Route 66: 20 Days on the Road and 5149 Miles!
SELIGMAN, AZ to ORANGE, CA – 407 Miles
The hardest part of a 20 day motorcycle trip is day 21 and standing still. We’re home now, and I swear I feel this sort of emptiness, this longing to be back on the road. There’s just something about it.
Thursday morning we said goodbye to our new friends John and Wendy–them heading to Vegas, us to Orange–and hightailed it out of Seligman.
And I mean hightailed it. Since we’ve seen every inch of 66 between Orange and Winslow (and we needed to get home and move our truck before it got towed for the holiday weekend) we burned up the miles on the Interstate, beating the heat and SoCal rush hour.
Two days later, I can still feel the vibration of the asphalt, and man, do I miss it.
As a kid, summer vacation meant being on the road. My dad made a point of finding every small highway in existence on our annual cross-country summer trek (in fact, the summer I got my driver’s license, I drove our motorhome down the Natchez Trace). I’m sure we spent time on the Mother Road, although I don’t remember it specifically. While I loved our vacations, I didn’t fully appreciate my dad’s choice of routes, but now I get it. Yes, Interstates are efficient, but they rob America of character. Traveling by Interstate you lose the nuance of the road, the twists and turns, the cafes and main streets and people waving, and instead get strip malls and chain restaurants and endless miles of superslab. My least favorite moments during our three weeks on the road weren’t the many detours nor the times we lost the route and had to u-turn and backtrack to find it again. My least favorite times were being surrounded by asphalt and big rigs (no offense, John!).
On this trip, I realized just how important it is to keep the old road alive! There’s something magical about it, silly as that might sound.
As we rode through some of the historic neighborhoods I wondered if the people who live in these communities get annoyed by the flow of tourist traffic, but then someone would wave or give a thumbs up and we’d know that they too want to preserve what’s left of the Mother Road, and appreciate those of us who feel the same.
I’ve gotta tell ya, the bulk of the people exploring the route weren’t Americans, but foreign tourists. We need to appreciate our own history and make sure it doesn’t get mowed down with more homogenized crap. The dust bowl days and westward movement are a fascinating element to our country’s growth, and Route 66 plays such a huge part. In fact, I’ve downloaded Grapes of Wrath on my Kindle to read again with a new perspective. (By the way, did you know that’s where the term Mother Road came from?)
There’s so much to see along the way and people to meet. I read somewhere that you could travel by Interstate for a week and not have a conversation with anyone. Not so on Route 66. People want to share the adventure, which makes the experience that much more rewarding. To every person we met along the way who enhanced our own trip in so many ways, thank you.
Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the hokey sentimental stuff, but seriously, that’s what kind of an impact this trip had on me.
So my top “Must Do” picks for each category:
Sections of Road
* Arizona. The section between Kingman AZ east to Crookton Road is one of the best, taking you through Hackberry (where you must go in and pet Max at the general store) and Seligman.
* Oklahoma. The section between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Fast (65 mph) and fabulous! Plus, it’s where you’ll find the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum! Also, just outside of Miami, there’s an old alignment for the adventurous, a single lane section of fragmented asphalt that eventually disappears into gravel and dirt.
* Missouri. Between Carthage and Springfield. Pastures and rolling green. Simply fantastic. Plus, you can visit with Gary at the Historic Gay Parita Sinclair Station!
* Missouri. East of Devil’s Elbow, the old concrete divided highway. One of my favorites for the surreal-ness of it.
* Illinois. The mile and a half brick section near Auburn. WOW. Seriously. Hand-laid brick you can still drive over. An absolute MUST.
* Winslow, AZ. The Motor Palace, of course!! And by all means… PLEASE take a picture of yourself with the building and send it our way and check-in on Facebook!
* Seligman, AZ. You simply must stop and enjoy what the Delgadillos have done to bring back the Route.
* Arcadia, OK. The big round barn. Architecturally stunning inside with amazing acoustics.
* The countless restored gas stations along the way, and there are MANY. Favorite one? Spencer, MO.
* Main Street USA. Every single town square and main street across the entire stretch of the route. I loved them all.
* Breakfast at pretty much any mom and pop place along the way. We didn’t have a single bad experience.
* BBQ in Cuba MO at the Missouri Hick, perfect pulled pork and outstanding sides, like the baked sweet potato and the green beans. Plus, all the great wooden furniture in the place is made by the same guy who makes the BBQ, the owner!
* Pie at Palm Grill in Atlanta, Illinois. I kept hunting for great pie on this trip, but found only a handful worth talking about, and this was one of them. A delicious, flakey-crusted cherry pie.
* Tucumcari, NM. The Blue Swallow Motel. Not only are the proprietors, Kevin and Nancy, fantastic hosts, the motel is simply adorable and hey! Each room has a garage! Can’t beat that! As we traveled Route 66, nearly every place we stayed mentioned Kevin and Nancy and what a fantastic job they’re doing, and we agree.
* Carthage, MO. The Boots Motel. If you love period correct things, this is absolutely the place for you. At this point, there are only a handful of rooms finished, but they are DONE RIGHT, down to antique chenille bedspreads in some rooms. If I had to pick a favorite, this might win for the total step back in time.
* Cuba, MO. The Wagon Wheel Motel. A Route 66 legend and must stay (in fact, we stayed there twice!). Nicely remodeled with super comfortable beds and tasteful decor. Cute inside and out and fabulous neon.
* Seligman, AZ. I simply can’t leave out the Canyon Lodge. I’m generally not one for theme motels, but this one is just so perfect in its kitchy-ness and SPOTLESSLY clean. We had the Marilyn room, pure perfection in pink.
* Pontiac, IL. But wait!!! One more! Lydia’s Loft… absolutely AMAZING. An entire loft to yourself, two bedroom, kitchen, living room overlooking the town square and courthouse. A one-of-a-kind lodging experience. Plus, there’s great breakfast downstairs at Lydia’s Cup!
If you’re thinking of taking a Route 66 trip, just do it. Don’t plan an itinerary for each day, just follow the road and take the journey it wants you to take. If you pre-plan, you’re bound to miss things. Just explore and enjoy.
It is helpful, however, to have guidance. A good map, or, if you have an iPhone, the app ROAD TRIP 66. It helped tremendously in getting us back on track when we lost course. I also downloaded Route 66 Adventure Handbook on my Kindle. At the end of each day, I’d read up on the leg ahead, that way I’d know what to look for and the history behind it. Also, don’t feel bad that you can’t stop at every single attraction. It would take months to do it right. There’s just SO much to see.
And my number one advice?? Do it on a motorcycle!!
Okay. I’ve rambled on entirely too long. Much as I don’t want to, it’s now time to return to the real world.
Until my next great adventure….