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My fascination with Route 66 began in 1960 when I saw episodes of the TV series "Route 66" with Martin Milner and George Maharis (later Glenn Corbett). The main attraction for me and my friends was the Corvette they drove. We thought it very cool that two guys, with no luggage, and no visible means of support, could drive all over America in a new Corvette, and pick up attractive women. At some point I decided I wanted to do that as well. It took 30 years to get the Corvette and I discovered that you needed a substantial means of support, and luggage, but what the hell, one out of three isn't bad.
Contrary to popular belief, the TV series was not filmed anywhere near Route 66. It was filmed mostly in central California, north of Bakersfield. The reason was simple: money. It was cheaper to film in rural California and the weather was predictable. Since most people had no idea what the country looked like along Route 66 this strategy worked.
I have traveled every mile of old Route 66 from the Texas-New Mexico border to the Santa Monica pier in my Corvettes fulfilling a long time ambition. I wanted to travel the road in a solid-axle Corvette, preferably a '62 Vette with the 327 V-8. However, after test driving one I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and conceded that the trip would be a whole lot more comfortable in my '92 Vette. My trips along the old road have spanned many years (from 1980 when I traveled the first stretch to 2001). When I travel a section I have traveled before I notice that more and more older buildings are disappearing. Therefore the descriptions you find here may not coincide exactly with what you see today along the road.
For others that wish to travel the old road the following material may be of assistance in navigating. I have included photos I have taken at various places along the old highway where appropriate. Some of the photos show the view down the highway itself in order to show the terrain the road traversed. Others show landmarks which may or may not still exist. The photos were taken in 1980, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, and 2001.
I intend to go back along the route and record GPS information at various points where following the old road becomes tricky. This should make it easier to locate the older sections for people who have a GPS receiver.
The material is organized by state, and is broken down into segments that more-or-less correspond to the actual remaining drivable sections of the old highway.
The route description is presented in two formats: east to west, traveling the old highway the way the Joad family did, and West to East, for the benefit of those in California who will probably travel it that way.
For those who plan on traveling the old road the way I did, that is attempting to cover all the drivable sections, a few things should be noted.
Don't try this if you are in a hurry. One of the nice aspects of traveling the old highway is that it is almost deserted in most places. This is primarily because the Interstate Highways are the fastest ways to get from place to place. But if you drive too fast you will miss the charm of the road as it exists today.
Don't expect high-tech facilities along the highway. What there was closed when the Interstates bypassed the old towns. What is left caters mostly to the locals who like the fact that there is no urban sprawl.
The road is usually in good to excellent condition with some major exceptions. I drove all these sections in a Corvette with the racing suspension (Z07) package. If your car is a typical sedan you should find the road much smoother than I did. But even in the Vette the ride was almost completely a non-issue.
The most intriging aspect of the trip is driving east to west on the old road and trying to imagine what it was like to make the trip during the heyday of the road, when finding water, gasoline, food, and lodging was an adventure, and each new vista was a sight to behold. A good example is rounding a curve on the road from Goldroad to Oatman: the Mojave desert stretches off in the distance and must have scared the hell out of the people who had to cross it in old jalopies with inadequate cooling systems and no air-conditioning.
Finally, resist the temptation to stock up on Route 66 paraphenalia early. You will be deluged with opportunities to purchase Route 66 T-shirts, coffee mugs, ashtrays, lingerie, caps, etc. Don't blow the budget on the first stop. Some of the stores along the way have items with somehwat more taste and flair. Caveat emptor.
I have included a bibliography for those wishing to learn more about Route 66.
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