The sun is setting over the empty highway, turning the view through my car’s windshield into a giant shifting oil painting of bold orange, bright yellow and vibrant pink and purple hues juxtaposed against sagebrush and cacti-strewn desert backdrop. I’m somewhere between Gallup, New Mexico and Winslow, Arizona, road-tripping down Route 66 with one of my best friends.
I roll down the windows and pump the music—”On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson—inhale the fresh, dry air and feel a rush of adrenaline. We’re the only car kicking it down this stretch of the Mother Road. There’s barely a bar of service on my cell phone and no hints of civilization in any direction. There isn’t even any livestock. Just wide-open stretches of nothing. I’m acutely aware that this feels about as remote as it gets on an American highway in the Lower 48 these days.
This feeling is exhilarating.
Running for nearly 2,500 miles from Chicago to LA, Route 66 was officially decommissioned back in 1985 but served as America’s Main Street during its motoring heyday in the 1950s and 60s. Driving the highways and byways that comprise Route 66 is a trip back in time, one that is heavy on the nostalgia and Americana kitsch and still as much a rite of passage today as it was a half-century ago.
Follow this six-day east to west odyssey, complete with hotel recommendations, to find out why.