Get your cycling kicks on Route 66

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Cyclists who want to taste a small slice of Americana at 12 to 14 mph might be happy to know that the League of Illinois Bicyclists and the state have published a map of Illinois' Route 66 Trail.

Roger Kramer's Favorite Cycling Tours brings us the news that the maps with north to south (Chicago to St. Louis) cue sheets are available online.

For safety reasons, much of the 380-mile route doesn't actually use Old Route 66. You can't get many kicks if you're worried about getting run down on a busy highway. Kramer says:

“As you might imagine, the trail also strays off the alignments of Route 66 in the Chicago area, again because of heavy traffic on the streets that were part of Route 66. Through the rest of the state. the trail often does stray from the Route 66 alignments, but the map gives advanced cyclists the option of using the actual alignments.”

Trail segment maps are available online and feature notations for convenience stores, lodging, restaurants, camping, bike stores — anything a cyclist might need while pedaling along the historic road.

Route 66, known as the Mother Road, carried highway travelers between Chicago and Los Angeles beginning in the 1920s. It helped open up the west to truckers, vacationers and the Grapes of Wrath immigrants.

According to The Mother Road: Historic Route 66 (that's a picture from their site above), the section in Illinois started out as the Pontiac Trail in 1915; the road signs for Route 66 went up in 1927 and came down in 1977 when the Route was decommissioned. The Mother Road website would be a great one to check out as a companion to the bike maps, as it describes many landmarks along the way.

The number of Route 66 websites are numerous, and looking at them just makes me want to get on my bicycle and ride someplace new.

The National Historic Route 66 Federation has more info and a gallery, as well as copies of old postcards. There's also a Route 66 Association of Illinois website with lots of local facts and figures.

There are ways to ride the entire Route 66 corridor. PAC Tours is leading a tour that begins April 15 in Santa Monica and ends May 14 in Chicago, although that tour is full for riders going all the way through. The 29 day tour averages about 85 miles a day to complete the 2,500-mile cycling adventure. Wide tires are recommended for abandoned sections with broken concrete or gravel. Who's leading the tour? Ever heard of Lon Haldeman? He's co-founder of Race Across America.

Can you bicycle Route 66? I guess so. A group of fifth-graders has done it.

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