We just recently returned from a journey across 8 states, over the course of 16 days, spanning 5999 miles. Christine, Sam, Rece and I (yeah, we really do need to come up with a traveling group name) drove from Costa Mesa, California to Asheville, North Carolina and back again.
More kicks on Route 66
We made plans to explore more of the Mother Road, picking up from where we left off last year on our Grand Canyon trip. So from the Petrified Forest National Park in New Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that’s just what we did.
As we learned all too well over a year earlier, the old road isn’t always easy to find. Not only that, but the damned thing had been rerouted so many times since it was started that there are multiple pieces along the same area — often miles apart. I found a set of Route 66 maps that did a pretty good job of helping us find it, for the most part.
To help put us more into the mood of the old highway, Christine did a great job of finding historic Route 66 accommodations and attractions to see along the way. Old hotels, cheesy roadside attractions, and classic diners helped give us a taste, if you’ll excuse the pun, of how it was to travel the road back then.
One significantly long section that had been bypassed was the loop up to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Taking that loop meant leaving another rerouted section of old 66 near the I-40 unexplored. I figured that I’d be more likely to be driving across the I-40 than around Santa Fe, so I could leave the smaller bits for another trip.
This journey left us with only one more stretch of Route 66 to explore at a later time. Maybe some time in the next couple of years we’ll get to finish it by driving up the Oklahoma City to Chicago portion.
Christine was very creative in her choices for places to stay along our journey. One of the highlights was a stay at the Flying W Guest Ranch, just outside Sayre, Oklahoma. After a relaxing night’s sleep we went went for a morning horseback ride.
The owner and his daughter were very friendly and made us feel right at home. Their ranch is quiet and beautiful. What a great place to go and get away from it all.
World record family
My mother is a wonderful artist and does a lot of traveling to shows and events, mostly around The South. She and her partner and will do all sorts of artistic things like portraits, caricatures, and face/body painting.
For the 4th of July they attempted to create a Guinness World Record by body painting 900 people and arranging them into an image of the American flag in Kingston, Tennessee. Unfortunately the support they seemed to get from the people of the town wasn’t what it appeared to be and they didn’t make it.
We met them there and camped out for a night. It was what you might expect from a small town patriotic celebration in the conservative South — complete with speed boat races (Earl won). Honestly, I wasn’t impressed and the people seemed very closed to strangers. I didn’t feel the least bit welcome, except by the people wanting money. So much for breaking a stereotype.
Fire and light in the dark
My family, at least the ones that had met up at the campgrounds for the body painting event, went back to my mom’s place to hold our own celebration of the 4th. We were in a fairly remote area with little light in the sky, which made the fireworks all the more brilliant. During the pyrotechnics, I tried to capture the fun with long exposure shots. They turned out pretty good. After we ran out of things to burn, my brother Danny and I experimented with the long exposure (bulb) setting on my camera and a flashlight. The results were quite interesting.
Flexibility of plans
Christine and I did a lot of planning for the trip. Well, actually Christine did the majority of planning, seeing how it’s one of her strengths. Despite all the planning, we still had plenty of spare time to make unplanned stops and to deal with the inevitable unforeseen delays. This allowed us to enjoy our trip and see all that we wanted to without feeling stressed for time.
All the flexible planning came in handy while we were in Tennessee and decided to drive to Asheville, North Carolina to see more of the family that couldn’t make it for camping. I had an absolutely wonderful time getting the chance to spend some time getting caught up with the family.
Eat here, get gas
Gas prices fluctuated a bit in price across the country, but even in the middle of nowhere the price of a gallon of gas was much lower than we were used to paying in California — and thankfully much lower than the $5.00/gallon that I had budgeted to pay by the end of the trip.
Food is always part of the fun on any trip, if you’re like Christine & I. We go out of our way to eat at locally/family owned food establishments instead of (inter)national chains. Most of the time we found ourselves enjoying a tasty meal with the comfort of knowing that the money we spent was going directly back into the local economy. It also meant that we were getting a taste of something new or a slightly different variety of an old favorite.
At least it’s a dry heat
The weather turned hot the week before we left for our trip. Even though the temperature was lower than it was back home for most of the trip, the humidity more than made up for the difference. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to the heat, even more when it’s muggy. 85° F with 95% humidity in Tennessee felt far worse than 101° F and dry in Arizona. It’s no wonder that things move at a slower place … who wants to move around much in that!?
Needless to say, I spent a good amount of time trying to stay cool on the trip. The rest of the gang didn’t complain nearly as much as I did about the heat and I’m glad they were able to tolerate my whining.
Science and history
You can’t help but see a bit of days gone by along Route 66. The boom and crash of small towns that once lined The Mother Road is rather astounding, but helps one understand how fickle business can be and how the economy can change over time. The history of the road wasn’t the only education we received, though.
We visited museums and national parks and stopped at historic placards along the way. Here’s a quick list of the places we stopped:
Zuni Pueblo/Reservation – We drove around a small Zuni Indian settlement (pueblo) and saw some Indians in tribal/ceremonial outfits walking about.
Devil’s Rope & Route 66 Museum – I was completely surprised by this one. A top-notch museum about barbed wire and how it changed the world. It also included a small pictorial display about the dust bowl that really moved me.
National Route 66 Museum – For a new museum, this wasn’t very good. In fact I felt oddly detached from the information they were trying to present. The short film about the evolution of America’s highway system was very good, however.
Hot Springs National Park – Not only the oldest of the national parks in the country, but the only one contained within a city. A great place to come if you enjoy hot springs and spas – and also learning a little bit about history.
Texas Snake Farm – An unusual place with an amazing diversity of animals.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch – Drive through and get up close to the animals. If you’ve ever wanted to have a zebra poke its head in your car window to say hello, then this is the place to go.
The Alamo – You should have no trouble remembering this piece of history after you’ve spent some time exploring the site.
Carlsbad Caverns – Incredible! This is a must-see. Who would have thought that a cave could feel so spacious? Do yourself a favor when you visit and go on at least one of the guided tours (reservations needed).
NRAO Very Large Array – A deliciously geeky place to learn about radio astronomy and see some very cool (and large) radio antennas (don’t call them satellite dishes!).
Titan Missile Museum – Want to see an nuclear missile up close? This decommissioned Titan II missile silo has been converted into a museum. Take the tour and go down into the silo and learn more about these cold war weapons.
The end of the road
16 days in a car can really put people to the test. What’s good is that we all had a good time, even during the long and boring stretches of driving. You know you’re with good company when the trip is over and you’re still getting along just as well (or better) as you did before you left. This will be a trip we’ll all remember for a lifetime.
Be sure to check out the set of photos from our journey.
Christine also wrote about the trip on her travel blog.
This entry dislikes living in California even more, now.