Back before the days of the interstate system, there was one primary way to get across the country, and that was by way of Route 66. The Mother Road, as it came to be known, consisted of mainly two lane blacktop stretching from the windy city of Chicago, Illinois all the way to the golden coast of Santa Monica, California. Unlike the highways of today that blaze a relatively straight and level path across the countryside, Route 66 moved with the landscape winding around gullies and rivers and rising and falling with the gentle hills of the Midwest. Small towns popped up all over this life-bringing vein across America’s heartland, and before the interstate came, many people made their living selling gas and trinkets or renting out motel rooms to tired motorists.
This Model T on a hoist beside an old Texaco station on Route 66 looks like it was forgotten about long ago, and the weather has certainly taken its toll on this old car.
However, Route 66 was dealt a blow that would eventually prove fatal when President Eisenhower enacted the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956 with the goal of making America’s highways more efficient. With more and more traffic on the road every year, Route 66 had to be upgraded over and over again until much of it was replaced or became secondary to new four-lane highways. By the 1970s, I-40 had replaced such a large portion of Route 66 that it was easy to skirt around the historic road without so much as noticing it, and after I-40 was completed in 1984, the entire route was officially decommissioned. Over the following years, people simply stopped getting their kicks on Route 66, opting instead for the faster, more direct interstate systems, and as a result the small motels and mom-and-pop shops had no choice but to shut their doors due to lack of business.
One of the few places we found on Route 66 that was still in business was Roy’s Motel and Café which apparently reopened in 2008 after a period of abandonment. Stopping at this place really is like a step back in time.
If you take a trip down Route 66 today, the picture is very different than it was back in its heyday. Small service stations have long been abandoned and can be found in various states of disrepair, cars have been left to rot in fields and behind tool sheds, the grass on the shoulder has begun to creep back into the lanes, parts of it have become about as navigable as a poorly-maintained gravel driveway, and at times, one can drive for an hour or more without seeing another human being. Sure, there are still a few towns that survived due to their proximity to the highway, but anything off the beaten path has been long forgotten, painting a beautiful yet tragic picture about our nation’s desire for convenience. Perhaps next time you’re traveling down I-40, consider taking the long way round and jump off the freeway, if only for a few miles, to experience this historic road while you still can. Every once in a while you’ll stumble across other curious tourists taking in the sights of this ghost road, but for the most part you’ll have the pavement all to yourself. Route 66—the road on which people used to travel across this great nation whilst chasing new dreams—has now become the destination.
Along the sides of Route 66 you’ll find all kinds of derelict vehicles sitting on people’s property. This collection of old work trucks was one of the most interesting groups of cars I came across on my travels.
I ran across this group of gentleman all the way from Germany who had each picked up a Harley and were riding as a group from Santa Monica all the way to Chicago so they could see all of Route 66 that was left.
The motel itself thrived on Route 66 as weary travelers sought a place to lay their heads for the night, and as a result there are still a ton of neat old signs around despite many of the motels having closed their doors decades ago.
Of course we can’t forget perhaps the most famous roadside attraction of all on Route 66 right outside Amarillo, Texas—Cadillac Ranch. For the past four decades, travelers have flocked to this field to try their hand at tagging one of the ten Cadillacs buried nose down in the earth.
This old Texaco station has clearly been kept up by someone over the years, but there’s much more to see, so take a look through the rest of this massive gallery to enjoy a trip down the one and only Route 66.
SEE MANY MORE PHOTOS HERE
SOURCE: HOT ROD
AUTHOR: Jacob Davis