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How I spent my honeymoon road tripping Route 66: an adventure through time and history


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For our honeymoon, we wanted to do something different. Throwing aside luxury island resorts and safaris, my husband and I set out on the ultimate road trip. Covering 2,448 miles in three weeks, we crossed eight states from Chicago to California, from the East to the West of the United States... Route 66.

When we picked up our hire car at Chicago airport, we were somewhat unprepared for the road ahead. Spat out onto the rapid seven-lane interstate and driving on the opposite side of the road from what we were used to, we held onto a vague hope that we were going in the right direction.

After a wobbly start, the remainder of the road trip turned out to be the most life-enhancing travel experience I have ever had, and a real-life adventure.

Image credit: Adam Muise on Unsplash

Born in 1926, The Mother Road has featured in scores of novels and films and was most famously immortalised in the song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66"The Main Street of America has transported millions in search of a better life.

Having suffered the indignity of decertification as a US highway in 1984, fuelled by nostalgia and fired by folk intent on preservation, Route 66 refused to die. Now, people from all over the world come to find what is left of the glory days of America’s past.

Much of Route 66 consists of single track roads which travel alongside the interstate. We drove at a slow pace to really soak in the surroundings. The route is not always signposted and, often, we found ourselves driving on roads made of dirt and brick or down stretches of road where we did not see another car for hours.

Our three-week road trip took us from the skyscrapers of Chicago, the green hills of Missouri and the vast Mississippi River, the great plains of Texas, across the Arizona desert and finally into the lush salad bowl of California.

Image credit: Florian Schneider on Unsplash

We had a brief 11 miles in Kansas, the Sunflower State, which prompted much hilarity afterwards about how "we aren't in Kansas anymore!"

My favourite thing on the road was giant spotting.

Route 66 is littered with giants of every imaginable kind. The Muffler Men are large fibreglass sculptures placed as advertising icons. Standing at up to 20 feet tall, they are impossible to miss.

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Image credit: Amelia Thorogood

Other bizarre and wonderful things on the route include giant dinosaurs, the world’s tallest totem pole, a Cadillac Ranch, giant blue whales and the world's largest rocking chair.

One of the biggest unexpected joys of travelling Route 66 is the people that you meet on the way.

People were incredibly kind and helpful. Our inability to work the petrol pump led to lovely Molly in St Louis not only filling the car up for us but paying for it as well.

Later on, we chatted with a waitress at the Big Texan in Amarillo (and, yes, we did ask if anyone knew the way to Amarillo) who told us her plans to go into politics and sort Trump out. She was the angriest cowgirl I have ever met.

We partied with the locals in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a dozen others who declared themselves friends for life.  

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Image credit: Amelia Thorogood

There are many exciting places to stay if you avoid the major chains. Two Gun Larry at the Motel Safari put us in the Wanda Jackson suite reserved for the headline acts of the annual rockabilly festival. The room was bigger than many flats I have rented, and the facilities rivalled that of a first class hotel.

Crossing the desert was hot, sticky, dusty and, in places, a little scary.

Vast, lonely plains of arid grassland are punctuated with giant crosses and leaning water towers, which make for an almost post-apocalyptic landscape. We were told to watch out for rattlesnakes. I am a little ophidiophobic and I became convinced that they were the size of a giant anaconda, intent on eating us.

Image credit: Free-Photos on Pixabay

Planning is crucial on desert routes. We miscalculated the distance to the next town and came very close to running out of fuel. Miraculously, the tiny town of Groom provided a filling station where a nice old gentleman came out and wound the handle to the pump for us. Nothing had changed since 1950 and had I not been so frightened, I would have appreciated more what an amazing piece of living history this was.

We met people doing good work, rescuing circus animals and exotic pets, and we were able to get closer to a bear and a lion than we ever could in a UK zoo. The Grand Canyon really has to be seen to be believed, and afterwards we detoured to Las Vegas. After two days of glitz and glamour, we were happy to be back on the road.

Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is one of the more bizarre places I’ve ever seen.

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Image credit: Amelia Thorogood

On Route 66, you can never be sure what you will find. It is an adventure through time and history. In the empty places along America’s most famous highway, the ghosts whisper on every breeze; buildings have been left to be reclaimed by nature as the modern world zips by on the interstate.

These places are eerily quiet and engulfed with a sense of sadness.

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Image credit: Amelia Thorogood

In total contrast, our journey ended with the gridlock of Los Angeles. In bumper-to-bumper traffic, we feared we would never find Sunset Boulevard and instead spend the rest of our lives searching for the end of the road.

Route 66 officially ends at Santa Monica pier, where we celebrated with a swim in the Pacific Ocean.

I have only briefly touched on the incredible experience I had road tripping Route 66, so I will leave it to Bob Waldmire, a true 66 legend, to have the last word: "Go safe, go slow, but go".

Image credit: Adam Muise on Unsplash

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