I had been curious about Route 66 for years. Iconic in America’s history, I had pictured myself cruising the 2,500-mile stretch of road in a convertible, wind breezing through my hair, admiring the sights along the way. How could I not – with a name synonymous with Americana (those neon signs, kitschy souvenir shops and endless motels) Route 66 was the first highway to serve as an interregional link between Chicago and LA.
The main route to California during the Gold Rush, the escape from the Dust Bowl, the path war veterans took to trade the harsh winters of Chicago for the “barbecue culture” of Southern California – since the 1930s, Route 66 played home to so many important events in America’s history.
I decided I’d start on Route 66 in Albuquerque and end around Oklahoma City, which would take me through Amarillo, Texas, home of Cadillac Ranch. I’d go back and forth between driving Historic Route 66 and Interstate 40, the interstate that essentially replaced the need for Route 66. I would have loved to drive the entire 2,500-mile stretch, but I was on a bit of a schedule and (unfortunately) much of Route 66 is bleak and desolate these days.
It was a drive to remember! Here are the good, bad and fab.
The Good: Kitchy neon motel signs, some stating “100% refrigerated air,” others boasting “squeaky clean!” I imagined families pulling up in their station wagons, kids piling out of the cars and running into their motel room. I’m sure these motels hold fabulous family memories for many!
The Bad: (I think we could also call this the “just plain sad.”) Crumbled buildings – many of them – lined Route 66. I’m sure the whole area looks a lot brighter in the summer – I did drive Route 66 mid-week in the winter, after all – but it still was a bummer to see so many buildings in disrepair.
The Fab: Cadillac Ranch. A public art installation in Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was created in 1974 by an art group called Ant Farm. Consisting of ten Cadillacs from the years 1949 – 1963, Cadillac Ranch has gone through many “looks” over the years since graffiti art is encouraged. I’ve been fascinated by Cadillac Ranch for years and was so thrilled to be able to visit. One of the things that surprised me most was the array of visitors – I witnessed both kids and seniors leaving their graffiti mark on the Cadillacs.
If your even the least bit curious about Route 66, GO! It was an exciting and easy drive – I hopped on and off the interstate with ease, allowing me to either see more sights on Historic Route 66 or cover more miles on I-40, depending on how I was feeling.
If you go – of if you’ve driven it in the past – I’d love to hear what you thought!