Postcards from Historic Route 66

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

Begun in the Eisenhower era, the interstates began making many of the older routes superfluous. The Illinois portion is now I-55. I-44 has superseded Rte 66 in Missouri part of Oklahoma and I-40 bypassed Rte 66 towns from Oklahoma City to California. In the mid 1980s Williams, Arizona was the last town to be bypassed. Over the years with many route changes there have been different permeations of the road called which are known as “alignments.” Parts of some of these remain and can be driven. We took a few detours to see older sections of the road.

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 the travelers. Some survive today, many of those have been lovingly restored, others are waiting to be reclaimed and some are ruins way 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 seatbelts and be prepared to stop and even turn around to see some of the gems along Historic Route 66. Take a trip with us on Historic Route 66.

Historic Route 66 in Missouri

Cuba MO known as “Mural City,” is a must-see on Historic Route 66. Besides the 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.

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

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

Historic Route 66 in Kansas

The shortest stretch of Historic Route 66 goes through Kansas. Galena KS offers a bunch of photo opportunities including the restored 1920s KanOtex Station.

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

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

Historic Route 66 in  Oklahoma

You can drive just about all of Oklahoma 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 drove most of the portion south of Tulsa to just north of Oklahoma City. We loved it!

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

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

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 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

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..

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

The restored Art Deco Conoco station in Shamrock even has the original cafe restored photo Steve Collins

Stop at Adrian, the midpoint between Chicago and Santa Monica.

Adrian, the midpoint on Historic Route 66 Steve Collins

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

Historic Route 66 in New Mexico

One of the most amazing stretches of Historic Route 66 goes through Tucumcari, NM. Known as a 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. There are great murals painted on the side of the vintage motel.

Mural at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcar on Historic Route 66 Steve Collins

James Dean leaning on a car at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari 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 travelling Historic Route 66.

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

Historic Route 66 in Arizona

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 an Eagle’s song is home to La Posada a restored Harvey House hotel as well as Standin’ on the Corner Park. Williams Arizona, the gateway to Grand Canyon was the last town to be bypassed by I-40 and they’re proud of it.

Williams AZ on historic route 66 Steve Collins

Restaurant on a corner in Williams, AZ photo/Steve Collins

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.

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

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

View our Historic Route 66 Pinterest board.







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21 Responses to “Postcards from Historic Route 66”

  1. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    May 10, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 at 11:47 am #

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

  7. Susan Moore
    May 11, 2019 at 10:47 am #

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

  8. The Gypsynesters
    May 11, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

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

  10. Patti
    November 5, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 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.

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