Destination - Illinois and the history of Route 66....
No other road symbolizes optimism, freedom and the American Dream quite like Route 66.
Route 66 defined a remarkable era in the growth of the USA. As it threaded its way across eight states, it left its indelible mark on the nation's physical, historical and cultural landscape.
It began with an Oklahoma businessman and entrepreneur, Cyrus Avery, who envisioned a road stretching diagonally across the country between Lake Michigan and the Pacific Ocean. The diagonal course made it possible to connect hundreds of rural town throughout the country and provide small communities access to a national highway system. The road was numbered Route 66 in 1926, but it was Avery who proclaimed it the "Main Street Of America."
Many main streets in Illinois were already connected by the Pontiac Trail, the original automobile route between Chicago and St. Louis. In 1920, State bond issue 4 enabled the construction of a new hard road to connect the two cities in a more direct fashion- the first in a series of efforts to make highway travel more efficient. Already paved in concrete by 1926, the Illinois stretch of Route 66 was the first to claim it was "slab all the way".
Over the next fifty years, the road carried travellers of all kinds: migrants from the Dust Bowl, military personnel, truckers, farmers, and eventually holidaymakers. Enterprising business people along the road quickly recognised the need for food, lodging and auto services - Illinois was no exception and the great American road trip prospered.
Ultimately, the desire for faster, safer and more efficient roadways led to the construction of a 4-lane Route 66 following World War II. In addition to extra lanes, the road realigned to bypass the small towns that had grown accustomed to heavy traffic and the commerce that came with it. By 1977, Interstate 55 had completely replaced Route 66 in Illinois and in 1984 the last remaining section of US 66 in Arizona was bypassed by Interstate 40. Route 66 was officially decommissioned by the federal government in 1985.
Fortunately, the legacy of Route 66 has survived. Today, travellers of the historic highway in Illinois can cruise more than 400 miles, including some of the 1926 concrete segments. Historically significant structures have been preserved to help bring your Route 66 holiday experience to life.