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If you’ve played around with the idea of a cross-country road trip, you’ve likely looked into traveling along historic Route 66.
An adventure along The Mother Road is a bucket list for many travelers. But can you even travel that road anymore? And how long does it take to drive Route 66 from beginning to end?
Let’s take a closer look at the history of this important highway and what you can expect today!
Where Is Route 66?
Route 66 starts in Chicago, Illinois, and ends in Santa Monica, California.
The road travels through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. New Mexico has more miles of Route 66 than any other state, with 487 miles, while the highway only runs through 13 miles of Kansas.
Today the historic Route 66 follows much of Interstate-40 from Barstow, California, to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You could easily switch from one road to another along this portion of Route 66.
However, I-40 diverts south towards Memphis, Tennessee, after Oklahoma City, instead of north towards Chicago.
The History of Route 66
Also known as The Mother Road, Route 66 resulted from our country’s need to expand its road systems. The 1920s were the boom years for the automobile, and as Americans demanded improved highways, Route 66 was born.
The highway connected existing local, state, and national roads to improve cross-country travel. It became the best route from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Business owners saw this as an opportunity and started advertising to drivers along The Mother Road. Small, rural communities became hosts to travelers, which boosted their economies due to increased revenue.
During World War II, Route 66 became a military transport highway as troops and supplies moved across the country. Thousands of people who headed West to help with the war efforts also took this route.
Television series, literature, music, and other entertainment continued to influence travel along the highway post-World War II. The automobile industry grew, and more families chose to vacation at popular attractions along Route 66, like the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.
However, in the mid-1950s, President Eisenhower supported a law to construct a new highway system, which would eventually become our interstates. He saw the military advantages of the German Autobahn during World War II. So over the next 30 years, five interstates were built across the country.
Is Route 66 Popular for RVers?
Route 66 is one of the most famous road trip routes for travelers. Many RVers have Route 66 on their bucket list because of the history and nostalgia. There’s something special about traveling a road that first began public cross-country travel.
So every year, RVers hit The Mother Road for adventure. However, most travelers don’t start at one end and drive all the way to the other. When you think about how long it takes to drive Route 66, many people don’t have vacation time for such a journey.
But somewhere along the way, RVers get on the historic highway, stop at local diners, take selfies at roadside attractions, and enjoy the nostalgia of traveling The Mother Road.
Keep in Mind: The Enchanted Highway: Is It Worth It? Let’s find out!
How Long Is Route 66?
From California to Illinois, the entire Route 66 is 2,448 miles. In some areas, the remnants of the historic highway parallel I-40. You’ll see frontage roads in many of the Western states.
In other locations, Route 66 still goes through towns. It’s usually in these spots where you’ll find the old gas stations and historic diners that have made traveling Route 66 such a nostalgic journey.
As mentioned earlier, almost 490 miles of Route 66 pass through New Mexico. Oklahoma has the next largest chunk of the road, with 432 miles. Then from most to least comes Arizona, Missouri, California, Illinois, Texas, and Kansas. So how long it takes to drive Route 66 depends on how much of it you travel.
How Long Does It Take to Drive Route 66?
So how long does it take to drive Route 66? That depends on how many miles you want to travel in a day. You can technically travel the entire length without stopping in about two days. But who’ll do that?
Most travelers take at least two weeks to travel from one end to the other. Other road trippers choose a section and spend a week enjoying the sights and history.
It’s possible to take an entire month to explore Route 66 in its entirety because of all of the roadside attractions, museums, shops, and diners along the way. It’s a great American icon, after all.
Keep in Mind: It’s no secret that Texas is huge! So how long does it take to drive across the entire state of Texas? Click the link to find out!
What Happened to Route 66 When I-40 Was Constructed?
After the five new interstates were constructed, they became the most popular routes as they reduced time. Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985 as I-40 bypassed the last remaining section of the highway in Williams, Arizona.
The American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials committee noted that “U.S. 66 markings no longer served as a through-state guide to tourists, but in fact, generated confusion because the route coincided with interstate designations over much of its length.”
Businesses and towns suffered, and many locations that relied on the traffic from The Mother Road became ghost towns as people moved to make a living elsewhere.
However, in 1990, Congress passed the Route 66 Study Act of 1990. As a result of this law, the National Park Service began a study to evaluate the significance of Route 66. This highway was a symbol of our country’s history. The NPS study led to the preservation of resources along the Route 66 corridor.
Can I Still Travel the Orginal Route 66?
It’s not possible to drive the original Route 66 uninterrupted. The road hasn’t been maintained, so you have no choice but to get on I-40 in some places. However, you can still travel much of the original highway.
Whenever you plan your Route 66 cross-country journey, you’ll have countless attractions to enjoy, from the famous “Standin’ on the Corner” statue in Winslow, Arizona, or Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, to the Blue Whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma.
Where will your Route 66 journey take you? Perhaps you’ll reignite your patriotic side as you travel the country on the great American highway.