Route 66 - Advice, tips, must-sees?

I’ve never started a thread before. I’m a little nervous!

In August, my partner and I plan to rent a car and drive Route 66 and probably on up to San Francisco. We have the whole month and a mid-range budget. Does anyone have any words of wisdom I should know before we embark? We’re interested in pretty much everything, so don’t hold back.


I haven’t done it, and I don’t know if it is still open, but the Mississippi bridge is no vehicles now, just walking and biking. It looks like great fun.

If you’re going along Route 66 you will pass through Albuquerque. Should you decide to spend the night, do NOT stay at any of the hotels that are west of Juan Tabo Blvd. Many of them are so bad that the city has bulldozed quite a few.

I did a road trip close to this area back in 2009, and got some good advice in this thread: By close to this area I mean North Arizona and South Utah, with a small portion driven on Route 66. You didn’t say which parts of this route you wanted to drive, but this was a spectacular part of the country.

Not mentioned in that thread is that I did it in a rented Mustang convertible, which was fantastic. The vast desert expanses are just perfect for an open top and the throaty roar of the engine. I’m not even a car person but that was incredible!

I can’t recommend enough. If you’re looking for something cool, off the beaten path that’s the perfect website. I’m talking about things like a huge frying pan, or ball of twine… tthat kind of stuff.

This is great, thank you! We pretty much intend to do the whole thing, picking up the car in Chicago and dropping it in San Francisco a month later.

Take a camera and take lots of pics.

The old road is pretty much gone. What you can do is drive on modern highways through some of the same cities & towns. Which are of course much changed from the romanticised 1950s version of Route 66 which is core to so much Americana that we idolize here in the States.

Meanwhile, as said by others above, the countryside is mostly unchanged and varies from pretty neat to totally awesome. For a Brit or a European, the sheer size & relative emptiness of it is hard to grasp even as you’re passing through it.

August is not the ideal time of year; much of the route will be hot & dry & dusty & hazy. Nontheless, it’ll be a neat adventure. Enjoy.

Thanks for that. Unfortunately August is the only time we can do it - I’m a teacher, so I get very good holiday time but only when they say so!

Enright3, thanks for Roadside America: I was intending to get some stuff done today, but I’ve been on there for the last two hours!

Route 66 no longer exists, officially, although portions of the old road have been designated as scenic byways. Still, you can drive something approximating the old route and I wish you luck and good times.

I took the California trip in 2002 and I used Tom Snyder’sRoute 66 Traveler’s Guide and Roadside Companion. It’s outdated now, but might be worthwhile for pre-trip research. Even with detailed maps and directions, there are places where I got lost (looking for the Chain of Rocks Bridge was particularly scary). Some states have good signage along the route, but sometimes the signs are hard to spot. My advice would be to pick out the places you really want to see and not get too hung up on following the exact route.

Take a side trip on US-666, if it’s still open. Keep your eyes on the road, though and don’t let your passengers hide on the floor of the car.

Not sure what LouisB’s on about. US 666 was renumbered US 491 in 2003.

Yeah, we know a lot of the old road isn’t there any more, and we’re not expecting time travel. We’re the kind of people that find something interesting pretty much everywhere we go; we don’t need big things/sights/attractions to be having a good time. For instance, we like just going shopping in supermarkets in other countries and seeing what cool stuff other people get that we don’t! Route 66 or an approximation is just a convenient way to see a whole lot of places we’d probably never go to otherwise, meet some people and spend some time driving. We’re open to sidetracking for anything that’s off the road but cool.

I didn’t know that it had been re-numbered. It’s been some years since I last drove it. It had the reputation of having more swithbacks and hairpin curves per mile than any highway in the US. It was a two lane road that attained quite an altitude at its crest; the trip downhill could be hair raising due to the switchbacks and hairpin curves. It scared hell out of the passengers I had with me the last time I drove it. It really did require close attention on the part of the driver. Maybe my memory is inflating the danger factor but maybe not either. Mr. Downtown, have you driven it recently? I am I exaggerating?

I drove it two years ago (from Gallup, NM to Monticello, UT) and although the scenery was seriously cool, I don’t remember the road being particularly scary at all.

I did it several years ago.

There is a little town, Elkhart, Illinois, where people are very nice. There is a section called ?The Checkerboard? that was fun. The road through the desert to beautiful. The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was interesting, but I may have interrupted a drug deal.

You can avoid interstates most of the way, but I don’t think you miss much taking it around Saint Louis and getting out of Chicago.

The old road from Kingman, Arizona to Oatman was probably the most terrify - no, make that the stupidest thing I have ever done; I would strongly discourage anyone with a fear of heights from attempting it.

Yeah, but Devil Dog Rd. is still there, between Williams and Ash Fork. Don’t get off on that exit, no matter how curious you may be. Don’t do it.

Between Chicago and St. Louis Route 66 is the frontage road to I-55. There’s a bunch of small towns with some interesting attractions, like the Frank Lloyd Wright designed bank in Dwight or a restored Standard Oil gas station in Odell. Atlanta has a giant Paul Bunyan statue. Springfield has some interesting attractions as well. The Lincoln museum is supposed to be incredible. The Dana House, also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is one of, if not the best, examples of the Prairie style of architecture. Make sure you hit up Cozy Dog as well.

Once you get south of Springfield don’t bother with the frontage road. The small towns dry up and there is nothing to see. Jump on I-55 and save some time.

You have two options to go through St. Louis. One is through East St. Louis. I would highly discourage you from doing so if you aren’t familiar with the area. One wrong turn could be disastrous. Instead take I-270 and follow the signs to the Chain of Rocks bridge. As previously mentioned it’s closed to vehicular traffic but you can walk across it.

If you follow the frontage route from Chicago to Springfield then the interstate to St. Louis, making a few stops along the way, expect the drive to take most of the day.

Ref the post just above, I’ll point out to our British OP that there is a Springfield in Illinois, between Chicago & St. Louis. There is also a Springfield in Missouri, past St. Louis on the same highway going southwestward, now numbered 44. They are comparably sized. Mr. **Cell Guy **is talking about Springfield, Illinois.
Back to the OP & my earlier comment about traveling in August …

If you’re not attached to the idea of seeing either Route 66 or the Southwest for its own sake, you might have a more enjoyable and interesting time just proceeding west from Chicago and ending up Seattle rather than Los Angeles. And then driving south along the Pacific coast to end your trip in San Francisco as you’d planned.

Still plenty of small towns & amazing emptiness & scenery. But not quite so hot & desolate. OTOH, a lot of the Northwest is boreal forest, which you may have seen in Germany or Scandanavia, or even parts of Scotland. Conversely, the southern plains & desert southwest are utterly different from anywhere close to home for you. Depends on how exotic your taste runs and how happy you are in 100F /40C or hotter weather.