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Still getting kicks on Route 66!!

Prep for the 100th Anniversary, November 2026!

By Thomas DurbinPublished 30 days ago 6 min read

For a good time...hit The Mother Road!

Featured in the John Steinbeck classic "The Grapes of Wrath", the Dust Bowl era was a time of major migration to the west. Steinbeck dubbed Route 66 "The Mother Road" and the nickname stuck. It is a wonderful escape that takes the traveler to many times and places. For automobile buffs and history buffs, Route 66 is a must-travel, bucket list item. I bought the shirt pictured below during one of my relaxing drives across the country. The section of Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona, known as the Arizona Sidewinder is exhilarating. Before I get farther ahead of myself along the route here, I'll backtrack to the beginning in my home state of Illinois.

Route 66 may long endure as an iconic modern pathway though the last section was officially bypassed in 1984. October 13 was the official retirement day in Williams, Arizona, and Bobby Troup was there to sing his famous song titled "Route 66" at the closing ceremony (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSe1VNNA2Cc).

Nat King Cole's version of Troup's song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRX_NZ7kTt0).

Established 1926 November 11, Route 66 begins in Chicago, Illinois, and continues to Los Angeles, California, with a relatively new ceremonial end on the famous pier in Santa Monica. Route 66 was the primary travel route from Chicago to Los Angeles during the core of the 1900s. Though the route changed many times as the decades passed, the mystique and sense of adventure associated with The Mother Road never faded.

Many sections of Route 66 still exist (as much as 85% according to some), and they are open for travelers to enjoy while taking a break from the traffic of the modern highways that superseded it. Many businesses from the heyday of the Mother Road's history have been preserved. Many are open and cater to modern-day tourists while others are marked as historic sites for visitors and photographers to enjoy. Nostalgia abounds along the route. It is a fantastic way to see well-known sections of the Midwest, Southwest, and southern California. Ghost towns and the shells of once-thriving establishments are found along the way.

I've had the privilege of driving along The Mother Road many times. Windows down, music playing...freedom!

Born and raised in Illinois, I heard about Route 66 as a youngster and knew of the song. The nostalgia and coverage of it in history articles piqued my interest. I have travelled from the beginning of Route 66 in downtown Chicago along Route 66 as it winds through Illinois to Saint Louis, Joplin, Galena, Catoosa, Adrian, Tucumcari, Winslow, Williams, Oatman, Needles, Goffs, Amboy, Victorville, on the way to Santa Monica.

From here forward is a photo essay describing my travels on Route 66 from Chicago Santa Monica. This account of those treks provides a sampling of what Route 66 has in store for the intrepid traveler.

Oh, before I forget, no great road trip is complete without a soundtrack! I'd start with the song "Route 66" in Chicago. Along the way, I choose songs that fit the area, the terrain, the attractions, and the history. Be sure you have your soundtrack ready before you depart. Staples in my Route 66 soundtrack are Chicago blues offerings from Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Miles Davis, the greatest hits of Eagles ("Take it Easy" while "...standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona..."), Kansas, and America. I added some George Strait (plan to be in "Amarillo by Morning") tunes as well as some Surf and Drag classics from the 50s and 60s. Be careful you don't find yourself off course and "...race all the way to dead man's curve..." when you are near the end of the route.

On with the photo essay. I drove west from central Illinois along Route 66 in 2021 to Kingman, Arizona. Later, I made weekend trips to finish travelling Route 66 from Kingman to Santa Monica, California. I drove to see more Illinois and Missouri Route 66 sites during 2023.

Near the start of Route 66 in downtown Chicago west of the Art Institute.

Joliet! The Blues Brothers were here!

Diner! Have a milkshake and waffles!

Moving to a new location along Route 66 in Wilmington, IL, 2024.

Milkshake and cheeseburger time in Braidwood, IL.

Classic cars cruising Route 66 during the annual Red Carpet Corridor event in Illinois.

The annual Red Carpet Corridor event in Illinois.

Restored and preserved service station in Dwight, IL.

1932 Standard Oil gas station in Odell, IL.

There are many murals and items of interest as well as museums in Pontiac, IL.

Tasty cold beverages in Towanda, IL.

Normal, IL.

At the museum in Bloomington, IL.

Get some fantastic Maple Sirup (yes, they spell it this way) here!

Historic and Novelty shopping in central Illinois.

Springfield, IL.

State Capitol Building.

An original section still open in central Illinois south of Springfield.

Walk across Old Chain of Rocks Bridge and view the mighty Mississippi River.

Leaving Illinois and entering Missouri.

Remnants of days gone by still stand in Missouri.

Infamous!

At the Wagon Wheel Motel stop!

Funnies and fantastic Fudge all in one place!

A great car museum in Springfield, MO!

Be sure you have REO Speedwagon on your playlist!

Joplin, MO!

After Joplin, stop in Galena, Kansas. Movie buffs will see some familiar 'faces' in Galena.

I captured a shot of a couple of old road warriors sharing tales of the track in Galena, Kansas.

My next stop was in Oklahoma at Pryor Creek Bridge.

No trek along Rout 66 is complete without stopping to see and step inside the Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK.

Next, I travelled through Amarillo, Texas, to Vega and Adrian, TX.

The MidPoint Cafe, Adrian, Texas.

Adrian, TX.

Midpoint in Adrian, TX.

Glenrio, TX, now known as a ghost town.

I enjoyed the sites in Tucumcari, New Mexico, as well as tasty food at Kix on 66 in the former Denny's restaurant building.

Santa Rosa was the next stop during my travels. The automobile buffs shouldn't skip this stop.

The desert terrain is the basis for some movie scenes, both recently-created animated movie scenes and classic oldies and westerns.

A short stop at Holbrook, Arizona.

Before I decided to take it easy for a while.

The next leg of my journey ran from Winslow to Williams, Arizona, to see the last section of Route 66 to be retired (1984 October 13). Along the way is Meteor Crater and some wild critters like this Pronghorn.

Be sure to stop along the way and enjoy a tasty Strawberry milkshake and a classic meal at places like Goldie's Route 66 Diner along the way.

There are many curiosities to see in Seligman, Arizona, too, but be sure to mind your manners when the police are watching.

Parts of the route less taken these days are well worth the time. Also, pay respects to those who share this land and the beauty of the vast west.

Kingman, Arizona, was my last stop before going north to Las Vegas. Later, I returned to Kingman to drive the Arizona Sidewinder road to Oatman as my journey along Route 66 continued.

The old path from Kingman to Oatman is exhilarating. Be sure you are ready for 191 curves in one stretch of 8 miles!

Also, don't pass a rest stop because they are few and far between!

Be very careful and watch for friendly critters along the way. Out there, they have the right of way.

The famous Oatman Hotel.

The main street through Oatman takes you back in time.

From Oatman to Topock, enjoy the desert scenery and the rare sighting of water for boating in the Topock area before venturing into California.

A respite from arid terrain in desert territory.

The last state to traverse going west is California. Enjoy the ride through many notable locations as you venture forth to the Pacific Ocean at the end of the trail. Feast your eyes on the desert scenery and indulge in iconic nostalgia along the way.

From Needles to Goffs to Amboy and more. The outdoor museum and schoolhouse in Goffs are well worth the time to visit.

Amboy, California. Another interesting stop along The Mother Road.

Enjoy a Route 66 soda along the way. The hospitality at Roy's was fantastic!

Amboy Crater, Ludlow, and Newberry Springs were my next stops along Route 66 as I travelled to Barstow.

An interesting structure in Dagget.

United States Marine Corps base near Barstow.

Barstow has many interesting places to see.

Oro Grande shops and pizza place were at the next stop along the route.

The road was also known as National Trials Highway. Here is the sign in Victorville.

A few more stops at iconic sites between Victorville and the coast.

End of the road.

Enjoy a fantastic milkshake at Mel's!

The new symbolic end at the pier.

I hope you enjoyed the trip along Route 66! I hope this piques the curiosity of many travelers enough to convince them to go get their kicks along Route 66!

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About the Creator

Thomas Durbin

Raised in rural east-central Illinois, I appreciate nature and the environment. I'm a father, grandfather, professional engineer-scientist, leader, scouts leader, coach, stoic, minimalist, costumer, historian, traveler, and writer.

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    Thomas DurbinWritten by Thomas Durbin

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