Mom, Mother Road & Me

 Route 66
Travel log
Photos
The Mother Road - My favorite 25 miles
Mom, Mother Road & Me
The Mother Road and The Queen of Roads
 
This article was published in Volume 19, Number 1 Spring, 2013 of the Federation Route 66 News. See the original article here. (page 35). (see also page 16).
 

The Federation Route 66 News is published quarterly by the National Historic Route 66 Federation - dedicated to promoting and preserving the “Main Street of America”.

 
 
 
 
I have been extremely lucky since retirement to travel to some exotic foreign lands – Russia, Germany, The Netherlands, Turkey……. including a 30 day Mediterranean freighter cruise. However, my most enjoyable trip ever was right here in the USA on a journey traveling all of Historic Route 66 with my mother who was in her seventies, Carol Taylor of Bedford, Indiana.
 
I have traveling in my blood, I guess; I love the open road.

Prior to retiring, I had often spoken about wanting to travel the entire length of Old Route 66 – The Mother Road. I had invited many of my friends and family to join me including my wife but she was still working. As retirement drew closer and I mentioned to my Mom that I was starting to plan “the trip”, she stated that if I took everyone I’d invited, I’d need a bus. Puzzled by her comment, I sheepishly asked...”Did I invite you, Mom?” Well, I guess I had. So I realized I needed to bring a little focus into the plan and then proudly announced to her that she would be the first person I took on the journey. A perfect choice!

We started out in mid-October in Chicago and quickly escaped the big city (Mom is a “country gal” and was anxious to get to the open road). Our “plan” was to drive each day until dark, find a “Route 66 motel” when possible and head out again at day break. This plan worked well. We didn’t really have an itinerary; we’d just drive the whole route, in LA we’d drive up US Highway 101 to San Francisco and then head east on US 50 (sometimes referred to as the “loneliest road in America”) to Mom’s house in
 
  Mom and I pose at the Grand Canyon
Bedford. We made use of several of the items purchased from the National Historic Route 66 Federation’s online store – very helpful in selecting the right route, restaurants, motels and historic sites. We traveled in a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible; luckily Mom had no trouble getting in or out of it. We had the top down as much as possible so we could take in every bit of the wonderful scenery around us. I put her to work as my scribe so we could record the trip. Mom proved to tire easily and did a fair amount of nodding off; in fact, I fired her two or three times each day! She handled being fired well, and all in all she took excellent notes that I transcribed and put on my website. As most of the sites we visited have been well covered in this magazine in the past, I’ll just briefly mention some of our stops. This trip turned out to be more about relationships than the trip itself. I’ll expound on that a little later. In the first few days, we visited such mustsee places as Funk’s Grove, the Chain of Rocks Bridge, we had frozen custard at Ted Drewe’s, and ate tenderloin sandwiches at the Elbow Inn Bar and BBQ in Devils Elbow, Missouri. Here, Mom refused to add to the restaurant’s décor (hundreds of bras hanging from the ceiling). I was grateful.
 
 

A ghost store on the grounds of Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup, a popular Route 66 stop in Shirley, IL.

 

A 1931, 1.4 mile long piece of restored, hand-laid brick road in Auburn, IL placed over a concrete roadbed.

We enjoyed a tour of the Coleman Theater in Miami, Oklahoma and seeing Mickey Mantle’s childhood home in Commerce and then driving a stint on the Ribbon Highway. We tried to find as much of the old, old road as possible. There have been multiple alignments over the years and while some (most) of Old 66 is still in use, some of it is abandoned. I don’t think I was supposed to drive on it, but I have taken the stance/attitude since I have retired that I’ll do what I want and if I’m not supposed to be doing that, someone will let me know. Works great! We particularly enjoyed seeing the extremely treacherous old dirt pass on the La Bajada Hill near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Wow, can’t imagine traveling on it back then! No trip would be complete without a stop at the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas or seeing and petting the burros at Oatman, Arizona. The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (related to the Murrah Federal Building bombing in 1995) was quite solemn and is a very respectful commemoration of lives lost. I can highly recommend the 1929 built La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona (yes, we went and stood on “the corner in Winslow, Arizona” – a line from an Eagles hit song). We stayed in the Ann Morrow Lindbergh (wife of Lucky Lindy) room. All the rooms are named after famous persons who have stayed there. The hotel is a Mary Coulter designed former Harvey House (Fred Harvey Company). I was fascinated when I did some research on this grand partnership.

 
A deserted stretch of early Route 66 in Oklahoma.   La Bajada Hill - a long abandoned Route 66 stretch in New Mexico.

We decided to take a one day side trip to the Grand Canyon since Mom had not been there before. She told me of how in 1919 her mother and a friend, both in their late teens, had taken the train from Bedford to the Grand Canyon - and now Mom wanted to see it, too. No itinerary, no timetable – no problem, Mom! We ended up taking our sweet time, stopping whenever and wherever we felt like it. The journey from Chicago to LA ending up taking us 11 days (including the one day side trip to the Grand Canyon). Let me speak a little of the relationship part of the trip. I learned a lot that I had not known about my family – in particular my Mom’s early life and facts about my grandmother and great-grandmother. Never had I spent so much time with my Mom one-on-one as I did on this trip. What a wonderful experience! I will always treasure this special time with her on the Mother Road.

When we arrived back at her home in Bedford from this 17 day, 5,500 mile journey, I asked her what her favorite part of the trip was: walking over the Mississippi River on the Chain of Rocks Bridge, the beautiful architecture in Tulsa, apple pie at he MidPoint Cafe in Texas when the owners stayed late to serve us before closing early on Halloween night, visiting the Grand Canyon, petting the burros in Oatman, walking in the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Monica Pier..….. what was it, Mom? In true motherly fashion, her response was……”Just being with you, Son!” Wow, I didn’t see that coming but I now think of her response often and I always get a big smile on my face. As for Mom, she shows her coffee table photobook about the trip that I made for her to anyone and everyone who visits her. I can highly recommend a one-on-one trip such as this with a loved one – a mother or father, a brother or sister, a son or daughter. You will enjoy the road, but more importantly, you will share treasured moments forever with a very lucky loved one.



Danny Taylor and his wife Karen - This is Danny's second article for our magazine. Danny is a high school football and volleyball official and volunteers for Indiana Landmarks, a preservationist organization. He and his wife Karen are retired and travel extensively. Danny has a website highlighting many of his travels including the full transcript with additional photos of the journey noted in the article above at www.danny-g-taylor.com . He and wife Karen live in Greenwood, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. Danny's email address is dgtaylor88@hotmail.com.