“Route 66! Route 66! Look, Grandma! It’s Route 66!” Those were the words my then 7 year old granddaughter gleefully exclaimed every time she saw a Route 66 sign, shirt, or anything else that read, “Route 66.” Imagine my happiness and excitement hearing her say that over and over!
One of my granddaughters, Amelie, had expressed an interest in traveling Route 66 for a few years now. I worried if I took her on a Route 66 trip when she was too young, or if waited until she was a teenager, she may think it was boring and never show any interest. I certainly did not want that to happen. I’m a firm believer that we need to start molding the next generation(s) of Route 66 enthusiasts, preservationists, business owners, and travelers. Amelie had turned 7 years old in the summer of 2018 and her zest for the Route had never waned. Additionally, I knew at her age, she would never forget her Route 66 trip, whereas, if I had taken her when she was younger, the risk of her forgetting the trip was quite real. I decided it was time to get this adventure started and seal the deal with her love of Route 66.
I took steps to prepare Amelie for this trip. Although she had seen many of my Route 66 photos and we had discussed the Route many times, I bought the following books for her to take on the trip, for her to look at and read, and have some decision making on where she wanted to stop: ” Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure: A Photo Journal,” by Anne Maro Slania Ph. D.; “Another Annie Mouse Adventure- Annie Mouse’s Second Route 66 Photo Journal: The Journey East,” by Anne Maro Slania, Ph.D.; “Route 66 In Search of Ghosts and Treasures,” by Phyllis Chandler Grey; and of course, “Route 66-The EZ66 Guide For Travelers,” by artist and author, Jerry McClanahan. I had already met each of these 3 authors and thought highly of them, especially Jerry who had invested many years traveling, exploring, and documenting Route 66. Amelie and I had a pre-agreement that these books were the only entertainment she would use on our trip and her electronics could only be used while on the interstate or in our motel rooms.
Amelie and I already had our bags packed and left Springfield, Missouri on a Friday morning. Since we lived in Missouri and can travel Route 66 from Springfield to the Missouri/Oklahoma state line any time, we opted to travel the interstate to Joplin, Missouri, then hop on the Route and stay on it for the rest of the trip. We made our 1st stop at the Kansas state line on Route 66. I am rarely a “selfie” person, but I love when Amelie is in the photo. So, we decided to take a selfie at each Route 66 state line signs. While driving through the approximate 13 miles of Route 66 through Kansas, we stopped at some of the icons: Cars on the Route, Front Street Garage, the Rainbow Bridge, etc.
Amelie was very excited when we reached the Oklahoma state line. A hearty and delicious breakfast awaited us at Clanton’s Café in Vinita, Oklahoma. After filling up on our meals, we continued further west on Route 66.
Amelie had expressed an interest in going to Totem Pole Park. It’s certainly an interesting and unique work of art. The biggest totem pole was 90 feet tall and was the creation of the late Ed Galloway. Also, we admired the 11 sided ‘fiddle house’ which is on the property. Totem Pole Park is located 4-5 miles off Route 66 and is considered a side trip. It was worth the drive.
I’m not going to lie, one of the places Amelie was most excited to see on this trip was the Blue Whale in Catoosa. Upon reaching the Blue Whale, Amelie could not wait to get out of the car! The closer she walked toward the whale, the more mesmerized she became. She slowly entered the mouth of the whale and looked all around. Amelie was in love!!
While there, she met our friend, Linda Hobbs, the care taker at the Blue Whale. If you haven’t met Linda yet, be sure to do so; she’s a very sweet lady with beautiful blue eyes and a big heart!
Amelie and I ended our day with an overnight stay at an older Route 66 motel. We read the Route 66 books she brought with her. Of course, she has read them several times, but she loves books so much, she’s happy to read them many times.
Saturday was off to a great start when Amelie and I stopped in Chandler, Oklahoma at the art gallery of Jerry McClanahan. Amelie loves art and Jerry and his lovely wife, Mariko, made us feel very welcome. Amelie and I both enjoyed the art gallery.
We had a great time visiting with Jerry and Mariko, as well as meeting “Mystery Cat” out on the front steps of the art gallery. Amelie and I both are HUGE animal lovers and a sweet little gray kitty hanging around outside the art gallery seemed happy to share its love with us. It was not Jerry or Markio’s kitty and they had never seen it before, hence the name from the always clever Jerry McClanahan, “Mystery Cat.” Before leaving Chandler, Amelie and I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the very retro Boomarang Diner.
One of the Route 66 icons Amelie and I both wanted to visit was Pop’s, west of Arcadia. Before going to Pop’s, I stopped at the other Arcadia icon, the Round Barn. Amelie did not know barns could be shaped in various ways other than the traditional designed/shaped barns we were all used to seeing. We read a bit of the history of the Round Barn; she seemed to really enjoy the second level and the idea of couples having their weddings, receptions, and even dancing there.
Leaving the Round Barn, Amelie could not wait for the next stop, Pops! As we neared the parking lot, I heard her say, “Wow! That’s tall!” referring to the 66′ tall pop bottle outside Pops. Once inside the store, we looked at all the different brands of pop over and over, so many times, our heads were spinning! How does one make such a choice when there were so many to choose from? We decided to think about it while we had ice cream at the diner in Pops; Amelie chose a dip of vanilla ice cream and a dip of chocolate ice cream and I chose their rootbeer float-YUM! (It’s the lunch of champions, you know! lol) After choosing a couple bottles of pop, we continued our journey west.
Of course, when driving through Oklahoma, don’t miss out on driving over the unique 1933 Pony Bridge with its 38 trusses. It’s one of the “Must See” bridges on Route 66! Also, check out the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.
Later in the day, we arrived in Elk City, Oklahoma. We got a room at the Flamingo Inn, located on Route 66. I had stayed there before and knew it was nice, clean, and very reasonably priced. (Thank you Dean Kennedy) To Amelie, we may as well have been staying at the most fancy hotel around, in part, based on the previous night’s motel, as well as the appearance of the rooms at the Flamingo Inn-they were nice! Amelie and I then walked next door to eat at Pedro’s, which served great Mexican Food. After supper, we decided to drive around and explore. The National Route 66 Museum was already closed for the day, but we walked around the outside of it and took some photos.
Driving around town, I saw Elk City’s park, a park that would make many other towns envious. We were quite excited when we saw a large carousel in the park! Although it cost us $1 each time she rode it, Amelie was thrilled to ride the beautiful carousel. I loved the look of pure enjoyment on her face the first time she rode it, as she had never ridden one before. After riding the carousel a couple times, we walked over to a tiny train in the park. We bought a ticket for her to ride it, but it seemed she loved the carousel ride more. Amelie decided to play in the park on the playground awhile until nearly dusk. Leaving the park, we returned to the National Route 66 Museum and photographed their spectacular neon sign at dusk, then settled into our cozy room for a great night’s sleep.
Sunday morning, Amelie and I packed the car and finished our Route 66 trip west through Oklahoma until we reached the Texas state line sign on Route 66. I had been worried about Amelie being bored on the trip and worried that she couldn’t wait to get home. As we got out of the car for our selfie at the Texas state line, Amelie exclaimed, “I want to go to Texas, Grandma! I want to do Route 66 through Texas!” Unfortunately, I had to return home for work. I promised her we would travel the Route through Texas next summer.
Yep, I’m still smiling over her desire to see Route 66 through Texas…so that’s where her next Route 66 adventure will begin during the summer of 2019. We hope to see you AND your kids, grandkids, school kids, etc. on the Route!
Do you know what happens in Texas? BIG things! Especially on Route 66! It doesn’t matter if it’s a small town, like Shamrock, population: 2000, give or take. That’s what we learned in July of 2018 during the Texas Welcomes the World Festival.
The festival was about Texas, Shamrock, and of course, Route 66; what’s not to love? There was food, fun, festivities, friendships, and family. Many people worked very hard to make this small town event a huge success. I HAVE to thank a very special lady, Dora Meroney. I know lots of folks made that event happen, but Dora deserves a medal! If you don’t know Dora, stop by Texas Ivy Antiques on Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas and meet her. I’m certain you’ll love her as much as the rest of us Route 66 Roadies do!
Richard and I with Dora Meroney
You may wonder, what was so special about the Texas Welcomes the World Festival? Well, lots of things actually. We spent our nights at the Route 66 Inn; it was very clean, roomy, comfortable, and quiet. Outside, they had a gazebo of sorts, so every night, friends came over for fellowship and fun-we really enjoy our Route 66 family reunions! One evening, I was walking along Route 66 taking photos and was approached by a gentleman who introduced himself as Tye. He told me he sang and played guitar at Vern’s Steakhouse, adding he had painted many of the murals around town. (Be sure to check out the murals all around Shamrock-they’re cool!) I invited Tye to come hang out with us that evening. Soon, he joined our reunion outside, even bringing his guitar! (and beer) He sang for us while playing his guitar-it was a pretty nice treat.
“Gazebo” outside the Route 66 Inn
Murals by TYE
When people think of Shamrock, Texas, they often think about the majestic U Drop Inn, with its glorious neon illuminating the evening sky. I had been really looking forward to photographing it and apparently, so did everyone else. The stunningly beautiful neon did not disappoint! My Dad and I walked up there one evening to photograph it. Our opportunity to photograph the U Drop Inn without someone getting in the photo was almost impossible. I vowed to return during a future Route 66 adventure and photograph it.
U Drop Inn
The days were hot and of course they would be: it was July in Texas. During the day, other small businesses like mine set up our wares in a large community center (did I mention it was air conditioned?) located off Route 66. Although I had tables set up, I wandered off a few times to meet people, look as the wares of others, and I even snuck outside to see a few of the cars participating in the car show. I heard there were even long horns (cattle) nearby, but I didn’t get to see them.
A couple of the cool cars at the festival
Saturday night was a real treat when our beloved Route 66 Band, The Road Crew, performed at the community center. What a GREAT time had by all! I am 100% certain the band made several new fans that night. This amazing festival ended Sunday morning. We all met at the community center for a delicious catered breakfast. Saying goodbye to our Route 66 family is always hard. What should take 5 minutes usually ends up being 30 minutes. But that’s ok, it’s really, “Until next time…”
The Road Crew
A few years ago, our close friend, Dean Kennedy, mentioned he was going to go to the Fun Run in Arizona. He sounded so excited, however, I could not imagine why he thought running in the desert would be fun. Finally, I said, “I didn’t know you were a runner.” Dean quickly explained it was a ‘run’ of cool cars, mostly classic cars that met in Seligman, Arizona, then traveled Route 66 to Topock, Arizona. Okay, now he was speaking my language: Route 66, cars, and the scenery of the desert that was so vastly different from my home in Springfield, Missouri. Life was busy at the time, so his invitation to go along had to wait…that is, until this year. My husband Richard, Dean, and I planned an epic trip out west on Route 66. We were going to meet and visit friends along the way, attend the Fun Run, and end the trip at Fender’s River Resort in Needles, California before returning home. I voiced a huge request: I wanted to stop in Erick, Oklahoma and try (again) to meet Harley Russell and I also wanted to seek out The Angel of Route 66, Angel Delgadillo, in his home town of Seligman, Arizona. Although I had met Angel once before, I did not want to miss another opportunity to see him again.
Our trip west kicked off as every Route 66 trip should, a great breakfast. For us, that meant a stop in Vinita, Oklahoma at Clanton’s. (Yum!) After breakfast, we traveled to Erick, Oklahoma. We turned off Route 66 left onto Sheb Wooley Avenue and continued about a block to the Sandhills Curiosity Shop. You can’t miss this place. It’s an old brick building with all kinds of old metal signs attached to it. It screams Route 66! I walked to the front door in hopes of finally catching Harley there, but he wasn’t. I was disappointed, but the outside of his building was so unique, I had to take some photos, like I had every time we’ve stopped by.
After a few minutes, someone drove up and stopped-it was Harley! Dean and I had our cameras out, so Harley sent us to his house to photograph more of his excellent sign collection. He opened his shop so Richard could go inside with him and visit. What a unique sight Harley’s home (and yard) was! We had to tear ourselves away and get back to Harley’s shop, because our goal was to meet and visit with him.
Harley was quite the fun character! He was very kind, entertaining, charming, he brought lots of laughs, and he shared his knowledge about the unique items in his shop. Don’t plan to go shopping there though, his treasures are not for sale. We could have spent hours visiting with Harley and ogling his collections, but we had to continue our trip. A bit of advice: Make time to stop and meet Harley. He is a part of Route 66 you don’t want to miss. Although he doesn’t sell anything, kindly put a little cash in his tip jar. If he isn’t at his shop, I’m certain you’ll enjoy the uniqueness of the building itself.
Fast forward our trip to Seligman, Arizona. (That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves between Erick and Seligman. We had a wonderful time exploring the Route, meeting with friends, and eating…a lot!) As we entered Seligman, we began seeing cool old cars everywhere. Everyone knows I love photographing classic cars and Route 66, so I went into photography overload! However, none of that compared to what I saw next-Angel Delgadillo! He was sitting outside the Snow Cap Drive-In preparing his saxophone to play. What? I didn’t know he played music! But he did, along with his older brother, Joe, (Angel is 91) and a friend, who Angel later told me had played music with them for many many years. The crowd was entertained by the music of Angel on the sax, his brother and friend on the guitars, and a younger family member who joined them and played the drums. What a special, unexpected treat, moments that will always be treasured! Moments that I happily captured with photos and video with my camera.
The next day was the first day of the Fun Run. Excitement was in the air as folks lined the sidewalks of Seligman to watch the cars drive by on their way west on Route 66. We parked on the west side of town and walked east, finally settling on a spot near the middle of town to take in the show. As the cars and trucks drove by, I happily photographed most of them, until I saw I could only take a few more photos that would fit my camera card. Well, that was a fun time filling up those 16 gigs! Prepared, I took the camera card out and put a fresh one in. I repeatedly told myself, “Don’t lose that camera card! Don’t lose the camera card!” So I put it in the little plastic case and put it in my pants pocket. Or did I keep it in my hand, worried it could fall out of my pocket? I’ll never know, because, after taking a few more photos, it was time to leave and follow the parade of cars to the first stopping point on the Route. As soon as we reached our vehicle, I emptied my hands and pockets and placed the contents on the floor. Much to my utter shock and dismay, my camera card was gone! How could that be? I told myself not to lose it! I just had it! My mind quickly went back to the photos and videos of Harley and of Angel. I wanted to cry, but there was no time. Richard and Dean quickly knew I was in distress and immediately, we retraced our steps. We went into businesses and asked if anyone turned in a camera card; nothing. We stopped and spoke with residents along the way; nothing. It was nowhere to be found, even though only minutes had passed since I last saw my camera card. My heart sank, knowing the photos would not mean much, if anything, to the finder of it. On top of that, there was no way anyone would be able to determine who the owner was, even if they wanted to return it. With no other options, we had to leave and continue with the trip.
The remainder of the trip was great, with more fun with friends and more exploration. My mind continually went to the lost camera card. Since I hadn’t taken a turn at the wheel, I finally started driving. At a maximum of ten minutes later, and I’m blaming either Richard, Dean, or both here, someone came up with the idea to drive a basically extinct portion of the Route west of Kingman, Arizona. I almost got stuck, then whacked a huge rock, before backing into some type of desert attack bush with thorns, thorns which could loudly be heard scraping along the vehicle. With a heavy sigh and a big apology, I got out of the driver’s seat and turned the driving back over to the experts. We turned around and made a hasty retreat. As a passenger again, I tried to think of plans to do my best to get that camera card back, a daunting, seemingly impossible task. I began calling businesses in Seligman. I began sending Facebook messages to businesses in Seligman. Later, on the way home, we stopped in Seligman, made many contacts, searched yet again for the camera card, but turned up empty handed.
Before we returned to Springfield, I saw a Facebook post by the Route 66 Association of Arizona, asking people if they enjoyed the Fun Run. I responded positively, as I really did have a great time. As an afterthought, I made an additional comment about losing my camera card. Soon thereafter, I received a message that a man found it and was and trying to find the owner. Really? No way! Dare I get my hopes up? Hmmm, how many other people lost a camera card in Seligman the same day I did?
I was thrilled to learn a kind and honest gentleman from Flagstaff, Arizona really had located my camera card. He worked hard to find the owner and thankfully, an awesome young lady with the Route 66 Association of Arizona put the gentleman and I in contact. Within a few weeks, I had that lil camera card of mine in hand, complete with every photo and video I took. I did my best to show my gratitude to the gentleman for finding and returning the camera card, but nothing seemed adequate.
Ever since falling in love with Route 66 and her people, I’ve always said they are the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. I want to add two other words to their description: honest and dedicated. That’s what real Route 66 folks are made of.
You know when you really like a certain food, you beg your loved ones to eat it, convinced they’ll like it as much as you do? For example, “Come on Richard, just try this sushi, it’s amazing…” Sometimes they never even try it, so they don’t know what they’re missing. Other times, it’s much easier to get them to try it: “Come on Richard, just try this new chocolate pie recipe…” and they’re hooked!
As you all already know, I REALLY love Route 66! So I had been trying similar tactics (mentioned above) to get my parents interested in Route 66 for several years. I knew if they had just a sample of that Route 66 pie, they both would be hooked. Dad has been a holdout for the most part, however, almost 2 years ago I finally talked Mom into spending a weekend with me on Route 66. I convinced her I would treat her to an all expense paid weekend vacation for her 71st birthday…destination: The Mural City, Cuba, Missouri on Route 66 for Cuba Fest. It wasn’t an easy sell, but I knew she loved crafts, good music, and she loved me, so she couldn’t really say no. (I guess she could have said no, but that wouldn’t have been a happy ending, huh?) I told Mom we would be staying at the iconic and historical Wagon Wheel Motel, she would get to hear The Road Crew perform, and she would get to meet many of my incredible Route 66 friends.
Mom lives back on the farm in Mid-Missouri and I live in Springfield, Missouri. We decided to meet at the Wagon Wheel and let our fun start there. I have to say, I absolutely love the Wagon Wheel Motel! Connie Echols bought the motel in 2009 when it was in very sad shape. She poured her heart and soul into the motel and turned it into a charming ‘must stay’ destination. (Richard and I had attended the 75th anniversary of the hotel in August of 2011, where everyone present at the celebration was allowed to see each of the beautiful rooms Connie had recently restored.)
Rock Cabins at The Wagon Wheel
Mom arrived at the Wagon Wheel Motel early Friday evening. We settled our belongings into our cozy room, then headed outside to find my friend, Dean Kennedy. The three of us walked around the motel property, so we could visit with the other arrivals, as well as photograph the classic cars that stopped by.
Mike Wallace’s Roadster (He built it!)
Mom really enjoyed meeting my friends and they welcomed her with open arms, as Route 66ers always do. Connie had a nice area set up behind the office for everyone to gather ’round and listen to friend and Author, Jim Hinckley, give a presentation about Edsel Ford. I’ve had the honor of listening to Jim give several presentations. He is very knowledgeable about Route 66 and her history, as well as other important historical topics. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Jim or hear him speak at an event, do not miss it! He and his wife, Judy, are both very nice people and they have a huge love of Route 66.
LOVE that neon!
Mom and I awoke the next morning, grabbed Dean, then headed to the craft festival. Of course, the crafts were nice, but my main enjoyment was visiting with our Route 66 friends, which included several trips to the Missouri Route 66 Association booth to visit with our great friends, Bob and Yvonne Gehl. (Who doesn’t love Bob and Yvonne!?!) But I managed to spend most of the day at our booth where I was supposed to have stayed put. (Ok ,ok, maybe I stayed put 3/4’s of the day…maybe…) I have to admit, I was happy with our booth location, because one of my favorite photographers was set up beside us. David Schwartz, a Cleveland based photographer, is a great friend and inspiration; he brought his Dad on the trip with him, too, so we both were introducing a parent to our beloved Route.
We sure love these folks! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get photos of everyone.
Luckily, I was at our booth when our friends, Woody Bomar, Joe Loesch, Don King Jr., and Jason Harmon from the band, The Road Crew, came to visit. I’m sure I’ve mentioned them before; they are based in Nashville, Tennessee, but all the Route 66ers I know always look forward to seeing them perform on Route 66. The guys have written their own great Route 66 songs, but they also play some of the great songs from the 50’s, 60’s, and even a couple from the 70’s. When they played on the street that day for the festival goers to hear, I could see the familiar twinkle in Mom’s eyes when she’s happy. It appeared she was enjoying her 71st birthday much more that I thought she would.
The Road Crew made several new fans that day!
The beautiful sunset as seen from The Belmont Winery
The Road Crew
Both the pizza and the wine were excellent!
Although we really did have a great evening, Mom and I were happy to return to our comfortable room at the Wagon Wheel and turn in for the night. Somehow, her turning 71 made me tired! (Maybe, in part, it was because I had to watch her do the twist.)
Mom with The Road Crew.
The next morning, Mom and I packed up to leave, sad our fun filled weekend was over. Of course, I had to take “just a couple” more photos of the Wagon Wheel before leaving. Looking around, I had to remind myself, when we stop along Route 66, especially when we’re with our friends, it’s not ‘goodbye,’ it’s really, ‘until I see you again.’
The Wagon Wheel Motel Office and Gift Shop.
Not long ago, I was contacted about hosting a guest blog. Hmmmm, a guest blog? Interesting. A blog about dogs? I thought to myself, this entire website is about Route 66, how can I justify a blog about dogs? Then I remembered several of my Route 66 friends travel with their 4 legged companions, which most refer to as their family. Therefore, the following guest blog was written by Aurora James.
Hitting the Open Road with Fido: Camping Tips for Your Route 66 Adventure
Route 66, the Main Street of America, the Mother Road — whatever you prefer to call it, this infamous road is sure to provide plenty of adventure. Whether you load up the car, van, RV, or motorcycle, your pooch will surely love to ride along too. However, the road stretches as far as the eye can see — over 2,000 miles to be exact — so you’ll be making several pit stops along the way, including setting up camp for the night. If you are looking for something new and exciting to try with your pooch, Route 66 just might be the ticket. Before you hit the road, check out this infographic for resources and tips to make this a trip that will leave Fido barking for more.
Armed with the right information, a road trip can become a fun pastime the two of you can enjoy together as you log miles on your Route 66 adventure. Besides, your pooch never turns down an opportunity to explore, and with all the new sights and smells that the open air brings, he’ll wonder why the two of you haven’t done this sooner.
Aurora believes there are no bad dogs. She created DogEtiquitte.info to share her dog training tips and advice to dog owners everywhere.
*This concludes the guest blog of Aurora James. I hope you enjoyed it! Please check out her website for additional information.
Check back with RJ’s Route 66 soon, as we will have a blog 100% about Route 66 by Judy. Safe travels!