Route 66 is in peril. As the heyday of the old-school American road trip faded in the mid-20th century, the iconic cross-country highway fell into serious disrepair. Now, Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) is looking to rekindle a love for America’s “Mother Road” by paving the way for the great American cycling trip.
The first official miles of United States Bicycle Route 66 are now open in Missouri. Once the ACA approached the state with their plans, including turn-by-turn maps, state officials hopped aboard almost immediately. The meager beginnings of USBR 66 begin in St. Louis and wind westward through Rolla, Springfield, and Joplin. The western end of the route currently dips into Southeastern Kansas as well.
Cyclists on USBR 66 ride on two-lane rural roads that parallel or exactly follow the original Route 66 motorway. The ACA is working hard to balance cyclist’s safety with preserving the road’s history and authenticity. While much of the route’s vintage nostalgia has succumbed to “progress,” glimmers of its past remain. There are still filling stations, classic chrome diners, quirky roadside attractions, and other bits of road trip-related kitsch. As many of the small towns along the way realize the potential for tourism, more of that memorabilia is sure to follow. Even the small, initial part of the route has already proven wildly popular with cyclists.
The route is (for now) a tiny part of the ACA’s official United States Bicycle Route System of cycling trails that criss-cross the country in nearly 30 states. The association boasts more than 13,000 miles of trails with the goal of topping 50,000. USBR 66 will be at the heart of that network — literally and nostalgically. The hope is that it will one day follow all 2,400 miles of the original Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. That, of course, requires a monumental amount of time, money, resources, and a dozen states working together in concert. It’s a project that will have to unfold one small piece at a time, but the ACA is hopeful that their dream will one day be realized.
To plan your own bike trip down Route 66, Adventure Cycling Association offers free maps of USBR 66 and tons of other bike routes across the country.
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