Motorbike life

What is the best way to do Route 66?

10 minutes

Without a doubt, Route 66 is the most famous road in the United States. If you like motorcycles, cars, or just traveling in general, chances are you’ve heard something about the most mythical road in America.

What is the best way to do Route 66?

Image: Morten Andreassen

Brief history of Route 66

Route 66 was established with the intention of connecting the east with the west. It is often said that it joins the two coasts, but that’s not strictly true, because although one end does pass through the Californian village of Santa Monica on the Pacific Ocean, the other passes through the city of Chicago (Illinois), beside the vast Lake Michigan. And it lies 1,500 km away from the Atlantic coast.

Also known as “The Main Street of America” or “The Mother Road”, among other names, Route 66 became part of the United States Numbered Highway System in 1926. However, it was not signposted until the following year and its surface wasn’t completed until 1938, so many of its sections were initially just dirt and gravel.

Over the course of its almost 100-year history, its layout has been altered several times. In addition, in the 1950s, most of the route became secondary as highways were built, and it became less traveled as a result. So much so, in fact, that in 1985 it was officially removed from the United States Numbered Highway System.

However, although today it is no longer possible to travel the original Route 66 uninterrupted (only around 80% has been preserved), some sections have been kept the way they were many years ago, taking us back to what life was like in the US in the middle of the last century. That’s why tourism there has been growing exponentially recently, and some of its sections have been declared “Historic Route 66”.

Although tourists can travel Route 66 in both directions, it is most common to travel it from east to west, i.e., from Chicago to Los Angeles. This route passes through eight of the 50 states that make up the US. In the order they are found, they are: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. However, you could actually say there are nine, as many travelers deviate from the route and pass through Las Vegas, in the state of Nevada, before entering California.

Where does Route 66 start and end?

Officially, Route 66 begins in Chicago, at the Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue intersection, and ends at the Santa Monica Pier, very close to Los Angeles. If done in its entirety it’s easy to cover more than 4,000 km, and if attempted in one go, it is advisable to spend a minimum of 14 days, averaging around 300 km a day. Of course, the route can take many forms depending on different factors, including taking in all the tourist spots. It is true that it can be divided into two or more sections and done more leisurely, taking even longer breaks at landmarks. Similarly, you can do only part of the route, and not necessarily start in Illinois and end in California. It is important to remember that the maximum speed limit is 55 miles per hour (just under 90 km/h) and on some stretches even reduced to 35 mph, so it is advisable to take your time, keeping in mind how strict some US law enforcement officers can be on this issue.

How to do Route 66?

Different companies specialize in renting vehicles to travel along Route 66 in one direction, without having to drop off the vehicle at the same place. There are many different types of vehicles to rent. The route can be done by bike, car, or motorhome; and choosing a vehicle “made in the USA” makes it even more authentic, allowing you to get the most from the experience and culture.

How to do route 66 on bike?

The average trip price for two people, for example, on a Harley-Davidson Touring bike, for 14 days is around 4,000 euros per person, including a double room, insurance, and roadside assistance. If it’s for two people and two motorcycles, and also a double room, the price comes to 5,250 euros per person. It should be noted that gas and meals are not included in these prices.

Other ways to do it: by car or bus

Meanwhile, if we prefer to do it in a Ford Mustang car and book our own accommodation and extras, the price of renting the car only comes to around 2,000 euros for two weeks.

Another more economical way is to take a Greyhound bus, a well-known interstate company whose original motto was “A lot more travel for a lot less money”. You can travel for 16 days with a double room, including breakfast, for around 2,000 euros per person.

In the summer months, from July to September, is the best time to travel Route 66. Although it can get hot at times, the days are longer and there is less chance of rain.

What are the most symbolic places to visit along Route 66?

Across the nearly 4,000 km of Route 66 there are many must-see tourist hotspots and towns. Obviously, it depends on where you stay, but there are some very famous places along the way, below are just a few:

Hall of Fame (Illinois)

In the city of Pontiac, before leaving Illinois, less than 200 km from the starting point in Chicago, is the Hall of Fame Museum. It houses thousands of historical memorabilia from the glory days of the “Mother Road”. The large mural that decorates one of its exterior walls is one of the most photographed monuments along Route 66. Thanks to all the images and photos, you can learn what life was like when Route 66 was the most important highway in the United States.



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Saint Louis and the Gateway Arch (Missouri)

The city of Saint Louis is usually the first or second stop after setting off from Chicago. Located on both sides of the Mississippi River, it brings together culture, history, music, and sports. During your visit, you can watch a Saint Louis Cardinals baseball game, walk or bike through Forest Park, or visit the iconic Gateway Arch. You can scale the enormous arch to its highest point at 192 meters, where you can get a panoramic view of the city.


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Meramec Caverns (Missouri)

The Meramec Caverns are another unmissable hotpspot on Route 66. A collection of over 6,000 caves hidden inside an extension of more than 40 km², and according to objects discovered inside, they have been confirmed to be inhabited by different pre-Columbian cultures. They were also used by the Union forces during the Civil War (1861–1865), and even served as a refuge for the famous gunman Jesse James and his gang after the war. These beautiful caves were formed from the erosion of limestone deposits over millions of years.


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Ed Galloways Totem Pole Park (Oklahoma)

To get there, you have to make a detour of around 6 km. At this historic site, you can admire 11 totem poles made by sculptor, Ed Galloway, between 1937 and 1948. They are an example of Oklahoma folk art and include figures of birds and Native American men. They are all made of concrete and one of them holds the record for being the tallest in the world. Twenty eight tons of cement, six tons of steel, and another 100 tons of stone and sand were used to build them. Using this material, Galloway managed to build the giant totem pole to almost 28-meters high.


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Blue Whale of Catoosa (Oklahoma)

Another peculiar attraction on the route is the Blue Whale of Catoosa, a large “sculpture” made in 1972 on the shore of a pond beside the road. The landmark is surrounded by trees, and there is a well-equipped picnic area. It is also possible to take a dip and cool off from the summer heat here.

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Cadillac Ranch (Texas)

Just 15 minutes by road from the Texan town of Amarillo is one of the most emblematic and unique landmarks on Route 66. It is known as Cadillac Ranch, located in the Texan desert. It is a public art installation and sculpture composed of 10 half-buried Cadillacs painted with graffiti. The cars are lined up, with the front end buried and the back end pointing towards the sky. They really do attract a lot of attention. Visitors are also encouraged to freely use spray paint to decorate the cars.


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Santa Fe (New Mexico)

The state capital of New Mexico is a city worth visiting. Founded in 1610 as a Spanish colony, it is famous for its architecture and panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The Spanish influence can be seen in its large plaza in the center of the city and in the winding streets of its historic district. Its various adobe buildings also show signs of its history.


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Sandia Peak Tramway (New Mexico)

Located just outside the city of Albuquerque, this 4.5-km long aerial tramway offers views of deep canyons and breathtaking scenery. Once at the top, the platform overlooks the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of Enchantment. The surrounding forest is stunning, as is the sunset from the top.


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The Painted Desert (Arizona)

The variety of colors of this northern Arizona desert gives it its name in this vast and beautiful area. It is dry and barren with rocks of multiple shades, from pinks and oranges to grays and purples. It is recommended to visit the Painted Desert in the evening to enjoy the sunset that makes the colors pop.


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Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

It is said that Arizona is the best preserved section of Route 66, if you consider what it was like in the mid-twentieth century. Once you hit the city of Flagstaff, you have to make a two-hour detour north to reach the Grand Canyon National Park. It is somewhat out of the way, but it is a natural wonder truly worth visiting. The Grand Canyon, formed by the Colorado River, reaches 29 km in width at some points and more than 1.5 km in depth. The scenery is truly breathtaking and draws more than six million annual visitors.


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Wigwam Motel (Arizona)

Located in the town of Holbrook, this well-known motel offers its guests the possibility of sleeping in individual tepee-shaped rooms. These were cone-shaped tents historically used by indigenous people of the United States. The motel was built in 1950 and is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.


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Santa Monica (California)

The end of the route and an ideal place to relax and take in the Pacific Ocean from its impressive beach. There is the famous amusement park, Pacific Park, on the pier, along with the historic Looff Hippodrome’s merry-go-round. A visit to the city’s aquarium is also highly recommended or Muscle Beach, an open-air gym founded in 1930, where many scenes from movies have been filmed.


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