Get your kicks on this Americana-fueled road trip on Route 66

Updated Oct 12 2015

2013-07-10_1373424869

Travelers: Kari and Nate
Budget: Midrange ($1000-$5000)
Where did you go?
Technically, our trip was all of Route 66 (through: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California), plus the driving it took to get us to the start from Ohio and Indiana. And then from California to Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois. We spent the better part of a month living out of our car and tent, traveling across America together.

2013-07-05_1373043682
On the road outside of Chicago, IL.

I am the daughter of a diesel mechanic with a love for Hot Rods, '50s kitsch, and Americana. I spent a lot of time in my teen years at my Dad's garage, fiddling around with pinstriping brushes and admiring the profiles of some beautiful classic cars. My dad drove across the country when he was 17, driving various parts of 66, and so it has always been my dream to make the trip. But timing (at least two weeks from Chicago to LA) and money always prevented us from taking the trip. For the first time since I started teaching, I had a whole summer off; so we saved some extra dollars, planned carefully, and decided to make the voyage.

2013-07-10_1373426171
Rest Haven Motel, Vinita, Oklahoma

What did you do? Obviously, we drove — but we tried to limit our driving to a few hours a day, and we stopped VERY often. The wonderful thing about not driving on the highway is that you can ride with the windows down and stop in every small town you see.

We used the Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers, written by Jerry McClanahan (who we met on our trip through Chandler, Oklahoma) as our only navigation. It kept us on the old road as much as possible (Portland concrete, baby) and drove us through some of the most beautiful, haunting, and varied landscapes and towns I have ever had the pleasure to experience. We spoke to families who had been on Route 66 since its heyday — the people who comprise the community, the GIANT Main Street, that is US 66.

2013-07-10_1373426715
Camping, Oologah Lake, Oklahoma

We took a tent along, and rotated nights camping, staying in classic 66 motels, and hitting Motel 6's or Super 8's to stay in budget.

2013-07-14_1373775093

2013-07-14_1373775401
In front of Meteor Crater, Two Guns, Arizona.

Things that we did that were awesome:

  • Stopped at every roadside giant we could find.
  • Stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.
  • Hiked Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.
  • Saw the Meteor Crater.
  • Drove the Mojave desert at night.
  • Slept in a Wigwam Motel.
2013-07-16_1374006348
Wigwam Motel, San Bernardino, California.

Most of all, when we were driving, we drove nearly the entire trip on old Route 66; goodbye, interstate. We blasted music, ignored our smartphones (although I did post photos to Instagram), and saw America in a way I never thought we would.

2013-07-07_1373159218
Bunyan giant, Atlanta, Illinois.

What would you have done differently? I think if we could do it all over again, we'd have taken it even more slowly. In reflection, we rushed between a few places when we wished we would have stopped longer to investigate other things or enjoy other places. Places open and close — if you can't make it one day, just camp it out for another. It's worth it.

2013-07-08_1373252101
The beautiful neon of the Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, Missouri.

On a second trip, we'd cut out the discount motels and split our time evenly between vintage motor hotels (there are lots of VERY cool ones) and state park campgrounds. When you are only driving three hours a day, there is plenty of time to set up camp, and it is amazing to watch the sunset in so many different states.

2013-07-07_1373159064
Palms Cafe, Atlanta, Illinois.

What's your best travel advice for other offbeat travelers? Pack a cooler full of food and save eating out on the road for true Route 66 road food. We saved a ton of money not eating at drive thrus, and when we did stop to eat, we ate delicious (and usually AMAZINGLY affordable) handmade food — which varied with every state we drove through. I had steak in Texas, a ton of green chili in New Mexico, and a fried bologna sandwich in Illinois. The rest of the time we snacked on carrots and sammiches from the back of our car; we would have breakfast and coffee at our campsites (delicious campfire coffee, for the win).

2013-07-11_1373559663
Midpoint, Adrian, Texas.

Mostly: buy a guide (I highly recommend Jerry's EZ66, it was great!) and follow it. Resist the urge to rush. Follow the road. Turn off the GPS. Stop at all of the small places. Park and take photos. I loved being navigator, and the interface that we had with each other when we weren't glued to our phones to show us the way.

2013-07-08_1373315713
Gay Parita Sinclair Station, Paris Springs, Missouri.

Things not to miss:

  • The Munger Moss Motel — The owners are amazing, the prices sublime, the rooms classic and cozy
  • The Gay Parita Sinclair Station
  • The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest
  • The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico
  • Seligman, AZ

IMG_0799

Who am I kidding? All of it. Do all of it. Get your kicks on Route 66.

  1. Awesome! Looks like you guys had a fantastic time ๐Ÿ™‚ I've always wanted to do a trip like this… but my dude spent the better part of his 20s cross country road tripping and is all "been-there-done-that" every time I suggest it. You've just renewed my enthusiasm!

  2. I loved this! Maybe it's just me, but I feel like trip reviews like this are fairly rare*. People might say to me, "You have to go to NYC." But usually that's the end of the suggestions and advice. It'd be awesome to hear about more trips from other Offbeat Homies. How did you keep costs down? How did you adapt to a slower pace? I might not do it the same way, but the best part about traveling is sharing with other people.

    *If there IS a blog that does this, could links be shared?

  3. This was really fun to read, and I'm always inspired by seeing how other people travel. Thanks for sharing your trip!

  4. You're review was fun, offbeat, and inspiring (funny how that works perfectly). I've always wanted to ride the Motherroad as a Route 66 buff, and am SUPER jealous that you got a whole month to do it!

    • Thank you so much! I feel so lucky to have had the time off. There are people who take a week and do a state or two each year–I feel like in some ways, you may get to experience things more completely that way. Doing it at once felt super authentic, though, which I enjoyed.

  5. I'm Canadian and try to avoid driving in my daily life but I have always wanted to drive the old Route 66. So I was living vicariously through your photos.

    Megan, I really love the travel posts on this site. Is Offbeat Travel too small a niche, or would that ever be a possibility? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Nothing beats campfire coffee, unless there is campfire bacon to go with it.

    This looks so awesome! I road-tripped through parts of the southwest, but it was for school so I didn't get to choose where to go. Saw enough to want to go back!

  7. So… for those of us who're not American… What is Route 66 exactly? I mean, I've heared of it, and loosely know to associate it with hotrods and cool-ass 50's diners…. but that's about as far as it goes….

    Also, I wish we had something cool like that in Australia… all we have is rock paintings and natural wonders……

    • You should totally do this! Doing the trip in an RV could definitely save food and hotel costs; the only thing worth considering is whether or not you mind taking the highway in a few places, where the old road is either too bumpy/narrow/winding for RVs.

      • My husband suggested this last week. It looks like a long term goal is to buy an Airstream and drive to the Grand Canyon or take Route 66 as far and as much as we can to somewhere. We have several years before we do this, but this just woke up my desire to save!

  8. Oh my goodness, I love this so much! I've spent some time on holiday in America (Brit with American family) but have never had the time to take things slowly and to really explore, this makes me want to save some money, quit my job and live in a tent! It all looks so beautifully true of a world that's very much still a part of but set apart from the mainstream world. I love this post so much!

    • Thank you so much! It was amazing to travel to a place where things were just…different. To not have to take the highway to get where you were going. To have the trip be about the journey rather than the destination. It was a blast.

  9. This is very good! As the owner of a Route 66 museum who sees thousands of travelers every year, I appreciate those of you who let others know what fun a Mother Road trip can be! One small correction, however. The Rest Haven Motel is in Afton, OK, not Vinita, OK. It's right down the street from my Route 66 museum. In fact, you can see my place in the background of your photo — the red tile roof and big D-X sign. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Laurel! My apologies for mislabeling that photo; I tried to take as detailed notes as possible, but sometimes had to wager a guess at a location, and had a hard time pinpointing the location of the Rest Haven. Do you know more about it? I'm fascinated by it!

      I have pictures of your Packard sign, actually, although we didn't get the chance to stop in. Thank YOU for keeping the love of Route 66 alive with your hard work every day. It is people like you who made the trip such an amazing experience. We can't wait to come back out.

  10. This is making me want to get back out there. We only had 2 weeks for our whole trip (and we went a bunch of other places) so our time on 66 was way too short. I want to go again and take as much time as we need someday ….. <3 Route 66 is amazing.

  11. I'm an Aussie and my bf and I were just talking bout this the other day; on the dream list of holidays is a road trip across the US, Route 66 most likely. So great to hear about what its like-seconding (or whatever we're up to) the call for more travel posts. You've definitely inspired me and I'm linking this to bf stat!

  12. This trip does look super awesome!
    Also I feel like an idiot because I never realized that this style or whatever is called 'Americana'. It reminds me of the fall out games!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.