West Coast Road Trip

 Route 66
Travel log
The Mother Road - My favorite 25 miles
Mom, Mother Road & Me
The Mother Road and The Queen of Roads
Route 66
I have traveled many portions of America's Highway many times.  However, I was fortunate to travel the whole 2,400 miles in October/November 2006 with my mother right after I had retired (my wife was still working).  We drove my 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible from Bedford, Indiana to Chicago to start the trip.

We took 11 days to get to the Santa Monica pier (we were side-tracked one day by the call of the Grand Canyon north of Flagstaff, AZ). 

We had no itinerary, just drive to Los Angeles on as much of the old road as possible. 

My mother kept a diary/log which I used to "write the story" of our trip.  See the "Travel Log" bullet for the manuscript.  When I asked her what the best part of the trip was - was it the people we met, the open road, the food, the Grand Canyon ??  In true motherly fashion, she said .......... "Just being with you, son".   Wow -  I'm calling the trip a SUCCESS !!!!
For some great photos, see the "Photos" bullet.
Enjoy !!

Our entire trip took 17 days and covered 6,100 miles.  After completing the trip to LA, we went to San Francisco via Pacific Coast Highway 1, then started the trip back to Bedford via US 50, called the the Backbone of America by Time Magazine in July 1997.  One day was spent at Lake Tahoe, NV - we needed a break from driving. The travel log covers the whole trip.


Out on Route 66, Back on Highway 50

I've been planning the Route 66 portion of the trip for several years.  Using US Highway 50 to travel back east seemed like a natural since we grew up so close to it. 

I guess I had mentioned the Route 66 trip numerous times to friends and family over the last several years; and of course told all of them they could come along. Mom reminded me once that if I took everyone I'd promised, I'd need a bus.  To which I replied, "Did I ask you?"  I guess I had and at that point realized I needed to bring a little focus into the game plan.  So I promised Mom she would be the first and most important cruiser (translation - guinea pig).  I had traveled perhaps 40-50% of R66 on various trips west but never the whole way.  This will be a dream trip come true.

I'm not sure when I became interested in our highway system, but have read several books on our early trails such as the Chislom, Pecos, Old National Trail and Santa Fe Trails - even the Pony Express trails, all of which we experienced on this trip.  Maybe my interest came from hearing about my Great-grandmother Lilly Delight Beyers Smale Wright, on whose birthday I was born, who traveled to Indiana from Missouri as a baby in a covered wagon in the late 1800's. (The family was moving to California, Lilly was born along the way, but her older sister got sick and the family returned to Indiana without making the Promised Land.)  Or it may have been after reading the 1957 novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac, one of my favorite authors who is best known as the father of the "Beat Generation".

Route 66 began as a patchwork of existing roads in 1926 linking Chicago to LA (actually Santa Monica, just west of LA).  While the road was mostly paved, it was treacherously curvy and narrow.  Within a few years the Federal Highway Commission saw a need to provide a better, safer highway.  Many of the early alignments from 1926 to 1930, in particular, were by-passed for a newer road surface usually very close to the old alignment.  Route 66 carried a nation to the Promised Land - California.  John Stienbeck's novel and the subsequent movie Grapes of Wrath shows Route 66 in the heart of a family and nation moving from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma to the fruit and vegetable Mecca of the West Coast.

This is probably not a trip for the directionally challenged.  While we were never lost, we did make several wrong turns in states where Historic Route 66 is not well marked.  Mom was a great navigator (when awake) and there would have been less wasted time taking the wrong road had I given her suggestions more respect.

A travel down Route 66 is a step back in time, when life was lived at a slower pace.  It's about times gone-by and towns passed-by.  It's about an appreciation of our culture, our heritage, our struggles and our triumphs.  Route 66 and US 50 both represent our past, present and future. Many famous roadside attractions have survived.  While there is much rust and dust along the way, there is also great progress being made to preserve our history for future generations - more on this later.

I had not planned on writing or taking notes about this trip, but after a couple of days, I felt a journal might help us remember the trip.   Many photos were taken.  Carol turned out not only to be a good navigator but also a good scribe (when awake - I fired her at least twice each day).  Writing in the journal forced us to think about what we were experiencing and it became evident that there are many great vacation opportunities on Route 66.   When we traveled US50, it seemed natural to make some comparisons between these two famous highways - more on this later.

The time Mom and I spent together was great; we talked about our family history and I learned many things, the kind of information that needs to be passed on to my children and grandchildren - I won't bore you with any of it.

You can experience some of the old roads, both Historic Route 66 and US 50, close to home.  Both run through St. Louis, a great town to explore.  Stretches of US 50 near Lawrenceville, Illinois have been abandoned or are now used as frontage or secondary roads.  One of the most interesting bridges we saw on the entire trip is just east of Flora, Illinois on US 50. 

Our journey included:
Illinois - three giants, a president and a temple;
Missouri - the devil and a bridge with a unique angle;
Oklahoma - art deco, the Mick and the sidewalk highway;
Texas - a cadillac ranch, high cotton and the mid-point of R66;
New Mexico - the continental divide, Tucumcari and the Grapes of Wrath;
Arizona - a famous corner, a big hole and tame burros;
California - wigwams, a pier and a bridge;
Nevada - a lake and jet fighters;
Utah - starry night skies, salt flats and sand mountains;
Colorado - the Rockies, snow and cattle;
Kansas - getting out of Dodge and In Cold Blood ;
Missouri - Joplin and Joplin;
Illinois - abandon roadbeds and beautiful bridges;
Indiana - back home again


From Bedford to Indianapolis to Chicago.  We started the odyssey on Thursday October 26 with a quick trip up I-65 to Chicago.  It was raining and foggy.  We detoured in south Chicago off I-94 to get on Lake Shore Drive and got caught by a drawbridge letting two ships pass under.  Not the kind of start for which I had hoped!   It was about 11 am when we hit Lake Shore, on to Jackson Street, right on Michigan, left on Adams - Ah, there it is - the sign - BEGIN HISTORIC ROUTE 66. I had pretty good maps for the Illinois portion of Route 66, in particular the "New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois" booklet by John Weiss. 
Our basic objective, though there are many great Route 66 sites in Chicago, was to get out of the big city to the heartland a quick as possible. 

We accomplished that as we hit the town of Wilmington. We were treated to the first of the three giants in Illinois. At the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant is the Gemini Giant, a 28 foot fiberglass man in a space suit and helmet holding a rocket.  Hundreds of "Tall Paul's" made to look like Paul Bunyan were built in the 1960's a advertising/marketing gimmicks. If you've been to Indianapolis, perhaps you've seen Gemini Giant's cousin Mr. Bendo at Ralph's Mufflers on West 16th Street. These giants can still be seen all over the country.  Their big hands held about every product of which you could think - mufflers, hot dogs, a rocket, axes and my favorite - the American flag. The original price for a giant was around $2,000 to $2,500; you can pick one up now as a collectors item, if an owner is willing to sell, for upwards of $20,000 !

We ate the specialty, giant tenderloin sandwichs, at the Launching Pad and then blasted out of Wilmington in search of the next giant or whatever comes next.  In Odell we stopped at the restored Odell Filling Station built in 1932.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places and was voted the Best Restoration Project on the entire Route 66.  We spent the night in Bloomington, Illinois.

First stop today is Funk's Grove and Funk's Maple Sirup (that's the way they spell it) a business that has been in the family since 1824, a hundred years before Route 66 appeared.  They usually run out of sirup to sell in late in the spring and were out, of course, since it was late October. I've had their sirup before; it's worth a trip to Illinois in the spring - but you might want to call ahead to make sure there is a supply of sirup to be sold.  In addition to the maple sirup, Funk's Grove has a couple of old buildings, one a railroad terminal, that make for good photographing.  But the best of all is the "Temple of the Trees", an outdoor religious spot under the maple trees with logs for benches, hollowed out logs for the pulpit.   When we were there, there were rose pedals on the ground, evidence of a wedding having taken place there recently. How beautiful it must have been! On this day, it was still raining, it was dark and dank, but this place was absolutely heavenly and peaceful.  When I asked Mom at the end of the trip what a few of her favorite memories were,  the "Temple of the Trees" was the first thing she mentioned.

On to Atlanta, half way point between Chicago and St. Louis.  Here is a very nice park dedicated to heritage of Route 66, the centerpiece of which is the second giant, moved there in 2003 from 40 years in front of Bunyons Drive in on Route 66, Ogden Avenue in Ceciro.  Many of these giants were at muffler shops.  Even though this one had been at an eatery holding a giant hot dog, it has been called the Hot Dog Muffler Man. After the owners closed the restaurant they solicited bids for the giant, but after the town of Atlanta expressed an interest, they made it a permanent loan to the town.

Next we stopped at Broadwell, no more than a wide spot on R66.  Here was the famous Pig Hip Restaurant.  The restaurant was closed in 1991 after 54 years of serving the weary and hungry travelers and is now a museum. The door was locked and as I got back to the car a lady from the adjacent house asked if we wanted into the museum.  She fetched her husband, proprietor extraordinaire, 89 year old Ernie Edwards, who opened the museum and showed us around.  It was an amazing place, with a replication of the original counter and bar stools and tables.  There were numerous photographs and memorabilia and articles about the restaurant and Ernie and letters of appreciation to him on the walls.  He stated the name Pig Hip came from the fact that he only served the ham from the hip (and only from the left side of the pig because pigs scratch themselves too much on the right side - I don't know if he was fooling me or not, sounds like a good marketing ploy to me).  He showed us a scrapbook of photos of himself taken with women of all ages, shapes and colors.  He made me promise to send him a copy of the photo I took of Mom and him.

Springfield is the state capital (not Chicago folks) and of course the home of Abraham Lincoln from 1844 to 1861 when he boarded the train for Washington.  It's raining really hard now, but the National Park employees outside Lincoln's home are very pleasant.   We toured his home, the only one he ever owned.  Also, in Springfield is Lincoln's Tomb, his old law office, the restored train depot and the old state capital building.  Lots to see and only a short drive.  Oh, the last of the three giants is at the edge of town at Luckenback Tire - he used to hold a tire appropriately enough, but now holds the heritage of a nation - the American flag.

Just north of Auburn, Illinois we spotted a section of original brick road on a older 1926 alignment.  Wow, the soil is really dark - black really.  Some more of it needs to blow over into Indiana I think!  Then on to St. Louis.  It's October 27th and the Cardinals are hosting the Tigers and win the World Series that night.  Picked up a nice souvenir newspaper of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the next morning.

I've crossed the Mississippi River on the Chain of Rocks Bridge three times, all on foot.  This was the second time Mom and I walked the mile long bridge together.  The rain stopped the night before and the sun shone brightly on the steel and concrete structure, however it was pretty cold at 9 o'clock in the morning.  The bridge is not longer in service for vehicular traffic but has been restored partially; enough for foot and bicycle traffic and is a part of the St. Louis Greenway. It was originally built as a toll bridge ion 1929 but was eventually closed when I-270 was built about a half mile north of it.  The bridge is fairly famous as it has a 22-degree angle in it.  It is not curved, it is a mathematical angle!  It was used in the 1981 movie "Escape from New York".  Since then it deteriorated badly, was noted for crime and violence and was scheduled to be demolished.  When I first went to the bridge in 1999, it was overgrown with weeds, bushes and trees.  I was warned by the locals not to linger there.  The bridge was saved from destruction and four and a half million dollars have been spent on it so far to make it a nice family place to enjoy an afternoon on foot or bike.  Work is under way to get the bridge placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  You can see the skyline of St. Louis and the arch from the bridge.  I love this place !  It was one of Mom's favorite places on the trip, too. Back to the car- heater on full blast because next we're headed for another of my favorite places on Route 66 - Ted Drewes for some frozen custard.

Since 1999, I have not been to St. Louis without going to Ted's, a Route 66 tradition.  They sell a mean "concrete" shake or sundae, where they've been turning the cup upside down before they hand it to you since 1929.  I've even brought frozen custard back to Indy for friends in the past.  They'll pack it in dried ice for you.  In fact you can order it and have it shipped to your door. I guess there are people who do that with their favorite foods that are hard to get locally (ala White Castles being sent to the West Coast). 

Next we went to the Route 66 State Park at the edge of the city.  One of the workers there went to high school in Indianapolis four blocks from where I spent about 25 of my working years. Small world.  Now out to the heart of Missouri, and the real Ozark Mountain town of Devil's Elbow on the old, old alignment of R66 - you have to really want to find this place. The only thing there is a bridge and a bar/restaurant.  The river there has a particularly bad bend to it and lumberjacks would get their logs jammed at this part of the river, thus - the name of the town.  We had dinner in there and it was redneck in everyway (redneck in a good way, really) with slightly intoxicated guys playing pool and not watching their language to well, a nice doggy roaming the floor looking for scraps, biker guys and dolls and a bazillion bras hanging from the rafters.  Since Ma was with me, I didn't think it appropriate to get the low-down on the lingerie.  Everyone there was very friendly and we were made to feel welcome, after all we were spending some money.  Then on to Lebanon to stay at the famous Munger-Moss Motel, a staple on Route 66.  While it is an older motel, we were in a newer section and it was quite nice.  The Lehman's who run the place were very friendly and eager to share stories about the people who have come before.  Seems a lot of Europeans are discovering Route 66 as both Ernie at the Pig Hip and the Lehmans mentioned German motorcyclists and others who have shipped their cars to America just to drive the road.  Wow and I thought this trip was going to be expensive for us.

Clocks moved back last night, so we need to get an early start as it is getting dark at 5:15 pm now.  Took the oldest alignment through town and was rewarded with a terrific block long ceramic mosaic on a stone retaining wall commemorating Springfield as the "Birthplace of Route 66".  In Carthage we saw the most beautiful courthouse of the whole trip - majestic !  Many beautiful turn of the century home were well maintained.

There are only a Baker's Dozen miles of Route 66 in Kansas.  We didn't see a lot to keep us there very long.  The only thing of note was when we had pulled over on the should of an old alignment to take a photo of a bridge and a pickup truck with a man and woman stopped to see if we needed help to which I replied "No, we're just 66'ers headin' through".  "That's what I told him", says the lady passenger.  Turns out he was the sheriff of Cherokee County (Galena, Baxter Springs) and gave a good plug for his county with a mini-history about the rise and fall of the towns along with the lead and zinc mines there. Nice folks "On the Road". 

Neither mom nor I could sing the words to the famous song, just as well as I know I can't sing (Mom thinks she can, though!). First stop - Commerce, Oklahoma.   And as the water tower reads " HOME OF THE .....  "  I couldn't see the last word until I drove a little further, but I was sure it was gonna say "....THE MICK !!!!"   Nope - "....THE TIGERS".   I was in Commerce three and a half years ago passing through and stopped to see the birthplace on one of my childhood heroes.  Commerce is not a well preserved town.  It is disappointing to see that they have not capitalized on the famous road that runs through their town or their most famous person.  In an open field on the highway is a nice 4 by 8 foot sign indicating this is the future site of the Mickey Mantle Museum. The same sign and open field I saw three and a half years ago.  Their MMM website does show some plans for the museum and I suppose money is tight for this mining town.  The high school baseball field has been named for The Mick.  However, location of the vacant home in which he grew up in not well marked and there is only a small plaque on the home telling the determined visitor that Mickey lived here, one could literally drive by the house and have no idea there was any historical significance to it.  Bummer, but I'm over it now as we pull into Miami (pronounced "my am uhh" by the locals). 

Unlike Commerce, Miami is on top of their Route 66 game.  The downtown is being revitalized with the centerpiece being the magnificent Coleman Theatre.  Built in 1929 in a Spanish Revival style, it has been in continuous service ever since.  The structure was donated to the city in 1989 and a major renovation has been underway ever since.  The day we were there happened to be a day that a major silent movie was playing, so we could not tour the theatre.    An organist from the state of Washington (he was in Dallas the night before) was flown in to play the restored Wurlitzer - the movie - Phantom of the Opera.  The Coleman personnel let me go up stairs that is not yet quite finished.  I heard the organist strike the keys to the famous melody of the opera; it brought some tingling to my old arms.  The people were justifiably proud of their city's jewel; I'll be back someday to watch a movie or see a theatre production there, no doubt. 

Left town and headed for an old narrow alignment per my maps and reference material.  Wow, a nine foot wide road!  It is affectionately called the " Sidewalk Highway" and the "Ribbon Road".  The road is still there and functioning as a county road and has been widened by applying gravel to both sides of the nine feet pavement.  The concrete surface has some kind of a distinctive edging so telling where the surface lay was not a problem.  This was the way much of Route 66 looked in the early days (1926-1930), however this is the only stretch of it left for us to enjoy and reminisce.  The thirteen miles between Miami and Afton is listed as an Oklahoma National Historic Landmark.  Spent the night in Claremore, home of Will Rogers. 

In Claremore you can see the Will Rogers Memorial, the Will Rogers Hotel, the Will Rogers Airport, Museum, Park - yadda, yadda, yadda.  I wasn't that interested in Will Rogers but told Mom several times that if she wanted to see anything, we would, .."since Will was of your era...".  After about the third time saying this she not so politely informed me that she was only 4 years old when Rogers died in the famous plane crash with Wiley Post.  OK - he was not of "your era" - sorry!
There is a Blue Whale in Catossa.  That's all I'm gonna say about it.  You can look it up on the web (as well as most of the other stuff I've been blabbering about). 

Tulsa is BEAUTIFUL !   Art deco buildings everywhere with the most impressive being the Boston Avenue Methodist Church - stunning.  Also, saw a restored art deco blue domed filling station.  The soil on the way to Oklahoma City seemed exceptionally red; very pretty - maybe all of the rich top soil blew away in the Dust Bowl era (not Mom's era either!) when R66 was used as a means of the mass exodus.

Oklahoma City is really too big to enjoy.  I felt kind of like I did in Chicago, just get me to the other side.  However, while there you need to see the OKC National Memorial at the sight of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  Wow has that homegrown terroristic disaster been 11 years ago taking the lives of 168 men, women and children.  A couple of years ago when I was there one could not cross the roped off area of the empty chairs signifying the dead.  You can now walk among the chairs and read the names if you desire.  This is a very sobering place that has been made beautiful for us to enjoy and remember.

Oklahoma Historic Route 66 is not as well marked as Illinois and Missouri as we took several wrong turns and went several miles before realizing we were not on any alignment of the road.  While frustrating, it was just another part of the journey and was not that bad, all in all.

Woke up the next morning to ask Mom where we were.  She didn't know either - Oh yeah, Weatherford, Oklahoma; easy to forget where the heck you are - this is day 6 and of course we've been in a different motel/hotel and town each night.  We made Texas in an hour or so and were greeted with dozens of wind turbines.  We have seen an old style non-functioning windmill at nearly every farm along the way so far.  Now we are seeing the new technology of an old form of energy.  Did you know they grew cotton in Texas?  We didn't, but there were huge fields of it in the panhandle part of which R66 run through.  Shamrock, Texas - neat old cafe and art deco buildings.  McLean - site of oldest Phillips 66 filing station in Texas. Groom - leaning water tower (built that way to attract tourists, worked for us, stopped at least long enough for a photo) and the largest cross in North America.  On to the famous Cadillac Ranch just west of Amarillo.  Eccentric Texas oil millionaire has "planted" then Caddies grille down, fins sticking up, in a field.  When we stopped there was only one other person there (around 2pm) - a professional photograph with equipment that made me jealous, photographing numerous famous sites in the U.S.  He was from Massachusetts and had a portable red plastic-cabinet TV that he was using as his model.  Uhh?  He let Mom and I model for him and is to send us a photo from his medium format Mamiya camera.  A couple of other people arrived and as we left the caddies and the portable red plastic-cabinet TV a group of about 15 kids were climbing out of a limo with their spray paint cans.  The caddies have been spray painted numerous times, a tradition in the panhandle, I guess.

We were not hungry as we pulled into Adrian, Texas to the Mid-Way Cafe about 3:30 pm.  It was Halloween and the two ladies had already closed the grille so they could leave a little early.  There was fresh pecan pie to be had, however, and we needed to celebrate the halfway point.  Adrian is 1139 miles from Santa Monica and the same distance from Chicago.  According to our waitresses, the Mid-Way Cafe was used as the model for the cafe at Radiator Springs in the movie Cars.  Picked up a few souvenirs including a postcard with a Texas Yellow Rose on it to send home to my lovely working spouse.  We found the "old, old" alignment of R66 when we left Adrian and were on gravel roads for about 30 miles and met only one car.  The car is really dusty and dirty by now, but will wait until we reach the coast to clean it. 

New Mexico
On to Tucumcari, which is a town trying hard to rejuvenate itself.  It is a prime example of the devastating blow struck by the opening of the interstate highway.  Many if not most of its businesses were established to meet the needs of the traveler.  It was a little depressing to see the closed and boarded up business.  However, Tucumcari still has many fine businesses that are ready to serve the traveler and is updating roads and renovating a number of commercial buildings.  We stayed at the "Historic Route 66 Motel" that was still in good shape.  Tucumcari is somewhat famous for it's neon signage.  We were lucky to have caught this town at dark, as I was able to photograph a number of really great neon signs - from motels to restaurants to laundry mats, etc.

On the road early - 6am.  Fast food restaurant today - Mom got her comfort food - biscuits and gravy.    Santa Rosa is a neat little town with many natural lakes including one famous "Blue Hole" used now primarily for diving.  It is 60' in diameter and 80' deep and a constant 60 degrees.  It is a beautiful blue color.  Santa Rosa also is the site of a memorable seen in the Grapes of Wrath movie, where Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) watches a freight train steam over the Pecos River railroad bridge, into the sunset.  Got the photo (sans the train).

Beautiful mesas on the way to Santa Fe.  The road was not well marked and we made a couple of wrong turns, my navigator's fault I think.  Stayed in a beautiful hotel downtown Santa Fe, the Desert Inn.  Santa Fe has a lot to offer - the oldest house and the oldest church in the U.S.  Took a trip out in the desert to "La Bajada Hill".  Here is an awesome original alignment of R66 that is gravel, though mostly washed out now.  It winds through the mountains with 90 degree switchbacks.  The reference material states no passenger vehicles and I agreed as soon as I laid eyes on it.  I hiked about a mile and a half (left Mom in the car with our walkie-talkies).  This part of the road would be great for ATV's or motorcycles.  I think back in 1926, you really had to want to get to the other side of the mountain to negotiate a "road" like this !  I had some photos from the 1926 era and the road does not look a whole lot different.  Back to the hotel now and we thought about walking downtown, but both were a little winded from the day's activities (and the elevation is 7000'), so we called it an early night.

The oldest part of R66 went into Santa Fe, the state capital, but after some political shenanigans, the road was diverted south through Albuquerque which made the road straighter, safer, shorter and you by-passed the La Bajada Hill.  Albuquerque would be a great place to spend a night, particularly because of all the neon signage on Central Avenue, but we hit it early in the morning.  We stopped at the KiMo Theatre built in 1927 and newly renovated.  The proud personnel there gave us a short tour. They have plays weekly in this beautiful structure.  We headed into a desolate area around McCarty, New Mexico which had a lot of black rock.  Reference material states it is lava from an eruption only about 1000 years ago.  Um, didn't know that. 

Next stop, the Continental Divide where we bought some souvenirs and got the requisite photo at the Continental Divide covered wagon.  Next town, Gallup on the border with Arizona.  Stopped at the famous wigwam motel in Holbrook, little early in the day, but got info on availability and prices.  Spoke with John Lewis, son of the founder and creator of the wigwam.  Very engaging man with stories of the origin of the motel, his mother who is still alive, previous customers, particularly those who come through with classic and antique cars.  John has 10-12 old cars in and around the office and wigwams, including three of my favorite manufacturer - Studebaker. 

We drove on to Winslow and decided to stay at the La Pasada,  Tough choice between the wigwams and the La Pasada, a Fred Harvey House (remember the movie The Harvey Girls starring Judy Garland?).  Fred Harvey is credited with civilizing the west with his nice hotels and restaurants starting with the railroads prior to the invention of the automobile.  His hotels were masterpieces of architectural beauty and include the El Tovar built in 1905 located right on the south rim at the Grand Canyon, still in use.  Famed lady architect Mary Coulter was the chief designer for the Harvey Houses.  The La Pasada is undergoing a $12 million renovation.  Our room was well appointed with paintings, iron bed posts, hardwood floors.  Each room is named for a famous person who had stayed there in the heydays when dozens of passenger trains stopped in Winslow.  Today only two passenger trains stop now, one east-bound and one west;  but there was plenty of freight activity on the tracks which are just outside the back of the hotel.  We had room number 223 - the Ann Morrow Lindbergh room (wife of Charles Lindbergh - you know - Spirit of St. Louis airplane - Lucky Lindy).  I didn't realize in advance that the rooms had names as well as numbers or I would have asked for the James Dean or Steve McQueen room (good ole Hoosier boys).

Started the morning with a stop at the "Standing on the Corner Park" in Winslow.  You know the old 1970's Eagles song Take It Easy with the lyrics:

"I'm standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I'm such a fine sight to see; 
There's a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me."

The park has a bronze statue of a young man with a guitar leaning against a light post and an F250 flatbed Ford a few feet away.

Detour from Route 66 today.  We decided to see the magnificent Grand Canyon, so we headed to Flagstaff then north about a hour and a half to the national park.  Not much to see on the way so it turned out to be a great day to talk about our family's history on Garvey Lane, Bedford, Indiana.  Seems my grandmother (Mom's mom) had been to the Grand Canyon though Mom had not; I was I extra pleased we had decided on this diversion from the purpose of our trip.  Along the way, we also discussed the old house  at the southwest corner of J. Williams Boulevard and Hillcrest Road (now torn down), some of the family hand-made antiques we have, old friends - some still around, some not and trips both past, present and future.

Did you know that if you are "of age" you can get a lifetime pass to all of our National Parks for a mere $10?  Mom got it, not me, but it got us both in the park for only $10 (normal price is $25 per vehicle).  We may decide to go to Yosemite in California now - for free!  Mom's first view of the Grand Canyon was very similar to mine some years ago - "WOW - My goodness - how magnificent! That is a BIG hole."  We stayed about three hours, took the bus to Hermit's Rest, the end of the line.  While I like the Grand Canyon, there's only so many different views of the Big Hole.  Got back to Flagstaff where is decided to call it an early night and went to Sam's Club to download some of my photos (the disk is getting full).

Seligman, Arizona is a neat town that has embraced it R66 heritage- many storefronts, old cars and mannequin of famous people, including Elvis.  The little town of Hackberry was a delight.  There is an old store there which doubles as a museum. There is a '57 'Vette under the store's canopy  We got a few bottles of Route 66  Route Beer - Oprah's favorite and now ours too.  While we were there a busload of people unloaded at the store for their visual enjoyment.  Oh, there was a curious structure out back, had to ask the clerk what it was - an above ground cement block cistern ! 

One of the problems of not having a month to "run the road" is that you have to make decisions about where to spent time and where you're going to spend the night.  We hit the town of Kingman to early to stop for the night and too late to soak in its great R66 icons.  We did stop at the a very nicely converted visitors center which was the original power plant for the town.  Could have spent more time there.  I knew we needed to either stay there or get moving in order to drive through the desert before dark - target Barstow, California.  The people at the visitors center said we should be able to make it in plenty of time if we didn't spend too much time in going over the Black Mountains at Goldroad at Sitgreaves Pass (where you can pan for gold - I wasn't feel all that lucky) or at  Oatman or Needles or Goffs.   So much to see and so little time.  Had planned to stop in each one of these towns.  The pass was awesome, a sign stated no vehicles over 40' as they would not be able to make the hairpin switchback curves.  I tried not to look over the edge of the road to the desert floor as we drove through the pass.  It was from the safety of the Colorado River basin the Pa Joad in the Grapes of Wrath looked back and compared the mountains to the "bones of a country". Parts of the pass are very  steep; in the 1920's the Model T's did not have pumps to push the gas from the tank to the engine and the cars could not keep gas in the engine.  The solution was to drive in reverse up  the winding mountain.  This looks like a great stretch to ride a motorcycle, we saw several. 

Oatman is a great little tourist town, it was quite crowded.  Lots of shopping and the Oatman Hotel - where Gable and Lombard spent their honeymoon night in March of 1939.  The workers are in period costumes.  However, the real draw to Oatman is the burros; wild burros roaming the street (there's only one).  They are very tame and oh so cute.  They love carrots and the tourist love feeding them and taking photos, this tourist was no exception.

Last stop in Arizona, Needles where there is another Mary Coulter designed Harvey House undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration.  This is very satisfying to see from  historical, architectural and aesthetic viewpoints. 

Now on to the desert.  Even though I did quite a bit of research I wasn't exactly sure what the temperature and conditions would be, so we stopped for bottled water (the merchants at the edge of the desert saw us bumpkins coming - that's all I'll say).  Turned out to be a nice drive through the desert, certainly not too hot, in fact we had the top down on the convertible.  We took the oldest alignment that took us through Goffs, California to a one room restored school house used from 1914 to 1937.  Mom befriended some bikers (lots of people touring R66 on bike) in the parking lot as I browsed the campus.  Two jet fighters flew over the building which we were there - it was an awesome sound.  We've lost another hour now due to Pacific Time in CA. Made Barstow at dusk just in time for a great photo of the full moon rising over the desert mountains. Um- we're only 133 miles from Santa Monica.  I think we will try to make the road's end then as it will be Sunday and traffic should be lighter.

Started the next morning's trip a little before dawn and we were treated to a fantastic moon setting over the desert mountains while the sun was rising over the mountains to the east.  Wow, got the full moon rising and setting in the desert. Stopped at the small town of Victorville which has a huge archway over the highway announcing there link to Route 66. Had breakfast at Mom's newest favorite western fast food restaurant Carl Jr.'s  (basically a Hardee's) again.  No biscuits and gravy, oh no, she's gonna be in a bad mood today !  More desert, abandon homes and  businesses of every kind.  San Bernardino has another beautiful Mary Coulter designed Harvey House train station which underwent a $13 million restoration transformation.  There is another wigwam motel here, a little better restoration and nicer setting than the Holbrook AZ wigwams.  Too early to stop here, got to get to Santa Monica and out of "Dodge" early if possible. 

From San Bernardino it is only 55 miles now to the Santa Monica pier, we got it made.  OH MY, was I wrong.  There is nothing but city after city after city from here to the pier - Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Glendora, Monrovia, Pasadena, Los Angeles ( where we hit Sunset and the Santa Monica Boulevards - hurray), Beverly Hills, Century City  and finally Santa Monica.  These last miles took three hours on a Sunday !!  Stop lights galore.  Parked on the wooden pier and walked down the steps to the magnificent Pacific Ocean. Had mom stand next to the edge of the tide water, she did not want to take her shoes and socks off to get in the water.  So, I sent her a out to the edge of the water for a photo and while she was minding my photographic instructions, one of the big  waves "got her" ! Not surprising, she was not mad at me for getting her wet.   Beautiful bird of paradise flowering plants on Ocean Boulevard. Got the requisite photos of the end of Route 66 - there is some controversy as to exactly where it ended, so this little task required four photos in a six to eight block area.  The real end is supposedly six blocks from the pier at the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln.  Okay Route 66 is now "in the bag", 2450 miles from Chicago plus another 600 or so for our start from Bedford and our side trip to the "big hole" in AZ. 

Our plan now is to drive up the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway #1 for as far as we can get tonight, we will not be able to make San Francisco.  We will be picking up Highway 50 in Sacramento.  Drove at night for the first time (since we were no longer sightseeing on Route 66) and were blessed with a beautiful sun set over the ocean shining on the fishing ships all aglow with their lights coming back to port. Also, another fantastic full moon over the mountains to our right as  we drove north on to San Luis Obispo for the night.

Beautiful drive the next morning.  Saw the Hearst Castle at San Simeon.  Driving in the mountains was reminiscent of the drive on R66, awesome, but now the Santa Lucia Mountains on the right of us (east) rise abruptly from the ocean to the left (west).  Top down, wind in our hair, we could smell the ocean and feel it's misty breeze.  Stopped at Big Sur State Park. Towering cliffs, fog-banked canyon, roaring surf and the little cabin near the meadow and creek -  I wanted to see where Jack Kerouac received the inspiration to write one of his famous novels, appropriately titled "Big Sur".   This park would be great for camping among the giant ageless redwood, including the biggest and oldest "The Colonial".  The average redwood is 200 to 240 feet high and 10 to 15 feet in diameter. Stopped at another state park later in the early afternoon for a picnic lunch on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  At this point I realize that I really don't miss working for a living any more.  What a beautiful day !!!!! 

The Pacific Coast Highway has been replaced by US 101 for the most part which is 20 to 50 miles inland.  So, there was essentially only local traffic and a few sight seers like us.  This meant the services for heavy vehicle traffic was not present.  When I noticed the gas gauge was under one-fourth and realizing I hadn't seen a gas station in 60-70 miles and knowing I was 90 miles or so from Monterey, I didn't hesitate to stop at the first place I saw that had a pump - the "town" of Gorda.  Try not to get gasoline there if you can avoid it.  My first hint that it might be expensive - Full Service Only; second hint - no price posted; third hint - only one pump.  "How much do you want? says the attendant.  "How much is it? says the driver.  "$4.80 a gallon regular' states the attendant.  The driver is speechless.  "Uh, how much did you say?"  "$4.80 a gallon regular".   Well I wasn't about to ask about "premium" and after gathering my senses, ask for five gallons as I knew that would be more than enough.  I usually don't worry about one station at $2.29 and another at $2.39 - I just fill-up the tank and go on.  But in Gorda, CA price was an issue.  Five gallons and get me out of Dodge.  Out of the mountains now we were driving past dark soiled luscious fruit and vegetable farms, the ones for which the Oakies left the dust bowl in the 1930's hoping to find work picking their harvest.  We saw farm after farm and (migrant?) pickers of strawberries, avocados, kale, lot's o' pumpkins, lettuce and other vegetables neither of us could identify.  Of the 360 mile from LA to San Francisco, we traveled 220 miles this day. The Monterey Bay area is beautiful and of course San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island in the bay. Going north and starting to head west, we crossed the bay again but over the Richmond - San Rafael toll bridge.  This lesser know bridge which was completed in 1957 is 5.5 miles long (Golden Gate - 1937 and 1.7 miles) and is unique in that, while it has four lanes, they are "stacked" with the two west bound lanes as the upper deck and the two east bound lanes are the lower deck..

Now on to and through Vallejo, Vacaville and Sacramento, all cities where relatives on which Carol's father George Stickles side of the family moved to and lived in and whose descendants still live.  Since leaving the Golden Gate Bridge, we have been on interstate roads.  We need 90 miles to make Sacramento which is now the western terminus of US 50.  The stretch US 50 from Sacramento to San Francisco has officially been replaced by interstate as we hit the western part of Sacramento we saw picked up US 50 and saw a sign stating "Ocean City, MD  3,073 miles", the eastern terminus. But hold the horses, as we were about 20 miles from Sacramento we go stuck in one hour of stand still traffic due to a truck fire on our side of the road.  Arghh - interstate travel !!  Decided not to stay in Sacramento, the state capital, it was election night and I thought it might be hard to find a place to stay and didn't want to get caught in the political "traffic jam" of the "day after".  So, after a quick dinner about 6pm, I without consulting the navigator decided it would be a good idea to head on to the town of South Lake Tahoe on US 50 as it was only 100 miles from Sacramento.  We had an eight lane highway, four lanes east bound highway after all and even though is was now dark there didn't seem to be much between the two cities.  Well, the four east bound lanes quickly became two lanes and then one lane in each direction.   Huh, I should have figured - Lake Tahoe - skiing - mountains - skinny, curvy roads, duh!  This turned out to be a bad move that I blamed on the navigator. I was driving pretty slow, not knowing the road and the "locals" heading to South Lake Tahoe were coming up behind me like the proverbially bat out of xxxx.  Some of them were so close and inpatient to pass me at the first opportunity that I thought they were going to "bump draft" me like Junior is famous for doing (NASCAR's Dale Ernhart, Jr.).   This was an especially tough final 50 miles or so.  It was the off-season so we had no problem finding a room at this resort town of South Lake Tahoe which straddles both CA and NV.  It is pretty easy to tell when you've reached South Lake Tahoe, NV, as the buildings suddenly reach the sky and reach for your wallet or purse.  Nevada has legalized gambling (without having to be on the water).  This reminded me of living in a "dry" county in Kentucky where it was quite easy to determine the county line with a "wet" county because of the liquor stores at the border -even on little traveled county back roads.  OK -  Started the day's drive at 5am and finally in our room at 10:30pm - long day !!!

Nevada and Utah
It's now day 13 and after the long drive yesterday (as well as the previous dozen), we decided to spend a day relaxing in South Lake Tahoe.  Did laundry and changed the oil in the car - 3,500 miles of bug juice, tar and Route 66 dust.   In the afternoon we took a two hour sail that included lunch on the paddleboat M. S. Dixie on Lake Tahoe.  The lake was formed by glaciers, is very clear and is 12 miles wide by 18 miles long. Back at the motel, I decided to walk the one block to the casinos and try my luck.  Luck was with a gal named Rose, not Danny.  After an hour I had lost my self-imposed allotment and left.  We didn't want supper as our lunch on the boat was quite satisfying, but we did opt for some ice cream late that night.

Lake Tahoe would be a great place to spend 3 or 4 days.  Great skiing in the winter, lots of golf courses, beautiful countryside for nice drives and of course the casinos.  As we left the next morning, it was misting rain, the sun popped out and there appeared a double rainbow with the end of the first one firmly planted at the XXXXXXX  Casino.  After a quick photo (for proof of  why my new found good luck was about to make me a millionaire) I advise Mom I was going in to "lay some money down".  She politely informs me we should "Save that money for the high gas prices in the desert".  Darn the bad luck, she's right, who knows what the gas prices might be in some of the "one-pump" towns we are about to encounter in the lonely Nevada desert on US 50.

The capital of Nevada is on the extreme western edge of the state about 25 miles north of Lake Tahoe.  It's 7am here and 10am in Indy.  Since Mom won't let me gamble, I'll have some fun calling my geographically and directionally challenged former boss who should be hard at work now and see if he knows what the state capital is. "Well hello, Larry - Uh, we're lost and I've tried to call some other people but no one's in their office, so you're it. We're on US 50 in the state capital of Nevada; can you tell me where we are?"  "Well, Dan, I think you're in Carson City" says Larry.  Dang, I can't believe he knew that ! No fun there !  However, after some small chit-chat, Larry states "Well, Dan, I'm green with envy about your trip."  BINGO - game over, that was my real reason for calling, no more time for you Larry, have a great day.  I love retirement!  Did I mention the rain had stopped - what good luck!

Heidi's Restaurant in Fallon proved to be a great breakfast stop - FOUR egg omelet for me and a SIX stack of pancakes for the scribe.  Best omelet I ever had - had Chef  Elliot come over for my personal compliment. That was our only meal of the day.

US 50 through Nevada is desolate; there is NOTHING after Carson City, nothing but salt flats and sand mountains.  We were just coming out of a little curvy, hilly stretch east of Fallon looking at a LONG straight roadway with more mountains in the distance, when Mom said that she saw a blast or a flash of light at the base of the mountains.  We concluded it was probably blasting for salt.  Then, we heard the planes, two jet fighters, probably F-16 Falcon from the Fallon Naval Air Station, racing through Dixie Valley - it was the TOPGUN program !  We stopped and let them put on a private target practice showing for us about 5-6 miles in the distance from our position on the side of US 50. The sound was deafening, the sights spectacular!

On the road and NOTHING for the next 400 miles, save for four small towns. One photo taken - antlers completely covering the gateway arch to a farm.

Colorado and Kansas
Next morning, we head through the Rockies with the top down and wind in our hair (yes, I still have some).  Some snow along the north side of the road way, there had been a big snow in the Rockies about two weeks prior. Stopped at Royal Gorge in Colorado to see the world highest suspension bridge built in 1929.  The plank boards creaked as we drove across - spooky. Had a nice picnic lunch at a city park in LaJunta, Colorado next to a drive in bank who's office was a caboose of an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe train - cool. (Remember the famous song from the 1950's movie Harvey Girls - the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe?  See how all of this is related somehow?)  Lots of cattle stock yards in Colorado - smelly !  As we entered Kansas, more stock yards and then we passed a chemical plant.  Whew ! Yuk !  Right at that time, Mom says, "That makes my throat sore!"   I'm thinking the foul air is getting to my  nose , but my throat is ok - humm?  "What do you mean, Mom?"  "Her voice!" says Mom.  Seems I had waited this late into the trip (Day 15) to expose her to Janis Joplin with her distinctive patented rasping (some say annoying - my favorite women, my wife and mother) voice - she was whaling on "Cry Baby" - beautiful.  Most of the trip I had been playing CD's of Chicago, Credence Clearwater Revival, a Route 66 CD we picked up in Missouri on the way out. Also the soundtrack to one of my favorite movies - "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou".  Mom sang along to many of the old time religious songs in it, I did a little singing too - only slightly worse than Janis.

Passed through Holcomb, Kansas (more on this town later) and stopped at Garden City for the night.  Went to the lounge to watch the end of the Louisville - Rutgers football game. Only people in the place were the waitress, her husband and me.  The game is on and Shawn a former high school and Garden City Community College footballer is watching it.  We become fast friends routing for opposing teams. Humm - Garden City Community College - sounds familiar, doesn't it??

Nice breakfast at the hotel, and left town.  Nope, didn't see one sign on the way in last night or this morning on the way out proclaiming Garden City as the city/school of Junior College All-American Keith Smart - Indiana University transfer and MVP of the 1987 College Basketball Championship in New Orleans - oh it seems like only yesterday.  Oh, Shawn didn't know who Keith Smart was either - wow, how soon non-Hoosiers forget.

Yesterday the top was down, today 30 degrees and 30 mph winds - burr! Dodge City Kansas.  Saw Boot Hill Cemetery in downtown.  This rough cowboy town is probably worth a couple of days, but we were in a hurry to "Get outta Dodge!"  Dodge City is making it's fame on it's glorified lawless rough and tumble past.  I was glad to see that Holcomb, Kansas is apparently trying to forget it's 15 minutes of fame as there were no monuments or anything to signify it's infamy. Holcomb is the town where the true story of the 1959 quadruple murder of the Clutter family at their farmhouse by two paroled convicts occurred.  The murders were sensationalized in the book by Truman Capote and later the movie In Cold Blood

Next up Hutchinson Kansas which is completely bypassed by a newer alignment of US 50. You probably know this, but Kansas is FLAT!. Wind turbines and water wheels for agricultural irrigation along with cattle is the norm.  Not even any Rock 'n Roll stations on the radio - all country music.  I tried to find a sports talk station and was somewhat optimistic when I heard the announcer on one station say "And now Greatest Moments in Sports"  No, he didn't say Sports at all - he said Farming!  The Greatest Moments in Farming!  Are you kidding me !!!  Well, there is after all, farmland for as far as mom can see (her eyesight is better than mine).  Grain elevators seen in the horizon foretell our arrival to each town.  Massive stacks of baled hay are out in the open.  Haven't seen this method before (I remember throwing bales on the tractors out near Shawswick and Heltonville the summer of 1967, my back still feels it, I think).  Also, lots of wrapped rolled hay can be seen.  You know, I'm not sure I've ever heard of the Arkansas River, but I swear, we've just crossed it for the 10th time in the last two days! 

On the Kansas City and we'll have to get on the interstate for about 15 miles or so.  No problem, we should miss most of the traffic I announce to mom .  Not so fast Danny Boy.  We are not on the freeway more than a mile the five eastbound lanes begin to slow and then come to a stop.  We go about one and a half miles in two hours and a shuffled off the interstate onto surface roads in heavy traffic as everyone had to exist and head south. I have a fairly detailed map so I'm not worried, I just need to make the right decision as to when to head back east on one of the main streets.  They are all backed up of course.  So, I went pretty far south ( about 5 miles) and followed about five other cars doing the same as me.  The road narrowed quite a bit into a country road but I'm still OK, I only started to worry when we approached a one lane wooden-floored bridge.  By now, there are probably 20 cars or so ahead of me and 40 or 50 behind me.  As I followed the cars across the bridge, the poor guy on the other side didn't have a chance to cross and looked a little flustered.  I was not about to be a nice guy at that point, besides the 40 or 50 cars behind me probably would have just pushed me over the little bridge or worse into the water. Another hour later and we finally find shelter east of Kansas City. Per the newscast that night, it seems the interstate had been shut down for four hours due to a driver talking on the cell phone who lost control of the vehicle hitting a sign post that went across the freeway causing it to fall, completely closing all five lanes.  Give me the back roads anytime!! Even those with one lane wooden-floored bridges.

It's Saturday, day 17 and we're ready to get out of Kansas and get home. US 50 passed through a lot of small towns in MO including the capital Jefferson City (called the ex-boss to see if he knew the capital of Missouri, no clue - St. Louis, Kansas City, Independence - very funny !).  Have to get on the interstate in St. Louis for a short distance.  We pass some of the same places we passed when we were on R66 - the Route 66 State Park, Six Flags. US 50 and Historic Route 66 share the same interstate I-44 for about 10 miles.   In Saint Louis US 50  is also Lindbergh Avenue (remember we stayed in the Ann Morrow Lindbergh  room at the La Pasada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona - I think we've come full circle - must be some relevance to this.

There are long stretches of Old US 50 starting about 10 mile west of Lawrenceville, Illinois.  This looks similar to a lot of the places along R66 with the old road bed beside the newer alignment.  There are some really neat abandoned bridges east of Flora, Illinois which are made of a brown brick and concrete along with a metal super structure.  Here we are close to home and we had not seen anything like this in over 5500 miles.  I hadn't been in Vincennes in years and was surprised to see that US50 bypassed the city altogether.  Washington is bypassed too. Guess I still haven't been in those towns.   Wow.  I guess that's progress. 

OK we are coming around the bend now at White River on US 50 and take the US 50 By-Pass North to 16th Street (not sure why there is a bypass when both alignments take you through downtown - I'm sure that's a State thing, the City/County people wouldn't have done this, I'm sure).   Finally, we turn onto Garvey Lane (what's left of it), I mean John Williams Boulevard (also, once known as 10th Street - no wonder I can't seem to remember mom's address - she hasn't moved, but the road has now had three names).  Mom was born in a house on Garvey Lane, as was her Mother.   Wow - I almost blow the light at Wal-Mart - been driving this road all my life, didn't see that one coming. 

We've driven 6100 miles in 17 days looking at abandoned, changed or transformed roads the whole way.  Perhaps the biggest transformation was right out mom's front door; where we started this odyssey, on Garvey Lane, once a lonely two lane gravel road with a mean "S" curve, a railroad trestle, limestone mills and even a quarry; now a very busy straight-as-an-arrow four lanes boulevard with a stop light and a Wal-Mart - doesn't seem right.  But then, that's progress.


  Route 66 is not dead.  While the highway has been decommissioned, it still exists as gravel roads, county roads, state highways and city streets.  It lives in the heart of those who seek its treasures.  And there were many along the way.
  Both of these historic roads run through the heart of America; through the smallest of towns (Gallup, Needles, Loogootee) and the big cities (St. Louis, Los Angeles)
  US 50 - THE BACKBONE OF AMERICA; Route 66 - THE MOTHER ROAD (and as Papa Joad in the Grapes of Wrath said " the bones of the country").
  There are many stretches of Route 66 that were once four lane roads where one of the sets of two lanes have been closed and blocked off, leaving just two lane roads.  Travel the open portion of the road, explore the closed part.
  On Route 66, businesses sprang up because of the road and the traffic coming from the east to the Land of Promise and the progress of the nation.  It's demise was further progress - the interstate highway system.  The businesses on US 50 have been more stable - there was not a "quick" rush of tourist traffic needing basic services, but more the mainstay commerce dealing with the needs of local towns people.
  While many "Mom and Pop" businesses on US 50 have closed, this is only a fraction of the closures suffered along Route 66.
  Today, US 50 is more about getting from point A to point B while Route 66 is a "destination" in and of itself.  This was evident, even late in the tourist season when we traveled, by witnessing the number of travelers on bus tours.
  Some cities along Route 66 have renamed their "Main St. or Washington St" to Route 66 to capitalize on the resurgent interest in the road.
  Most of the towns along Route 66 have been by-passed by the interstates.  However, you can still travel the old road.  Not many towns are by-passed by a newer alignment of US 50.  Though I was surprised to see that on the way to Bedford that we didn't go through downtown Vincennes or Washington.
  Both roads show signs of multiple alignments. This is most prevalent with Route 66, but even US 50 has several alignments as noted above.  In a number of spots in Illinois you can see the old US 50 a few yards away running parallel to the newer version.  Many of these older versions are now used as "frontage" roads.

EPILOGUE (and Random Observations):
  The sky looks larger in Nevada and Utah - the "Big Sky" effect I suppose.
  None of the old windmills work !  I don't understand the mechanics and low-tech of these windmills but I guess they are not efficient or economical. Seems a little funny with the blades standing still and the wind whipping so hard.  However, the new high-tech turbine-type windmills are quite prevalent in the West.
  Trains, trains and more trains.  Almost all of them are freight trains.  Maybe there are just as many in the Midwest, but we can't see them for all the trees and buildings.  In the West there is nothing to block the view of trains miles away in the desert flats where you might be able to see the whole train at one time.
  There are as many auto graveyards as there are abandoned motels and gas stations.
  Leslie, MO - population 87.
  This trip was far more interesting than some foreign travel I've done.  I believe this is because of the history of our own country of which I'm aware unlike the foreign countries' histories.
  Never use the word "hectic" when you are vacationing and your spouse is still working.  I found out that the spouse was doing my chores as well as her own.  "Hectic - I'll give you hectic..."  Oops.  "Sorry, honey, I think I've lost our connection".   Darn those cell phones.
  Seems like out in the countryside, people built their new houses next to the old one and just leave the old one standing.
  Old foot, horse and wagon trails have become our modern highways.  Santa Fe Trail, Chisholm Trail, Pecos Trail, Old National Trail and the Lincoln Trail.  Saw them all on this trip.
  I've long said that I'm not sure why we celebrate Columbus Day in the USA.  Most of us came to America from another continent - my family - Europe - England and Germany, in particular.  As you travel in the East and Midwest we read the names of towns with Indian sounding names, we've destroyed most of the visual evidence. In the in West you not only read the names of towns, you see the towns, pueblos, hogans and pictographs that make it very obvious, we Europeans (et al) were not the first to walk on and live off of the land in North American.  Mom states that the native Americans were the Chinese who walked across the Bering Strait when there was a land mass connecting it to Alaska.
The city limits signs in the Midwest state the town's population; in the West the signs announce the town's elevation and date founded.
Kansas has a lot of eight man football in high school.
There are far more working oil/gas wells working in the West than here and we saw one farm with a "collection" of old drilling wells.  (Makes my camera collection seem small-time.)
It is reassuring to see the resurgence and renovation of many of the more famous structures along Route 66, to wit:
Chain of Rocks Bridge - north of downtown St. Louis, MO you can walk across the Mighty Mississippi via this bridge turned into a pedestrian and bicycle pathway.
Pigs Hip Museum - go now to Broadwell, IL - the proprietor is 89 years old and has turned his restaurant into a museum - well worth seeing.
Wigwam motels in Holbrook, AZ and San Bernardino, CA.
The palatial La Pasada a renovated Harvey House Hotel in Winslow, AZ.
The Coleman Theatre in Miama, OK, a marvelous restoration project nearly completed.
  I think it's OK for your Mother to sign along in the car to songs like "You Are My Sunshine" and "Peggy Sue", but you should get nervous when she hums along to "Whiskey Bar" by the Doors.
"Roadside attractions" were very prevalent especially along Route 66.  These were businesses that used some "gimmick" to attract your attention and attack your wallet.  A couple of examples would be the three giants in Illinois and the "Blue Whale" in Oklahoma.  Lawrence County had one at one time - I remember the remnants of Ed's Ghost Town on West US 50.
  Discovering the old roads was a lot of fun.  There are "old roads" right here in Lawrence County.  SR 37 has three alignments now.  The first abandoned alignment can be seen in the Oolitic bottoms where, if you look to the right when headed to Oolitic, you can see the old road - the one Carol Taylor traveled to and from school in the 1930's and 40's.  Of course the road you are on while observing the old one, is the second alignment, which used a higher elevation road bed to counter the occasional flooding.  This was the road Dan Taylor took to and from school in the 1950's and 60's.  Now, Oolitic is bypassed altogether by the New/Improved version of SR37.  Old SR 37 was a dangerous highway and with the heavy amount of traffic going to Bloomington to work, I'm sure the newest alignment is much appreciated.