Category Archives: Route 66 Honeymoon
We dared to take a cross-country honeymoon on Route 66. Hilarity ensued.
Waking up in Needles, we found out why it has been named the Hottest Town in the Country. It’s a strange type of climate for someone who never experienced anything but humidity. It’s hot, but it’s not suffocating. The fact that 105 degrees could be NOT suffocating is dumbfounding to me. Needles is a town that is trying, but there just isn’t a lot of money coming in. There was a lot of history there, though, that is worth exploring.
The nearby landscape is incredibly stark. I would have more photos….but it is just this. Hours and hours of THIS.
Ludlow doesn’t have much left, but they did salvage their old cafe. Sadly, their old bank collapsed a couple of years ago.
The Dry Creek Station in Newberry Springs has gone through several incarnations, now abandoned. They have a Pistachio Festival every year and the line of old-looking buildings in one of the photos below are part of that. I loved the Route 66 they had painted on their road…mainly because it told us we were still going the right way.
Daggett is another old mining town in CA. The Desert Market used to be where miners would exchange their loot for money. The Stone Hotel was supposed to be renovated but unfortunately, it looks like progress has stopped on the rehab. The odd-looking pointy building is locally known as “The Ski Lodge Roof House.” It was originally a visitor’s center in the ’20s but now someone lives there. With the luck I had with small-town dogs on this trip, I’m lucky Cujo didn’t come running from behind the house and take off my right leg. Daggett was blissfully angry-dog-free, however.
Barstow is where I-40 dead-ends into I-15, and it’s a relatively busy town. The Sante Fe Railroad is fairly sizable here as well as a local military base. I would like to add that their local McD’s is in a massive train car, which actually makes it…well, cool. Barstow had a lot of cool, Route-66-era signs and buildings. The locals were pretty friendly too.
Victorville is this odd hub in the middle of the Mojave. We drove miles and miles and miles and saw nothing, and then…all of a sudden…Victorville. They have what looks like a cool California Route 66 Museum…I say “looks like” because it is evidently closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Of course. They had some interesting murals and artifacts outside, but what really struck me was the grave for “Brownie,” a stray dog who lived at the train station and greeted WWII troops as they passed through Victorville.
Cajon Pass, CA. It’s right off the interstate and this is all it seems to have, but really, what else do you need in life besides a gigantic cannon aimed right at San Bernardino?
The next few sections are noticeably sparse, and I will be point-blank honest. Many areas in Metro LA are desperately unphotogenic. We thought it was about to storm, but no…if you’ve never seen it, I can’t even describe the smog in LA. There is a haze of smog nearly 150 miles thick covering the area that you can see for miles away. That, and half the people we saw looked like they belonged on “Lock-Up.” In fact, San Bernardino was downright terrifying. So as we were driving on Route 66, we didn’t feel totally comfortable stopping in the first few areas. Once it got safer (around Fontana and then beyond) we were so exhausted from the lack of pure oxygen in LA…we had gotten used to fresh air in the desert… that very little seemed worth pulling off and photographing. Now, as I look back on that afternoon….yeah, I don’t regret that decision at all.
Fontana, CA. This used to be citrus country, and the orange stand and the restaurant behind it was worth the stop.
One of the bus stops between Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga.
Rancho Cucamonga is a huge wine community. In fact, the oldest winery in California is here. The area is very ritzy-looking, but despite the high-brow appearance, they love the tackiness of Route 66 and embrace it.
This is still Rancho Cucamonga, but I would like to add that, at night, this lamp spouts out fire. Yes, real fire. That is all.
Crappy photo, but it’s freaking San Dimas. Of “Bill and Ted” fame. Adam so wanted his photo in front of a San Dimas sign playing air guitar, but sadly, none seem to exist. San Dimas is a huge equestrian community. Who knew?
Huge neon sign in front of the still-running Golden Spur in Glendora, CA.
Azusa used to have a killer drive-in theatre, but Azusa Pacific College bought the property and demolished it. However, they saved the old sign and now use it to promote their activities. They also supplied one of my favorite Route 66 sign shots that I took on the entire trip.
In between Azusa and Pasadena are Monrovia and Arcadia. Arcadia, especially, is quite nice, but it was pretty suburban and therefore nothing really stood out to photograph. So thus I give you, in all its glory, the emblem on the side of our abode in Pasadena, the Saga Motel. Behold. It is medieval. Awesome.
Pasadena was probably our favorite spot on California’s Route 66. The food was great, the people were nice, and it had a great small-town vibe. If you’re ever passing through, grab some pasta at a local chain called the Novel and then have a pint at Lucky Baldwin’s. The staff are some of the friendliest in LA and – I don’t normally photograph my food – the Novel has some incredible fettucine alfredo with asparagus and mushrooms. Also, Pasadena has a thrift store called Out of the Closet. File that under “Ideas Someone In Atlanta Should Have Surely Thought Of By Now.”
The next day, we ventured forth to the finish line! Again, we passed through many neighborhoods, including Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Why are there no photographs? Because it was incredibly underwhelming. The weather was overcast, the neighborhoods were incredibly sketch with the exception of West Hollywood (which has a lot of nice restaurants, stores, and a very boastful gay porn theatre smack in the middle of their main district), and every time we tried to roll down the windows, it smelled like someone had left a pile of wet towels in the dryer overnight. So, with no stops, we went straight to Santa Monica.
It took us over an hour.
Finally! Santa Monica! After 30 minutes – no joke – we finally found parking and headed for the pier. It was cloudy and cold, but no matter…we were minutes from our goal!
SUCCESS! The very end of Santa Monica Pier, at the Pacific Ocean.
We headed back onto the pier and stopped at the official Route 66 booth, run by the former president of the California Route 66 Association. The guy working the booth was awesome and took our photo with the official sign. Actually, the REAL official sign is about 10 stories tall further down the boardwalk, but…of course…it was taken down two days earlier to be moved to the front of the pier. It’s okay; this sign works fine for now.
My first step ever in the Pacific Ocean. It felt like the North Pole. This didn’t last long.
The sun! We ran back up to the pier and took another photo, then took advantage of the park.
We bought tickets for the plunge drop and the Ferris Wheel. These were taken on top of the Ferris Wheel.
We grabbed a bite at the Mexican restaurant, Marisol’s. There were pigeons everywhere, but luckily, I like pigeons. This guy was true L.A., ready for his closeup.
We met a cool couple, Julie and Kim, at the pub. He was the first Swede I’ve ever met with dreadlocks. We hung with them quite a bit…he and Adam bonded over their mutual love of Star Trek. I’m glad to see true nerds – people who are proud of it – span coast-to-coast.
We finished! The official plaque ending Will Rogers Memorial Highway.
If you have never taken the journey of Route 66, I can’t recommend it enough. It will change your life. Route 66 characters at the beginning of our trip informed us of the experiences we would have, the people we would meet, and how it would impact us…and I believed them. I had no idea how much it would affect me. The sheer beauty of a part of the country I’d never seen. The graciousness of the people we met (yes, even in LA!!) The architecture, the history…
The only thing I can’t understand is why we met so many other Route 66-ers from foreign countries and hardly travelers from our own. Why wouldn’t we want to delve into this part of our history, travel the road so many before us took? These towns need us, these people want us to come visit and meet them. The towns, sights, and locals you meet along the way will stay with you forever.
We are without a doubt taking this trip again, hopefully with a few extra days tacked on to really explore the towns. We want to really get to know where we are, see how other people live, and remind ourselves that there IS a world outside of Atlanta. We get so caught up in where to go, what to do, where to be seen here in Atlanta that it can be really humbling to meet residents of these small towns who are perfectly content wearing Walmart jeans and hanging out in the local diner. We should all have that kind of ease in our everyday lives. And that is what I’ve taken from Route 66.
That, and my new husband and I are capable of spending two-and-a-half weeks in an SUV together without one of us throwing the other into the Mississippi. That would be proof right there, folks, of a solid marriage. Case closed!
We still had about 30 miles left of New Mexico…first stop was Budville, where they have completely restored the Budville Trading Company, which is a former gas station, garage, and general store from around 1935. Also around Budville was an abandoned tourist court and motel sign.
The landscape in New Mexico is so incredibly striking, especially the lava fields. There were a bunch of dormant volcanoes out in the desert.
Grants, NM has a bunch of old motel signs, cafes, an old theatre, and a cool park on Route 66. They completely own 66, down to the neon surrounding the post office. They have also done a good job repurposing old buildings, like the early 20th century hotel across the street from the post office that has been turned into a photography studio.
Between the long stretch of road between Grants and Thoreau, there were some abandoned motels and an old trading post with some great murals. Also along the way was a train with an entire stock of military tanks, whose conductor honked and waved at us as it went by. Adam is temporarily out of commission as his head exploded at that very moment.
Continental Divide, NM is where the dividing line is that supposedly means water to the east will flow towards the Atlantic and water to the west will flow to the Pacific. The Roaming Animal was pretty excited. Off to the side was what looked like an abandoned sweat lodge.
Gallup, NM was a kind of depressing place. It was the only town we weren’t crazy about in the state, mainly because we got accosted by a seriously crazy homeless man. They do have some cool old motels, all of which are still fully functional and none of which unfortunately are being used for the purposes they were originally intended. The one crown jewel is El Rancho Hotel, where tons of celebrities from back in the day used to stay. It is the oasis in the midst of the chaos.
Arizona! You have to take I-40 through a lot of it, so we took care to follow our guidebook and note the exits we wanted to see. Just inside the state line was a cool trading post built into a red rock with painting and animals up on the ledges. We also found a still-open trading post where we picked up some handmade items. Further on was an abandoned Route 66 era pancake restaurant, Fort Courage Trading Post, and the ruins of another restaurant.
We had to make a stop at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park. First off is the Painted Desert. It is absolutely stunning, although we were told that it is actually most beautiful at dusk or dawn. Bummer.
Route 66 used to run right through what is now the National Park. They have a memorial to it displayed on the drive through the park. If you look behind the vehicle, you can see a line of old utility poles. That is where Route 66 once was.
Petrified Forest. It was INCREDIBLY windy. Oh, and never set two immature adults loose in a park that specializes in anything involving logs. That is all.
After you leave the Forest, there is a direct route to Holbrook, AZ, which then puts you back on Route 66. Adam dug the dinosaur they had on display in their park.
At long last, the heavens opened up, angels sang, and we came upon the fabled Wigwam Motel. Once upon a time, there were seven of these gems, the first of which is near Bowling Green in Horse Cave, KY. This one has been fully restored and isn’t far off the interstate, should you ever pass through this part of Arizona. I have a feeling it is well worth the trip.
Near Holbrook is Geronimo, where the trading post has what they claim is the World’s Largest Petrified Log on display. Again, the immaturity ensued.
The Jackrabbit Trading Post!! It is one of the most famous locations on all of Route 66, mainly because of its marketing. Back during Route 66’s heyday, billboards lined the road for eons, counting down the miles til the Jackrabbit, showing only the rabbit silhouette and the number of miles left. There aren’t many signs left, but you can still climb on the giant rabbit, see the main sign, and shop in the original store.
A cool old motor court near the Jackrabbit.
Winslow, AZ got mention in the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy” (Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona /And such a fine sight to see/It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford/Slowin’ down to take a look at me) and do they ever milk that for all it’s worth. The song plays on constant repeat at the corner store, they have a mural commemorating the song, there is a bronze statue…That said, they are working hard to bring people to Winslow and it seems to be working. There were new shops and restaurants opening up, artist studios (one of which had a cool old ad on the side of the building), and it was nearly impossible to get a good shot without tourists in the way.
The Twin Arrows Trading Post is blocked off by a chain-link fence, which I hope means someone has bought it and is renovating. Those arrows sticking in the ground are awesome. A new Native American casino has opened up on the other side of I-40. That could either bring more business to the trading post or completely kill it off. Here’s hoping for the former.
We fell in love with Flagstaff – the Asheville of the Southwest. Seriously, we were one drum circle short of full-on Portland. The two old hotels downtown, Hotel Weatherford and Monte Vista, are both reputedly haunted. We wanted to stay at Monte Vista but about 900 Australian dirt bikers showed up just before us and after about 30 minutes of waiting, we gave up and found a place just outside of downtown. The locals, however, are incredibly friendly, the food and beer are to die for, and if you ever visit, remember to take it easy on the imbibements as you are 6000 feet above sea level. Altitude sickness is no joke. We met a couple of the locals at the Monte Vista Lounge and then at the Hotel Weatherford, including Blue, a kitty at the Weatherford who likes to chill in the chair next to you at the bar. Adam decided to taunt the ghosts – he popped into an empty side dining room and said something about the ghosts proving they were there. Five seconds later, a waiter passing by on the stairs promptly fell and dropped his tray and food everywhere. Adam pulled us out of there pretty quickly after that.
The Parks in the Pines General Store in Parks, AZ. It’s pre-Route 66, from 1921, and completely restored. The surrounding areas are stunning. I always forget, sadly, that Arizona has green spaces and mountains. Northern AZ is incredible.
Near Parks is the Deer Farm, where they have rescued injured animals and you can actually feed the deer. The deer like the food. A lot. They will follow you. A lot. A local couple videotaped Adam at one point, telling the camera that he was the “Deer Whisperer.” You can also feed llamas, alpacas, and a camel. They have peacocks, monkeys…the place is pretty cool if you ever get the chance to go. Just remember the deer like the food. A lot.
Adam was disappointed when we first got there, confused by the concept of “petting zoo” and “immobile statue.”
Williams, AZ was the last town to be bypassed when Route 66 gave way to the interstate in 1984. It loves Route 66, it loves the nearby Grand Canyon, it loves the Old West, and it loves tourists. It is pretty much the Gatlinburg of Arizona. It also claims to have the largest Route 66 road sign in existence. We ate at Rod’s Steakhouse, which has been serving Route 66-ers since 1946. It looks fairly modern on the inside until you need to use the restroom…in the basement. It’s like going through a time warp. They also have the biggest homemade steak fries I have ever seen in my life.
Ash Fork, AZ doesn’t have much, but there are these cool old buildings showing they recognize Route 66 as part of their history.
At Crookton Road, we began driving the longest unbroken section of old 66 – all the way to the AZ-CA state line.
All through this section of 66, you see lines of brown signs, each with a verse that ends in a Burmashave ad. Some were safe driving poetry, others were humorous. A couple of examples (each section was a separate sign, about 200 feet apart): “Train approaching / Whistle squealing / Stop / Avoid that run-down feeling / Burma-Shave” and “You can drive/A mile a minute/But there is no/Future in it/Burmashave”. It definitely keeps you occupied on the super-long stretch of road.
Seligman, AZ loves you. Really. They love you and want you to come visit them soon. The pictures below should be proof enough. This and nearly 1000 tourists were crammed into about a mile of road, out in the middle of nowhere. Traffic nearly disappeared the moment I-40 opened, so they truly love and appreciate every tourist they have and will do whatever it takes to make sure you are entertained.
Some political candidates apparently take a very different route after losing an election.
The Grand Canyon Caverns, not far past Seligman, are by far one of my favorite roadside attractions on Route 66. They used to be the Dinosaur Caverns until it was discovered that the skeleton found in the caverns, originally thought to be a lizard of the dino variety, was in fact a giant sloth. Denied! Therefore, the name was changed to the Grand Canyon Caverns (but the truly awesome dinosaur paraphernalia lives on, thankfully.) The caverns are nothing like Meremac and Ruby Falls in that they are completely dry. They stopped forming 10 million years ago. The air is crystal clear down there and absolutely no creepy-crawlies live in the caverns. Weddings have happened in the caverns and the tradition is to leaves your flowers – because they stay intact from the zero-humidity air. There are perfectly preserved flowers from 1977 and on (as well as a garter from last Halloween.) There is also a mummified bobcat. They were originally discovered when a local thought he had discovered gold and silver. When he found out he wasn’t even in the neighborhood of finding riches, he opened the caverns as a tourist trap by lowering people in, one at a time, on a rope alone with a lantern. Sounds safe enough. Luckily, now we have an elevator. The Caverns are a recognized fallout shelter – there are Cold-War era crackers and gallons of water. There are also huge containers intended for toilets. One thing that wasn’t sent? Lights. The gallons of water and toilet containers are the exact same shape. Do the math. Why am I able to tell you all of this? The staff was incredibly knowledgeable AND generous: they gave me free booklets and pamphlets (that weren’t originally free) to use for my blog.
Oh, and if you have a spare $700 lying around, you are cordially invited to spend the night in a fully functional hotel room the Caverns created in a very large cavern. They take you down, give you flashlights, turn off all the lights in the Caverns except the room you are in, and come get you in the morning. You are welcome to explore but just know – there are no living creatures in the Caverns. So if you so much as hear a peep in the distance, you know it wasn’t you AND it couldn’t be anything alive. *twitch* Adam really wants to…he may have to take the Roaming Animal in my place.
The Frontier Motel and Restaurant in Truxton, AZ.
There’s a lot of really cool terrain out in this part of Arizona. I got pretty pumped about dust devils. We even got to drive right through one. (A dust devil is a small, dusty, less-terrifying tornado that comes about from all the winds blowing across the flat lands.)
The current owners of the Hackberry General Store, John and Kerry Pritchard, have lovingly restored it to its original state and filled it with what they call “The Mother Lode of Mother Road Memorabilia.” They even built a small town in the back. It’s definitely worth the stop.
Somewhere between Hackberry and Kingman was this gem. It wasn’t in our guidebook, but it was called the Gigantus Headicus and upon doing some research, we found out it is in Anteres, AZ and it sits in front of the old Ranchero Motel. Adam nearly pealed off the Route when he spotted it. It is a new creation, but the motel actually wasn’t.
Kingman, AZ still retains a lot of its tourist trap history and plenty still stop over here. The town was hopping. One of my favorites was the El Trovotore Motel, where we are hoping to stay on our next trip. The owner was so proud of his motel…even though it was too early for us to stay, he came outside when he spotted me taking photos and gave me a bit of the backstory. El Trovotore started out as a 1937 gas station and then evolved into a tourist court. They are in the process of painting the World’s Longest Mural of Route 66 along the walkway of the motel. Each room has its own theme. If we weren’t on such a time crunch, I really would have liked to have stayed here…also because we would have hit Oatman while it was open. (More of those photos in a moment.)
The scenery between Kingman and Oatman is nothing less than breathtaking. You travel high up in the mountains and the views span for miles.
A renovated gas station-turned-tourist information plaza along the route to Oatman.
We saw a family of mountain goats!
Oatman, AZ is legendary. It is a true old mining town that takes somewhere along nine years to get to, but it is worth the trip. We unfortunately arrived after everything had closed down for the evening…except the burros. The burros are descendants of the original donkeys and burros brought as beasts of burden by the original miners. They have specific dietary restrictions but, if you are there while the town is open, you can purchase special carrots. We even spotted a mother and baby burro. The Oatman Hotel is reputedly haunted (they placed a “ghost” in one of the windows as a joke) but as of right now, you can no longer stay there and meet “Oatie.” Their restaurant is said to be phenomenal.
I LOVED this sign posted on one of the buildings in Oatman. Arizona doesn’t play.
Old abandoned pueblo en route from Oatman to Topock.
We saw tons and tons of these stacked rocks along the route. We kept trying to think what the deeper meaning was…wracked our brains…come to find out, it’s just “art.” *Sigh*
Topock, as it turns out, is just a manufactured lake community at the California line. And thus ended the longest intact stretch of Route 66. We had to hop back on the Interstate and head to Needles for the night. The next day – the end of the route!
(The photo upload feature was acting wonky with these photos, so some are huge and some are regular size. Sorry about that!)
In Amarillo, some of the sides of Route 66 aren’t as favorable as the next. We woke up early, while most were still passed out, to take these shots.
We discovered 6th Street in Amarillo, which has evidently had a Route 66 awakening. They own it, down to the last antique shop. While the Big Texan was so much fun, I wish we would have discovered this section of town prior.
Cadillac Ranch! One of the most famous features of 66. A guy back in the day decided a bunch of Caddies nose-deep in the desert was a great art statement…and there you have it. Guests are encouraged to write and spraypaint the cars as they want, and luckily, many wannabe graffiti artists have left their excess paint for others to enjoy…
Just outside the Cadillac Ranch. I’m going to hope this was for a haunted house and leave it at that.
Route 66 era Magnolia gas station in Vega, TX. Effort has been put in restoration, which is only the norm about 50% of the time on Route 66.
Back in the day, Route 66 used to run by Dot’s Mini-Museum. Dot used to collect tons of 66 memorabilia and she compiled it all into a museum. Since then, Dot has passed and the route has ended right at her house. Her family, however, has restored her legacy. The Mother Road may dead-end at her home, but the museum still stands. It was rerouted luckily so we still had our trip ahead of us!
Some leftover remnants of its Route 66 heyday in Vega, TX. Note the biker staring at me in one of the photos…he was part of a Dutch group doing the length of 66. I know because we ran into them again several times that day.
More wind turbines. I just thought they were so cool.
Midpoint Cafe in Adrian, TX. It is supposed to be the halfway point on Route 66 between Chicago and L.A. The food is to die for – I had the best coconut creme pie ever – but I almost lost my appetite when we pulled up and saw 5 shirtless Dutch guys in cowboy hats…guys who should never be without every item of clothing possible – walking around taking photographs. Luckily they left, but literally, we were the only Americans in there. While it’s awesome that other countries take such an interest in our history, I have found it sad how few Americans seem to be willing to take the time to explore this important slice of Americana.
The Fabulous 40 Motel next door was originally called that because it was supposed to have 40 rooms. They only wound up having 20 but the name stuck. It’s up for sale if anyone would like to restore this piece of history!
Brody the dog hangs out at the Sunflower, on the other side of the Midpoint, with the previous owner of the Midpoint, Fran Houser. She had some great stories to tell…very cool getting to chat with her!
Abandoned roadside tourist stops in Glenrio, TX. Very much a ghost town.
New Mexico! I have always wanted to visit New Mexico. It’s called the Land of Enchantment and truly, I’ve never seen any place like it. I fell in love the second we crossed the state line. These next photos were some cool gems we found in Endee and San Jon, just across the state line.
There were signs off the interstate for miles (Route 66 and I-40 are bedfellows for quite some time throughout the trip) shouting “Tucumcari Tonight!” It was a hugely popular stop back in the Route 66 heyday. We were lucky enough to get to stay at the Blue Swallow Motel, lovingly maintained by Kevin and Nancy. The attention to detail is incredible. Kevin showed us two possible rooms and explained the history of each. The room we chose had been occupied once by Michael Wallis, who wrote the first recognizable guide on Route 66 – which was the book that really piqued my interest in this trip 5 years ago and is one of our travel companions. Very cool. Tucumcari has fallen on some hard times, but the residents are so warm and welcoming to tourists. We were told “Congratulations” by strangers more times than I can count and everyone smiled when they spoke. They recently restored their movie theatre downtown (still charging only $5.50!) and the entire town is covered with murals and cool old motels. Oh, and they have the Mesaland Community College Dinosaur Museum. What else do you need?
Tumbleweed! It got stuck. Adam kicked it out of its corner so it could tumble freely.
The Blue Swallow Motel is one of the most perfectly preserved motels on the entire route, including the phenomenal neon sign and the neon birds decorating the walls. We met two older couples from Mississippi who were traveling north to south, opposite of us. They had gotten stuck in a snowstorm in Colorado just one day earlier. They took the photo of us, and then we sat in the provided outdoor chairs for about an hour and just chatted. The owners had two retrievers that the young British couple staying a few doors down from us fell in love with…they had a retriever themselves that they miss very much. I’m debating whether we miss our nightmare cats. The author of the book we are using for our trip stayed in the exact room we stayed in, so we took a photo. Apparently the owner at the time didn’t care for the motel as much as Kevin and Nancy do. If you are ever in the area, we highly recommend dropping in.
More Tucumcari relics.
Many of the roads that pass through the interstate don’t bother with overpasses or even fancy bridges. “Here is a one lane tunnel! Roll the karma dice!” Hence the practice of honking your horn while entering a tunnel. And here I always thought it was due to camraderie and a shared love of honking your car horn.
More relics of 66 near Cuervo, NM.
We ate at the Silver Moon in Santa Rosa, open since the 1950s. I had my first taste of real-deal, “we put peppers in everything” Mexican breakfast here. There are also several tourist traps and remnants thereof to remind the Route 66-er that this was once a huge stopover for travelers.
Random coffee shop…we aren’t sure if it’s still running or not…on the way to Santa Fe, along with other shots on the long, beautiful stretch of Route 66 desert and mountains leading up to the city.
So I am fully aware that a lot of people dig Santa Fe. We weren’t overly impressed, although most of the people there were…with the fact that they were in Santa Fe. There was a very snobbish, more-granola-than-thou vibe that we got, as exemplified by the brunette college girl who walked past me and made a loud, snide comment about me being “a typical blonde Barbie.” I’ve always wanted to visit, but now I know…no intention of going back. On a positive note, our waiter at Atomic was very cool, and the beer was tasty. This was part of an older alignment of Route 66, however, and next time we have decided to head straight to Albuquerque on the 50s alignment and bypass Santa Fe.
Beautiful country between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Albuquerque, on the other hand, was amazing. They OWN Route 66. We have made that comment about several towns and cities…that they are willing to love Route 66 and make it part of their culture, as opposed to accepting and moving on. Albuquerque loves it. Everywhere you look on their main drag – even in the hipster section of Nob Hill – there are signs announcing, “We are Route 66!” The food was delicious too, by the way, and the vibe was chill and friendly. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Albuquerque like I did.
Route 66 follows all the way through Albuquerque, past the Rio Grande. The city offers a park area where you can pull off and snap photos – still announcing you are on 66, of course. We happened to be there at the perfect time of day.
There is nothing – I repeat, NOTHING – for about 60 mile past Albuquerque. You are on straight interstate with no hotels in sight. We lucked into a Native American casino in Acoma called Big Sky that had some of the lowest rates and nicest accommodations of anywhere we had found. It was getting dark and we didn’t want to miss any more of Route 66, so we stopped and stayed. What I found interesting was that there was no alcohol allowed anywhere…there wasn’t a bar and you couldn’t bring it in. Good for them. It was very quiet and we stayed in our room the whole time – we were cranky and exhausted. We both agreed this was one of the nicest places we stayed. The below photo was a view from the casino.
After waking up in Sapulpa with a good night’s sleep, we were hopeful that Oklahoma might be better to us the second day. We ventured down the turnpike and came across Rock Creek Bridge, on an older alignment of Route 66 that was closed down decades ago. Just past it was the abandoned Tepee Drive-In – I couldn’t get a photo from where we were…the brush had grown up too much.
Stroud! We liked Stroud; the people were friendly and the recently restored Rock Cafe (circa 1939) had an amazing breakfast. Our waitress just bought a house there for – no kidding – 39 grand and her dad’s family…talk about a small world…is from Bowling Green, KY. Their downtown had a cute theatre and some cool murals. The still-functioning Skyliner Motel has a super-cool vintage neon sign. I am discovering an affinity for old neon signs. It was also at the Rock Diner where we first encountered a couple of incredibly nice British guys attempting the entire trip on a Harley and a Triumph. If you read my previous blog, you know about the half-unpaved 9-foot segments from the beginning of Oklahoma. Yup…they got stuck on that.
Chandler had the Lincoln Motel, a really cool Phillips 66 in the process of being restored that the Roaming Animal dug (look for him in one of the pics), and an abandoned cafe just behind the Phillips station.
The Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum. Of course, they are closed on Wednesdays and that just happened to be the day we were passing through. However, the building has been restored to its original 1920s state. The original 1920s outhouse, however, has not been restored. It’s kind of hilarious, however.
The owners of the Rock of Ages Farm near Arcadia, OK are trying to save these ruins of a stone gas station reputed to have been the site of a counterfeit ring. They have posted signs and even planted flowers in the old window box.
The Round Barn in Arcadia was built in 1898 and recently restored. It now has a gift shop and museum in the bottom level and you can host a dance in the top. Seriously. A modern attraction is the 66-foot lighted soda bottle at Pops Travel Center.
Edmond, OK is a suburb of Oklahoma City. No one can drive and they are not fans of tourists. There is, however, the very first schoolhouse in the Oklahoma Territory from the 1800s and a giant hippo with a camera. Really, what else do you need?
Once we were in OKC, much like Tulsa, all we wanted was to leave. The locals were kind of expressionless and unhappy, and there was only one section we drove through that didn’t give off the “We Cap Tourists” vibe. We did spot a cool old theatre and the locally-saved Milk Bottle Building on the way out of town, as well as an old garage across from the Milk Bottle (which is now a Korean bakery since the neighborhood is primarily Asian.) After we got lost in the OKC hood, we were ready to get the hell out of Dodge. Plus, the weather was starting to look like the stuff of Midwestern nightmares.
Cool vintage gas station sign in Garth Brooks’ hometown (there is a parkway named after him) of Yukon, OK. They proudly tout that they are the Czech Capital of Oklahoma. Now you know.
After getting lost in B.F. Oklahoma and encountering our British biker friends again (we all put our heads together trying to figure out how to get back to Route 66; it didn’t work) we took the interstate and finally found the Mother Road again in Hydro. Lucille Hamons was named the Mother of the Mother Road after operating a gas station, convenience store, and tourist court at this location since 1941. She sadly passed away in 2000, but her store has been saved. The tourist court unfortunately has not. There was a mother and daughter taking modeling test shots at Lucille’s while I was trying to take these shots. They wouldn’t move. With the storm quickly approaching, I was ready to go and if these photos hadn’t come out so well, I might have told them what magazine I thought her daughter had her only shot with, considering she was disrespectfully wrapping her legs around a historic gas pump.
And then the first storm came. Oklahoma is exactly where you want to be when a storm hits. There is a local restaurant called Lucille’s Roadhouse in nearby Weatherford dedicated to the Mother of the Mother Road. We sought shelter and an IPA here, waiting out the tirade outside.
The first band of storms passed and we soldiered on. There was a full-scale wing of a wind turbine in Weatherford, which I had never seen before. They’re massive. The wind turbines are everywhere in the Midwest and Southwest….miles and miles of them. They were so peaceful-looking.
The next wave of storms were coming on fast, so as much as we wanted to get the heck out of Oklahoma that night, we had stop 30 miles from the state line in Clinton. Not before I snapped a couple of shots of a cool old motel and the outside of the (closed for the night) Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, complete with the moved-and-restored Valentine Diner from Texas.
After watching a tornado touch down just outside Elk City on TV, we woke up and had to venture down that way. We did stop at the Museum on the way out, since it was open, and snapped a shot of the cool vintage car in the window.
Kobel’s Place, in Foss, has been abandoned for years. It sits at a crossroads where it used to serve Route 66 travelers back in the day.
Elk City lived through the twister, evidently. The Cotton Boll motel is now a permanent living establishment, but they left the cool sign. They also have the 17-story Parker Drilling Rig that recalls the town’s oil days, an abandoned old museum with a terribly amusing dinosaur painting in the window, and the National Route 66 Museum with its Old Town Complex. We ran into our British biker friends again here, where they promised us they weren’t stalking us. In the museum, they insisted on taking our photo with the married mannequin couple in the Model T, who were evidently Tucumari Tonight bound.
The Western Motel and the longest soda fountain in Oklahoma, in Sayre. Sayre also created an underground walkway for locals to get from one side of their main road to the other back in the height of Route 66 traveling, to keep their residents safe. I didn’t have the guts to go down there because I know what kinds of mutant bugs grow out here.
The left-hand side of this shot is an abandoned stretch of older Route 66 that runs all the way from Sayre to Erick. It’s actually prettier – parts of it have a canopy of trees. I wish they’d restore that section and reopen it.
Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, OK, located in an old meat market. It looks 37 kinds of awesomely tacky. It was, of course, not open that day.
This shot of an old motor court in Texola is blurry, but during the course of trying to take it, an onslaught of about a dozen angry, smallish, barking dogs came screaming at me from the trailer next door. I snapped the shot and ran for the car, and even at 40 MPH, these dogs were still chasing us LITERALLY all the way to the Texas state line. I have never been so glad to get out of a state as I was with Oklahoma. Thus far, with the exception of a few spots, it was hands down the most inhospitable to tourists.
Texas!!! Finally!! The town of Shamrock recently restored the U Drop Inn and placed some tourist information inside. Two ladies were making a quilt when we walked in. So homespun, I could have cried as compared to Oklahoma. They also fixed up an old Magnolia service station.
McLean, TX has a neat old theatre that is undergoing renovation, along with another Phillips 66 station and the Cactus Inn.
Nearby Alanreed has the 66 Super Station and the Merit Garage. Neither has been completely restored, but someone, at least, has been working to save them.
Groom had this really cool old sign just sitting in the middle of nowhere. They also have the famous leaning water tower, which, contrary to local lore, was not built erroneously at all, but more as a tourist attraction when the Britten Truck Stop once existed and operated at this location. Either way, it’s slightly awesome. The largest cross in the Western Hemisphere, all 190 feet of it, is across Route 66 too. It evidently lights up at night. I am seriously sorry that we missed that glorious spectacle.
The Bug Ranch! In Conway, they have built a spoof of the famous Cadillac Ranch called the Bug Ranch. 5 spraypainted VW Bugs stand nose-deep in the dirt in front of an abandoned motor court and restaurant. Adam had the brilliant idea of attempting to go in. I’d rather go to a Nickelback show than brave what might be inside that place.
Old store just outside Amarillo.
The Big Texan…really, what more do I need to say? We came, we ate, we did not conquer the 72-oz steak. If you should ever choose to do so, they place you at the table on the stage beneath the glowing bull skull (shown below) by yourself in front of the entire restaurant. If you finish the entire meal, including the potato and your drink, you eat for free. We decided to stay at the tacky hotel on the premises, designed to look like an old Western town. Our room had swinging doors leading into the bathroom. So. Awesome.
Downtown Amarillo, with its cool theatre. We grabbed a couple of drinks at a wine bar called Crush, whose wines are on tap. The explanation is on the menu…it actually makes sense, when you think about it. I also snapped a photo of the outside of our awesomely tacky hotel at the Big Texan.
Next day…the rest of Amarillo and then New Mexico!
Day 3 of our Route 66 Honeymoon Extraordinaire. We woke up in the classic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO to find this super-sweet note from the couple in the room next to us. I briefly met them the night before, but names weren’t even exchanged. They were really nice, but we had just smiled and said hello in passing.
They left us Girl Scout cookies! Seriously, people in Illinois and Missouri, at least on these stretches, are the nicest people on the planet. Southern hospitality, my ass. These people make Atlanta residents look like…well, I’m having a happy trip so we won’t discuss my opinions on where I currently reside right now. Below is another photo of the Wagon Wheel and – little downtown Cuba is covered completely with historical murals – photos of said murals. There were tons…I picked a couple of my favorites but I have more if you ever want to see. They’re pretty amazing.
This roadside trading post holds the Guiness Record for World’s Largest Rocker. Yes, like the World’s Largest Covered Wagon, that really exists.
Another trading post in Rolla (which was supposed to be Raleigh but this was their interpretation of a Southern accent. No kidding.) Usually this hillbilly’s arms are flailing. I guess he wasn’t excited that day. We found a really cool salvaged Pepsi crate there for $15. Sold.
Super cool bridge on a very remote stretch of Route 66 in Devil’s Elbow, MO. Photos can’t show how incredible this view was…you just have to see it yourself.
Residents of Waynesville, MO decided this rock sticking out of a cliff looked like a frog. So they painted it like one. If only everything in life were that easy.
Abandoned buildings in the Ozark foothills.
Lebanon, MO. We found what looks to be the remains of a couple of old diners, the Munger Moss Motel which is still fully functional, and Wrink’s Market, which went under when Mr. Wrinkle passed 8 years ago. We wound up eating at this great little local place called Fay’s that has one of the coolest collection of old license plates from every single state as well as other countries on the walls, most donated by patrons.
We passed the ruins of an old school or rec center in Philipsburg. When we stopped, the lady across the street hollered at us, “Congratulations!!” We still have “Just Married” on the back of the car (so cops will leave us alone!) “Take lots of pictures!” she called. “It’s famous!” Missouri people are so cool.
Near Strafford, MO is the Wild Animal Safari. If you are ever in the area, you have to do this. No question. You can feed the animals. Lots…and lots…of animals…First there is a petting zoo, then you drive your car through miles of backcountry where exotics animals come up to your car and eat your hand off. The animals are all rescues and seem extremely happy – probably because they just chill and are fed all day.
The following photos are from the drive-thru safari. We saw how ligers are made, evidently. The water buffalo nearly ate Adam’s hand off and he was covered in buffalo drool…He was yelling, I had tears from laughter, couldn’t breathe. We were chased by emus who learned that if they stand in the way of your car, you will have to throw food off the sides to get them away. If you don’t, they run up the car and stare at you. “I know you have food, fool!” We were also chased by these zebra-donkey hybrids called zedonks who evidently run faster on gravel than an SUV can drive. This place was awesome.
Just outside Springfield is an old drive-in sign and an abandoned motor court. We also ate the oldest existing Steak and Shake, circa 1930s. They still do curbside service.
Super creepy ghost town at a crossroads with an abandoned casket shop. At dusk. We didn’t stay long.
Paris Springs, MO is the home of the completed restored Sinclair gas station with one Mr. Gary Tucker. This gentleman has met more people and has more stories about Route 66 than anyone we’ve met so far. He gave me a shirt as a wedding gift and sat with us on his front porch for a while, just chatting. He told us this trip would change our lives and we should take the time to really experience the journey, not rush just to get to Santa Monica. His words really hit home. We later found out Mr. Tucker has been voted the number one character on Route 66. I would abide by that…such a cool guy.
Old bridge outside of Spencer, completely renovated tourist stop in Spencer, and an abandoned schoolhouse in Phelps. A lot of these towns that flourished when Route 66 came through their areas completely died when the interstate system was created. Not just the businesses…the schools, libraries, churches. Everything. They’re evidence how sometimes what we consider progress – like interstates, shiny new buildings, Walmarts – can be so damaging to our culture.
We stayed at the Boots Motel in Carthage, MO. It only recently reopened, and you have never met women who love their local history and this little motor court more than the current owners. One even lives on the property. 5 of the 13 rooms have been renovated – the innkeeper showed us around every one of the finished rooms (each with a different flair) as well as one of the unrenovated ones. They are completely true to the original rooms – no TVs, old-time radios, vanities with original mirrors, and even the original doors that Mr. Boots created from scratch. We stayed in room 10, where Clark Gable used to stay on his way cross-country. Seriously. Recommend, recommend, recommend. My favorite stop so far.
The old 66 Drive-In in Carthage still plays every weekend.
Joplin, MO has recovered nicely from the tornado, but we still saw some evidence on the outskirts of town.
Kansas! All 13 miles of it. We met Melba the Mouth in Galena, the proprietor of “Cars on the Route.” “Mater” from the movie “Cars” was inspired by a tow truck on their property, of which the Roaming Animal was a fan. We also met a mother and daughter from Kentucky doing a Route 66 trip in the same direction we were – we wound up meeting many – and also found some cool murals throughout Galena. We had lunch in the Eisler Brothers Store in Riverton and stopped off at the Rainbow Bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest domed bridge on the route. We ran into the ladies from Kentucky there too.
Oklahoma…very, very straight and flat. (Insert joke here.) Commerce, OK is home to Mickey Mantle, but Miami next door isn’t afraid to own it (check out the photo of us from Miami’s tourism center.) Miami also has a beautiful old theatre, the Coleman, that reminds me of the Fox. Except their community theatre performs there. I would die.
There are several different incarnations of Route 66. We ventured onto the O.G., the oldest. They didn’t have enough concrete, so they only went across 9 feet. For 9 miles. That’s right, we braved it. I do what I want!!
There used to be a buffalo ranch at this truck stop in Narcissa. The wind was blowing so hard I literally had gravel in my ear.
Old remnants of motor courts and tourist traps between Afton and Foyil, OK.
Ed Galloway created the Totem Pole Park on his property in Foyil. There is seriously a 90-foot totem pole surrounded by shorter, 10 foot or so. Something else I couldn’t make up if I tried. It’s just kind of awesome. It’s off the beaten path a couple of miles, but so worth the trip.
Then there’s Blue, the renovated roadside attraction whale in Catoosa. They are trying to raise money to restore the ark on the property. I heart Blue. Blue rocks.
The stretch through Tulsa, OK is a little terrifying. The tourism board in Tulsa is doing everything in their power to draw Route 66-ers to town, and the residents make it very clear that, with the rare exception, they do not want you there. Most were incredibly rude and disengaged. If you take the trip, still give Tulsa a chance because the sites deserve it and the city put the work into it, but be wary of the locals. We did have a really good lunch at the Rancho Grande, a Mexican restaurant from 1951, and they pretty much built a shrine to the salvaged Meadow Gold sign. The wind was blowing like crazy, but we braved downtown (almost wrecked twice when we were cut off and flipped off by locals, felt like home) where we were chased away by a bellhop who yelled that we were not allowed to take photos of her building. Damn shame I had already taken two, one of which is now posted publicly. Seriously. People in Tulsa are not a happy bunch.
We stayed for the night in Sepulpa, where an evicted couple was moving into a downstairs room. The hotel itself was part of a very respectable national chain, but the people staying (read: living) there were interesting, as evidenced by the collective lack of teeth and good skin. At that point, we were praying Oklahoma could win us over the next day!
Day Two of our Route 66 adventure started out like many days of my life that I wanted to spend outside: pouring down rain. Still, we made it work and utilizing our handy-dandy guidebook, we ventured forth on our first real first day on Route 66.
As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words, and I am too tired to write even 100. So here are the photos from the first two days…
Bloomington, IL: The David Davis Mansion (US Supreme Court Justice from the late 1800s)
The home of Beer Nuts, a treat evidently Adam enjoys
The first official sign we saw for Route 66
Funk’s Grove and their maple “sirup,” straight from the tree. This ain’t Aunt Jemima. They had the friendliest dog in America, who immediately ran up and rolled over. “Scratch my belly, woman!” The Roaming Animal was a big fan of the pure maple “sirup.”
Confusingly, we wound up back in Atlanta. We realized that it was a different Atlanta when we saw the giant Paul Bunyan holding a hot dog, a restored diner called Palm City where the waitresses were NOT screaming at you to hurry up and order, the murals (which are all over their completely adorable downtown) didn’t involve tags or death statements, their historical museum had a pretty awesome horse made out of towels with a cowboy skeleton for no explicable reason, and we didn’t sit in traffic for 5 years trying to get into town.
An old Route 66 filling station.
The world’s largest covered wagon, in Lincoln, IL. Apparently Abe Lincoln was a fan.
Williamsville, IL has a vintage gas station called Die Cast Auto Sales that specializes in stone carving sculptures. The Midwest is so strange. I love it.
We passed a haunted house made out of tractor trailers. Out of season, obviously. So awesome on so many levels.
The Lincoln Memorial in Springfield, IL.
Sunrise Donuts has been turned into a Mexican restaurant. Cozy Dog, home of the original corn dog, was closed. Sad times.
Covered bridge near Glenarm, IL.
We looked everywhere for this Rabbit Ranch that is supposed to be near Litchfield. We drove everywhere. No one had heard of this ranch…they looked at me as if I had antennae growing out of my skull. So we gave up, got a room in Litchfield, and went to the Ariston Cafe, which has been in its present location on 66 since 1935 and run by the same family, the Adams. When the current owner found out we were on our honeymoon, he came over to congratulate us. Then, when we asked for our check, the waitress told us the owner had told her our meal was on the house, which promptly made me cry. Thankfully, the photo of both Adam and me under the sign is blurry because I looked like a blubbering mess.
We were told this was the only pub in Litchfield where a bar brawl wouldn’t break out. The people in IL had been so nice thus far, that was hard to believe.
Abandoned motor court and diner in Litchfield.
Mt. Olive is so quaint your head will explode. Google it sometime if you’re feeling lucky. The Soulsby Shell Station was built in the 1920s and has been immaculately restored.
We found the Rabbit Ranch! It was closed. Damn rabbits.
Incredibly cute winery in Edwardsville, IL, which looks like it will be quaint and then sprawls out to the size of Bowling Green, KY. We heart Edwardsville. We also found the sign for the abandoned Bel Air drive-in just past Edwardsville in Mitchell and the still-running Luna Cafe that actually predates Route 66.
St. Louis, MO, which surprised us with how much we enjoyed it. Especially the Wax Museum in Laclede’s Landing…which I didn’t enjoy at all, but Adam took special pleasure in seeing me scream like a little girl and nearly shove him out of the house because I was convinced one of the wax figures was going to knock on the glass and grin at me. So we promptly went across the street and purchased a flight of sampler beer from Morgan Street Brewery. Tasty. We took home a six pack.
Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard, open since well before our parents were born. So delicious I can’t even stand it. We thought we were pretty awesome pulling up in our car with “Just Married” on the back until an entire wedding party pulled up in a neon van. Way to steal our thunder.
Route 66 Museum, with a 66 Yamaha and the first-ever Missouri Route 66 sign.
The Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos, built entirely by Franciscan monk by hand. They were amazing, but there was a huge pilgrimage of Filipino Catholics having a tent service and we had to be virtually silent. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. The monk died right in front of the statue in the final photo, of exhaustion.
The Jesse James Wax Museum, where they try to convince that Jesse James was never killed, it’s a conspiracy by the government, and he really lived into the 1950s. They will give you reasons. Awesome.
Meramac Caverns. They found a chest and a sword from the 1800s in there and decided that meant Jesse James and the gang hid out from the cops in there. Evidently they shot an episode of Lassie too. They tell the Jesse James story as if it were completely true and the founder of the caverns didn’t invent it to sell tickets. Still living the dream, Stanton, MO.
Bourbon, MO. Their water tower may be one of the greatest things I have ever seen.
We stopped in Cuba, MO at one of the original motor courts and cabins on Route 66, the Wagon Wheel. It had fallen into disrepair but the new owners have lovingly restored it to its original awesomeness. Stone facade and you can park right next to your room. Next door was Missouri Hick BBQ (you better believe I bought that T-shirt) where we had our first taste of Missouri BBQ (deliciously smoked, sauceless) and planned out our next couple of days.
We are exhausted so be patient, but there is plenty more to come!
So today we embarked on our honeymoon road trip, leaving from Bowling Green, KY and heading to our chosen starting point on Route 66 in Bloomington, IL. (Have you been to the real starting point in Chi-town? If you lived to tell the story, you are more adventurous than I and probably have a better healthcare plan.)
A couple of things we learned driving into central Illinois.
1) Deitrich, IL has a much better radio station than Atlanta. DEITRICH. Have you heard of it? Exactly. It’s a primarily German-ancestry community about an hour outside of Champaign, IL, and they have a badass “Dave FM” style station called Jack, about three classic rock stations, a classic country, two pop, and two country. And an alternative. So the Amish have better taste than Atlanta.
2) They are big into recycling in south central Illinois, as well as preservation. Prime example? The revitalization of an old school house near Effingham, IL.
3) Speaking of police, they are much nicer in central Illinois than in Georgia, as in, their hearts aren’t made of cold hard granite from Stone Mountain. We were tailed for about 5-10 minutes by a police car on I-74, but couldn’t get around the millions of Semis trying to beat the Memorial Day traffic. We were playing trivia in the car. “KEEP READING,” the Rondeau hollered. “IT’S ONLY A COP.” “What is another name for black cumin that is also the name of a TV chef?” I asked. “I DON’T KNOW! WTF?” was Adam’s response. Finally, we were able to pass a rig and get into the right lane. The two young cops blew past us and buzzed their siren, waving and giving us a thumbs up. We had forgotten we still have the “Just Married” on the back of our SUV.
Central IL cops have a sense of humor.
Finally, we arrived in Bloomington, IL. Our start to Route 66! Downtown Bloomington has some great architecture.
We couldn’t decide where to grab a drink and some appetizers and plan our next route. We finally strolled into a very unassuming restaurant called Michael’s, right on the square. The staff, in stark contrast to Atlanta, was incredibly welcoming to outsiders and the prices were unbelievable. Maybe we just aren’t used to the Midwest.
Turns out Michael’s is on the National Registry of Historic Places as one of the first places President Lincoln ever made a speech. All the Who’s Who from back in the day were standing right where we were chowing down on our mutant calamari. And yes, if you can see the perspective in the photos, they apparently serve the largest calamari on the planet. Uber Calamari…uber delicious…
After leaving, we chose a hotel room near the interstate, as recommended by the manager of the restaurant. Hawthorn by Wyndham. We got a AAA discount, the room has a four-poster bed, and a super-nice truck driver in the bar bought our drinks for the evening, Thus proving yet again that…despite their Nickelback obsession…people in the Midwest thus far are so much nicer than Buckhead. Which comes as a shock, I know. I have never been to Illinois prior to 12 hours ago, so….short of the Florida couple outside our window chatting in the car and blasting their bass (which has nothing to do with Illinois residents)…I want to adopt the entire central portion of this state.