The Automobile Club of Southern California is out with a sweet interactive map of old U.S. 66 and the western portion of the National Old Trails Road.
The map has virtual stops along the way and is superimposed over a National Old Trails Road map that predates the November, 1926, creation of U.S. 66.
When you visit the link, it first asks for your zip code to locate where you are in the AAA world. Enter and just click right through… there’s no charge.
Some history… there weren’t U.S. Highway designations before November 11, 1926. That’s well into the automobile era, as cars were relatively reliable and certainly affordable by the mid-1920s, so lots of folks were venturing out on the road.
There was no federal system of highways, so individuals put up signs directing drivers along (usually lousy) roads that usually included a detour to a gas station or other attraction. Business folks came up with the National Auto Trails that were not much better. The National Old Trails road, which ran from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, competed with other roads, such as the Bankhead Highway, which ran from D.C. to San Diego.
There were no standards for the roads, or signs. An interesting tidbit is that the Automobile Club of Southern California, which put up a majority of directional signs up to World War II, also signed the National Old Trails Road outside of its home base of Southern California, 4,000 miles east all the way to Kansas City.
Anyhow, U.S. 66 ran from Chicago to Los Angeles and became famous in the song and TV show. It’s a fun trip, although if you’re visiting San Diego, I’d suggest checking out old U.S. 80.