Across the USA
I originally thought that I would just be in Chicago one day and get to take a picture of the sign at that end of the route and call it a day. But this past August, my partner and I actually drove Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, and I’m so glad that we did! We took 8 days to do it, which was a really tight timeline, most people take weeks to do it, so we didn’t get to see everything along the way, but we did get to see a lot of the US that we never would have seen had we taken the interstate. The route starts in downtown Chicago, so we drove about 9 hours just to get to the beginning of route – we started bright and early in the morning, very excited to drive across the US.
Our first stop was in Joliet, Illinois at a Route 66 history museum (most states had at least one, although this was one of the best). Here’s a photo of the route in the museum:
This was the first time we saw the route painted on the road and got excited, so of course we had to take some pictures. Obviously, when you see later pictures, you can tell this is not an official marker, but we didn’t know that at the time
One of the coolest parts of the route were the original parts of the highway that have been preserved, specifically this section that was made of red brick in Auburn, Illinois:
At some points during our drive, it felt like we were driving from one great food location to the next, I often tell people that we ate our way across America on this road trip. Breakfast of champions? Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in Saint Louis, Missouri (Think of a DQ blizzard, but thicker and more delicious)
There were plenty of random fun things to see, like the water tower in the town of Bourbon, Missouri, the World’s Largest Rocker in Cuba, Missouri (Fun tip: on the first Saturday of August, they rent a lift and people can get their picture taken on the rocker!) or a stop for lunch and choose from 100s of sodas at Pop’s in Arcadia, Oklahoma
In between Oklahoma and Texas, Route 66 takes a really quick detour through the southeast corner of Kansas, specifically through the town of Galena, where we got saw the familiar ‘face’ (especially to kids!) of Mater from the movie Cars.
Joel also got say, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Possibly the biggest highlight of the trip so far…
Next came Texas, thankfully Route 66 goes across the panhandle, because Texas would be a BIG state to drive all the way across (especially after driving across Oklahoma). We added our mark to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo and (finally!) arrived at the midpoint cafe at the halfway point of the Route in Adrian, Tx
Back to delicious food – In Albuquerque, New Mexico we had the BEST meal from El Modelo, followed by drinks in Old town where we got to watch a wicked thunderstorm roll in over the mountains
And then came Arizona. Possibly the most scenic part of the route, partly because we don’t have red deserts in Canada and they never stopped being cool – I think I took 100s of photos of random rock formations as we drove through the state. We also saw the biggest diversity of scenery in Arizona, from desert, to flat lands, to forest (mostly because we detoured up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – check out that post here). One of the other highlights from our drive across Arizona was driving through the painted desert, unfortunately the photos don’t do it justice at all. The red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, white and grey layers of the rock was really cool to see
The hidden gem (literally hidden up a mountain) of the route was the old mining town of Oatman, Arizona. It is a one (dirt) road town, with wooden boardwalks and an old ‘western movie town’ feel. In terms of the town, there is not much to do or see once you’re there, except of course the burros (aka Donkeys). They wander the town and are pretty much pets, tourists can buy food for them at every store. The moment we drove into town we were met by this guy:
Yes… Joel is petting a burro.
We didn’t spend a lot of time in Oatman, because the main restaurant was closed and it was lunchtime, so we toured around and then headed back down into the Mojave Desert… At high noon and saw the highest temperature on my cars display I’ve ever seen (and will probably ever see).
After a long detour around some road work, over the Arizona/California border and quick stop in Needles, California, we were finally in the last state on our road trip and oh so close to the end of the route. After restful evening in Pasadena, we ended the Route 66 road trip in Santa Monica, California – Where I originally saw the ‘End of the Trail’ sign that made me want to see the Chicago end and led to this super awesome trip across the middle of the United States.