U.S. Route 61
If Route 66 and US-62 allow travelers to experience the country's varying cultures through lateral transportation, U.S. Route 61 exists to bring southerners up north. The highway system itself is closer to the middle of the country than it is the east, connecting New Orleans, LA with Wyoming, MN. Stretching just over 1,400 miles, this highway system was very important for trade before the continental highway system was ever in place. While trade was possible in the early 19th century thanks to the Mississippi River, U.S. Route 61 allowed wagons to deliver goods more easily and quickly than ever before. Also known as the Great River Road, U.S. Route 61 follows the direction of the Mississippi River almost perfectly.
The Great River Road passes through eight different states on its journey north into Minnesota. After departing Louisiana and entering Mississippi, U.S. Route 61 then takes riders into Tennessee and Arkansas. From there, travelers will then hit Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and finally Minnesota. There are no mountain roads or crazy switchbacks that lead riders through adrenaline-pumping terrains. U.S. 61 is more of an adventurous ride that takes motorcyclists through a bit of United States history. While the original U.S. 61 reached all the way to the Canada border, it was later shortened when Minnesota built a newer highway system and decommissioned the final 300 miles of U.S. 61.
The path that U.S. Route 61 follows has been used for centuries by natives, European explorers and American settlers alike. Because of its close proximity to the Mississippi River, towns along the Great River Road offer travelers a window into yesteryear. Because of this, the entire duration of the highway is well worth a travel if you have some time on your side. No matter where you start or where you're headed, the Louisiana stretch of U.S. Route 61 should be a top priority for your motorcycle ride. With an ending destination of New Orleans, nearby highways and road systems offer travelers beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico.
If you plan on making the journey on U.S. Route 61 all at once, or at least traveling through consecutive days, you'll want to take the time of year into great consideration. Mid-70-degree weather in Louisiana is one thing, while Minnesota could harbor weather in the low 40s. You'll want to pack a few different types of jackets that offer youvery different ability to breathe. If you're a seasoned rider and this isn't your first multi-day road trip, you probably already know how much you need to pack.
The Great River Road is unlike many other highway systems in the country. Sure, Route 66 is iconic in its own way, but there's good reason why Bob Dylan titled one of his most recognizable albums Highway 61 Revisited. There's a certain American flair that comes with traveling U.S. 61, and it simply cannot be replicated anywhere in the world.