On The Road to Rt. 66 - Santa Monica CA Back Home to Chicago IL

No matter how amazing the trip, it's always good to come home! Such is the case with our Rt. 66 journey - home, safe and sound, basking in the wonderful memories.  There is, however, a postscript!

Before I begin, I want to sincerely thank everyone who followed our incredible road trip on Rt. 66 via Facebook or Twitter! I appreciate all your feedback and am trying to respond back to everyone.

Many of you expressed an interest in motoring along the Mother Road in response to my “virtual vacation” and asked for some specifics, so here is the time line - how many miles per day, where we stayed, rough budget estimates, etc.

We decided to rent a vehicle (mini-van) and fly back so we could take our time over a 2 week period. I spent time researching the route, using two very helpful tools -  the website "Historic Route 66" http://www.historic66.com/,  and an app, “Road Trip 66.”  The website gave us an idea of what we were in for ahead of time, but the app was my main form of information and navigation throughout the trip - best .99-cents I ever spent! This app gives you the entire route, old alignments and new, as well as attractions, complete with descriptions, pictures, websites and phone numbers (if available).  It also has hotels/motels along the route and restaurants/diners, again with accompanying information. 97% of the time it was SPOT ON!  Pretty impressive, since there really are no existing maps of Rt. 66, because the infamous route no longer exists!

Day 1 - we drove 309 miles from Chicago to Kirkwood MO and stayed at the Best Western 1200 S. Kirkwood Rd.  Price range $110 to $120. ***I used my AAA discount - all but one hotel took it.  With all the stops along the way (and 2 hours in Pontiac, IL!) this took 10 hours.

Day 2- we drove 431 miles from Kirkwood MO to Tulsa OK and stayed at the Campbell Hotel, 2600 E. 11th St. This restored boutique hotel was built in 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Introductory rates at $119.  This was our longest driving day!  We actually had to get off Rt. 66 and take I-40 part of the way to make up some time! Kind of mis-judged this one a bit - even with the interstate it took 11 hours!

Day 3 - we drove 402 miles from Tulsa OK to Amarillo, TX and stayed at The Big Texan Motel, 7701 I-40 East. Price range, $46 to $85.   Again, another L O N G driving day - 11 hours. Never having been to these states, I didn’t realize how long a drive it would be, particularly with stops along the way!

Day 4 - we drove 310 miles from Amarillo, TX to Santa Fe, NM and stayed at the Santa Fe Sage Inn, 725 Cerrillos Rd. Price range, $75 to $160. This drive was lovely and short, comparatively speaking! We rolled into town at 3:30 pm!  Never having been to the state of New Mexico we opted to stay one night in Santa Fe and two nights in Albuquerque.  In hindsight I would have done the opposite. Santa Fe is such a charming town, an artists’ town with history and character.  Loved it!

Day 5 - a short 77 mile drive from Santa Fe, NM to Albuquerque, NM. We stayed at The Hotel Blue, 717 Central Ave.  Price range $69 to $149. This hotel had an unusual feel to it; no pictures on the walls - but it was clean and it had Tempurpedic beds! Good enough for me! Stayed here 2 nights.

Day 7 - we drove 368 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Flagstaff, AZ. This was a long day because we spent hours driving through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. SO worth it!  Also hit some major storms (monsoon season) and rolled into the Radisson Woodlands Hotel, 1175 W. Rt. 66 around 7:30 pm.  Price range $79 to $149. NICE hotel :)

Day 8 was spent driving across Arizona - 243 miles - to Needles CA. We stayed at the Best Western Colorado River Inn, price range starts at $72. Decided to stop here before spending a day driving in the Mojave Desert - to make sure we had water, ice and the car was in good shape!  We spent a lot of time at various towns in AZ since this drive was a bit shorter.  We got into Needles before 6:00 pm.

Day 9 - we drove 161 miles through the desert from Needles, CA to Barstow CA. We took our time, drank plenty of fluids and arrived at the Rodeway Inn, 1261 E. Main St. around 3:00 pm. Price range - rates start at $66.95.  Gave us time to repack, do some laundry and prepare for the upcoming week.


Day 10 - it was only 168 miles from Barstow CA to Santa Monica CA and the end of Rt. 66 but it seemed like it took FOREVER, once we got into the LA traffic grid!  We finally made it to the Santa Monica Pier around 5:00 pm!  After we took the celebratory pictures, had dinner and just enjoyed the ocean view, we checked into the Doubletree by Hilton at 4th and Olympic, just “off” Rt. 66 - the only hotel that wasn’t located exactly on the historic route!  We stayed there 4 nights, visiting family and friends before flying home on Day 14.


One last bit of parting advice: if you do decide to tackle this baby, give yourself MORE time than you think you’ll need!  Even with all my planning, I could have easily used another week, and there are still things I wouldn’t have been able to see!

Good luck, and happy motoring!

07/30/2013 On The Road to Rt. 66 - Barstow CA to Santa Monica CA

I woke up this morning with mixed emotions - for the past 9 days I had been looking so forward to reaching our final stop on Rt. 66, and now that it was rapidly approaching I didn’t want the journey to end!  Coffee in hand, we pulled out of Barstow on our way to Santa Monica. I wanted to capture as many images as I could of the iconic road as we drove west, mountains beckoning.rt

In the town of Helandale, a rather unusual sight pops upseemingly out of nowhere! Elmer Long’s Bottle Cactus Ranch is filled with trees made of bottles - hundreds of them!  Long created this unusual display after inheriting a huge bottle collection from his father. Quite a colorful spot in the middle of the desert!


The next town gave us an opportunity to do some antiquing at the Oro Grande Antique Station.  I found some interesting items, but I think they would go over the weigh limit in my suitcase!

More movie history in Victorville - a stop at Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe - great Rt. 66 road food, and a feature in the film “Kill Bill.” What more would you want in a cafe?!

Heading south between Angeles National Forest and San Bernadino National Forest, the scenery was breathtaking against the clear blue sky!

More fun sights on Foothill Blvd! The Wigwam Village Motel in Rialto, and Bono’s Giant Orange Stand in Fontana.  The motel is open - the juice stand has closed!

The city of Rancho Cucamonga had many beautiful Rt. 66 displays, both along side and above the roadway. 

Next town over, the Madonna Of The Trail pays tribute to the pioneer mothers who traveled west with their husbands. From serious to surreal - more towering fiberglass as chicken boy looks down on us from a rooftop in L.A.!

For lunch, we decided on a recommendation from the “Road Trip 66” app we’d been following - Mom’s Tamales in Lincoln Heights.  All I can say is WOW! Best tamales I’ve had outside of Mexico - seriously!

Past Los Angeles, Rt. 66 follows Santa Monica Blvd.  We passed several famous sights: The Hollywood Forever Cemetery - the final resting place of many famous actors, directors and producers; The Troubadour, where many famed musicians and performers got their start.

At long last, we hit the end point of Rt. 66 at Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Avenue, where we received a certificate for making the 2,448 mile journey from Chicago! 

On The Road to Rt. 66 - Needles CA to Barstow CA

As we began the 9th day of our Rt. 66 journey, we thought we would, as the song says, “Take it Easy,” and only travel the 155 miles from Needles to Barstow.  We had breakfast at The Wagon Wheel - a Rt. 66 favorite. 

With a high of 105-degrees predicted for our drive through the desert, we loaded up with ice and water and hit the road.  One thing I noticed driving the Mother Road through California - there were very few street signs marking Historic Rt. 66 - instead the iconic shields were on the pavement itself!

Driving through the Mojave Desert was hot - our car thermometer was proof, but that did not take away from the majestic beauty of the mountains in the distance.

As this is monsoon season here in the desert southwest, we found ourselves driving into threatening looking storm systems with severe lightening in the distance.

Fortunately the storms stayed to the north allowing us to partake in the “Rock Art” along the railroad berm just east of the town of Amboy!  There is a several mile stretch decorated with initials, greetings, signatures - all spelled out in rocks!  And yes, Facebook fans - I did watch out for snakes and other desert critters!

Our next stop was a National Natural Landmark - The Amboy Crater and Lava Field.  The crater is an extinct 250 ft. high volcanic cinder cone that lies within a 27 square lava field in the Mojave Desert.  You can hike to the top of the cone, but with temps topping out at 108-degrees, we chose to take pictures under the shade of the visitors’ lookout!  

One of the most delightful things about driving Rt. 66 is the people you meet along the way.  The people in every town we’ve visited have been more than hospitable and all have had stories to tell.  Travelers, like ourselves, have conveyed the same amount of enthusiasm and wonder, venturing cross country on this historic highway. We met Scott and Linda, driving Rt. 66 on a motorcycle from New York! Now that's a road trip!

Roy’s Motel and Cafe is one of only a few left along this stretch of 66 in the desert and comes with an interesting story.  Amboy was a railroad town before Rt. 66.  When the highway, and the subsequent travelers came through during the Great Depression, Roy Crowl opened a diner with great success.  When I-40 rerouted traffic around Amboy, the town died.  Fast-forward to 2005 - Albert Okura, owner of the Juan Pollo Restuarants bought the entire town, and is said to be in the process of restoring many structures.  It was looking good as we drove by!

Our final stop today, the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs.  It was the inspiration for the 1988 film “Bagdad Cafe” which was filmed in the area.

Overnight in Barstow - tomorrow our final destination on Rt. 66 - Santa Monica!

On The Road to Rt. 66 - Flagstaff AZ to Needles CA

Have you ever had a day that felt like three jammed into one?! Well that was our day on Rt. 66 from Flagstaff AZ to Needles CA - and I mean that in a good way!  We started with a late breakfast as the Galaxy Diner - a ‘50s style eatery with great food to go with the retro decor!

Our first stop after breakfast - what is said to be the highest point along Rt. 66 - elevation 7,410 ft. along Brannigan Park Rd in Bellemont, AZ, in Kaibab National Forest.  Nearby in the town of Parks, an Auto Tour sign marks the original alignment. 

The next stop is Williams, where you have the option to take the train on a side trip to the Grand Canyon.  Since we’ve seen that magnificent site on previous vacations, we opted to walk through Williams, which has become a mecca for all things Rt. 66!

All that site-seeing (and shopping!) worked up an appetite - good thing the Road Kill Cafe in Seligman wasjust a short drive away!  Yes, the food was DELICIOUS!

We had hoped to take a side trip down Diamond Creek Road to see the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the Colorado River, but due to the heavy rains over the past several days, the road was currently flooded and impassable.  Instead, we stopped at the General Store in Hackberry and found a treasure trove of Rt. 66 memorabilia and souvenirs! 

Entering Kingman, the scenery changed once again - a quaint town against a backdrop of rugged mountains. No shortage of Rt. 66 history here, from the welcoming water towers to the train depot-turned museum.  Driving through the mountains, the rains moved in and here’s where things got interesting….

Fortunately my husband is an exceptional driver - and the rain let up!  As we approached the town of Oatman, we were greeted by the infamous burros!

Oatman Arizona was a gold mining town in the early 1900’s with more than 3500 residents.  Today, it is described as a “living ghost town” with perhaps 100 residents, but for visitors along Rt. 66, this throwback to the Old West is a must-see!

The drive leaving Oatman is just as scenic, especially since we had sun glistening from the mountain tops and a rainbow to boot. 

There were many times we felt like we had the road to ourselves.  And out here, in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, there is still a reminder that we are traveling on the most historic stretch of roadway in America!

We are now just 22 miles from our stop for the night, Needles California.  We follow the old Rt. 66 alignment as we cross into California, but somehow this road is no longer an options - it is filled with rocks and impassable.

We take to the interstate and within minutes found ourselves approaching the town of Needles, so names for its pointed mountain peaks.  We pause for a picture, and pause for a night’s rest! Tomorrow we take on the Mojave Desert! Water, water, water!


On The Road to Rt. 66 Albuquerque NM to Flagstaff AZ

Another 370-plus miles on the odometer today, as we bid farewell to Albuquerque - destination, Flagstaff AZ.  The morning started out in a GRAND way, crossing the Rio Grande!

We passed plenty of Rt. 66 signage - some new, many vintage ,as the scenery became less and less residential.

A stop near the town of Thoreau was a must to snap a pic at the Continental Divide marker - wouldn’t you know it?! There was a HUGE souvenir shop across the road to mark the occasion!

By now we were ready for lunch and decided to stop in Gallup.  We’ve been using this incredible app, “Road Trip 66” to help guide us - one recommendation was Earl’s Family Restaurant.  As we pulled up, the place was packed - a very good sign! 


Native American artisans sell handmade crafts, both inside and out.  Sara found something special, for someone special!  We even had a friendly chat with owner Ralph Richards, giving us some helpful tips for our continuing journey.  

As we crossed the border into Arizona, the scenery changed again - we saw wild horses taking shelter from the heat in a tunnel under I-40.  We saw “Fort Courage” in the form of yet another souvenir shop, modeled after the ‘60s sit-com “F-Troop!”

The highpoint of the day was a two-fer, courtesy of Mother Nature. Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.  I have never seen anything like this and will hold on to these incredibly beautiful images for as long as humanly possible.

About half-way between the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest you’ll find “Newspaper Rock,” so named because of the thousands of petroglyphs, images scratched on stone, that were made by the native peoples hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

Appropriately enough, there is a spot dedicated to where Rt. 66 cut through the park ,with an old model car - to the left, you can see the line of old telephone poles that still mark the road bed of Historic Rt. 66.

I could have spent days, rather than hours capturing the magnificent structures and vibrant hues, but with the storms looming and the temperature dropping, we knew we were on borrowed time!

When the rain hit, we’d made it to Winslow and were still able to snap a shot of the giant wooden indian, guiding people to the Sweetland FurnitureCompany!  

The rains became heavy - even blinding for a stretch, but we were not going to let that stop us from visiting the “Take It Easy” corner, made famous by the Eagles 1972 hit song!  I just love pop culture!

We finally rolled in to Flagstaff - tomorrow we hit the road again - and prepare for a ride through the desert!