There is something incredibly special about traveling Route 66; The American classic road trip. I recently connected with someone on Twitter who said he has gone out and discovered something new along the Route over 200 times – very impressive I’d say.
The American Classic Road Trip
While I don’t think I’m up for 200 visits, I would – in a heartbeat – retrace our journey, but only if we had more time. When you come across a treasure such as Galena, KS or Tucumcari, NM, you just want to stay put for a day or two, put your feet up and catch your breath.
When you have to breeze through a town in order to make your next destination, it leaves you feeling as if you missed something. I think we may have missed quite a few somethings, but we also saw so much and thoroughly enjoyed each moment.
Back in Familiar Territory
By the time we crossed into Arizona, we were back in familiar territory. We spent the night in Santa Fe, NM, primarily because we were scouting it out as a possible vacation location for ourselves and our friends. We did return the next year and spent a fabulous week enjoying everything Santa Fe and the surrounding area had to offer, but that’s another story.
I will tell you though that if you have the opportunity to visit Santa Fe, be sure to see the Loretto Chapel. The chapel itself is beautiful, but the story of the staircase is extraordinary and should not be missed. And take an afternoon to visit the Taos Pueblo, a living pueblo dating back 1,000 years. Two extraordinary Route 66 side trip experiences no one should miss.
We planned our nine nights on the road to maximize time spent in states we’d never previously visited, so by the time we reached Arizona, we really had to put the pedal to the metal so to speak. After leaving NM we spent the night in Flagstaff and made a quick stop at Walnut Canyon – a place we had visited years before.
Unfortunately, mother nature felt it necessary to roll a huge storm through the area leaving fallen trees and boulders on the trails so we weren’t able to hike to the cliff dwellings. We are 2 and 0 for Walnut Canyon. Maybe the 3rd time will be the charm – someday.
Life After Dusk
Our last night on the road was in Laughlin, NV, I know… why? Well, we had to stop somewhere and we’d never been – nor will we ever go again – but it was interesting to see, although it was sweltering hot at 112 degrees. We stayed at a hotel/casino right on the Colorado River and that was lovely, especially since the room rate was $40/night.
Definitely an oasis in the middle of the desert, albeit an odd one. We couldn’t figure out why all of the riverside bars and beach activities closed so early… until we saw the critters come out after dusk – then we knew!
We Turned North
And so the last morning dawned. Leaving Laughlin we made our way home driving the last 539 miles in one very long day. We stopped briefly in Needles and then drove across the desert toward Barstow. We stopped in a tiny little town called, Daggett, to take in a bit of California history. While having lunch in Barstow we took some time to visit a small Route 66 Museum near the Harvey House.
From Barstow, Route 66 heads southwest, ending in Santa Monica. Sadly though, we turned north and headed home. All good things must come to and end – or so they say.
Route 66 Road Trip – Recap
We drove 2,478 miles on our Route 66 road trip in just nine days, and we filled all nine of those days with as much as we possibly could. The cheapest gas we found on the road was $3.69/gallon in Springfield, MO. We saw a massive warehouse in the middle of nowhere near Coffeyville, KS and it turned out to be an Amazon distribution center. Who knew?
We discovered the delightful happy hour experience at Sonic Drive-Ins and we took two road trip side trips so that I could walk in the path of Laura Ingalls Wilder, someone I admire greatly.
I cannot say Route 66 road trip was a life-changing experience, but it was definitely life-illuminating. As a result of our little drive along Route 66 we have a good understanding of what it means to be from the heartland of America, or what newscasters mean when they refer to the Bible belt of America. We witnessed first hand the loss of so many small towns when the Interstate highway system was built, which diverted traffic away from the local businesses. America was on the move and no longer had time to stop at mom and pop diners.
It was good to see so many communities who have volunteers working diligently to keep the Route alive and it was good to take time to remember those who lost their lives in the Oklahoma City bombing.
It has been great fun for me to relive our Route 66 experience as we mark the 5th anniversary of our drive in July 2008. Thanks so much for reading. I hope one day you’ll have the opportunity to drive the American classic road trip known as – Route 66.