Sixty years ago this month, Jack Kerouac penned “On the Road,” the book that inspired countless readers to explore the back roads of America. Celebrate this literary milestone by taking to the highway, rolling down the windows and making your own cross-country voyage.
With more than 45,000 miles of road in the US Interstate Highway System, there is no shortage of directions to head in and scenic byways to explore. If you’re having trouble choosing, however, there is one road that stands apart from the rest because of the special place it occupies in the collective imagination of America -- Route 66.
Winding from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 became the Main Street of America shortly after its inception in 1926. Although many sections of this historic road have been decommissioned over the years, you can still venture the 2,100 mile route in under three days time -- though I’d recommend stopping to take in the scenery as frequently as possible.
If the countless roadside attractions and beautiful vistas aren’t enough motivation, here are some of our favorite stops along the way:
The Route 66 Museum, Clinton, Okla.: Stop in to check out memorabilia from the ’50s and ’60s and gain a deeper understanding of the history of “The Mother Road.”
Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum, McLean, Texas: Route 66 offers travelers countless opportunities to pull over and experience roadside attractions that range from bizarre to fascinating (and often both.) One of the most quirky is this museum dedicated entirely to barbed wire in McLean, Texas.
Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas: A sort of automotive interpretation of Stonehenge, this is one of the more iconic oddities along the way and a great photo opportunity.
Albuquerque, New Mexico: The mix of Art Deco and Pueblo architecture in Albuquerque is worth exploring, and everything from the high desert climate to the fantastic salsa verde will let you know you’ve reached the American Southwest.
Petrified Forrest National Park, near Holbrook, Ariz.: The surreal landscape and colorful rock outcroppings in this national park make up some of the most breathtaking scenery along the way – and since Route 66 goes directly through the park it’s impossible to miss.
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, Calif.: After descending from the mountains near Flagstaff, Ariz., and rolling into Southern California, there’s no more welcome sight than the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Monica Pier offers amusement rides and great views of the coast near Venice Beach. Unless you’re driving back the way you came, this is the end of the road for Route 66.