Route 66: The American Dream Abandoned

Rediscover the ghost towns of Route 66 as we take a trip down America’s most famous and historical abandoned highway.

Route 66 was once thought to be the pinnacle of the American Dream. Known as the “Mother Road,” Route 66 ran from Chicago to Santa Monica, allowing for unprecedented cross-country travel. Route 66, also known as “The Main Street of America,” connected small towns and, more importantly, people. Whole towns and industries grew up around providing services to travelers and tourists on that specific road. So, if everyone wanted to travel across the United States on the historic highway, why is so much of it now abandoned?

Numerous factors contribute to the current abandonment of Route 66. The most important factor, however, was simply progress. As we discovered new ways to travel by car, interstate highways were built, which provided faster travel than Route 66. And, as air and rail travel became easier, faster, and less expensive, driving seemed less efficient. As a result, businesses and, eventually, entire towns began to die off without travelers.

The mystique of Route 66 lives on, and many Americans still take the historic cross-country road trip for fun. Parts of the original route have been preserved, but portions of it no longer exist or are driveable. There are still plenty of adventures to be had along the way, but it’s far from what it used to be. Learn more about why the route is mainly abandoned and how the journey looks today:

Once touted as the Mother Road, Route 66 is a shadow of its former self. Rick & co-pilot Frank Gerwer take the journey to find out what remains along this nostalgic pipeline. This episode of Abandoned first aired on VICE TV in 2016.