The romance of Route 66 captivates people from all over the world. How many travellers have you heard say, “its on my bucket list”. It was on mine for about 20 years until I got around to travelling the famous route between Chicago and Los Angeles. It wont disappoint, you’ll be taking in a great display of neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops and on display every mile of the trip….kitschy America. Route 66 earned the title “Main Street America” because it wound through small towns across the Midwest lined by hundreds of cafes, motels, gas stations and tourist attractions. Its a snap shot of what life was like in the 1930s, 40s & 50s. What killed Route 66 of cause was the thousands leaving middle America for the suburban bright lights of California and the building of expressways that bypassed the small towns.
Its a lot of fun driving Route 66, best done with a group of friends, as many as you can squeeze into a convertible mustang. A typical night stop will be at the Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico. Travelling in your home country you probably won’t even contemplate staying at a old 1940’s rundown highway motel, but its the allure of the neon signs, the chenille bedspreads, (granny used to have), the art deco tiled showers with plastic curtains and the floral wallpaper….its part of the adventure that you wont experience anywhere else.
Planing your trip:
- Distance around 2,448 miles (3,940 km)
- Best time to drive Route 66? Anytime between January to December. But beware, desert temps in summer can be +45c and Chicago in winter can be -30c
- You don’t have to travel Chicago to LA, (like the travel guides advise.) If your travelling from Australia leaving from LA makes more sense.
- How long will it take? Three to four weeks. Its a big trip with lots to see and do. Don’t shortcut your time, after all its unlikely you will be back again.
- Vehicle Hire. Yes you will see hundreds of (new) Mustangs along the way, can’t hire classics from mainstream companies anymore. Expect to pay for one way hire about US$2,500 for 21 day +++. But most practical seem to be mid sized (petrol only) SUV’s, a bit cheaper and lots of room for luggage.
- Is it safe to travel? If you like friendly people and small towns this is for you.
- My recommendation for best online starting point www.theroute-66.com
Some of my ‘don’t miss’ weird and wacky stops:
Gemini Giant. Wilmington, Illinios.
An 8-metre tall green space man holding a rocket.
Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard Shop. St Lousis, Missouri.
If I could have only one dessert for the rest of my life…
London Bridge. Lake Havasu, Arizona.
This place was once a backwater town. A resourceful local bought a 130 year old bridge spanning the Themes River in London. Had it shipped to Lake Havasu and rebuilt brick by brick. You guessed it, today its a huge tourist attraction with two million visitors a year and the local population has swelled to 50,000. Got to think big to get things done in the USofA.
Cadillac Ranch. Amarillo, Texas.
Eccentric millionaire commissioned this huge art piece located in a farmers corn paddock on the side of the road. Ten Cadillacs are buried at an angle in the ground.
Mid Point Cafe. Adrian, Texas. Once you make it to Adrian, congratulations you’ve travelled half way or 1,139 miles.
Standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona a mighty fine place to be…The town of Winslow famous for nothing but The Eagles 1972 hit. Should see how the town lives off its fame. Souvenir shops line the main street with non stop Eagles music pumping from under every awning.
The “Wild” Donkeys of Oatman, Arizona.
Old gold mining town in the Black Mountains of native Mohave Country. Dozens of wild Donkeys wander the streets. Have a drink with the locals in the Oatman Hotel, put don’t pick a fight most are packing their six shooters. The pub became famous In 1939 when Clark Gable & Carol Lombard honeymooned there. The place is a magnet for tourists, why not stop you’ve come this far.
Wigwam Motel. San Bernardino, California.
You guested it! A motel that offers guests a chance to sleep in their very own standalone 10 meter tall Indian Wigwam.
Glenrio Ghost Town. On the Texas and New Mexico border. For those wanting to experience a real ghost town. No one lives there anymore but the old buildings and signage make for very cool photos.
Bagdad Cafe. Newberry Springs, California. Not so much a restaurant, more a semi- catered film set. Located in the Mojave Desert it stays in business as a pit stop for fans of off-beat cinema. Its claim to fame was a German colt film shot in 1987. The only other famous event was a lava flow about 100 million years ago. Seems to be just in the right spot for a beer stop.
And as they say, only in America… that’s just a snapshot of what to expect. There are some very bizarre sights along Route 66, to many to mention in this Blog. Stay with me, in a later story I’ll give you my top oddball restaurants and bars to visit along the way. You wont be disappointed.