On our way from Phoenix to Las Vegas earlier this month (February, 2013), Ruth & I stopped in Kingman, Arizona, to check out the Route 66 Museum in the town’s old Powerhouse. After we exited, I asked the man behind the counter if he knew of other Route 66 museums. “There’s one in California,” he said. “I have a brochure here somewhere.” He proceeded to track it down and give it to me. It’s in Old Town Victorville.
I told the Kingman man that there was one in Illinois too that I planned to visit the next time I drove from St. Louis, my hometown, to Chicago, a city that Ruth & I consider our second Midwest home.
“I believe there’s a museum in every state Route 66 passed through,” he said vaguely.
I thought this over, did some research and, indeed, Route 66 memorial museums & attractions are everywhere along it length.
Illinois’ Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum is in Pontiac, home also to the Pontiac Correctional Center, the medium & maximum security prison that Rod Blagojevich tried to shut down when he was Governor. Ironically, Rod’s current address is the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado. But that’s another story. After seeing Kingman’s, I’m looking forward to visiting Pontiac’s.
Missouri doesn’t have a stand-alone 66 museum, but there’s a Route 66 Tourist Information Center on the 1st level of the Jordan Valley Car Park in Springfield and a museum in Lebanon’s Laclede County Library.
People getting their travel fix on Route 66 until the Interstate replaced it spent their shortest time in Kansas, which had only 13 miles of this iconic highway. What’s left is reportedly among the best preserved beginning with the town of Galena that’s just across the Missouri/Kansas border.
Oklahoma has the longest, still drivable section of the original highway and a major museum in Clinton–the aptly named Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. Its website calls it “the ultimate Route 66 experience” and notes that its galleries have been recently redesigned. That Oklahoma has a major 66 focus became understandable when I recalled that many Okies left Dust Bowl OK and headed for CA. John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, still the best book I’ve ever read, tells what 66 was like in the 1930s.
The Texas Route 66 Museum in McLean opened in 1991. It was the first of its kind and boasts that its “modest collection of artifacts” is authentic because all items on display came from original 66 businesses with no replicas.
New Mexico has a Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa that reliable tripadvisor gives four green dots out of 5. Its specialty appears to be classic cars.
I’ll tell you about Kingman’s Route 66 museum tomorrow.