RVing Route 66: 10 Places You Never Knew To Stop Along America’s Most Iconic Highway June 15, 2018
RVing Route 66 is perhaps the most iconic road trip in America and definitely worth adding to your bucket list!
Route 66 is perhaps the most famous stretch of highway in US history. Historic Route 66 runs for over 2,400 miles from downtown Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.
First constructed in the mid-1920s, it was a major avenue for Americans and their products on the move. But as time passed it has served various purposes.
At its inception, the highway catered to the transport of goods from one place to another.
The road was built rather irregularly, connecting the dots between one town and another that served as anchor points in the distribution of goods.
The American economy was growing ocean to ocean and Route 66 facilitated the growth.
However the Great Depression ushered in new purpose. Route 66 became a migrant pathway west and the hope of finding work.
John Steinbeck, in his book The Grapes of Wrath, best laid out the plight of the MidWest working man during the Great Depression.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans traversed Route 66 in those years searching for hope in California.
Losing the “Mother Road”
However over the years Route 66 lost its glamour and importance as President Eisenhower authorized the development of a vast Interstate Highway system in the mid 1950s.
The route had already been in flux and “official” and “unofficial” portions connected various towns competing for the resources provided to the route’s “hubs.”
To this day there is still argument among cities and states both over where Route 66 began and where, in its various portions, it connected the east to the west.
This changing route, combined with the Interstate System absorbing many of the links between major cities and towns, dissolved most of the official Route 66 highway.
This makes RVing Route 66 difficult because finding the highway is a little bit tricky today!
Picking Up The Trail
We found ourselves in Springfield, Illinois visiting friends just a few hours away from Chicago.
As we turned southwest we accidentally found ourselves RVing Route 66 from Illinois to Arizona!
We can’t claim to have driven the entire route as we missed both Chicago and Los Angeles.
However continue reading to see that we had a pretty good time following the route as it meandered through Missouri, Kansas (briefly!), Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
TRIP PLANNING TRAVEL HINT:
If you’d like help getting on the right roads, you can follow our map covering approximately 1,200 miles of the route!
You can even have Google send the turn-by-turn directions to your phone!
9 PLACES TO STOP WHILE RVING ROUTE 66!
While there are LOTS of places we did not see while RVing Route 66, these are a few of our favorite places we did see.
We found they were worth the stop if you happen to find yourself driving Americas most famous stretch of highway!
1) Carthage, Missouri
Route 66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage, Missouri.
The drive-in theater was opened in 1949 and you can still catch a show on the weekends! This is one of the first places we stopped on our drive from Illinois.
Kansas has a very small, yet bountiful portion of Route 66. It likely has more to see, per mile of highway, than any of the other states.
2) Galena, Kansas
So if you are looking to start somewhere and don’t feel like stretching the trip north into Missouri and Illinois, Galena is a great place to begin!
Galena put itself back on the map recently because of the hit movie “Cars.” These cars in the parking lot look eerily similar to those features in the movie.
Cars On The Route 66 Gas Station in Galena, KS.
You might recognize Tow Mater from the movie “Cars” as this gas station inspired the fictional character!
Our rig didn’t quite fit in to the old look and feel of the gas station in Galena, KS!
Authentic Phillips 66 gas pump in the small stretch of Route 66 in Baxter Springs, Kansas. We waited for hours for full-service that never came!
Oklahoma, as a state, is vast. Thus RVing Route 66 through the portion of the highway that crosses through Oklahoma can be daunting.
Because of the timing of our schedule (and trying to avoid 60 mph winds on the highway!) we missed out on some chunks of the route in Oklahoma.
However, we were relieved to find that just driving across Interstate 44 covers much of the old route.
When the Interstate was built it absorbed much of the older route.
But there were still some gems that stood out a few miles off the interstate.
3) Commerce, Oklahoma
Towns like Commerce, Oklahoma still celebrated their connection with Route 66 on street signs and water towers alike.
Dairy King on N. Main St. in Commerce, Oklahoma was originally a service station of the Marathon Gas Company. Now it serves delicious ice cream and other sweet delicacies!
Perhaps one of our favorite stops was this old retro Conoco station built in 1929 into the side of an existing brick building.
It is hard to miss because of the contrasting colors and its small size compared to the surrounding buildings.
Hole in the Wall fillin’ station.
4) Chelsea, Oklahoma
One of our favorite stops was the Pryor Creek Bridge in Chelsea, Oklahoma.
We passed by it and Chris saw it from the corner of his eye so we turned around to check it out!
Our truck camper was too heavy to pass over the bridge to explore the area. But we took a few minutes to enjoy the view and watch life pass around the bridge.
5) Foss, Oklahoma
Foss is on the RVing Route 66 map for one reason: The old jail cell.
It is a very rare cage cell most commonly used in the Old West because it could be transported as needed from town to town.
There is more lore than facts about who was incarcerated in this particular cell. But the fact that it is still standing is a testament to the respect it garnered over time.
Skipping Route 66 in Texas
When we arrived in Texas most of the panhandle was on fire. This portion of the state had experienced extreme drought for over six months.
The wild fires were so bad that we were actually evacuated from one of our campsites.
However a 190-mile stretch of Route 66 passes through the state and crosses Amarillo.
Downtown Amarillo is full of remnants of Route 66. But perhaps the most famous relic along the old highway is the Cadillac Ranch.
If you’re able to take the time to cross the Texas Panhandle look for Route 66 relics in Shamrock, McLean and Groom in addition to Amarillo!
New Mexico, like Texas and Oklahoma, is broad! But like Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona Interstate 40 swallowed up most of the original Route 66.
So as you are RVing Route 66 you have to keep an eye out for exits from the Interstate where you can explore the highway markers in New Mexico.
There are a dozen historic stops throughout the state.
6) Albuquerque, New Mexico
We focused our time in exploring Albuquerque, as a city, and set Route 66 mostly aside for a few days!
A large wall of old Route 66 signs in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Arizona is chock full of places to see along Route 66!
In fact, as a whole, Arizona was our favorite state to stop and enjoy the history of the highway. Like its neighboring states, Interstate 40 was built upon the original highway… in most places.
Did you know that both Arizona’s Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park and the Grand Canyon were on the “official” list of original Route 66 stops?
They are all a little ways off from the Interstate. However, visiting them is totally worth it if you’re making the drive!
7) Seligman, Arizona
But there are still gems, such as in Seligman, where there is literal pavement left from the original highway just outside the confines of the Interstate.
Seligman was, by far, our favorite stop of all of our time RVing Route 66. It was far enough from the interstate that most people seem to pass it by.
Additionally the town seemed almost entirely preserved in time. We recommend grabbing a burger and shake at Delgadillos Snow Cap Drive In while you plan out the rest of your trip!
8) Winslow, Arizona
And if you’re a fan of the Eagles, there is an actual street corner in Winslow, Arizona that has been memorialized by the hit song, Take It Easy!
Of course we had to visit since we were both raised on the Eagles AND we drive our own flatbed Ford!
Right out of the Eagles song, Take it Easy, here is a flatbed Ford parked along Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona
The small town of Winslow, Arizona, was made famous by the Eagles song “Take It Easy”.
9) Williams, Arizona
Historic small town Williams, AZ is considered the gateway to the Grand Canyon.
Cruisers Cafe 66 located on historic Route 66 in Williams, Arizona
Route 66 Mural in Williams, Arizona. Williams is known as the last Route 66 town that was bypassed by I-40.
10) Ash Fork, Arizona
Vintage Motorcycles and gas pump along Route 66 in Ash Fork, Arizona
Cute Route 66 Mural in Ash Fork, Arizona
DeSoto’s Salon in Ash Fork, Arizona
If these weren’t enough to inspire and inform you as you plan your trip, OR if you’d like to try and drive the entire length of Route 66, Trip Savvy has a very thorough list and resources for each area of significance.