USA Coast to Coast: the timeless myth of Route 66

September 20, 2019

A legendary journey, narrated in dozens of books and films, crossing different climates, landscapes and cultures. The US tour on the road is a dream for many: here's how to make it happen.

Monument Valley Road in the US

United States on the road: the Coast to Coast USA trip is probably the experience of a lifetime and the dream of many. A trip through heterogeneous landscapes, by car, van and even by train, which is also a journey into the American culture, literature and cinema.

Those you'll cross are in fact the routes celebrated by movies such as Easy Rider or sung by the great authors of the beat generation (it's impossible not to mention On the Road by Jack Kerouac). These were also the routes of the pioneers and the gold diggers, who left the famous ghost towns abandoned in the desert with the old saloons in ruins.

The routes you can take on a road trip across the USA are many:

  • Route 66: it's the most famous and iconic, the symbol of the American essence. The so called Mother Road, which used to connect Chicago and Santa Monica, Los Angeles, doesn't exist any longer. The mother of all the American roads, broken up into several state and interstate highways today, once crossed many states including Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California covering a total distance of 3,755 km. Route 66 was officially dismissed in 1985, but it can be retraced today, with an organized or fly and drive trip, visiting famous cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas or exploring the Grand Canyon.
  • The park**trai**l: it's the itinerary of those crossing the great American parks, usually from Los Angeles to New York (or vice versa). It allows to cross the Death Valley, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon, also stopping in Las Vegas, then continuing to Monument Valley and Yellowstone National Park, reaching the Big Apple, for a total duration of 15-20 days.
  • National Old Trail: also called Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, it stretched from Baltimora to Los Angeles in California, but some older maps make it start in New York. Part of the routes covers Route 66 and allows stops in the many ghost towns in Ohio and Kansas.
  • Old Trail to the Beach: the pioneers' route, crossing the great American plains heading south, from Seattle to Miami, passing through Portland, Hell's Canyon, Yellowstone Park and Rocky Mountains.
  • Highway 50: Highway 50 is the Far West road, punctuated by old buildings abandoned by cowboys and pony expresses. It connects West Sacramento in California to Ocean City in Maryland passing through Reno.

You just have to choose the most suitable route for you: here you will find some tips to arrange the trip.

Wether you want to travel by car or motorbike (maybe renting a Harley Davidson, feeling the thrills of the movie Easy Rider), Route 66 is probably the most amusing of all Coast to Coast trips, because it's the one which is most impressed in our imagionation thanks to almost a century of American literature and cinema.

It starts in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles, crossing eights states (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California). along the most celebrated route in the world, dismissed today, crossing iconic cities such as Las Vegas. The route of pioneers, of dreamers and cowboys, passing deserts and old gas stations left as they were back in the Fifties.

Before leaving you need to know that if you choose to rent a car or van and travel on your own, it's not always easy to recognize it. You need to look at road signs carefully.

Route 66 has been replaced today by five highways (I-55 from Chicago to St. Louis, I-44 from St.Louis to Oklahoma City, I-40 from Oklahoma City to Barstow, I-15 from Barstow to San Bernardino, I-50 from San Bernardino to Santa Monica, Los Angeles). To follow Route 66 you need to travel along these roads or other secondary roads running parallel to these and if you get lost near the big cities always follow the "Business Loop" sign, which indicates the old Mother Road route.

How many days do you need to cover Route 66? Consider at least 15 days and if you get can even 20, to stop longer in the most significant cities of the route.

Joshua Tree National Park Route 66 in the Usa
Route 66 crosses Joshua Tree National Park.

Are you ready to leave? Here are the stages of the trip.

How to arrange the trip: the stages

Here is the itinerary you can follow for a trip along Route 66.

Chicago to Saint Louis (2- 3 days)

You can start your tour by landing at Chicago airport, where you can spend a couple of days to explore this metropolis offering museums, restaurants and an amazing skyline. Then take I-55 and travel along the Old Route 66, crossing Illinois. Pass through Joliet and Launching Pad Giant. Do not miss a stop at RT 66 Museum in Pontiac. Once you pass Springfield, continue to St. Louis, crossing corn fields and the historic Chain of Rock bridge. St. Louis is a quanit city on the banks of Mississippi river, deserving a stop.

Arch of St. Louis in the Usa
Arch of St. Louis.

St. Louis - Oklahoma City (2 days)

Leave St. Louis behind taking the I-44 to Oklahoma City. Crossing Missouri you will pass hills and the winding roads of Devil's Elbow You can stop for the night in Joplin, a small town hit by a tornado in 2011. The following day set off again towards the landscapes of Oklahoma, the lands of the native Americans. In the evening arrive in Oklahoma City, which fully represents the spirit of Route 66.

Oklahoma City's Capitol.

Oklahoma City - Santa Fe (3 days)

Once you've left Oklahoma City behind, travel along the Chisholm Trail and stop, time permitting, at Route 66 Museum in Clinton. Further ahead you enter Texas, crossing the Texas Panhandòe. Leaving Teaxas, you enter New Mexico, passing the ghost town of El Rio on the border. Here you will cross an arid landscape full of cactuses, the territory of the Comanches. You can stop for a couple of nights in Santa Fe, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in America, where you can still breathe in the cowboy tradition.

Santa Fe in the US
Santa Fe.

Santa Fe - Grand Canyon (2 -3 days)

Spend the next two days travelling towards Grand Canyon, overnighting in Gallup. Leaving Santa Fe you can head towards Albuquerque, entering the Navajos' land. The following day sett off towards Arizona, admiring unforgettable views from the car window. Once you have crossed the border, you will come across the Petrified Forest National Park, an ancient forest of petrified trees. You can spend the night in the towns of Winslow, Flagtsaff and Williams.

Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon - Las Vegas (2-3 days)

The next day is to be dedicated to the visit of the Grand Canyon, one of the most spectacular parks of the United States, to be soared by helicopter. Once you have visited the Grand Canyon, the following destination can be Las Vegas, Nevada, where you can stop for the night and walk around the hotels and casinos seen in hundreds of movies and TV series.

Las Vegas by night, Usa
Las Vegas.

Las Vegas - Los Angeles (2-4 days)

Youleaveagain for California this time, headingtowards the finaldestinationofRoute 66, Los Angeles. The road to California crossesspectacularlandscapes in Mojavedesert. Spend the night in Victorville, Barstow or San Bernardino. Beforereaching the City ofAngelsyouwillpass the mountainsof Los Angeles NationalForest, oneof the mostbeautifulsceneriesof the entire trip. Finallyarrive in Los Angelse, whereyou can stop for a fewdays to visit the manyattractionsithas to offer.

Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Usa
Venice Beach in Los Angeles.

A driving tour across the US: how to arrange the trip

The United States are probably the best country to be explored by car. The options to live this adventure are many, surely the most common and popular means of transport is the (rental) car, which allows you to spend your holiday in total freedom. Trusting local operators enables you to rent a car with insurance including a base fee and optional additional policies as well as having accommodations booked.

In order to rent a car in the USA you need yo have an international driving license, passport and credit card to pick up the car. Normally a deposit is also requested. The car is not the only possible option though. Route 66 can also be easily covered by motor bike. Some local operators also take car of baggage shipping to the accommodations along the route. As an alternative, you can rent a van, to live the Coast to Coast tour with a hippy spirit.

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