Postcards from Historic Route 66

Postcards from Historic Route 66 was first published on May 10, 2015. We added End of the road on September 2, 2016 when we got a great photo of Santa Monica Pier from Soul Travelers 3.

It’s sheer Americana. People come from around the country and all over the world to ride and drive Historic Route 66, dubbed “The Mother Road.” It was the first cross-country highway in the USA, going, as the song says “from Chicago to LA” (technically Santa Monica). Adrian, Texas at mile 1,339 calls itself “the mid-point.” We’ve driven much of Historic Route 66 in all the states it goes through except Illinois and California. Someday, we hope to cover those stretches as well.

Sign in Route 66 Visitors Center Eureka MO Billie Frank

Pennant Hotel Rolla, sign at the Route 66 State Park’s visitor center in Eureka,MO photo/Billie Frank

The interstate highway system,  began during the Eisenhower administration, made many of the older routes superfluous and many stretches or iconic roads such as Route 66 are gone. Today along the roads that displaced the Mother Road (I-55 Illinois, I-44 has superseded in Missouri part of Oklahoma and I-40 Oklahoma City to California) travelers will find intact sections of historic Route 66. Williams, Arizona was the last hold-out but was bypassed in the mid-1980s. Over the years there were many route changes, known as “alignments,” over the years. Parts of some of these remain and can be driven. We took a few detours to see these older sections of Historic Route 66

Rainbow Bridge on Historic Route 66 Baxter KS photo Steve Collins

Take the Route 66 detour in Baxter KS and see the 1930s Rainbow Bridge photo/Steve Collins

Opened in 1926, Route 66 was originally a dirt road. As traffic increased, gas stations, cafes and motor courts sprung up to serve travelers. Some survive today, many of those have been lovingly restored, others are waiting to be reclaimed and some are ruins way and beyond salvation. These places are a photographer’s dream. We’ll take you on a photographic journey from east to west, the direction the people dubbed “Okies,” including John Steinbeck’s fictional Joad family took during the Dust Bowl days. Buckle your seat belts and be prepared to stop and even turn around to see some of the gems along Historic Route 66. Join us on our Historic Route 66 road trip.

Historic Route 66 in Missouri

A mural in Cuba MO aka Mural City on historic Route 66 photo Billie Frank

Prosperity Corner, one of the 12 outdoor murals portraying the town’s history photo/Billie Frank

We loved driving through Cuba MO known as “Mural City,”  a must-see on Historic Route 66. We photographed all 12 murals portraying the area’s history. There’s a great vintage gas station as well as the restored Wagon Wheel, the oldest motel on the Mother Road.

Historic Route 66 in Kansas

1920s KanOtex Station on KS 's Historic Route 66 Steve Collinsi

The restored 1920s KanOtex Station in Galena KS photo/Steve Collins

We took a detour to Kansas to drive the shortest stretch of Historic Route 66. It covers 13 miles. We had to stop at the Rainbow Bridge dating to the 1930s (see photo at the top of the post). Galena KS offers a bunch of photo opportunities including the restored 1920s KanOtex Station.

Historic Route 66 in Oklahoma

St. Cloud Hotel on Historic Route 66 in Chandler OK photo Steve Collins

Had to stop and get a photo of the sign on the St. Cloud Hotel Chandler OK photo?Steve Collins

Most of Route 66 still exists in Oklahoma. It survived the advent of the Interstate Highway System. You can drive the Mother Road from Miami on the northeast to Texola on the Texas border on Historic Route 66. We missed the portion west of Oklahoma due to storms and tornado watches on our trip east as well as our return journey. We’ll have to go back. We did drive most of the portion Miami to just north of Oklahoma City. We loved it! There were lots of historic towns on the route with many sights (and sites) to see. We would have loved to have tried the Early Bird Diner. We love greasy spoons, but we were still full from breakfast. Next time!

Early Bird Diner Davenport OK on Historic Route 66 photo Steve Collins

Wish we’d been hungry when we passed the Early Bird Diner in Davenport OK photo/Steve Collins

Historic Route 66 in Texas

Restored Conoco gas station on Historic Route 6 in Shamrock TX photo Steve Collins

The restored Deco Conoco station in Shamrock even has the original cafe restored (it doesn’t serve food) photo Steve Collins

We really needed a restroom and remembered someone mentioning Verne’s Steakhouse in Shamrock so we pulled off the highway  and found ourselves on Historic Route 66. Across the road from Verne’s we spotted the amazing, beautifully restored 1930s Conoco Station. The city restored it with a grant and it now serves as a visitors center. They even restored the original café inside, though it’s just for show.

Adrian, the midpoint on Historic Route 66 photo Steve Collins

We spotted an old gas station in Adrian TX, the midpoint on Route 66 photo/Steve Collins

Just west of Amarillo on the Texas stretch of Historic Route 66: the famous Cadillac Ranch, a bunch of Cadillacs stuck nose-down in the dirt. People walk out through a littered field carrying cans of spray-paint to leave graffiti on the cars. We liked the pristine vintage Cadillacs we saw st a gift shop we passed on our way to the “ranch” much better. Don’t miss Adrian, Texas the midpoint of Route 66 half-way between Chicago and Santa Monica.

Historic Route 66 in New Mexico

Mural at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcar on Historic Route 66 photo Billie Frank

James Dean leaning on a car n one of the murals at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM photo/Billie Frank

One of the most amazing stretches of Historic Route 66 goes through Tucumcari, NM, another mural city.  There are retro murals along the highway as well as in the downtown area. We spotted a bunch of Czech bikers on Harleys stopped at the Blue Swallow Motel which is covered with murals. Many pay homage to Cars, the animated film that cause a resurgence in interest in Historic Route 66.

You can even take a detour on pre-1937 Route 66 which takes you through Santa Fe, our home base.

Lobby at El Rancho Inn on Historic Route 6 in Gallup, NM Billie Frank

The lobby at El Rancho Inn, Gallup, NM, photo Billie Frank

Gallup, NM’s El Rancho Inn, opened by  film director D.W. Griffith’s brother in 1937 housed many a movie star in Hollywood’s golden heyday. The rooms, all named for stars, attract many traveling Historic Route 66.

Historic Route 66 in Arizona

Standin' on the Corner Park Winslow, AZ on Historic Route 66 photo/Steve Collins

Standin’ on the Corner Park Winslow, AZ photo/Steve Collins

We drove parts of the Arizona portions of Historic Route 66 in 2010 and March 2015. Even if you’re driving through the area on I-40 get off at a few towns. Winslow, made famous in the Eagle’s song Take it Easy,  is home to La Posada a restored Harvey House hotel as well as Standin’ on the Corner Park complete with a flat bed Ford.

The former Babbit Brithers mercantile on Aspen Avenue in Flagstaff, The Babitt Brothers were ear;y merchants. Former Arizona Bruce Babbitt is from that family photo/Billie Frank

The former Babbit Brithers mercantile on Aspen Avenue in Flagstaff photo/Billie Frank

We love old buildings and had to get a shot of the historic Babbitt Brothers Building, circa 1888 in downtown Flagstaff (a town featured in the song, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.

Williams Arizona, calling itself the “gateway to Grand Canyon” and one of two towns that easily access the South Rim (the other is Flagstaff), was the last town to be bypassed by I-40 and they’re proud of it.

Santa Monica Pier, the unofficial end of Route 66 photo Soul Travelers 3.

Santa Monica Pier, the unofficial end of Route 66 photo Soul Travelers 3.

6 and we had to turn back. We’ll have to catch it on another road trip! Our plan: to drive the entire California stretch.

The end of the road

Santa Monica Pier, the unofficial end of Route 66 photo Soul Travelers 3.

Santa Monica Pier, the unofficial end of Route 66 photo Soul Travelers 3.

The official end of Route 66 is at the intersection of Lincoln and Olympic Boulevards in Santa Monica CA. Or, you could say it starts there. We’ll go with the  song:

“Well it winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.”
(Lyrics by Bobby Troup.)

Some say the official terminus is a bit anticlimactic. They suggest you to keep going until you reach the Santa Monica Pier at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. That’s where we’ll end our trip on the California portion of Historic Route 66. We’ll get ther;, it’s just a matter of time.

We love road trips! Driving Historic Route 66 was a great experience. Have you driven Historic Route 66?

The Gypsy Nesters have. Here’s their post on Santa Monica.

More of our Historic Route 66 posts
Photo of the Week: Boots Court on Missouri Route 66
Skyliner Motel Route 66, Stroud, Oklahoma

Comet Restaurant, Santa Rosa, NM
Cuba MO: Route 66 Mural City

And for Bid on Travel Blog:
Kicks on Route 66 – I
Kicks on Route 66 – II

 View our Historic Route 66 Pinterest board







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23 Responses to “Postcards from Historic Route 66”

  1. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    May 10, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    I remember the song, “Get your kicks on route 66” and we’ve driven a portion of the road in California. Loved your photos of the Rainbow Bridge in Kansas as well as the tow truck in front of the Conoco station is Texas. What fun!

    • Billie Frank
      May 11, 2015 at 9:09 am #

      We have tons more of fab photos. It just calls out to be captured on “film.”

  2. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    May 11, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    I’m gettin’ my kicks from reading your posts about Route 66! What a paucity of experience road-trippers have when they stick to the interstates! Love all the diners and cafes, like you do. We always look where the truckers eat. Have been to Cuba, Missouri, but still plan to drive the entire route once we settle down a bit.

    • Billie Frank
      May 11, 2015 at 9:11 am #

      You’ll love it. I can’t wait to do the stretches we missed. We’re trying to stay off the Interstate as much as possible if time allows. We budgeted 5 hour distances using Google Maps figuring that we’d get an 8 hour day that way. We had a lot of daylight so getting to our motel late wasn’t an issue in terms of extended sightseeing.

  3. Irene S Levine
    May 11, 2015 at 4:44 am #

    We haven’t driven Route 66 so thanks for taking us on this very photogenic journey with you!

    • Billie Frank
      May 11, 2015 at 9:12 am #

      Our pleasure! If you like neon and kitsch take the ride, if not, it may not be for you.

  4. Paula McInerney
    May 11, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    This is high on our to do list. Preferably in a convertible with Ry Cooder playing. Beautiful photos and makes it even more appealing. Where are your biker friends?

    • Billie Frank
      May 11, 2015 at 9:12 am #

      I’d love to do that trip Paula- take me with you. We didn’t post the biker photo. Will get it up on Facebook.

  5. Donna Janke
    May 11, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    I’ve been on bits and pieces of Route 66 through Arizona and California. I’d like to have a chance to do a more concentrated drive through more of it. I love the old road stops, hotels, gas stations and diners you see along the way Great photos.

    • Billie Frank
      May 11, 2015 at 9:13 am #

      Thanks and you’ll love it! One of our favorite road trips ever and we’ve done a lot of them.

  6. noel
    May 11, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    I had no idea that this route covered so many states, love all the old slogans and adverts. Thanks for the tour.

    • Billie Frank
      May 28, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      It goes diagonally from IL to CA. You;d love it!

  7. Susan Moore
    May 11, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    Looks like you enjoyed your road trip! Thanks for the virtual tour.

  8. The Gypsynesters
    May 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    Love Route 66! We have jumped onto bits and pieces of it all along the way. Found Standin’ on a Corner in Winslow Arizona by accident, and thought it was great.

    • Billie Frank
      May 11, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

      We found Standin’ on the Corner when someone who saw on FB that we’d been to Winslow asked if we’d been- we hadn’t. Hit it on the return trip. Fun!

  9. Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    May 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    What an interesting rundown on the current status of Route 66.

  10. Patti
    November 5, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    By far one of our best ever road trips. We drove from Chicago to CA following Route 66. So fun to see your photos as a reminder. We stopped in Galena and had a great conversation with 1 of the women who restored the station. And the El Rancho Inn is certainly a classic. Not sure I would stay there, but what a blast from the past for visit.
    Patti recently posted..Redefining Retirement ~My Profile

    • Billie Frank
      November 6, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      We have a guest post from you on El Rancho Patti. I know what you mean- I might not want to stay there but I totally appreciate the fabulousness of this iconic Route 66 hotel.

    • Billie Frank
      November 6, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      You did a guest post for us on El Rancho with great photos. I hear you about maybe not wanting to stay there but it sure is worth a stop. The lobby is fabulous! And so much great Route 66 and Hollywood history there.

  11. Jeanne @soultravelers3
    September 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    Twitter led me here & I see you had some fun!! Love the photos.

    We’ve enjoyed the Mother Road on more than a few occasions and wrote about it and right now based in Santa Monica, so on part of it almost daily! I can walk to a store that sells Rt 66 memorabilia! 😉 ,
    Jeanne @soultravelers3 recently posted..Driving to Mammoth from Los Angeles! Plus Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      September 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

      Great place to be based. Thanks for your Santa Monica photo- we added it to the post. Now we just need IL and we’ll have one photo from each state.

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