One of the great pleasures of driving Route 66 is the empty roads. While the Interstate may be only a dozen yards or a dozen miles away, the Route (except where it lies under more recent highways) is lightly traveled. You can travel at 35 or 40 mph, or even less, enjoy the dappling of shadow from the overarching trees, or look across open fields or rolling hills and imagine what the Mother Road was like in the early part of the 20th century when it was first patched together from existing bits of gravel road.
With a bit more effort, you can imagine what it looked like a couple centuries ago, when those open lands were covered with bison from horizon to horizon, or the plains were covered with tall grass. As you drift through small towns, most built in the 1800s and early 1900s, you can appreciate the pain of those communities, once invaluable centers for the agricultural and mining communities that surrounded them, as they fade from memory, and the struggles of those who are trying to save what they can.
On these lonely roads, there is time to think and even dream, if you don’t mind getting lost. There is time and often space to pull over, stop, walk the road–or even stop in the middle of the road and take pictures, which I’ve done on more than one occasion. You can also come to appreciate the people who built and drove those early roads.
And unlike taking the Interstate, you can enjoy the ride and arrive relaxed.