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.
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.
[related_post align=”right”]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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
Who am I kidding? All of it. Do all of it. Get your kicks on Route 66.