I’ve taken a new job back in San Diego and will be relocating there with this trip. This seemed like the perfect occasion to try and cover the entire length of Route 66 and travel as much of the original pavement sections as is possible. I’ve been researching this trip for some time now, because on various other trips I have done bits and pieces of the route. I’ve gathered a selection of books and maps over the years and decided to finally put them to some use.
The following tools were used to help me stay on the route and discover some of the special interest items in the towns I would be driving through:
- Route 66 Traveler’s Guide and Roadside Companion by Tom Snyder – Good travelogue explaining what can be seen along the way, but no real directions
- A Guidebook to the Mother Road – Bob Moore and Patrick Grauwels – point by point mileage and directions
- Traveling the New Historic Route 66 of Illinois by John Weiss – detailed directions and side trips
- The Complete Guidebook to Route 66 and The Complete Atlas of Route 66 by Bob Moore and Rich Cunningham this book is unique in that it lists direction for east/west and west/east
- GPS coordinates located here: http://route66.backroadsplanet.com/global-positioning-system.html.
- Garmin GPS
I was really hoping the GPS coordinates would help me on this trip. I chose the coordinates that were used in the production of the The Complete Guidebook to Route 66 and The Complete Atlas of Route 66. I was able to load the way points into my GPS but it only displayed a portion of what was loaded and I would have had to select each way point. Some of the way points were directions to stay on Route 66 and others were sights along the way. Nothing would keep the GPS following Route 66.
I ended up using the book and following the signs that have been posted along the route. This became a little confusing because the route in the book is not necessarily the route that is signed. There were just enough signs that would agree that would then throw me off. It was so bad that I ended up heading back north and to St Louis when I was in MO. The GPS was very handy in trying to understand some of the directions because it was easy to see the roads that were around or detect the names of streets I was to turn on. Still it didn’t keep me 100% on track and there were a number of times I had to double back, re-read the instructions and try again. Typically this was where I was following the historical Route 66 signs instead of tracking with the book. There were a few situations where the book was confusing and a couple of times where road construction or closures had me looking for ways to get back on track.
Wed April 14, Day 1, to Joliet, IL distance driven 383 miles
The first leg of my journey was to hook up with the start of Route 66 in Chicago. The first 300 miles took me to Chicago where I stopped in at Navy Pier and took one of the architectural tours on the Chicago river. It was a very sunny and warm day sitting in the open air boat I got a touch of sunburn.
I took Rte 66 out of Chicago heading west on Adams Ave. It was difficult trying to find and follow the road out of Chicago. Lots of traffic, streets at weird angles and pedestrians are all a challenge. It also didn’t help that I was leaving near quitting time. It wasn’t until I got to Romeville (near Juliette – actually Joliet) that things started to slow down and ease up. It was here I had dinner at the White Fence Farm Restaurant, home of the fired chicken. The meal was served with a selection of relishes that included: a bean salad, pickled beets, cottage cheese, coleslaw, and corn fritters.
By the time I got to Joliet I was ready to settle in for the night. There were several things I saw that I wanted to check and I was just tired.
Thur April 15, Day 2, to Springfield, IL distance driven 218 miles
This morning started with exploring Joliet and some of the sights I drove by last night. Joliet has a prison that was made famous by the Blues brothers. This is an interesting town that is divided by the Illinois waterway.
Today’s drive is a joy as most of it is through small towns and very little traffic. I saw two nicely restored vintage service stations and giant statues that are famous along this route. Dwight was a nice small town with a great downtown area with a train depot. The highlight for the day though was in discovering Pontiac IL with its beautiful courthouse and old fire station that contains a Rte 66 museum.
Route 66 was a 4 lane highway in many sections between St Louis and Chicago. While you can drive the route, much of it is now 2 lanes, with stretches of the other 2 lanes still visible. In some places these extra lanes are now bike and walking trails.
Fri April 16, Day 3, to Eureka, MO distance driven 229 miles
Heading out of Springfield this morning it is overcast. First stop is the Sugar Creek covered bridge. Following that are barns, roadside shrines, old cafes and motor courts, drive-in movie theaters, bridges and service stations.
I stopped in at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch roadside stop in Stanton IL. He has collected some old motel signs, gas pumps and created a VW Rabbit version of the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX. He also has several rabbits along with souvenirs and books on Rte 66.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge crossing the Mississippi river between Illinois and Missouri is an attraction I wanted to see. This is where Rte 66 crossed the river with not much more than a single lane. This bridge is now closed to traffic but is a pedestrian and bike bridge. A unique feature is a nearly 90 degree bend near the Missouri side. The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was constructed in 1929 as a toll bridge. It became part of Rte 66 in 1936.
The drive through St Louis was difficult to follow and there are several alignments to choose from. I’m trying to stay with the oldest alignments if possible or the one with the most interesting sights. There was some construction in the downtown area that blocked my route and I had to navigate around. The GPS came in handy here. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is a primary location I wanted to see and taste. Even though it was an overcast day there was a good crowd.
I wanted to visit the arch and a transportation museum here, but I realized the driving was taking longer than I expected. I could have spent another day just in St Louis. So on skipping those sites, I headed south to a new Rte 66 state park. I missed the turn off the first time and decided to find a place to stay and come back. I fond a place in Eureka near the Six Flags amusement park that I would stay in. I eventually did get back to the state park after a couple of missed turns. This was a loop of Rte 66 off the interstate but the bridge has been closed and divides the visitor center from the rest of the park.
Sat April 17, Day 4, to Springfield, MO distance driven 433 miles
A beautiful morning started today. I headed south to Pacific and started to get out into the windy country road area here and got turned around. I was following my guide book and everything seemed to match with the road signs. In relying on the road signs I some how got onto the north bound loop. It wasn’t until I was back in St Louis that I realized my problem. This did give me the opportunity to travel a different alignment. Once I hit St Louis I got onto the interstate and couldn’t hook up with south bound I-55 and ended up back in Illinois. Anyway that was an extra 100 miles to get back to where I started. On returning, I skipped the area from Pacific and headed for St Clair to pick up my route.
In St Clair I got lost again. I zigged when I should have zagged and ended up traveling to the east of where I should have been. That added another ~50 miles of extra driving today. It was rather frustrating, but I finally got back on track.
Today’s highlight was the Devils Elbow area. Not that I got to stop and look. This was a little turn out from the main road in the area, but a motorcycle rally was being held at the Inn and there were too many people and bikes around to stop.
Sun April18, Day 5, to Stroud, OK distance driven 288 miles
I need to make up some time today. Not only were my first days low mileage, yesterdays wrong turns cost me. I should have been in Oklahoma last night. I would like to get to Oklahoma City.
Today’s ride should include lots of bridges, some old service stations and some surprises. Kansas has 13.2 miles of Route 66, so it won’t be difficult to complete that state today. The day progressed from a nice day to overcast and drizzly. As I came through Tulsa things caught up to me.
Mon April 19, Day 6, to Elk City, OK distance driven 236 miles
The day started off with broken clouds and that continues through most of the day but it never lasts. I will see the 2 Route 66 museums in Oklahoma. The Clinton museum has the history of the road. The museum in Elk City is more the culture and feel of the road. Both are well worth the visit.
Tue April 20, Day 7, to Santa Rosa, NM distance driven 359 miles
Yet another overcast day. Several iconic sites are on today’s schedule. We have the Shamrock service station, Cadillac Ranch, a leaning water tank and some great old service stations. I was hoping of stop in Tucumcari and the Blue Swallow motel, but I would have to stop too early, so I pushed on to Santa Rosa.