Mother Road, mother lodeRoute 66

Route 66 sketch map by Chandler O'Leary

Last summer the Tailor and I spent a couple of weeks traveling every inch of old Route 66. And then I kept pretty quiet about it, because I just had no idea how to organize and share the sheer number of sketches and stories I came away with afterward. There really is no “long story short” way to do this—like the Mother Road itself, there are too many branches and tangents for a single linear tale. So like I did for my Mission Mondays series, I’m going to break this down into 66 Fridays, starting today and running through spring of next year. (You can follow along by using the 66 Fridays tag.)

So each week for the next 66 weeks, I’m going to share a piece of Route 66—and like everything else on this blog (except the Mission series), those pieces will be in no particular order. There are a zillion books out there already that tell the Route 66 story from beginning to end (both in time and space), so that frees me to, er, paint a slightly different picture. I’ll be jumping around from state to state, highlighting my favorite landmarks and historical tidbits. With any luck, it’ll give you a good enough taste of the Mother Road that it’ll inspire you to explore it for yourself.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

A few notes:

• There’s a common perception that Route 66 is long gone, and that modern travelers can only drive bits of the route. That’s actually not true. While modern Interstate highways have replaced long chunks of the Mother Road in certain spots, it’s actually possible to drive over 80 percent of the original route—including the original road bed and even 90-year-old pavement in several places. Route 66 was officially decommissioned as a U.S. highway decades ago, but the old thread is still there, still nearly intact, just waiting for an adventurous traveler with a sharp eye to find it.

• We didn’t see everything there is to see on Route 66. Not even close. We spent nearly two weeks on the Mother Road, and by my estimate we would have needed a good month, at least, to really take it all in. Considering how much more there would have been to see years ago, before so many places closed down or fell into ruin, it all boggles my mind a bit. Nevertheless, this trip was a good first taste of the whole thing. I made the Tailor promise me that someday we’d do it all again, and take however much time we wanted.

• Even though we didn’t see everything along the way, we did our darndest to drive every inch of the route that remains—and that’s no small feat, considering how many tributaries, diversions, parallel routes, rerouted sections, poorly-marked bits and dead ends there are. I’d driven bits of 66 before, but never the whole stretch in one go. It feels like a real accomplishment that we did that.

• I hope you don’t hate vintage signs, because you can expect a lot of them in the coming months. I’ll try to keep the posts balanced between various subject matters, but I’m not gonna lie: there’s a metric ton of incredible vintage signage along Route 66, and I did my level best to draw all of it. I have whole sketchbooks just devoted to neon. I probably won’t show you everything, but you will see an awful lot of it.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

So buckle your seatbelts and pull out your paper maps—let’s get this show on the road, and embark upon the serious business of getting our kicks.


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Comments (2)

  1. Leila

    I am so excited to watch this unfold. And thanks a lot – that song will be stuck in my head now!!

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