Travelling across Route 66 is the quintessential American Road trip. Called the mother Road by Steinbeck in ‘Grapes of Wrath’ this was the route to better fortunes in the West, from the great depression and later. After the Interstate network was built after WWII, it lost its utility, but the romance associated with the road continues to this day. Since A was at U Mich. for the year, the winter break seemed to be a good time to travel the mother road. I had procured a guide book EZ 66 Guide which proved invaluable.
I landed in Chicago, morning of 17th of December after a long flight from Lahore, and A came in from Ann Arbor. We rented a car from the airport and were on the road around noon. I would realize soon that hitting the road after 23 hrs of travel is less than optimal, but more on that later. After
about an hour or so it was time to have some food. We stopped in Dwight IL, at the Old Route 66 Family Restaurant , after all it was a Route 66 themed trip! Since it was mid December, and I imagine most people take road trips in the summer, the restaurant was
practically empty. We had a nice lunch, and were back on the road after the first pictures of the trip. The plan was to stay in Springfield IL, and we got into town around sundown. Based on lots of recommendations we had booked a room at the Inn at 835, the rooms were as nice as advertised, the inn keeper was very welcoming, the place is definitely recommended. After a little and much needed rest, we had some of the complementary wine and cheese they offer. Around 8 we went out for dinner, but it seemed that most places had either closed for the winter or closed early in any case, we had a quick bite at a nearby diner and called it a day.
Woke up early feeling feverish, I guess I should have rested before being on the road
after the long flight, but oh well, Tylenol was invented for such situations. Had a made-to-order good breakfast at the Inn, and were on the road by 8:30 am. Since we were in Springfield, we had to stop by Lincoln Home, which was
the Lincoln residence before he became president. The first tour was schedule about an hour later, and since we had many miles to travel we decided to skip the tour. The guidebook mentioned a must visit to Cozy Dogs Drive In, we stopped by for a hot dog, which was nice enough, nothing to
write home about though. Back on the road we had a very enjoyable drive through rural IL, and into MO, passing St Louis, on the way. Our destination for the day was the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba MO. Since we wanted to experience Route 66 we had planned stops at various historic (sometimes restored) motels. The Motel has been renovated and we were delighted to see our room, or may I say cottage, which came complete with a Jacuzzi. The check in was very smooth and the staff made sure we were comfy. Right next door is the Missouri Hick Barbeque which is totally worth visiting. We went there
for a long leisurely dinner, the ribs were wonderful, I would highly recommend the place. So far Route 66 was living up to expectations. The only issue had been this nagging fever which would start bothering me in the evening. But perhaps some discomfort is also part of a good road trip, makes it memorable!
After some coffee and oatmeal in our room we were on the road. Route 66 runs parallel to and sometimes has been merged with I 40. At places the road no longer exists as a marked highway, but the author of the guidebook has done a great job tracing the small by ways which were once part of Route 66. We took a little detour along one of these, and came across the World’s Largest RockingChair. Back on the highway, we had a fun drive for a couple of hours, stopping at the Route 66 Diner. This place takes you back to what the 50’s
Route 66 Diner would have looked like. The food was your typical diner food, good for the soul not so good for the body, but that is part of the fun of being on the road, I always put on a few pounds while on a road trip. We had avoided any serious winter weather thus far, although it had been overcast, with little sun during the day. Our destination was Tulsa OK, where we had booked a room at the Campbell Hotel. We checked into the hotel around 7:30, the hotel decor is very interesting, perhaps a little over the top, but it gives the place a definite character.
We had dinner at Maxwell’s Restaurant right next to the hotel, the food was nice and the staff very pleasant. Unfortunately I hear that the place has been shuttered.
We hit a bit of a cold snap on day 4, and still no sun outside. After breakfast at Maxwell’s we were on the road. This part of the drive was a bit dreary but since Christmas songs were playing on every radio channel it wasn’t too bad. As a side note, as far a Christmas songs go, most of the new ones are a hit and a miss, can’t beat the classics. We passed through Bristow OK, where the main street is
part of the old Route 66. We stopped for lunch at the Cherokee Trading Post in Calumet OK. The next stop was the route 66 Museum in Clinton, it’s a nice place to stop by and visit. The plan was to stay the night at the Cactus Inn in McLean TX another Route 66 Classic. The town itself had its heyday when Route 66 was the primary route of travel westward and like many old towns seems to be in bad shape. The only place to eat it seems was a little shop at the gas station, surprisingly the ‘Country Corner ‘ serves pretty good comfort food. There is a steakhouse in town, but it was closed that day. The motel itself had very interesting decor and lived up to being a Route 66 classic.
Day 5 was a shorter day in terms of travel. We planned on stopping at Tucumcari NM, where the Blue Swallow Motel is a Route 66 classic. I have always felt that there is something magical about New Mexico, with its varied landscape, the drive itself was very nice and refreshing. I still had that nagging fever, but thanks to modern medicine I was functional most of the day, with the fatigue setting in late evening. We took at little tour of McLean, before hitting the road, drove past an old gas station and the devil’s rope museum. We stopped for lunch at the Big Texan Steakhouse near Amarillo, didn’t take up their 72oz steak challenge though. Back on the road we reached Tucumcari around 3 pm. There was no one at the reception at the Blue Swallow as we were a bit early for check in, but K arrived after a little wait. He gave us the grand tour and a little history of the place. The room or rather suite, itself was very comfy. K suggested the Pow Wow Restaurant & Lizard Lounge for dinner and drinks. The place was quite interesting and the food pretty good, definitely as place to visit when in the area. Tucumcari is a city of murals, walking around we came across a lot of interesting artwork.
We strolled around for a bit, got a little something to keep us warm later and headed back to the motel. There was a nice fireplace in the room, ideal for curling up with a nice drink and chilling.
We had a quick breakfast in the motel and were on the road by 8. We had decided to follow the old Route 66 which involved a detour to Santa Fe. Having been there a few years back I thought the town had a rather unique feel to it and wanted to visit in again. En route we stopped for brunch at Johnny’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, the other Las Vegas i.e. in NM! The food was really good and we stuffed ourselves. Back on the road we enjoyed the NM scenery. We reached Santa Fe around 1 pm. It was a bit colder here and we made a beeline for the nearest restaurant for some hot coffee and some soup. Having warmed up we took a stroll around town. There are artisans selling their products in the main plaza and we got a couple of little souvenirs form here.
I wish we had more time in Santa Fe, but we were on a schedule and had to get to Gallup NM that day. One of these days I plan to spend some serious time exploring Santa Fe and it’s surrounds. On our way we made a quick stop for some eats at Laguna Burger, another place I would recommend. It was dark by the time we got to Gallup and checked into the El Rancho Hotel. This hotel has an interesting history, with a lot of actors from old westerns staying here during movie shoots. Their restaurant served up some good food and we were ready to call it a night.
Surprisingly we hadn’t seen any snow so far despite it being close to Christmas, this was about to change. We had decided to take a little detour and see the Grand Canyon on the way. We passed by the petrified forest, I really wanted to visit as I had passed by it on several trip but never quite made it there. But that would have to wait for another day, as we already had a big detour to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at flagstaff for lunch, on the way. En route we saw some serious snow accumulation on the ground, thankfully it has stopped snowing the day before. We reached the Grand Canyon around 2 pm. The view is always breathtaking no matter how many times you have been there.
We spent about an hour taking in the scenery, but then it was time to be back on the road. We reached our destination, the Stagecoach Motel in Seligman, AZ after sundown. Another Route 66 classic, the accommodations were quite comfortable. They have a restaurant and bar on site, which served up perhaps one of the best pizza pies I have had. The chef’s little kid W, was playing host, and we had a nice time getting to know him and other people at the bar. It seemed to a place the locals like to hang out, and came complete with a shuffleboard table. We had a long leisurely dinner there, did I mention how good the pizza was! It was finally time to call it a night.
The sun was out and we were on our way after a light breakfast in the room. Our
first stop was in Kingman, where we got some coffee and gassed up. We wanted to go through Oatman, which is an old Ghost Town in the Black Mountains. On the way there is an interesting old gas station at Cool Springs. After a somewhat tiring drive through the dusty black mountains we got to Oatman in the early afternoon. The town has reinvented itself around tourism, the highlight being a mock shootout on main street a couple of time a day. We arrived just after the last shootout of the day, which was a bummer. But the main street itself is interesting enough. We had lunch at the Olive Oatman Restaurant the service was excellent considering the surprisingly large number of people there, the food was your typical comfort food. There were burros roaming around in the street and all in all quite a festive atmosphere.
Around 3 pm we were back on the road. Today was the last day o the road before getting to San Diego to M’s on Christmas Day. We got to the Wigwam Motel well after sundown, this was perhaps the quirkiest place I have stayed in the US. The motel is a series of cottages that look like wigwams, they have been refurbished are are quite up to date in terms of amenities. Although it had been a long day, we took a stroll through town and grabbed dinner at a P&G Burger outlet. Back in the wigwam we watched a movie before turning in. Since we were going to see friends in San Diego, we skipped the last stretch of Route 66, which runs all the way to Santa Monica.