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Pedaling Route 66

Those who have tried to drive the iconic 2,493 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles known as Route 66 will tell you it is no simple task.

The route, which was officially decommissioned from the national highway system in 1985, is famous for a lack of signs, multiple alignments and sections in New Mexico and Arizona that were never paved.

So it’s no wonder that it took the Adventure Cycling Association four years of mapping and advocacy work to complete a comprehensive map and guide system to the Mother Road.

“It takes a while to craft long-distance routes,” Jim Sayer, the executive director of the Missoula-based nonprofit, says in a news release. “For Route 66, our goal was to stay as close as possible to the original corridor, while keeping as much of it on paved road as we could,” says Sayer.

The association says it took six cartographers, four on-the-ground researchers and cooperation from state tourism bureaus to get the guide series done. The maps were released for sale on March 2.

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Locally, a celebration of the route will take place on April 19 at Balloon Fiesta Park with a ride on a portion of the route and a presentation by officials from the Adventure Cycling Association.

Chris Marsh, of the New Mexico Touring Society, said his group has been working on the project since 2010. And, while one of the goals was to be true to the origins of the route, part of the adventure is working in some of the state’s attractions.

For example, because the original route is now Interstate 40, the route in the western part of New Mexico veers a little to the south near Grants to be able to include El Malpais National Monument’s geologic vistas.

Another area of slight variation is the corridor from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, which would traditionally follow Interstate 25.

“We took that portion down the Turquoise Trail (NM 14 through Madrid) instead,” Marsh said.

Marsh says his group worked with a variety of state and local agencies to make the route a reality. And, he’s hoping the route will add to the state’s tourism efforts.

“Route 66 has been a draw to the area for a long time,” he said. “This has the potential to draw a different type of tourist.”

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The route is broken into six separate sections of roughly 400 miles each. Printed on waterproof, tear-proof paper, the map shows turn-by-turn navigation, while the flipside includes detailed field notes on the history, topography and natural history of Route 66, as well as key services such as budget lodging in classic hotels, campgrounds, libraries with internet access, hardware stores, grocery stores and essential stops in remote segments.

Digitally, ACA has Twitter hashtags for all major routes that riders can use to find the latest updates. For ACA members (a membership costs $40 per year), there are also GPS waypoints for the route and services along the way.

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