Author Topic: Skeptical about Bike Route 66  (Read 11163 times)

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Offline jamawani

Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« on: August 04, 2012, 01:49:21 pm »
I remain deeply skeptical about Bicycle Route 66.  I recognize that the idea has great appeal, but the reality on the ground is quite, quite different that the image created when listening to "You Get Your Kicks on Route 66" or browsing old 1950s B&W photos of Americana.

The major reason that reality diverges from image is that Interstate Highways have been built over much of the original right of way of Route 66 - especially in the West.  What that means for cycle tourists is that they have to ride either on an interstate shoulder with 20,000 vehicles zooming by or on a service road that offers little respite from the roar of the interstate.  Idyllic it is often not.

Furthermore, Route 66 had many routings over the years - i.e. there is not ONE Route 66.  This is true of many of the named highways of old such as the Lincoln Highway or the Dixie Highway.  Given this, I would argue that the preferred choice for the cyclist in the Southwest would be to approximate Route 66 - to experience the natural beauty, native cultures, and some of the cultural artifacts of Route 66 in a way as close as possible to that of early cross-country travellers - rather than to adhere to any fixed route.

For example, from northern New Mexico to the Grand Canyon, I believe it is far more rewarding to take a route such as Taos, Abiquiu, Cuba, Gallup, Window Rock, Second Mesa, Tuba City, Grand Canyon rather than follow service roads and interstate shoulders from Albuquerque to Flagstaff.  The former allows one to experience Taos Pueblo, the art of Georgia O'Keeffe, ancient pueblos, the kitsch of Gallup Route 66, Navajo life, the traditions of the Hopi, and finally, a rim ride along the Grand Canyon.

Just sayin', ya know?

Abiquiu Plaza

Offline easy

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2012, 09:59:10 pm »
In Illinois, Route 66 follows Illinois 53, no shoulders on that road, at least in my area. Pick up trucks don't like to have slow bicycles on their roads. If they would add a shoulder, it would be a good road but Illinois is broke.
We had a bicycle touring group come through last week, they had a police escort, traffic was backed up about 2 or 3 miles cause people were afraid to pass the police cars.


  • Guest
Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2012, 11:15:23 pm »
... I would argue that the preferred choice for the cyclist in the Southwest would be to approximate Route 66 - to experience the natural beauty, native cultures, and some of the cultural artifacts of Route 66 in a way as close as possible to that of early cross-country travellers - rather than to adhere to any fixed route...

The route planners apparently agree. Here's a good article


Offline jamawani

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2012, 03:46:02 am »
Fred -

Sorry, but I do not think this is a much better option.
The section quoted in the article is in New Mexico proposed by the New Mexico Touring Society.
(BTW, I had read and posted earlier in that article)

Other than the dogleg up to Santa Fe, it does little to alter the service road/interstate issue.
Here is a rough descriptionn from their website:

Proposed Route Segments (Described from West to East)
Segment 1: Arizona border to Gallup (including Gallup).  The route follows NM 118. 22 miles.
Segment 2: Gallup to Grants (scenic route).  The route follows NM 602 and NM 53. Includes Zuni and Ramah Navajo Indian Reservations, El Morro and El Malpais National Monuments. 97 miles.
Segment 3: Grants to the intersection of NM 6 and I-40.  The route follows NM 117, NM 124 and the shoulder of I-40. Communities include Acoma and Laguna Indian reservations. 46 miles.
Segment 4: Intersection of NM 6 and I-40 to Tijeras. The route follows I-40 (shoulder), local streets in Albuquerque and NM 333. 53 miles.
Segment 5: Tijeras to Santa Fe (including Santa Fe). The route follows NM 14 and local streets in Santa Fe. Communities include Tijeras, Madrid and Santa Fe. 56 miles.
Segment 6: Santa Fe to the intersection of I-25 and US 84. The route follows I-25 service roads, I-25 (Glorieta Pass) NM 50 and NM 63. Communities include Pecos.  Also includes Glorieta Battlefield and Pecos National Historical Park. 63 miles.
Segment 7: Intersection of I-25 and US 84 to the intersection of I-40 and US 84.  The route follows US 84. 42 miles.
Segment 8: Intersection of I-40 and US 84 to the Texas border. The route follows I-40 (shoulder) and I-40 service roads.  Communities include Santa Rosa and Tucumcari. 123 miles.

Section 1 - Fine if you like service roads - original sections of Route 66.
Section 2 - NM 602 has fairly heavy traffic (4000+), hills, rideable rumble strip shoulders, NM 53 nice.
Section 3 - More service roads and some I-40 riding.
Section 4 - Yikes!?!  Interstate and urban streets. Then Old 66 up Tijeras Canyon as service road.
Section 5 - NM 14/Turquoise Trail is lovely, but busy. (5000+) No shoulder mid section.
Section 6 - Santa Fe tricky to negotiate and expensive. Old Las Vegas Hwy very busy.  Pecos nice.
Section 7 - US 84 - good road, low traffic, shoulders. Nice bluffs northern end.
Section 8 - Back to interstate and service road riding.

Without doing a mile-by-mile, I'd say more than half of the route is
Interstate riding, service roads, high traffic, or congested.

Since Bike Route 66 is more than just a historical fantasy, but also a major southwestern connector -
It seems that a route which offers great roads, scenery, and the "feel" of a tour in 1950 would be preferable.

For example, NM 104 between Tucumcari and Las Vegas is stunningly empty -
Great mesas, state park, services on both endpoints.
Taos is very bike friendly, historic,  and fairly easy to bike into and out of.
Coyote to Cuba is lovely, quiet riding in high pine country.
Riding via Cuba and Crownpoint allows one the option to off road to visit the Chaco ruins.
And you can soak up the Route 66 kitsch in Gallup.

Hey, I like the Route 66 diner in Albuquerque, too.
But why ride with the roar of the interstate and fight city traffic - -
When you can have dinner on the Taos Plaza?


  • Guest
Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2012, 06:54:11 am »
Well, there's nothing like being there and doing that. I wonder what our mapping team chose, and how it is faring in negotiation with all the other interested parties. Is the USBRS going to be a horse designed by committee? We know how that turned out!


Offline roadrunner

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2012, 11:34:46 pm »
I've enjoyed riding historic trails, including the Oregon Trail, Santa Fe, and Chislom trails, using paved and unpave roads that adjacent to the original routes.  Now I'm picking up feasible parts of Route 66 to experience the allure of the "Mother Road."   In Arizona, the old road exists and makes for a great riding between Kingman and Flagstaff, except for a 30-mile stretch between Williams and Ash Fork where riding the I-40 shoulder is needed.  In Oklahoma, various "editions" of Route 66 are present and good riding across the entire state, as is the short Kansas portion. 

Next month, I'll be riding Route 66 Illinois, using the Illinois Route 66 Trail Users Guide, produced by the League of Illinois Bicyclists.  The guide highlights both original Route 66 roads and lower-traffic alternatives.

Most of the original Route 66 roads I've ridden are relatively near the interstate highways that replaced them (from service roads to a few miles away), so only local traffic uses the old roads.  Route 66 passes through small towns every few miles in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, providing bikers many options for services while discouraging drivers from using the road.

Offline roadrunner

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2012, 06:43:57 pm »
I just finished riding Route 66 in Illinois from the Chain of Rocks bridge across the Mississippi near St. Louis to Joliet.  I skipped the northernmost 50 miles or so into Chicago and rode Highway 4 around Springfield to avoid the urban traffic.  Most of Route 66 provides an enjoyable ride; in a very few areas traffic can be a bit "intense." 

The Illinois Depart of Natural Resources has published a guide to the Route 66 Trail which was produced by the League of Illionois Bicyclists and the DNR.  The guide is available from the DNR and on-line.  The guide's "Main Route" deviates a lot from Route 66 onto nearby roads, requiring many turns and adding significantly to the riding distance.  Generally, I found riding on Route 66 in sections the guide notes as "Advanced Shortcuts" or doesn't list at all to be reasonabe riding.  Some of that was 4-lane or 2-lane roads with no shoulders, but traffic was generally light and drivers gave wide clearance.  The guide lists services available in many of the towns along the route.

The "Mother Road" is essentially intact and generally makes for fine riding.  Much of old Route 66 is now frontage roads to I-55; in other areas it about 1 to 3 miles from the interstate (either way, the interstate carries almost all the traffic).  The pavement is generally good, with a few areas with rough surfaces.  Off-the-route trails from the Chain of Rocks bridge to Staunton, into and through Blooming/Normal, and at a few other places provide pleasant traffic-free breaks.   There are small towns at about 5 to 10 mile intervals, so services are readily available.  The towns are all viable, a switch from the ghost towns and abandoned buildings along Route 66 in the western states.  Pontiac has an interesting Route 66 Museum which is a worthwhile stop.

I combined the Katy Trail in Missouri and Illinois Route 66 into one tour.  A nice benefit of the entire route (in my view) is the lack of hills the entire tour.  Crossing bridges were the biggest climbs of the trip.

Offline Paulboth

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2013, 11:03:31 pm »
I love Route 66! I did most of it when I ran from Huntington Beach, CA to New York in 2010. I have switched it up and gotten into bicycle touring and on my second long ride this year I decided to ride from Boston back home to Huntington Beach and riding all of Route 66 since I didn't do the California or Illinois sections on my run. I was 21 days and 1,200 miles in when on October 25th  about 60 miles south of Chicago (right past Wiimington) on I53, I was struck from behind by a pickup truck. SOmeone mentioned that there isn't a shoulder a that road and that is correct. No shoulder and the guy said he didn't see me, he was going about 60. I ended up with a broken ankle, broken rib and 9 broken vertebra. I was fortunate there was no spinal damage and no internal injuries.

Route 66 is so cool and I am going to go back out and finish the ride, but I would say that there are sections where I will be willing to go off the original path to ride safer roads. Most of the rest of 66 seemed much safer. Of course I was running it and always going against traffic. It is a different beast on a bike and now, a bit more sketchy when I hear someone coming up from behind.

Offline Bicycle Rider

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2014, 08:29:11 am »
What's the sense of having a "Route 66" route that doesn't even follow Route 66? I can't speak for the road east of Shamrock Texas, but westbound from there is fine. Yes, there are many sections that have been covered in interstate, but I would rather ride in an eight foot wide shoulder completely separated from 65MPH traffic than amongst 55 mph traffic on some road with a shoulder of only 2-3 feet wide (assuming there is a shoulder at all!) ESPECIALLY west of Texas were drivers start getting rude.

And I would seriously recommend taking that double dogleg through Santa Fe and Albuquerque. After all it too is, or was a part of 66, is very scenic and certainly more pleasant than a freeway.

I took this route, and with a couple of exceptions had no problems. And Route 66 has many more accommodations BECAUSE of the freeway. Nome backwater road that no oe other than local residences use will be guaranteed desolate.
May you always have the winds at your back, and a low enough gear for the grades

Offline BrianW

Re: Skeptical about Bike Route 66
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2014, 08:40:30 am »
I bet the Rt 66 route is more targeted to Europeans, who have a much higher fascination with the route than most Americans. In Germany it's almost a mystical draw for many.