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Kansas

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Kansas, a landlocked state in the heart of the United States, holds a unique and fascinating connection to the iconic Route 66. While Route 66 is traditionally associated with the western states, particularly California, the state of Kansas plays a crucial role in the history and charm of this legendary highway.

Route 66, often referred to as the “Main Street of America,” was established in 1926 as one of the original U.S. highways, spanning 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. It became a symbol of American freedom and adventure, as it allowed travelers to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and cultures. Kansas, located in the central part of the route, provided a pivotal crossroads for those journeying along Route 66.

One of the most significant connections between Kansas and Route 66 is the town of Galena. This small town, located in the southeastern corner of the state, is famous for its historical mining heritage and connection to the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars.” The character Mater in the film is based on a 1951 International boom truck from Galena, and the town’s main street retains a classic Route 66 feel, complete with vintage signage, diners, and quirky roadside attractions.

Travelers on Route 66 in Kansas are also treated to a diverse array of landscapes, from the rolling Flint Hills to the open plains. The Flint Hills, often called the “Tallgrass Prairie,” provide a beautiful natural backdrop along the route, showcasing the beauty of the American heartland. Alongside Route 66, you can find scenic byways and state parks that offer ample opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and experiencing the charm of rural America.

One of the most famous landmarks in Kansas along Route 66 is the Rainbow Bridge in Baxter Springs. This historic bridge, built in 1923, was a vital crossing on the route. Its name comes from the colorful neon lights that once adorned it, making it a beacon for travelers. Although the neon lights are no longer there, the Rainbow Bridge still stands as a testament to the rich history of the highway.

The town of Baxter Springs, like many others along Route 66, has preserved the essence of the highway’s golden era. Antique shops, classic diners, and vintage gas stations are scattered along the route, giving visitors a sense of nostalgia and the opportunity to step back in time to experience the Americana of the 1950s and 1960s.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Route 66 and its history. Many communities in Kansas have embraced this interest, working to preserve and restore the historic landmarks and create visitor-friendly attractions. The state of Kansas has recognized the significance of Route 66, and efforts to protect and promote its heritage continue to grow.

In conclusion, Kansas is an integral part of the Route 66 story, providing a unique blend of natural beauty, historic landmarks, and the essence of Americana. The state’s connection to this iconic highway allows travelers to explore a piece of American history and experience the charm of the open road. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a road trip aficionado, or simply looking for a taste of classic Americana, Kansas and Route 66 offer an unforgettable journey.

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