The ultimate Route 66 road trip

Illinois: A good breakfast is needed on day one. Lou Mitchell's serves huge omelets and unlimited coffee, and you might meet Route 66 travelers in a nearby booth. Chicago's Millennium Park is a great spot to stretch before your trip.

Missouri: Welcome to Gateway to the West, St. Louis. Southwest Diner serves country-fried steaks and pancakes before taking a tram to the arch's pinnacle, exploring the 19th-century Anheuser-Busch brewery, or wandering high over the Mississippi on the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which jauntily curves to the north.

Oklahoma: Visit the Coleman Theater, a Spanish Revival vaudeville jewel, to see the ghost of the Chelsea Motel. Visit Totem Pole Park to see the world's largest concrete totem pole.

Texas: Texas hospitality is provided by the stunning Art Deco Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe. A former gas station/diner, the clean visitors' center has Conoco pumps and Elvis' eating booth.

New Mexico: Time transforms the arid Panhandle into the surreal American West. Blue Swallow Motel, opened in 1959 when "The Wizard of Oz" was released, has linked garages for each room, outside speakers playing Frank Sinatra, and the greatest neon sign outside of Las Vegas.

Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park's red mesas and eerie moonscape are crossed by Route 66. Hikes to the petrified logs begin at the Rainbow Forest Museum. Drive to the Blue Mesa path for a one-mile hilly badlands loop. .

California: The Golden State concludes Route 66's gradual march to the Pacific. Roy's Motel and Cafe in the Mojave Desert is a delightful stop on the way to Calico Ghost Town Regional Park.