Last summer my husband and I had the opportunity to travel one of our most famous historic highwaysRoute 66with the Route 66 Caravan. As we traveled in our RVs, we got an insider's look at this historic route, much of which can still be driven. It was a lesson in history on the effects of the Interstate system: entire towns turned to ghosts while nearby towns thrived. We could imagine ourselves motoring along two-lane sections through the countryside when this was the major route between Chicago and Los Angeles. We treasured the abandoned gas stations, motels, and motorcourts. We saw historic establishments still luring the tourist in.
It's hard to single out our favorites, but some stick in our memory:
Tucumcari, New Mexico: Classic neon signs still light up old Route 66.
Erick, Oklahoma: Harley and Annabelle, the Mediocre Musicians, put on a good show and baloney spread at Sandhills Curiosity Shop.
Blue Whale: A giant blue whale in a pond induced many traveling through Catoosa, Oklahoma, to stop for a swim and a picnic.
Coleman Theatre: Stop to hear the Wurlitzer organ at this beautiful Spanish Revival style theatre in Miami, Oklahoma.
Chain of Rocks Bridge: Hikers and bikers can still cross the Mississippi River on this bridge at St. Louis, Missouri.
Funk's Grove, Illinois: Enjoy old-growth maples and maple syrup just outside of Bloomington.
In Oklahoma, drive a 9-foot wide stretch of highway through the countryside, while a section of brick highway winds through Illinois cornfields.
Adrian, Texas: Pull off the Interstate for delicious homemade pie at Mid Point Café, midpoint of the Route.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Enjoy classic décor while feasting on fried tomatoes and fried peaches at Ann's Chicken Fry House.
St. Louis, Missouri: Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard offers the perfect summer treat: "concretes" that stay in the cup even when turned upside down.
Springfield, Illinois: We recommend the pancakes at The Cozy Dog restaurant.
Litchfield, Illinois: Ariston's Café has deserts to-die-for.
McLean, Texas: Devil's Rope Museum explores the history of barbed wire.
Clinton, Oklahoma: With a room for each decade with exhibits and appropriate music, the Route 66 Museum is a must-see on the history of the route.
How much of old Route 66 you want to drive
will depend on your time and the size of your rig. Some roads
are rougher for larger RVs, but anyone with extra time can
get off the Interstate to see classic Route 66 icons and dine
at unique eateries. A map is essential. While you can often
pick up free maps at state visitor centers, to make the trip
more meaningful, purchase one or more maps or books on each
state. Do short sections as you have a chance, or take a month
or more to really explore.
April 11, 2004