If you do ever plan to motor west, there’s still one definitive highway that’s the best. Eighty years since it was first completed, seventy since John Steinbeck called it “the mother road, the road of flight” in The Grapes of Wrath and sixty since songwriter Bobby Troup set it all down in rhyme, what better reason to visit the Southwest could there be than to get hip to this timely tip and get your kicks on Route 66?

The heyday of Route 66 as the nation’s premier cross-country route – winding from Chicago to LA – lasted barely twenty years, from its being paved in 1937 until it began to be superseded by freeways in 1957. It was officially rendered defunct in 1984, when Williams, Arizona, became the last town to be bypassed. Nonetheless, substantial stretches of the original Route 66 survive, complete with the motels and drive-ins that became icons of vernacular American architecture. Restored 1950s roadsters and the latest Harley Davisons alike flock to cruise along the atmospheric, neon-lit frontages of towns such as Albuquerque and Flagstaff, or through such empty desertscapes as those between Grants and Gallup in New Mexico or Seligman and Kingman in Arizona.

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