Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Getting our kicks on Route 66

Since leaving Chicago on Friday we've been travelling along Route 66 taking in the many museums, old gas stations and motels and quirky giant objects that line the way. The first day was spent in Illinois, where we had a look at the murals and museums in Pontiac and had lunch in Bloomington, where I bought a few 45s. In the tiny hamlet of Atlanta we had a look at the Bunyan Giant, holding a giant hot dog, an abandoned drive in cinema in Litchfield and the monument to Mother Jones, an early trade union leader. We spent the night in St Louis and in the evening visited Chuck Berry's former club Blueberry Hill. His statue across the road was adorned with flowers and trinkets. From there we went downtown to BB's Jazz Blues and Soups where another venerable bluesman was playing, Big George Brock. He was well supported by singer Candice Wagner and Freddie Dixon, son of Willie. George had trouble getting onto the stage but can still play a mean harp.
Next day we visited the famous Gateway Arch, which I been to before, but it was closed. An impressive structure however. We toured Missouri stopping off at various little towns along the way, including Fanning, with its giant rocking chair. We took a detour to Branson, Missouri's answer to Las Vegas, but didn't stop as every act in the many theatres was a tribute band. We stayed the night in Springfield, which had a surprisingly lively downtown area. Mind you, it was Saturday. On Sunday we passed through Joplin and travelled on a disused part of Route 66 to Galena in Kansas, a run down former mining town where there is a Kanotex gas station which was the inspiration for the movie Cars. Some of the vehicles featured in the film are still there and nearby there is another one, Tater. There's also the old Rainbow Bridge in Riverton. We crossed the border into Oklahoma, stopping off at Commerce. home town of Mickey Mantle, and Miami, where we had lunch. From there we drove to Tulsa, a big town which seemingly has few people out on a Sunday and no tourist attractions. A few miles out of town, though, we came across a 4-8-4 locomotive and coach sitting by the side of the road, That night we stayed in Oklahoma City and had an excellent meal in Cheevers restaurant. Downtown there are quite a few bars and clubs in Bricktown and we looked in at the Mojo Blues bar. Unfortunately the band playing were too loud and too heavy.
On Monday we stopped off at the Route 66 museum in Clinton, which is quite well done. From there we drove to the small town of Erick, where both Roger Miller and Sheb Wooley were born. Sadly the Roger Miller museum was closed, but just down the road we came across the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, which has dozens of ancient advertising boards and other items outside. Inside we were greeted by Harley, an over the top bearded eccentric guy who welcomed us like old friends and showed us around his shop, which contains weird and wonderful stuff of all kinds. Harley and his late wife Annabelle used to perform as 'Mediocre Music Makers' and he treated us to our own special version of Route 66 which I videoed (check it out on Youtube ). After that we had a dreadful fish lunch in a newly opened place in Amarillo, where the local TV reporter was interviewing the owner. Near there is the Cadillac Ranch where a dozen or so cars are buried with their noses in a field. Visitors are encouraged to spray paint graffiti on them. We spent the night in Tucumcari in New Mexico, a small town which has suffered from the construction of the Interstate and is now living on past glories. The original Route 66 Motel where we stayed was pleasant however, with an old plane out front.
Tuesday saw us head off to Santa Fe, a town like no other that I've seen in the US. It has strong Spanish influences, mixed with Native American, and has the oldest building in North America, a mission, a cathedral and some stalls in the market square where Indians, as they seem to prefer being called, were selling their hand made wares. Many of the buildings are adobe which gives them a soft glowing look, and we saw a guy repairing a wall up a ladder. We took the road south to Albuquerque and had a quick drive through the old town before stopping to take a look at the fast flowing Rio Grande. Then it was off through the scrubby desert, with red rocky outcrops on both sides, until we reached Gallup. This is a railroad town and still has quite a few original buildings. We had dinner at El Rancho a hotel and restaurant which has connections with movie stars from the 30s and 40s and rooms named after many of them, as well as photos on the walls. A fascinating place. Next stop is Kingman and then Las Vegas where we will arrive just in time for Viva Las Vegas. More on that later as well as photos of our entire trip when I get home.


At 11:35 am , Blogger Tony Papard said...

Sounds like an interesting trip, but hard to find the original Route 66 I imagine as it no longer exists on Google maps. Seems to be roughly on the routes of Interstates 55 and 44.

At 2:48 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Very true Tony. Route 66 ran from Chucago to LA but many parts of it became redundant when the Interstae Highways were built from the 1940s onwards. This meant that towns and villages that relied on the road .were cut off and the businesses closed down. Leaves a fascinating legacy of America in an earlier age. The route itself changed in some cases so there is a choice of Route 66s to check out much of the time. It would take weeks to cover the whole route completely. Nick


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