2018 & 2020
Written by: Colin
I have been lucky enough to explore portions of Old 66 twice now. Sadly, I have yet to complete the entire route. The first trek was on my move from Michigan to Phoenix. My Dad and I drove to Chicago to start at the beginning. The original plan was to take it to Flagstaff before shooting down to Phoenix. We ended up stopping in Holbrook for lunch, and were so ready to get to our destination, we re-routed straight to the city.
Beginning of the Route!
The second time taking the Mother Road was more recent. On a long, cross-country road trip from Detroit to Salt Lake City and back, my buddy and I took a portion of 66. We picked up where I left off, in the opposite direction, and took it from Flagstaff through Tulsa, OK. There’s only about 90 miles between Flagstaff and Holbrook, but there are plenty of Route 66 sites to see!
Abandoned Buidling Along the Route
The drive between Chicago and St. Louis is pretty boring, but I was happy to have started from the beginning. We made a couple very quick stops in Illinois, but nothing crazy. The first major attraction heading west was Gateway Arch. This was months before it became a National Park and before Kayla and I ever had the knowledge to begin our National Park journey.
Old Texaco Station - Now A Visitor Center
View From the Top of the Arch
Shadow of the Arch over the Mississippi River
Ted Drewes Frozen Yogurt
Our Airbnb was in Joplin, MO. It was so special because it had some crazy history. It was a hideout for Bonnie & Clyde in the 30s and the site of a shootout with local police. Bonnie, Clyde and their gang rented this place out for a few months before police arrived. A shootout occurred, killing two of the officers. The outlaws managed to escape, leaving behind only a roll of film of the infamous couple.
Bonnie & Clyde Hideout - Joplin
Bonnie & Clyde Hideout - Joplin
This was the perfect hideout because there were so many windows on the upper level. This gave them quite the advantage, if and when, trouble approached. There was definitely an eerie feeling when walking around this place. Still one of my favorite Airbnb’s to this day!
Living Area with More Windows
We started out the next morning by driving through the state with the smallest portion of 66. There are only about 11 miles of the path that go through Kansas. Although it was very quick, it was one of my favorite parts of the route. It had the “backroad” feel that I was looking for, along with a few cool stops!
Route 66 in Kansas
Cars on the Route
After our short stroll through Kansas, we hit the first stop on my list from Oklahoma - the old Avon Motel. Although you can barely make out the name on the sign, this is a pretty cool stop. When it opened in 1936, there were a total of seven units. As of March 2018, only three remain.
The Three Remaining Units
From the Avon Motel, we carried on to our lunch destination. A popular stop that was on my list from the beginning, was the Rock Cafe. This former 24-hour joint opened in 1939. The restaurant has been through a lot, but continues to live on. The cafe has survived through the decommissioning of Route 66, a tornado that devastated the town’s economy and a horrible fire in 2008. Thanks to being placed on the list of National Historic Places and with help from the National Park Service, Rock Cafe reopened in 2009 and has been welcoming nostalgic road trippers since!
Rock Cafe Entrance
After filling up, we continued to head west toward our destination of Amarillo, TX. We passed through tons of small towns along the way. It was so fun driving through all this history along these backroads of America.
Lake Overholser Bridge - Bethany, OK
El Reno, OK
The Pony Bridge - Hinton, OK
It was sometimes extremely difficult to follow the correct route of the old road. Other times, it was just easier to speed down I-40. Some places like “Lucille’s”, sit just yards from the interstate, as Old 66 splits between.
Route 66 - Between Lucille's and I-40
The Provine Service Station started pumping gas in 1929 and changed ownership many times throughout the years. In 1941, the Harmon family took over and Lucille Harmon lived and worked here for 60 years. Once the interstate cut off her business from direct travel access, she started serving beer, attracting college students from the nearby dry town of Weatherford. Sadly, Lucille passed away in 2000, but her name is a mainstay along the Mother Road.
Lucille's - 2018
As the sun started to go down, we made our way into Texas. We only had one stop planned once we crossed state lines. A restored Phillips 66 Service Station sits in the small town of McLean. It was a quick spot, especially because it was getting dark, but it’s worth a stop to drive through this old, small town.
Backroads Near the Oklahoma / Texas Border
Phillips 66 - McClean, TX
A Classic Route 66 Stop
Although you only pass through the panhandle of Texas, there’s quite a bit to see. We woke up early from our Airbnb in Amarillo* and visited Cadillac Ranch. Just off of I-40 near Amarillo, 10 Cadillacs stand nose-first into an empty field. Produced as an art display to impress the locals, these Caddies have since been stripped to their frames and covered in layers and layers of spray paint. Although designed almost 20 years after the decommission of Route 66, Cadillac Ranch has become an extremely popular spot along the old trail. Along with all the visitors that flock here every year, the site has also been included in pop culture many times.
Entrance to Cadillac Ranch
Welcome to Cadillac Ranch!
I love this kind of art!
Layers and Layers of Paint
As I mentioned before, following the exact route was pretty difficult at times. I tried to follow a Google Map with all the variations of routes through the years, but even that proved challenging. I highly suggest doing your homework before starting a Route 66 trip. Research how much of the actual route you want to drive, and look up what parts remain and what is now I-40. Doing that while on the road was not fun.
Guess we'll turn around...
Abandoned Gas Station
Another Dead End of 66
Our last stop through the pan handle was the Route 66 MidPoint. This is the exact halfway point of the route, with 1,139 miles between both Chicago and Los Angeles. This is a cool little spot with a sign and street markings. There is also a cafe and gift shop, but it was closed, as we were traveling during the offseason. I think this is a fun site and I even made sure to stop on my way back the second time.
Halfway through the Mother Road!
We eventually entered Mountain Time and along with that, New Mexico! When I took the job in Phoenix, it required some traveling to Albuquerque, so I made that our final overnight stop.
Mountain Time Zone!
Road-side stop in Tucumcari, NM
Father / Son Road Trip!
We checked-in to our Airbnb* and took a walk through Old Town Albuquerque. Less than 1 square mile, this is the original town site of Albuquerque, established in the 1700s. We enjoyed the warm weather and sunset as we walked through some shops, before making our way downtown for dinner and some drinks! We even passed by a movie or tv scene being filmed on our way back!
Old Town Albuquerque
So much history!
Really cool area to walk around!
Something was being filmed!
A couple well-deserved cold ones!
Another early morning came soon, and we were off to our final destination. We passed by El Rancho Hotel before putting our foot down and making it to the Arizona border.
The famous El Rancho Hotel
Made it to 'Zona!
From here, we were getting anxious and just wanting to get to Phoenix. Once we finally arrived, we knew we still had a lot of work ahead of us. My moving cube was waiting for me to unload at a storage unit and we had to take the necessities to my condo. Once we ate lunch, I decided to forgo the Flagstaff stretch and just get “home”. We didn’t even experience anything Route 66 had to offer in Holbrook and this is where my first experience comes to an end…
A beautiful journey!
Two and a half years later, I found myself out west once again. I drove out to Salt Lake, met with my friend, we took-in Moab for a day, made our way to Lake Powell, and crashed for a night in Flagstaff. As we eventually had to make our way back east, we decided to take Route 66 until we reached Albuquerque.
Two Guns, AZ
We left Flagstaff and our first stop was Two Guns and Canyon Diablo. Unfortunately, there was some construction that prevented us from visiting the canyon, but we were able to take a look around Two Guns.
Ruins of a former town.
This now ghost town has quite the history. There’s been artifacts found here from as early as 1050 AD. In the late 1800s, Navajos committed mass murder on their enemy Apaches in the area. The following winter, Billy The Kid hid out in ruins in Canyon Diablo, across from what became Route 66. The area became more established once again, during the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad. As things were delayed due to a trestle needing to be built, the railroad workers “settled” here.
Canyon Diablo quickly became a lawless, Wild West town. Two Guns was officially established in 1922 and began declining in 1971 after the service station burned down. The Canyon Diablo Bridge was added to the list of national historic places in 1988.
More Two Guns abandonment.
After the ghost town, we took it easy as we traveled to the small town of Winslow, Arizona. Due to popularity from the famous Eagles song, the town thrived once again. After a 20-year stalemate once I-40 opened, Winslow was at risk of becoming the next southwestern ghost town. After some remodeling and restoration work in the 90s, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
A couple of years later, the city opened up the Standin’ on the Corner Park. After the animated movie ‘Cars’ depicted the famous Mother Road, tourism began to pick up in this small Arizona town once again. It actually wasn’t until 2016 that the Glenn Frey statue was added to the park. Many in the town worry that once Eagles fans get older and start to pass, that the town will start to decline once again. I am hopeful that although the younger generations might not be as familiar with ‘Take It Easy’, that the nostalgia and fascination with Route 66 will continue to bring visitors to the corner.
Takin' it easy.
A short drive from Winslow is the famous Jack Rabbit Trading Post. A little further down the road, you will arrive at Holbrook and the Wigwam Motel. These Wigwam “Villages” were actually a hotel chain that were spread across the country. In their heyday, there were 7 different locations. This Holbrook location is 1 of 3 remaining, and 1 of 2 remaining along Route 66. Village #6 was built in 1950 and was in operation until the new interstate bypassed the area in 1974. It was eventually renovated and reopened in 1988 and I cannot wait to stay here one day!
Jack Rabbit Trading Post
Wigwam Motel - Holbrook, AZ
A classic car sits in-front of each wigwam.
Have you slept in a wigwam lately?
My second Route 66 journey came to an end with a revisit to Petrified Forest National Park. It is here, in the northern section of the park, that you can view the only National Park with a segment of the Mother Road. The telephone poles that lined the old route are still standing and you can imagine Route 66 travelling along them. The park service has also installed a donated 1932 Studebaker that signals the intersection of the park and the route.
Although I have made multiple trips to Los Angeles and Santa Monica, I have never taken the old road to get there. I can’t wait to one day finish it off from Flagstaff, to the pier. A complete trip of all 2,278 miles is definitely on the bucket list as well! Feel free to reach out with any questions or help with suggestions for a trip along the Mother Road!