Route 66 East: America’s Main Street

Text: RoadRUNNER Staff • Photography: Honda

More than any other stretch of pavement, Route 66 imprinted the open road into the American psyche and helped shape the cultural fabric of the nation as the automobile came of age. The historic route can trace its origins back to 1857 when the Army Corps of Engineers began work on a wagon trail following the 35th parallel. It wasn’t until 1926, however, that the route between Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA, was given the number 66. At that time, the road was largely dirt or gravel, and the U.S. Highway 66 Association was founded to lobby for paving it from end to end. This was achieved in 1938, making Route 66 the first fully-paved highway in the U.S.

Since most small towns and communities had little access to highways in the first half of the 20th century, U.S. 66 was intended to connect the main streets of towns along its route, leading to the road’s unofficial title, the Main Street of America. The Dust Bowl drought and Great Depression of the 1930s sent many farming families west in search of work, and it was Route 66 that brought them there. Their migration inspired John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, further endearing “The Mother Road” to American hearts.

The eastern half of the highway traces across the heartland from Chicago to the route’s midpoint in Adrian, TX, just east of the Texas-New Mexico border. Major cities along the way include Springfield, IL, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Amarillo. The Honda Gold Wing F6B was made for adventure on the open road, and iconic Route 66 has defined that adventure for generations of Americans.