There's no road more symbolic of the American road trip than Route 66. Built in 1926, the road originally ran from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, aiding the westward migration of those hoping to escape the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. In the 1950s became the road of choice for vacationers dreaming of those California beaches.
Of course that all came to an end with the establishment of the Interstate Highway system. The new highways were more direct, and Americans quickly abandoned the Mother Road, as John Steinbeck called it, for more efficient roads to the sun and surf. But still, Route 66 retained a special spot in the American consciousness--one which recalled the excitement of the West, the thrill of jumping in the car for an all American road trip adventure.
A lot of the little towns that grew up around Route 66 have dwindled. But some have capitalized on the myth of the road and managed to stay alive, like the town of Seligman, which we passed through on our way to the Grand Canyon. The town, which bills itself as "the birthplace of Route 66" is a homage to the road, full of cars from the 1950s and Route 66 tchotchkes.
We made a beeline to Delgadillo's Snow Cap, which has been owned by the same family since 1953 and is a Route 66 road trip institution. It's also happens to be the home of the best chocolate malt milkshake in the country (according to me), so clearly a crucial stop in our tour of the southwest.
Later, heading to LA, we stopped at the Bottle Tree Ranch, an open art installation created by Elmer Long. Elmer wasn't home when we stopped, but his ranch was still strange and wonderful, and as we wandered through, it was hard not to feel a little bit of that Route 66 magic bouncing off his bottle tree creations.
With quirky little stops like these it's no surprise that Route 66 maintains its place in America's heart as one of the most unique and inspirational drives on the planet. The great thing about being a tour leader is that I can share all of these great places with my group, including some crazy off-the-wall places which I might share with you another time. For now, I'll leave you with dreams of your Route 66 road trip and its endless possibilities...
Author: Ali Stevens - Hi, I’m Ali, a second-year tour leader, hailing from Vermont. I started leading tours because I love the outdoors and hated my office job. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, a single summer deal, but then I fell in love. There really isn’t any feeling that compares to sitting around a campfire with a great group of people, knowing that today you went somewhere new, somewhere amazing, and that tomorrow you’re going to do it all again. Travel has always been my passion, and there’s nothing I love more than sharing crazy experiences and this country with fellow travelers from around the world!