Historic Route 66 is the most famous road in America, thanks to Nat King Cole. The road, which stretches from Chicago to LA in a broad, meandering curve, has been called America’s “Mother Road.” Excepting its endpoints and St. Louis, it hardly runs through America’s most iconic cities — Amarillo, Albuquerque, Tulsa, Joplin, Flagstaff — but it somehow manages to capture a broad cultural cross-section of the country and thus is almost synonymous with the concept of “Americana.” It’s like the asphalt version of a Bruce Springsteen song.
Route 66 is no longer part of the US highway system, so many parts of it have fallen into disrepair or are basically just dirt roads — the parts of it that weren’t absorbed into other highways or routes aren’t even on the maps anymore. So if you’re planning on traveling it, you need to find a special Route 66 map, and you need to be willing to do some off-roading.
Huge portions of Route 66 are still there, though, and they’re peppered with kitschy, quirky Americana all the way through. Here are some of the quintessentially American sites you’ll see if you ever plan to motor west on the highway that’s the best.