Route 66 West: Riding the Mother Road

Text: RoadRUNNER Staff • Photography: Honda

Today, when people think about Route 66, they see visions of dramatic expanses of southwestern desert and the adventure of exploring the wide-open country. At its peak, the stretch of 66 through New Mexico, Arizona, and California was a bustling highway as Americans moved west to seek their fortunes. Then in 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. From that point on, the writing was on the wall for the Will Rogers Highway. By the end of the 1960s, I-40 had bypassed most rural segments of the route and the slow and steady decline began. Many once thriving roadside businesses began closing their doors, and the small towns began to fall on hard times. Final decertification came in 1985 and Route 66 officially ceased to exist.

It wasn’t long, however, before individual states began reviving the iconic road. First came the Arizona Route 66 Association, then Missouri’s, with the rest of the states following suit. In 1990, Missouri established its portion of Route 66 as a state historic route. Other sections of the road were designated as historic and state routes or scenic byways. Many of the abandoned and decaying roadside icons have since been restored to their original glory, and travelers are returning to the road to find that sense of nostalgic Americana. Honda’s Gold Wing F6B is the perfect companion for seeking the host of treasures from our collective past found along the 2,400 miles of Route 66.

As Route 66 weaves its way to its final destination in Santa Monica, CA, it travels through landscapes emblematic of the American west. From the Native American reservations of New Mexico, to the ghost towns and hairpin curves of Arizona, and finally through southern California’s Mojave Desert, the western half of Route 66 is a feast for the eyes that’s best enjoyed from the F6B’s saddle.