One of the most noticeable changes witnessed from my perch on Route 66 in recent years is that road trip season now seems to run from around New Years Day to New Years Eve. However, it is still the months of April through October when it seems the curtain that separates the past from the present really is rolled back to present the illusion that Route 66 is more bridge spanning the past and present than highway.
It is not weather that provides the first hint that road trip season is about to begin but the number of visits from my international friends as well as the number of requests for assistance or interviews. With that as my indicator it is quite apparent that road trip season has begun even though the weather this morning hits more of winter than spring.
Dale Butel, owner of an Australian company that specializes in Route 66 tours will be stopping in Kingman for a quick visit in the next day or so. Peter, a television producer from Berlin will be in Kingman in the next few weeks to discuss a documentary he will be filming fall. Dries from Holland is finalizing plans for his groups Route 66 tour that always includes an interesting dinner in Kingman.
If you happen to be one of the uninitiated, or are just curious about why Route 66 is so popular, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you take to the road this year and discover its many charms. With that said here is my quick summary of what you will need for the trip, as well as my suggestions of sites that should not be missed.
Step one would be acquisition of the EZ 66 Guide by Jerry McClanahan. There are a multitude of travel guides available but there is only one that you need and this is it.
As most folks travel Route 66 from east to west we will start with Chicago, a city that can easily be a vacation destination unto itself. To get the best out of your visit a knowledgeable tour guide is always best and in Chicago there is none better than Dave Clark.
If you are citiphobic (a feeling of claustrophobia induced by traffic congestion, crowds, and towering skyscrapers) then you will most like want to get out of Chicago as soon as possible. I fully understand but one stop is an absolute must, Lou Mitchell’s, a Route 66 icon that has been serving travelers and locals alike for more than seventy years.
In either case, Dave Clark’s book about Route 66 in Chicago a good one to peruse before the trip begins. It will provide more than a few ideas for sites to see, give a bit of historical context for places passed as you motor west, and in general add depth to the experience.
Route 66 in Illinois consistently rates as one of the states most popular attractions. The road, or roads as there are several alignments of Route 66, between Chicago and the Mississippi River is an almost endless string of attractions. I strongly suggest that before beginning your odyssey along the Main Street of America in this state you first explore the Illinois Route 66 Association website and acquire their travel guide.
To say the very least, the various alignments of Route 66 in the St.  Louis area are a tangled and confusing mess but McClanahans guide will go a very long way to making sense of it. Not many think of St. Louis as a vacation destination but there are more enough sites and point of interest here to fill several vacations.
The resident expert on St. Louis, and Route 66 in that city, is Joe Sonderman. He has written extensively on that subject, as well as on Route 66 in Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona. You can order books and explore his extensive and fascinating post card collection at his website by following this link.
If you miss everything in St. Louis as you flee to less congested surroundings, at least make it a point to stop at Ted Drewes, a roadside favorite since 1929. To get the most out of your tour along Route 66 in Missouri start with that states association.
If your running on a restricted schedule there are several places that must not be missed. Rating high on the list of must see stops are Cuba, Gay Parita, and Devil’s Elbow.
One of the things that will really enhance your Route 66 adventure in the Show Me State is to take advantage of one of the many vintage motels along the way, a very rare treat indeed. I have three that can be highly recommended; the Wagon Wheel Motel, the Munger Moss Motel, and the Route 66 Rail Haven.
Kansas is unique in regards to its association with Route 66. It has the shortest segment of that highway, less than twenty miles, and is the only state wholly bypassed with the creation of the interstate highway system.
In that short distance are an amazing array of attractions from the beautiful Marsh Arch Bridge to the historic communities of Baxter Springs and Galena. Again, if you are doing the Reader’s Digest condensed tour of the highway be sure to at least stop and say hello to Melba at Four Women on the Route in Galena. Be prepared for a very long and very friendly visit as everyone who stops is made to feel like long lost family.
Route 66 is treasured by the folks of Oklahoma. As a result, driving Route 66 through this state allows for an almost time travel sensation.
The first stop has to be the Route 66 Association of Oklahoma website. Be sure to order their informative and detailed guide before beginning your trip.
There are a staggering array of attractions to see, experience, savor, and taste. But there are several that have to be included as “must see” stops regardless of how tight the schedule is. Topping my list is Afton Station in the near ghost town of Afton.
A wonderful example of what makes Route 66 a truly unique experience is found in Chandler, Oklahoma. The acclaimed artist and author of the EZ 66 Guide lives here. To quote from his book, “The gallery is just past the second house on the east. Get your EZ Guide autographed and the latest updates! No set hours: Call ahead or try your luck. Cell 903-467-6384, Home 405-258-0130,”
Texas rates second to Kansas for having the shortest section of Route 66. But jammed in that short distance are landmarks such as the U Drop In in Shamrock, ghost towns, the Devils Rope Museum, and a wide array of attractions.
Again, start with a visit to the state association website. My second suggestion for traveling through Texas on Route 66 is to plan your trip for the week of June 9, the scheduled kick off for the International Route 66 Festival in Amarillo. I guarantee this event will get you in the mood to explore and discover Route 66.
Tomorrow I will highlight the sites and adventures awaiting discovery on Route in Arizona, New Mexico, and California.