Happy Birthday, Historic Route 66

Happy Birthday, Historic Route 66

By Doug Nick / ADOT Communications
November 10, 2021

We love birthdays here at the ol’ ADOT Ranch. We really do. 

We’re just like everyone else; we like a good excuse to plunder our well-intentioned diet and pig out on sinfully sweet sugary confections, even if sometimes our only source is the vending machine. 

Ever had a two-year old Twinkie? Not bad, really. But we digress, so let’s get back on the road, so to speak. 

The road in this case being Historic Route 66. 

November 2021 marks the 95th anniversary of the official opening of the “Mother Road” linking Chicago to L.A. and running smack through northern Arizona.

Ah, yes, perhaps the most-romanticized stretch of highway anywhere...subject of song, TV shows and film, (“Cars”, anyone?). 

All those song lyrics, TV scripts and movies, not bad for a two-lane strip of pavement that hasn’t officially existed as a true highway (it’s Historic 66, after all) since 1984. That’s when the last portion of Interstate 40 was completed right outside of the northern Arizona town of Williams. 

Perhaps because the Arizona part of I-40 was the last to be built, we have the distinction of having some of the best-preserved miles of Route 66.

It’s a subject that hasn’t suffered a lack of attention. In fact, we’d love for you to visit ADOT’s very own Arizona Highways Magazine website if you’d like to see some truly magnificent stories and photos of Route 66. 

If you really want to immerse yourself, what better way than a road trip? Back in the day, Route 66 was a working highway with motels, gas stations and restaurants that thrived until, well, they could thrive no longer. 

But in recent decades a Renaissance has occurred and you can experience it yourself. 

Venture to Kingman and begin a journey that can start at the Arizona Route 66 Museum and then head east into perhaps the quietest yet very scenic part of the road as it takes you through wide-open spaces until you hook back into Seligman, a riot of neon and restored shops and restaurants. Stop and get a burger and a chocolate malt and imagine you’re driving a ‘58 Buick to Albuquerque. Then again, maybe you really are…

Which reminds us that no matter what kind of vehicle you drive, you can pay your respects with a pretty snazzy and award-winning Route 66 specialty license plate

Back on the road, go east through Williams, maybe stay the night in that cool and charming community and take a side trip on the train to the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff may get more a practical use of Route 66 than any other town. It was, is and probably always will be a major traffic artery there, and there’s plenty to check out from restaurants to the Riordan Mansion.

Okay, it gets a little tough to stay on the road east of Flag. You pretty much have to take I-40, but be sure to stop off at Winslow, and see if “a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford” slows down to take a look at you. 

At the very least, you could stand on a corner and play the song in your head. Or, if you stand at a particular corner, there’s a gift shop where that song pretty much never stops, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. 

We could go on, and maybe we will. That road trip sounds mighty tempting. 

So one more salute and a Happy 95th Birthday to Historic Route 66!

If you happen to have a birthday in November, too, congratulations and have a Twinkie on us. 

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