For my first blog post that isn’t from the road i have decided ill try and give any budding road trippers a few Route 66 tips that we found useful or could of done with on our drive from Chicago to Los Angeles.
These are my own personal route 66 tips, opinions and views taken from our 2015 road trip along Route 66 and not in any particular order. I hope you enjoy reading them.
Route 66 tips #1 – Take it Easy
Route 66 should be driven at leisure. Go slow its not a race to get to Los Angeles and dip your toes in the sea at Santa Monica. A road trip is about the people you meet and the places you visit along the way and if you zoom past little towns and quirky road side attractions you will miss so much..
The memories we will have of places like Two Guns, Springfield and Carthage are the conversations with the locals and other travellers. Like wise if you stick to the highways you wont get to see the largest totem pole in the world, or experience the quirky little towns like Seligman, the birthplace of the Route 66 revival.
Route 66 tips #2 – Plan Ahead, but not too much !
One thing that did slightly dampen our experience of the mom and pop businesses along Route 66 was the odd opening and closing times. I guess we had imagined that with America appearing to be a 24 hour society, with Walmarts and big restaurants being open till late, we would just be able to turn up at places and they would be open.
So many places we wanted to visit weren’t open though or had closed early. Its understandable, after all the owners have a family life and other things to do but was nevertheless annoying to find that that passing through Afton at midday the Service station and its great motor museum was closed. We were really looking forward to one of Ted Drewes famous frozen custards but it didn’t open until 11am and we had to be long gone from St Louis by then.
So, plan ahead if you have a list of must do places to visit. A little research on face book or google can help you plan to be at these places when they are open rather than missing out like we did.
Route 66 tips #3 – Don’t rely on the Experts
When we first started thinking about our annual holiday being a route 66 road trip we hit the internet and started contacting travel companies to see what they offered. Most of them offered a very expensive semi bespoke trip over 7, 14 or 21 days but many of them lacked taking in the real mother road. They have you staying at generic hotels and motels on the outskirts of the town for example rather than laying your head for the night at Boots Court in Carthage or the Wagon Wheel motel. What was really odd was when we mentioned that we would like to stay at the classic motels they didn’t have any way of booking them for us as they were not owned by a hotel chain.
With that in mind we decided to start searching out the individual Motels that looked interesting and had some history. We contacted them by email or face book to check on availability and price where it wasn’t shown on the websites and we used Trip Advisor to read reviews. After planning our route we booked them all individually from our front room in the UK and everything went like clock work. We had to call a few of them to give credit card numbers to reserve the dates but most were done on line. We personally feel we got a lot more out of our road trip by doing it this way and we saved a ton of money that we could then spend supporting other mom and pop cafes and shops along the way.
So, by all means have a look round at the various travel agents offering “route 66” experiences but you will get more satisfaction and help support the mother road if you do it yourself.
Route 66 tips #4 – Watch Cars the Movie Before you go
SERIOUSLY !! You may be 6 or (route) 66 but if you watch the Disney Pixar Movie Cars before you head out on Route 66 you will get so much more from the trip. We met the people who had inspired the characters in the film and spotted several locations that the film makers had copied or taken inspiration from. These people still live work and breathe route 66 and hearing the stories of when the execs from Disney visited were great and offered another angle to life on Route 66. You can read more about who and what inspired the film makers at the excellent Route Sixtysix News website
And, its actually a great film for all the family to watch.
Route 66 tips #6 Embrace the Kitsch / Americana
In between the open road and the wonderful scenery of Route 66 you will come across hundreds of “unique” road side attractions and shops. Some are down right weird, and i’m looking at Uranus here ! and others are reminders of a route across America that was nearly forgotten. You’ll visit historic bridges, spot route 66 shields from a mile away and have your fill of tacky shops selling everything from road map emblazoned back scratchers to plates in the shape of Oklahoma.
Its easy to forget that each tacky shop is trying to earn a living in a once thriving town, and its easy to start getting underwhelmed at “another” whacky road side stop off but don’t get bored with it, embrace it. Make sure you support as many mom and pop establishments as you can afford to along your road trip and make sure you visit Red Oak II for the ultimate in eccentric Americana.
Route 66 tips #6 Buy the Bible
That would be the bible according to Jerry McClanahan and one of the the best Route 66 tips i can give. Its an old Route 66 road map and list of attractions all in one and easily the best book out there if you want to stay faithful to the old road. It WILL take you several attempts to fully understand how it works and its not a book for light bed time reading but i’m pretty safe to say that if you dropped in Chicago you can drive to Los Angeles using only this book. No need for sat nav’s or fancy apps, just you, a car and a copy of EZ Route 66
You can view Jerry’s website which has online updates to the book when roads are closed etc here – McJerry66 and the book is available on eBay, Amazon etc.
Im sure there are plenty more route 66 tips that i can think of but they will be for another post in the future. If you have anything to add or any tips yourself then why not leave a comment below.