Route 66 is the symbol of the American roadway. Although it is no longer an official highway, every mile of the route still exists under a variety of different names, and road-trip enthusiasts can still follow the route in its entirety. Route 66 traverses over 2,400 miles of wide open spaces in some of America’s wild western states.
After starting out in the city of Los Angeles, Route 66 quickly passes into the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. These rugged badlands are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, including the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. These rocky landscapes have inspired generations of artists and filmmakers, and seem so far away from civilization that it’s easy to forget you’re living in one of the most developed countries on Earth.
It passes briefly through northern Texas and into Oklahoma, where dramatic deserts give way to fertile, domesticated fields. This is the Great Plains area, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world and a major breadbasket of the United States. (Surprisingly, most of the grain produced in this area will not be consumed by humans, but rather by the cattle and chickens that feed America’s insatiable appetite for meat.)
Gradually, toward the end, the roadway bends up north out of the flats of Oklahoma and Missouri. Near the city of St. Louis, it crosses the mighty Mississippi River, the symbolic boundary between the eastern and western United States. This broad, powerful river extends from the Canadian border all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, and is the fourth longest river in the world. Coincidentally, it is almost exactly the same length as Route 66 and, like the highway, it has been a major transportation route for generations of Americans. At its end, Route 66 terminates at the great global metropolis of Chicago.