Route 66 - Getting Our Kicks by Kathryn & Darren Sloan

28/12/2007

We made our first trip to the United States in 2000. We had a young family so did all the touristy things that Southern California had to offer, such as Disneyland and Universal Studios. We had met a guy called Ray who ran a Tour business and he was our personal guide around town. One day whilst out driving with him, he pointed out a Route 66 sign and told us that it was an important part of American history. The only thing we knew about it was that it was a catchy song !! We came home and did some searching on the net, and discovered the history of the road and the many stories and characters that line the Route. We talked about it being a 'dream trip' to drive the length of it; in fact we talked about it for over 2 years! We then spent another two years planning it, until our dream became a reality in May 2005 when we got to take our 'dream trip" and spent six weeks travelling the full length of it from Chicago to Santa Monica.

1 car outside hotel 10route 66 motors 11 sprinfield mustangs 12 marsh arch kansas 13 sidewalk highway
1 car outside hotel.jpg 10route 66 motors.jpg 11 sprinfield mustangs.jpg 12 marsh arch kansas.jpg 13 sidewalk highway.jpg

Route 66 was a federal route of the US highway system. It was established in 1926 as a way of linking Chicago in the East to Los Angeles in the West. It runs through eight states - Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and it is approx 2448 miles long (3620km). US 66 was officially decommissioned (removed from the US highway system) in 1985 after it had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Route 66 was immortalised in Steinbecks 'Grapes of Wrath' where it became known as the Mother Road, and was also made famous through the Bobby Troupe song 'get your kicks on Route 66'.

We started out at the 'beginning' of the Route in Chicago, Illinois. Our first job was to pick up our hire car. We decided on a Ford Mustang and we were pleased to find it was a current 2005 model, bronze in colour and a very nice V6 model. Our original plan was to start our trip with breakfast at Lou Mitchells (one of the many iconic places along the route) and then be headed out by 10am. Well, our first day didn't start off quite as planned; instead it was more like 1pm when we left the city. Darren was not concerned with driving on the right, or being on the 'wrong' side of the car, but navigating our way out of downtown Chicago in the middle of the day was quite hectic and we were both a bit on edge until we reached the outer suburbs. Once in a quieter suburb, we pulled over and Darren made some modifications to the car to enable us to use our Waeco car fridge in the back seat. It also gave us time to check out the car in more detail. Prior to our trip, I had discussed with some Route 66 online friends who had previously travelled the Route in a Mustang the year before, the best way to pack the car with our luggage for the long trip including making room for all the souvenirs that I knew we would acquire !! , We ended up having our main suitcase in the boot and had soft pack bags around the sides.

14 german mustang drivers 15 phillips station 16 midpoint 17 first last in texas 18 texas
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PHOTO 1 ~~~~car outside the hotel ~~~~
We had researched the Route well, and had fabulous maps from Jim Ross and Jerry McLanahan, as well as the full map set downloaded from www.historic66.com . All of these proved to be invaluable. We also had our list of 'must see' places on the way as well as a loosely planned itinerary. We had planned to drive 100 miles on our first day, but instead we only covered about 25 !!

We stopped at Willmington and saw the 'Gemini Giant'; the first of the 'muffler men' we'd see on the Route. The muffler men are giant fibreglass figures, that stand about 15 feet tall, they were used in the 60's and 70's as advertising for car yards etc and the men held 'mufflers'. Many of these have been modified and the Gemini Giant is one of these - he is now a popular figure outside the launching pad café.

PHOTO 2 -~~~ Gemini giant pic~~~~~~
PHOTO 3~~~~Pic of mustang on 'road closed' ~~~~
Our favourite stop on the first day was the restored Odell gas station, which was built in 1932 and serviced travellers on 66 until the 60s'. It was restored through the efforts of local Route 66 enthusiasts, and it was fabulous to look around and find out about the history of the station.

PHOTO 4~~~~ pic of mustang outside station~~~
The next few days flew by as we explored more of Illinois Route 66.

19 standing on a corner 2 muffler man 20 arizona 21 king cobra 22 cool sprngs
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PHOTO 6~~~ memory lane car next to sign~~~
We visited The Old Log Cabin, the Dixie Truckers home, Atlanta and another giant muffler man, Funks Grove Maple Sirip (yes it is supposed to spelt that way !!), the Old Mill Restaurant, Pig Hip Restaurant, Cozy Dog Drive In, Shea's gas station, Our Lady of the Highway shrine, Route 66 café, Soulsby Station .. and more. Our last day in Illinois saw us in Staunton, home of Rich Henry and "Henry's ra66it Ranch". We were thrilled to visit Henry's visitor centre and meet Montana, his special rabbit friend. Rich and Darren got talking about cars, and soon we were uncovering Rich's 1966 red Mustang convertible …

PHOTO 7~~~~ rich daz and mustang~~~~
I almost had to pick Darren up from the floor! He fell in love almost immediately and I give all blame credit to Rich for our purchase of our very own Mustang when we came home. Rich pointed us in the direction of the "Mustang Corral" which was just down the road a-ways. The Corral had so many Mustangs and Mustang parts, … if only we'd known we'd be buying a car when we came back …. it could have been a dangerous/expensive stop for us !!!

PHOTO 8 ~~~mustang corral ~~~~
We then crossed into Missouri, stopping to walk the old Chain of Rocks bridge. The bridge spans the Mississippi River, and is very unique with its 24 degree bend in the middle. This bridge featured in the movie 'Escape from New York".

23 end of route 24 -  2448 miles 25 final pic 3 on the road 4 odell station
23 end of route.jpg 24 - 2448 miles.jpg 25 final pic.jpg 3 on the road.jpg 4 odell station.jpg

PHOTO 9~~~car in front of bridge~~~~
In St Louis we visited the famous Gateway Arch, as well as the Route 66 icon "Ted Drews" where we had a 'frozen custard' (the nicest ice-cream I've ever eaten !!). We then headed off through Missouri visiting Times Beach, the famous Munger Moss Motel, Red Cedar Inn, Totem Pole Trading Post, Devils Elbow, and Meremac Caverns before heading into Cuba. Here we spent the night in the pub with the locals, and were even interviewed by the local paper. We also stopped for photos shots in Hooker Cut (my favourite part of the Route), which was once the largest rock cut in the USA, and can be found on a fabulous 4 lane stretch of the old road. In Springfield, Darren had a side stop into the Bass Pro outdoor world, which was the most amazing camping and outdoor store around. It was three stories tall, and was complete with waterfalls, animals and more; you could happily spend days in there. Another stop in Missouri was at "Route 66 Auto's" in Rolla, where we spent time with the owner talking more Mustangs. Here, Darren scored a Mustang number plate from a 1972 Gold Mustang Grande.

PHOTO 10 ~~daz putting plate on mustang~~~
Another interesting stop in Missouri was an abandoned gas station, that we stopped at to take photos. While we were looking around, Darren called me over to show his 'find' in the garage, a pair of Mustangs left to rot, a 1965 Fastback & a 1965 Coupe. The roof of the garage was falling in on them and it was so sad to see them in this condition If only we'd been able to locate the owner !! (A few phone calls were made to no avail!!!)

PHOTO 11 ~~~ mustangs in garage~~~
After Leaving Missouri we drove the short jaunt across Kansas. There are only 13 miles of Route 66 in Kansas, but stops along the way included the famous Eisler Bros store and the Marsh Arch Rainbow bridge. This is the last remaining Marsh Arch bridge on the Route, this made for a fabulous photo shoot with the Mustang.

5 old road 6 illinois 66 7 daz and rich 8 mustang corral 9 chain of rocks bridge
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PHOTO 12~~~ mustang on bridge~~~~
From Kansas we cruised on into Oklahoma, the Mustang getting many comments along the way. We drove the "sidewalk highway", which is a old stretch of the road that is only 9 foot wide. The story goes, that because of the cost of paving the road, it was done half as wide as normal to enable the length to be longer. Again this proved a fabulous photo shoot with the car.

PHOTO 13 ~~~mustang on sidewalk highway~~~
One of our first stops in Oklahoma was Quawpaw flea markets which also had a huge garage of cars - Darren spoke to the owner and found he was 92 years old and had been collecting cars of all types for the last 35 years! he had a few mustangs in his collection
Oklahoma … so much to see here! Miami theatre, Seaba Station, the Round barn, Lincoln motel, Hillbillies, Lucille's gas station, Afton station, Route 66 drive in, and the Route 66 museum in Clinton, just to name a few. While in Clinton we stayed at the Trade Winds hotel, a place that Elvis had stayed at in secret a couple of times when he was travelling from Memphis to Las Vegas. As I am a huge Elvis fan, we stayed in the room that he slept in, which has been preserved since the 60's. (and the mattress felt like it was 40 years old !!!!). As we were unpacking the Mustang, we saw its "twin" in the car park, so we went to say hello. We discovered that it was three German tourists who were also travelling the Route who had hired their car from the same place as us in Chicago and it was the same model and colour as our Mustang. We spent some time getting to know them. After this meeting, our Mustangs became regular 'pairs' along the Route; and we'd often pull into a Route 66 attraction to find them there, or they'd join us. Seeing when we could spot the bronze Mustang again became part of our driving fun.

PHOTO 14~~pairs of mustangs~~~