in the United States, making many people want to experience it in full and then it lost its traffic but retained its structures and attractions, making it almost magical to visit. This route will keep seeing more and more RVs as more and more Americans own them and desire wholesome trips that will stay with them for a lifetime.
There are hundreds of attractions worth a visit along Route 66. Some of the top attractions for every RV’ers on Route 66 include:
- Meramec Caverns
Located in Stanton, Missouri, these cave systems are some of the most visited in the state and a must-see for all RV’ers on Route 66. The caverns stretch for over 4.6 miles and contain artifacts from pre-Columbian Native Americans.
- Route 66 Museum
This highly-rated museum in Clinton, Oklahoma takes visitors back to the heydays of this significant highway. RV’ers will get to enjoy special exhibits, Big Band music from the heydays of the highway, a ‘Dust Bowl’ experience, and other interesting items from when the road was at its peak.
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park
This breath-taking canyon in Amarillo, Texas is a mere 30-minute drive from the city and offers visitors views of magnificent rock formations and vistas. Also the second-largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro comes with trails RV’ers can trek and add more fun to their tour of the historic Route 66.
- Cadillac Ranch
This is one of the most iconic sites along the road located in Amarillo, Texas. The ranch features 10 half-buried Cadillacs covered in graffiti. Visitors to the ranch are encouraged to spray paint any car they choose and add to the art.
- The Blue Whale
This attraction is conveniently located along the road in Catoosa, Oklahoma and is one of the most famous Route 66 features. The area around the structure is shaded and a great spot to relax and eat snacks before driving on to Oklahoma City.
- Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum
100 miles from the route’s starting point and located in Pontiac, Illinois lies this museum holding thousands of artefacts and memorabilia from when the road was the most important highway in America. Tourists can take photos of various moments in Route 66’s history and learn about what life was like when the route was in full operation.
- Petrified Forest
Just a little way off Holbrook, Arizona lies this grand park with the largest collection of petrified wood in the world. The park’s petroglyphs and ruins also offer a look into Native American culture as its array of wildlife and brightly-colored landscapes give relaxing views.
This list does not even start to cover the numerous attractions on Route 66. The best thing about the places and attractions along this route is that RV’ers can stay in most of them. Several places also offer free parking to RVs. A word of caution is that RV’ers will be exposed to elements and animals while out there so they should take every precaution they can. An RV cover is one such precaution and the most important one. The trip along Route 66 is long and your RV will need all the protection it can get and RV covers take care of many problems. With an RV cover, problems like debris, animal, UV, damage, wind, and wind damage will not be at the back of your mind allowing you to enjoy the journey.
Route 66 is an invaluable piece of American history that continues to give more. The nation’s modern history does not get much better than this route spanning almost half of the country. There is a lot to see, celebrate and take part in. The route offers spectacular natural and man-made attractions that leave a lasting impression on visitors. Route 66 takes about three weeks to traverse and with all that it has to offer, it is truly the holy grail for RV’ers.