Images of Route 66, Chicago to Los Angeles
May 2012: Not quite the Billy Connolly Route 66 tour..but this was good enough.
Patrick Schinella suggested that Aaron and I drive Route 66 with him and his son Scott. Scott and Aaron were school friends from West Pennant Hills school days, and I'd known Patrick since we cooked hundreds of sausages for school fundraising on NSW State elections day in March 1999.
So the drive was planned in conjunction with a Schinella family trip to the New York.
I'd retired from work, but others had commitments so we had get to the USA and back and do the drive in 3 weeks. With travelling time and a bit of time for jet lag recovery, we basically had 2 weeks to do the actual drive.
U.S. Route 66 covers a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km) from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before finishing at Santa Monica in California. Route 66 was established in 1926 and over the years,the highway became one of the most famous roads in America.
Over the years Route 66 changed significantly. In the early days, it was a normal 2 lane road; in the 1940's road expansion meant in many areas, another 2 lane road was built parallel to the existing road resulting in dual carriageway in many places. From the mid 1950's, the Interstate Highways were constructed, and much of the original Route 66 was replaced by roads such as Interstate 40, or realigned and decommissioned.
By 1984 there was nothing left of the original Route 66 and in 1985 it ceased to officially exist at all.
From the mid 1980's many preservation and historical groups worked to replace markers and redefine the original Route 66 where possible. In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed a National Route 66 Preservation Bill which provided $10 million grants for preserving and restoring the historic features along the route.
In 2008, the World Monuments Fund added US 66 to the World Monuments Watch as sites along the route such as gas stations, motels, cafés, trading posts and drive-in movie theaters were threatened by development in urban areas and by abandonment rural areas.
Today, there is a huge tourist industry along the entire "Route 66". Maps and GPS routing software are available to enable you to follow the original roads as accurately as possible. The Route has many Museums and sites such as refurbished gas stations, diners, motels to add interest and authenticity to the trip.
On 3rd May 2012, Aaron and I flew from Sydney to Chicago, and Patrick and Scott flew from New York to Chicago at the end of the family holidays.
I'd been to Chicago many times for work, as Motorola's head office is in Schaumburg, but it was Aaron's first trip to the USA.
We stayed at Chicago Airport the first night as our flight didn't arrive until around 10.30pm. We had booked a Hertz Car..and picked up an almost new red Cadillac CTS at Chicago O'Hare airport. The perfect set of wheels to drive Route 66. Very comfortable, all leather, sun roof etc.and a nice car to drive as well; a surprisingly good car.
We left Chicago on Sunday 6th May with our schedule having us arrive in Santa Monica California on Friday evening 18th May which gave us 1 spare day as our return flight Los Angeles to Sydney was booked for Sunday 20th May. We also had a detour to the Grand Canyon and 2 nights in Las Vegas to fit in..so we basically had to cover the 2448 miles or thereabouts in 11 days. Our longest day was 423 miles; our shortest 106 miles with average each day about 220 miles so not too strenuous and leaving ample time for stop offs at tourist attractions and the various sights.
As I'd driven on the Right many times before, I was co-opted as driver. (Although Patrick gained sufficient courage and wanted to drive by the time we got to Oklahoma City, so we got his name inserted onto the Rental Agreement)
Dinner at the Weber BBQ restaurant; a bit disappointing.
Aarons insistence on eating crap from White Castle...supposedly burgers made with very mysterious mystery meat..and Aaron then wanting to vomit for the next 2 hours in the car.
Meeting the mayor of Pontiac..who was quite pleased we had come from Australia to drive Route 66.
Lunch (more burgers) at the Launching pad..home of the Gemini Giant, just outside Wilmington Illinois
Springfield..the state Capitol of Illinois
-St Louis; a bit dodgy in parts. Lock the doors and keep driving.
The Iron Barley eating establishment in St Louis. Must have been the best steak I've ever had. You will find it here:
About 25 miles west of Springfield Missouri; Garys Gay Parita historic gas station with eccentric Gary and his book signing, old cars and trucks tucked away in sheds, and various "free' drinks in exchange for a large tip.
The Country Kitchen, Cuba Missouri an overheard lunch time conversation:
Customer to waitress:"excuse me I have a question"
Customer: I aint never seen a skinny sandwich before"
Waitress: That's not a question...
Fanning Missouri..the "Route 66 Outpost stop and the ginormous rocking chair..supposedly the biggest in the world.
Meramec Caverns...an amazing cave system, but absolutely ruined for tourism with horrid lighting and Americana everywhere
Route 66 only cuts through a very small corner of Kansas..just 13 miles. Galena and Baxter Springs townships with a nice Museum at the Baxter Springs Visitor Centre in a restored 1930's Phillips gas station
Tulsa: Wilsons BBQ in E Apache Street on the North Side. Best ribs ever. Drove 40 minutes to this place, then discovered Wilson's had another place on E 11th Street..same street as our Motel (Desert Hills Motel) and 5 minutes away. Bugger. Still, the ribs were worth the drive.
Aaron's boot buying in Oklahoma City..huge choice of boots!
The Big Texan in Amarillo. 40oz Steak..free if you can demolish it all..but you also have to eat the huge baked potato. Many have done it..more have failed. We bought enough food for 8 and managed to eat it all. (Including the "Mountain Oysters)
The Cadillac ranch...a paddock with 10 dead Cadillacs on end and part buried . Covered in paint and graffiti...bring your own spray can and add your own touch.
Glen Rio...the ghost town on the Texas new Mexico border. Abandoned buildings, service stations and diners. Amazing place.
New Mexico Memories:
Movie country..red cliffs and mountains.
The Continental Divide...very high at 7275 feet and very cold.
Interstate 40 thunder, hail and rain..stopping till it cleared
Joe and Aggies cafe..very decent Navajo and Mexican food.
"Standin on the Corner in Winslow Arizona" complete with Eagles music blasting from th souvenir shop and a red flat-bed Ford parked near the corner.
The Meteor Crater..vast and very beautiful desert scenery.
The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook....all that's left of a 1930's-40's chain ..'sleep in a Wigwam tonight'. Nice enough place to stay.
The "Roadkill Cafe" in Seligman..'you kill it, we grill it'. Not really, but some amusing dishes on the menu.
Bloody Traffic...an interesting place to drive. More burgers at the Hard Rock cafe in Hollywood..and driving Scott ad Aaron for mils to a 6 Flags Park..and Aaron nearly falling out of a ride.
Dinner at Bubba Gumps Shrimp on the Santa Monica Pier.
Arizona ( The Grand Canyon)
Memories of The Grand Canyon:
You just don't realise how vast The Grand canyon is until you actually see it. Television never does it justice.
Moose wandering the streets outside our hotel in the evening.
Nevada ( a diversion to Las Vegas)
Memories of Las Vegas:
The second time I have been to Las Vegas..it doesn't get any better. 2 Days is plenty long enough
Shelby HQ was interesting as was the AutoCollections car museum.
No matter how many souvenirs can be bought, Patrick will always fine something else..including a Mustang jacket at the Shelby HQ that was at least 2 sizes too big...but he just had to buy it!