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Andrey Bayda
Andrey Bayda
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Legendary Route 66

Summer of Firsts

The Legendary Route 66

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Few roads in the world evoke as many images or speak to the imagination as Route 66. This road of almost epic proportions begins in Chicago and ends at Santa Monica beach in Los Angeles. With KLM and Coca-Cola, you could win the unique opportunity to drive the last stretch of this legendary route yourself.

Route 66 is approximately 4,000 kilometres long and runs through eight different states. This was once the most important highway in the United States. This trade route was built in 1926 and connected America's fast growing towns and cities together.

Route 66 officially ceased to exist as a highway in 1985. However, it is not hard to retrace most of the original road. Along the way, you will encounter classic diners, vintage motels, ghost towns and breathtaking nature. This is the quintessential all America road trip.

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visittheusa.com

01.

Pontiac Murals

Route 66 runs through Pontiac, a city an hour and a half south of Chicago. You may be tempted to keep driving, but the huge collection of murals is worth a stop. The walls of the historic downtown are covered with at least twenty murals. The paintings were created during a summer festival in 2009 over the course of four days as a tribute to the history of Pontiac. The huge mural featuring Route 66 is the ultimate photo opp. Pontiac is also home to the Route 66 museum, a great place to learn more about this legendary road.

02.

66 Drive-in Theatre

What could be more American than a drive-in movie theatre? In the 1950s these outdoor cinemas were booming along Route 66. These are icons from the days when most people didn't have television, and movie theatres had no air-conditioning. The majority were abandoned a long time ago, but the 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri is still up and running. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from April through October, you can pull up in your car and enjoy the latest movies without having to step outside of your vehicle.

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Bruce R. Watkins / 66 Drive-In (66drivein.com)
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Andrey Bayda
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Andrey Bayda

03.

Cadillac Ranch

Route 66 is full of surprises. One of those is Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas: a row of graffiti-covered Cadillacs half buried in the sand. This art installation was created in 1974 by Texan millionaire Stanley Marsh. The Cadillacs represent America's ‘Golden Age’. Over the years, vandals, artists and travellers have covered the cars in a thick layer of graffiti. Marsh doesn't seem to mind at all: “I think it looks better every year.”

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04.

Bob’s Gasoline Alley

Bob’s Gasoline Alley in Missouri boasts the largest collection of Route 66 memorabilia in the Midwest. The amazing collection of vintage and nostalgia is composed of old oil company ads, neon signs and soda billboards. You will certainly come across a vintage Coca-Cola sign. Be sure to check the outdoor collection of old gas pumps and special cars.

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Nick Fox
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Nick Fox

05.

Blue Swallow Motel

The Blue Swallow Motel in New Mexico has been hosting guests since 1939, when travellers cruised their way down ‘The Mother Road’. Spending the night here is like a trip back to ‘the good old days’. An old Pontiac is parked in front of the reception and the rooms are furnished in classic fifties style. At night, admire the amazing retro neon lights. There are only 12 rooms so book early.

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The last leg

The last leg of Route 66 runs via Kingman south of Las Vegas, through Barstow, all the way to the city of Angels: Los Angeles!

06.

Las Vegas

Although Las Vegas isn't officially on Route 66, this hysterically crazy city is definitely worth a small detour. Spend the day shopping in one of the many large outlet malls on the outskirts of the city. Once the lights come on at night, get ready to explore as The Strip transforms into one enormous show.

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    Randy Andy
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boldtourist.com

07.

Calico Ghost town

After leaving Vegas behind, the next must-see stop is the ghost town of Calico in California. Founded in 1881, Calico was a silver mining town. Like most mining towns on the US West Coast, Calico was forgotten as quickly as it was built. In 1962, the town was designated a historic monument, and visitors now pay admission to enter. Many of the old storefronts house souvenir shops. You can also spend the night in a log cabin or at a campground. Although hardly deserted anymore, this is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the US. The highlight is a tour of the long underground mining tunnel that you can walk through.

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08.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

A forest of bottles: this stop you won’t forget any time soon. Elmer used to go camping in the desert with his dad. They always brought home whatever garbage they found including bottles. His dad continued to collect bottles for many years. When he died, Elmer continued the collection and transformed them into an amazing piece of art. The Bottle Tree Ranch consists of dozens of steel pipes hung with bottles, some of which date back to the fifties. There is definitely a vintage Coca-Cola bottle in there somewhere...

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ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
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Andrey Bayda

09.

Roy’s Motel

The abandoned town of Amboy is home to Roy’s Motel. The ultimate symbol of Route 66 is a lonely gas station in the desert. The retro fifties look of this service station can be seen in many movies and commercials. Founded as a mining town in California, Amboy is now a ghost town that reminds travellers along Route 66 of how things used to be. The gas station is still operational, although buying gas there is quite expensive. You’d be better off spending your money on an ice cold Route 66 root beer in the store.

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10.

Santa Monica

And then you arrive in Santa Monica, the end of the road. The symbolic Route 66 ‘End of the Trail’ sign stands on the Santa Monica pier where every takes a photo. This is the place where Route 66 had to stop because the ocean was in the way. The official end is actually a few streets away from the pier at a less photogenic location.

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Daniel Vine Photography
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Win

Enter for a chance to win a trip to drive Route 66

Fly to Las Vegas with KLM and Coca-Cola, and drive the last stretch of Route 66 to Los Angeles.

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KLM

iFly Magazine

July 2016

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