WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ROUTE 66, THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME
In the coming weeks I will post more detailed notes about great places to stay and eat on Route 66, as well as other tidbits discovered on our latest whirlwind adventure along that legendary highway. I will also have a few photos to share as we filled two and one half memory cards with pictures of Route 66 landmarks framed by fall color.
As we returned home late last evening, and I had to be in the office by 8:00 this morning, the photos will have to wait until this weekend. Here are just a few highlights from our 9.5 day, 4,150 mile odyssey across America.
We picked up our rental car, a new Ford Focus, from Gwen at Budget on Friday evening. My wife spent Saturday morning packing and as soon as I closed the office at noon we hit the road.
As the targeted destination for the evening was Grants, we sucked it up and hit the interstate. I have never doubted the fact that the interstate highway is a drastic improvement over Route 66 but experience has taught me that it has no soul and that in time, driving it will suck the very life from the most exciting adventure. We planned on avoiding that fate at all costs even though the schedule was quite tight.
We arrived in Winslow just in time for dinner at the La Posada. As always the food was excellent but in my opinion lunch is a better buy.
Before we hit the New Mexico state line a stunning storm provided us with an amazing light show that left us with little choice but to pull over and try to capture just a hint of its majesty with photographs. Storms in the desert are just one of the many things I love about life in the desert southwest.
The primary task behind this grand adventure was the promotion of Ghost Towns of Route 66, and through it, promotion of some great museums and shops along the highway. The secondary reason for our journey was to gather images for the new book, a Route 66 encyclopedia.
So, a pleasant and restful evening in Grants, we set about the task of documenting the faded vestiges of better times just as the sun broke over the eastern horizon. What a delightful way to begin an adventure!
For the rest of the day we wove our way between the past and present by jumping on the interstate to make up for lost time, and jumping on Route 66 to loose track of time. Much to our dismay we arrived in Adrian, Texas just before sunset which meant we were to late to visit Fran, and to linger over pie and coffee.
We found a bit of solace in arriving in Shamrock well after dark and photographing the iconic U Drop In with its restored neon trim. Needless to say, by the time we arrived in Clinton, Oklahoma, our destination for the night, the wind had left our sails.
The next day, with a few notable exceptions, was a repeat of the previous one as we photographed our way across Oklahoma. We wet our whistle at Pops in Arcadia, and stopped to meet the owner of the wonderful motorcycle museum housed in the historic Seaba Station in Warwick.
The friendly owner, and the excellent collection of motorcycles provide ample reason for a stop. I won’t spoil the fun but no visit can be considered complete without taking in the sights out back.
The next stop of note was Chandler. As it turned out, we were fortunate to catch the legendary Jerry McClanahan of EZ 66 fame at his gallery just as he was turning thoughts toward lunch. So, it was off to the Rock Cafe in Stroud for a visit with Dawn, and some first rate food.
The sun was hanging low on the western horizon we we hit Afton. This meant we missed Laurel and the gang at Afton Station, and I didn’t get to explore the 1917 Packard “motor home” that has been gnawing at my curiosity since I first heard of it.
That left us with little to do but document the haunting images of this faded town as the shadows grew longer. Then with a distinct weariness settling into our bones, we saddled up and headed for the Munger Moss in Lebanon.
We missed Bob and Ramona but still enjoyed a restful and pleasant evening embraced in the time capsule that is the Munger Moss. Before leaving, I left a copy of the book, and a photo for Bob and Ramona as my way of saying thank you for the excellent job they have done in keeping this little corner of pre generic America alive.
As usual, we took to the road shortly after sunrise and followed Route 66 through the stunning beauty of the Ozarks accentuated by fall colors. We lingered over a sandwich at Maidrite, savored the serenity of the bridge at Devil’s Elbow, took in a fruit stand where I proceeded to stock up on fresh jams, sample a bit of wine in the shadow of a giant rocking chair in Fanning, and savor some fantastic grape pie in the park high on the bluff above Pacific.
Then we battled our way through St. Louis and surrounding environs with the hope of catching Rich Henry in Staunton before it got to late. There wasn’t a great deal of disappointment in missing him as the return leg presented another opportunity and we had dinner plans for the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield.
By the time we made Springfield, our destination for the night, the hour was late. By the time we found our hotel it was even later as I got a bit lost but that did provide an opportunity to see a some of the historic district without a great deal of traffic hindrance.
The next morning, even though there was a very full day of schedules to keep, I managed to scratch off something from my “to do” list that has been lingering for more than four decades – tour the home of Abraham Lincoln. This coupled with a last minute schedule change prohibited me from meeting Buzz Waldmire, the brother of acclaimed artist Bob Waldmire. Of everything missed on the trip, this rates toward the top for disappointments.
We arrived in Berwyn with just thirty minutes to spare before the scheduled event at the new Route 66 museum where we were to share the spotlight with acclaimed author and historian David Clark. As it turned out this was just enough time for a sandwich, and a very short visit with a friend who had driven in from northern Wisconsin for the event.
Time flew at the museum and before we knew it, it was time to head for Michigan. Los Angeles gets a well deserved bad rap for traffic congestion but they have nothing over Chicago at 5:30 in the evening. Well, it provided us with ample time for taking in the sights of the Chicago skyline highlighted by a setting sun.
We arrived at our hotel in Benton Harbor quite late but still managed to find the energy for a shopping trip at Walmart to replenish supplies. The evening went much to fast and with just a hint of weariness we again took to the road about sunrise the next day.
The day was a blur of photographic stops. I am quite eager to look through the photos to see where we went! I do know we found time for a stroll along Memory Lane in Lexington, an excellent lunch in Dwight, and a whole lot of driving before collapsing in Litchfield where we were to meet Dale Butel, John Springs, Bob Lile, and Kumar Patel the next morning.
Always have a plan “B”, that is my motto. The next morning I received a call from Dale, his plans were in disarray and could not meet until 11:30. As I had a signing in Des Peres at noon, that wasn’t an option so we set out for Rich Henry’s.
In missing Rich for the second time, we went to plan “C” which was a stroll to the mid river point on the Chain of Rocks of Bridge. It was not at all what I had planned but it still turned out to be a delightful morning.
At two, after several hours of signing books and answering questions about Route 66, we rolled west toward Cuba and the Wagon Wheel Motel. As it turned out, the best part of our adventure was just beginning.