Remembered fondly as America’s Mother Road, U.S. Route 66 has become ingrained in the collective consciousness of adventure lovers around the world. Featured in movies like Thelma & Louise and hit songs like (Get Your Kicks) On Route 66, Main Street America has captured imaginations for generations.
Although the original Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, there’s still a place travellers can visit to feel the essence and rebel spirit of the world’s most famous highway. All of the wonder, nostalgia and adventure associated with Main Street America, is packed into one tourist attraction that transports visitors back in time.
A time capsule exists in Pontiac Illinois — the Route 66 Hall of Fame.
The Route 66 Museum
Formally known as the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum, this landmark is a must-see for adventurers looking to experience the nostalgia of Main Street America. The original U.S. Route 66 that once circumnavigated Pontiac, Illinois, is now a hub for all things Route 66. Of the 3,939 kilometres (2,448 miles) that once comprised the mighty road, 484 km (301 miles) run through the city that serves as its beating heart.
Nestled in Livingston County, Pontiac’s other claim to fame was the centrepiece of the 1984 classic film Grandview, U.S.A. starring C. Thomas Howell, Jamie-Lee Curtis and Patrick Swayze. Featuring sweeping helicopter shots of Pontiac’s quaint cityscapes, the film is remembered fondly, and was the most famous representation of the west-of-Chicago city for twenty years.
The opening of the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame Museum in 2004 has altered Pontiac’s claim to fame. In the decades since it opened its doors, the destination has been host to thousands of visitors seeking to celebrate the history that makes Route 66 a lasting evocation of Americana.
The Hall of Fame Museum shares the old town firehouse with a Livingston County war museum, old jail and antique shop, collectively offering something for every person who steps through its front door.
Step Inside the Route 66 Hall of Fame
Museum guide Rose Geralds has seen her share of revellers walk into the time portal that is the Route 66 Hall of Fame. As she explains to Roadside America, “People will come in and they’ll read everything. Everything. They’ll be here for hours.”
Lining the walls are booths from original, old route businesses like Steak & Shake, memorabilia from Hall of Fame members, licence plates from across America and paintings that capture the beauty of vistas and roadside attractions seen along the highway.
Although Geralds admits the upholstery on the Steak & Shake benches has seen a replacement or two, everything else adorning the walls is 100% authentic, making the Route 66 Hall of Fame a must-see for nostalgia lovers.
Featuring a lithograph by ‘postmark artist’ Ken Turmel, his hand-drawn road map of the original Route 66 proudly displays a stamp from each of the post offices he visited along the way. The map is truly a sight to behold, as Turmel successfully visited every single location along the Mother Road, and subsequently printed a lithograph for each of the 2,448 miles it took for him to complete his quest.
Step outside the back door, turn around and face the world’s largest Route 66 shield mural that provides a photo-op for those looking to commemorate their visit. Before the day is complete, however, one must see a makeshift shrine to the Hall of Fame’s most enthusiastic inductee.
A Monument to Route 66’s Greatest Advocate
At the heart of the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, Illinois rests the now-iconic VW hippie van of Bob Waldmire. Perhaps Route 66’s most celebrated son — Bob ran the famous Hackberry General Store, another famous Mother Road attraction — both the VW and his ‘School Bus Road Yacht’ are parked on the grounds.
The vehicles are representative of Bob’s travels, as he famously spent decades cruising up and down the highway, drawing sketches of the historic places he caught a glimpse of from the roadside. Those whimsical renderings fueled the imaginations of Route 66 fans for years, bringing visitors to each of the eight states that Main Street America encompasses. Legend has it that Waldmire’s art served as the inspiration for the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame Museum itself, and so, it’s fitting that his famous hippie van and bus stand stoically among the memorabilia inside the building he helped create.
From the two boxes under the VW van that housed his marijuana paraphernalia collection to the bus that inspired the character Fillmore in the classic Pixar movie Cars, Waldmire’s vehicles represent the spirit of the counterculture so closely associated with Route 66.
Book Your Route 66 Tours Adventure
When you’re ready to make some Route 66 memories of your own, take a page from Bob Waldmire’s book and consider navigating Route 66 as it once was. When you book a Route 66 Tours adventure, our all-Aussie guides will showcase the Mother Road and many of its unique museum attractions as they were intended to be seen. We’ll take you along the back highways and dusty roads that made up the original Route 66, for an authentic adventure the Hall of Fame would be proud of.
Come count yourself among thousands of thrilled adventurers on a rumble down the Mother Road. With several of your fellow enthusiasts booking multiple times over, you’ll join a community of wanderers who have experienced the journey that has become a staple of cinema and song.
Spring, summer or fall, there’s no wrong time of the year to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. While you may not have access to a hippie VW van of your own, our guides will ensure you’re travelling comfortably and at a pace that allows you to make the most of your days on the highway.
Contact us today and make memories of your own, tripping down Route 66 on a guided adventure that showcases Main Street America the way it deserves to be seen.