Thought the ultimate ghost highway would be fitting for a ghost town web forum. Bare with me, I am going to post my two completed states I've documented the routings of Route 66 on. I have New Mexico partially complete, however its going to take me a LONG time to finish the rest given the economy forced me back east. I'll cover a TON of ghost towns along the way...Route 66 is full of them all across its old alignments.

Most people have heard of US Route 66. The Highway was created in 1926 and was finally decommissioned in 1984 was the primary road from Chicago to Los Angeles for over half a century. Most people have heard of Route 66, but I doubt many have had it be such a significant part of their life as it has been for mine. From Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California I have found myself at one time on a section of the old Highway.

Route 66 first really became known to me in the mid-90s when my father was working in Chicago. I was still in high school at the time and of course had heard of the Highway like everyone else, but I had no idea until then that it stretched all the way to Chicago from the West Coast. Being from Michigan originally the idea of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas seemed alien to me. I had seen California in 1993 but none of the deserts like the Mojave or the mountains on the Colorado Plateau.

It was in 1997 that I finally got to see Phoenix right after my 15th birthday when I came to visit my brother and attend a NASCAR race in Phoenix International Raceway. I had returned to Phoenix in 2000 after my 18th birthday was shown probably the best time of my life up to that point with my brother, needless to say alcohol was involved. I was looking for a way out of the bleak future the mid-west and especially Michigan and decided Arizona was the place to be. Shortly after my graduation in 2001 I announced to my shocked parents that I wanted to move to Arizona, from there things flew into motion and Route 66 became a permanent part of my life.

All the plans were finally put into place for my move by June 2001. During my graduation party I received $500 dollars from my Grand Mother who wished me luck in Arizona. The plan was that I would take my 1992 Pontiac Sun Bird and drive with my father down Interstates 55, 44 and 40 to Arizona. It was at that time that I learned that we would be driving over what was US66 until Flagstaff, Arizona. Basically I was about to see the historic highway and drive most of it at 18 years old! First though, there was the matter of getting from Lansing, Michigan to Chicago for the first overnight…. My 92 Sun Bird was a piece of ****, there can be no denying that.

As the trip to Chicago started out I followed my father from Lansing on I69 to I94. Everything in Michigan went fine until we approached the Illinois state line in Gary, Indiana. When the sun went down I turned my head lights on and quickly discovered I was having an electrical issue and my poor 92 Sun Bird started to die and sound like a vacuum cleaner due to the struggling alternator. Trust me; Gary isn’t the place you want to be stranded much less visit. Fortunately my father noticed my dimming headlights and pulled over just past the interchange with Interstate 90. We decided to limp the Sun Bird into the city limits of Chicago for the night. After parking my Sun Bird at a rest area we unpacked and went to my father’s apartment on Michigan Avenue. The Sun Bird could not be restarted the next day and had to be towed from the Interstate, it was then that my father gifted me his 1997 Chevy Silverado…the only truck I have ever owned. With that it was over to I55 to begin the journey to Arizona.

I really wish in retrospect that I had the presence in mind to take pictures of that trip to Arizona down US66. My father and I made it all the way from Chicago to Albuquerque the first day. Not before passing through Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Arch, Oklahoma City and Amarillo. I had seen for the first time landscapes that I had only heard bits of pieces about in songs and so many abandoned buildings that it could not be believed. I thought north Texas and eastern New Mexico must have been the most desolate places on the face of the Earth. I remember being glad to see Albuquerque but I honestly thought that the city was made of trailers during the descent from the mountains east of the city. The next day, my father and I packed everything back into the Silverado and ventured back out onto the I40 section of US66.

During the trip from Albuquerque to Phoenix I saw the first Indian Reservation that I had ever seen in the Navajo Nation, the first National Park in the Petrified Forest, the first western land mark I really knew something about in Meteor Crater and the first tinge of monsoon induced panic in a summer monsoon in Flagstaff. Up to that point almost all of my journey had been on US66, as we turned on I17 towards Phoenix little did I know what truly awaited me from Flagstaff to Los Angeles in the following years.

In addition to me there is also other family members that have traveled across US66. The most infamous story is from my mother and her road trip across the country in the summer of 1957. The trip was across the northern states to Washington, down to Los Angeles and finally back to Detroit via US 66 in Chicago. I remember hearing stories about what Los Angeles used to look like, the water bags on the front of the car on the stretch through the Mojave Desert, The Grand Canyon and countless small little towns that would not likely fit the modern definition of a community.

These albums I put together is photo complication of all the US66 sites that I have encountered over the years. I have been fortunate in my life that I was given a second chance to truly enjoy the special things in life; the Mother Road has been one since my adult hood began. My life has been defined by my move to the South West and the history of not what only brought me here but millions others fascinates me. US66 is more than just an old highway; it has something that the Interstate system could never truly replicate. I try to see all that I can on the Mother Road; slowly I’m researching and documenting its history and hopefully one day soon will have the entire route documented.

What largely became US Route 66 was commissioned in 1857 when the government sent Edward Beale to survey a wagon route along the 35th Parallel. This road would make a large portion of US66 in the south west United States. Before a national series of highways was implemented cross country drives were made along privately funded National Routes. What largely made up the original alignment of US66 was The Lone Star Trail from Chicago to St. Louis, parts of the Ozark Trail and the National Old Trails Highway from St. Louis to Los Angeles. It wasn’t until 1916 that the first legislation for a National Highway system was brought before Congress, it would be until 1925 until the legislation was finalized. In 1926 the numerical designation of 66 was given to the route leading from Chicago to Los Angeles, thus US Route 66 was born. Incidentally though, the initial plan called for the route to be number US 60 but it was shot down in favor of a more catcher name. US60 was assigned to a different route to Los Angeles and still is an active US Highway excluding California.

Make no mistake the US Highway system cannot hold a candle to the Interstate system, US 66 is no exception. US66 wasn’t even completely paved until 1938! I cannot imagine driving through the Mojave desert in a pre-war car on dirt or trying to traverse Sitgreaves Pass near Oatman, it must have been hellish. US66 has gone through several notable realignments which include; 1953 the road from Kingman to Needles, CA being bypassed around Oatman through Yucca; 1937 the elimination of the spur of the New Mexico portion leading to Santa Fe; 1936 the extension from Los Angeles to Santa Monica and many other minor alignments. All in all US66 served as the primary road from Chicago to Los Angeles for half a century until being decommissioned upon the completion of Interstate 40 in 1984. Many towns declined, some died when US66 finally was shut down but now most have become historic locations. Basically most people do these documentaries westward, this one starts in California and heads east.

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