The resurgent interest in Route 66 has been a tremendous blessing for communities from Chicago to Santa Monica that utilize this economic opportunity for the redevelopment of blighted districts, the refurbishment of historic properties, and the creation of an infrastructure and atmosphere that is conducive to overall development. Ironically, the very hype that initially elevated this highway to the status of icon, and that now fuels this growth, often obscures the reality and creates a myopia that hinders getting the most from a Route 66 adventure.
As an example, consider Amarillo, Texas. If you ask fans of the double six about attractions in this city it is a fair bet that the answer will include the Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan Steakhouse. Interestingly enough, while both are worthy of a visit neither attraction is actually on Route 66.
Meanwhile the 6th Avenue corridor, Route 66 in Amarillo, languishes in relative obscurity under the Texas sun. This is in spite of the fact that the entire corridor is lined with the type of fascinating historic structures, eclectic shops, galleries, and restaurants that are at the heart of the Route 66 experience.
A similar example can be found in Kingman. In the historic district visitors follow Route 66 west past a few businesses, empty buildings that date to the territorial period, a bar of similar vintage, a Mexican restaurant, and invariably stop at the Powerhouse Visitor Center, dine at Mr. D’z, and take pictures in Locomotive Park.
Again, these are all great stops that should be included in every itinerary. However, just one block to the north, Beale Street (site of the monthly Chillin’ on Belae Street) with its shops, restaurants, and galleries is often overlooked resultant of the focus on Route 66 and the popular stops.
After our whirlwind adventure last fall (9.5 days to Chicago and back) I am painfully aware of the difficulties associated with trying to get the most from a Route 66 adventure on a tight schedule. Still, I think it imperative that we do not dilute the experience by being to restrictive or myopic.
Flexibility coupled with advance planning is the best way to get the most enjoyment from each mile. Add the quest to see what others miss or overlook and you have truly made this a grand adventure with memories that will last a life time.