“Will Rogers Highway”, “Main Street America”, “the Mother Road”, …. No matter what you call it, historic Route 66 has etched itself in history and Americans for generations now. Movies like Thelma & Louise, The Grapes of Wrath, Easy Rider, and even Disney’s Cars have only added to the lore and mystique of this slice of Americana, even in 2019.
An original US highway, historic Route 66 officially became a highway in November 1926. Running 2,448 miles, Route 66 originates in Chicago, Illinois and runs through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California; ending first in LA and later on in Santa Monica.
If Route 66 could talk it would tell the stories of migrants with cars loaded down with families and as many possessions as possible headed west during the dust bowl looking for better opportunities. It would tell stories of families just after World War II as times had vastly improved, loading up to see all the sights across our beautiful nation. Mom and Pop hotels and restaurants flourished as did little towns along the route and they saw many prosperous days. When President Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act in 1956, newer routes began serving travelers with a more direct path, among other amenities, leaving the small towns who had been booming to fade away as they were bypassed. In 1985 the Mother Road was decommissioned and Route 66 lost its highway status along with its traffic.
It may be nostalgia, a longing for simpler times, and even a group or two that values and wants to preserve history, but a resurgence of travel has occurred along Route 66 in the past several years. You won’t find it marked on a map or even as a route anymore when traveling west, but there are plenty of ways to map it out yourself, merge of the interstate and discover some of the United States most scenic and historic byways.
Recently while traveling in Missouri we mapped out a part of our trip to drive a portion of Route 66. We turned off of I-44 E in Lebanon, Missouri and headed east to St Louis about 160 miles. Much of the Route is country roads, some of it has been completely closed off and other areas merged with the interstate, we still enjoyed many a vintage stop filled with a slice of Americana and photo ops you don’t want to miss.
Here are some of our favorite highlights mapped out for you!
Lebanon, Missouri’s Moss Munger Motel has been a fixture and serving guests since 1945.
Unlike today restaurants when traveling were a splurge and a treat for most families. Roadside parks were plentiful along main travel routes and were perfect for picnicking and stretching your legs! I loved seeing this park preserved in St Robert, Missouri.
Route 66 Diner in St Robert was built in the last 20 years, but designed as a throwback to the 50’s, where kids might have hung out or a family treated to hamburgers and fries.
Also built more recently, the Uranus Fudge Factory uses nostalgia (and humor) to encourage weary travelers to venture off the interstate for a few moments on Route 66.
Devil’s Elbow and its bridge crossing the Big Piney River in Pulaski County has had cars crossing since 1923.
Cuba, Missouri has preserved a lot of it’s history, and added it’s own touches to keep visitors interested in passing through the quaint little town. Known as mural city, there are murals painting on several businesses and buildings throughout the area that share some history of this little town.
Besides a gas station turned restaurant, Cuba has also preserved the old Wagon Wheel Motel.
When the Gateway Arch was completed in 1965, as a new a uniquely designed monument, the Arch would’ve been a huge stop for families as they made their way through St Louis.
Have you ever traveled Historic Route 66? What unique things have you seen? I would love to hear your adventures!