Route 66 – Mother of American Roads


Route 66 is a famous American highway that once stretched from Chicago in the east to Los Angeles in the west. It has had many names in the past and is most often called the Main Street of America or Mother Road. Route 66 originally ran through 8 states and covered almost 4,000 kilometers.

The idea of creating an east to west highway came up in the 1920s. A plan was drawn up to connect a series of state roads to one big national highway.  In 1926 US Interstate Highway 66 was officially opened. It became America’s most famous road, passing through many cities and crossing deserts, valleys, and mountains. Route 66 was especially popular among travelers because it did not cross the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains, but instead, led through the flatter part of the American southwest.

Route 66 was primarily a road that brought many Americans to the western states in search of a new life and new jobs, especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s. As a result many stores, gas stations and other businesses opened up along Route 66.


map of Route 66

Map of Route 66


In the early decades of the 20th century  many roads had a dirt or gravel surface. In 1938, Route 66 became the first road in America to become completely paved. During World War II Route 66 became the major road for moving military equipment across the country. After the war more and more people travelled west, this time mainly as tourists, who were looking for freedom, liberty and excitement.

During time Route 66 underwent many changes. The original route was often altered. As traffic westwards increased the American government started building bigger, broader roads on which cars and trucks could travel faster. When a new highway system was introduced in America Route 66 was no longer important. It officially ceased to exist in 1985.      

Route 66 has had its fixed position in American culture. It played a major part in John Steinbeck’s novelThe Grapes of Wrath”.  In the 1940s Nat King Cole recorded a song about America’s prime highway which became a major hit and has been sung by many bands later on.

Today groups have been formed to bring Route 66 back to life again. In the past ten years the government in Washington has provided millions of dollars to revive America’s mother of roads.


Cadillac Ranch along Route 66 - Americanintmotors 



Route 66 signWhat to see along Route 66

  • Meramec Caverns in Missouri is a system of caves that spreads along the highway for almost 7 km. Visitors can see stalagmites and stalactites in many different forms and colours.
  • Cadillac Ranch is a sculpture that is made up of old painted Cadillacs buried halfway into the ground with their tails pointed upwards.
  • Petrified Forest National Park is one of the natural wonders of Arizona. Trees that are millions of years old have turned to stone in unusual shapes.
  • Painted Desert has bands of colorful rocks that have been deposited there over millions of years




Related Topics


  • alter = change
  • bury = to dig into the ground
  • business = company
  • cave = natural hole in a hill or mountain
  • cease = stop
  • century = a hundred years
  • connect = link
  • cover = spread, reach
  • decade = ten years
  • deposit = to leave layers on the surface of land
  • draw up = here: create, make
  • equipment = machines, tools and other things you need to do a certain job
  • especially = above all
  • excitement = pleasure, having fun
  • fixed = permanent; something that lasts forever
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • gravel surface = small stones that are used to make roads
  • highway = a wide main road
  • increase = to go up
  • instead = in its place
  • interstate = between states
  • introduce = here: to start
  • liberty = freedom
  • major = very big
  • novel = book with characters that tells a story
  • originally = at first
  • pave = to cover a road with a smooth asphalt surface
  • peak = sharply pointed top of a mountain
  • pointed = showing
  • primarily =for the most part, mainly
  • prime = main
  • provide = give
  • revive = bring back to life
  • sculpture = object made out of certain materials by an artist
  • series = many of the same kind
  • spread = reach from one place to another
  • stalactite = sharp pointed rock hanging down from the top of a cave , which is formed by water that has minerals
  • stalagmite = sharp pointed rock coming up from the floor of a cave, formed by drops of other rocks
  • stretch = to go from one place to another
  • tail = back part
  • traffic = cars and trucks moving along a road
  • undergo, underwent = go through
  • unusual = strange
  • valley = area of lower land between two mountains or hills, usually with a river flowing through it