CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the most famous highways in the world starts in downtown Chicago.

“It’s called the Main Street of America or the Mother Road,” professional tour guide Dave Clark tells CBS 2’s Kate Sullivan. “Route 66 started right on the corner of Michigan and Adams. People walk by it every day and have no idea the amazing history that started right here.”

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Clark, a historian and lover of all things Chicago, has literally written the book on Route 66, which started at Michigan and Adams.

In 1926, Jackson Street was one of the only streets in downtown Chicago without a trolley car, making it the ideal spot to start a U.S. highway and connect the east coast and west coast.

“If you wanted to get to California you had to come to Chicago to do it,” Clark says.

Nowadays, the remnants of Route 66 are a magnet for all those who love the open road and a slice of Americana.

First stop on the route is Chicago’s longest-running breakfast restaurant -– Lou Mitchell’s.

“We were here in 1923, and Route 66 didn’t start until 1926. We were here waiting for them,” Heleen Thanas says.

Route 66 seems to draw people from all over the world, including Ian Metcalfe of New Zealand.  

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“I feel like this is the land of opportunity, that if you have that good idea you can go a long way,” he says. “I think Route 66 signifies that.”

And then there was the song, “Get Your Kicks On Route 66.” Many people remember it written in 1946 by Bobby Troup and sung by Nat King Cole.

Nearly 2,500 miles stretch between Chicago and Los Angeles. Along the route are museums, restaurants and a constantly changing landscape that make the highway a must-drive for bikers, history buffs and anyone who wants to capture the spirit of this country.

“Some of them are saying it’s the adventure of a lifetime they’ve been looking forward to,” Clark says. “They are looking for what is left of the American open road.”

To learn more about Clark’s tours, click here.

Your Chicago with Rob & Kate

Your Chicago with Rob & Kate

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