“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
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.
A few months ago, Richard and I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to visit our friend Dean and his mother. Our visit with them was wonderful, full of conversation and stories of past travels. Part of our time in Albuquerque was spent doing a couple of the things Richard, Dean, and I enjoy best, traveling Route 66 and sign hunting. We have fallen in love with signs and the hunting thereof. Not all signs will do, however, as old signs are among the best finds, but neon signs? Now you’re talking! There are great signs everywhere, big cities, little towns, along beaches and roadways too, but as Route 66 lovers, great signs found on Route 66 are the most beloved signs of all. It’s like treasure hunting, but for signs. (OH! And you don’t steal the ‘treasure,’ you photograph it, then continue the search.)
Driving up and down Central Avenue, aka: Route 66, you will see there is no shortage of signs. Many are vintage and downright iconic, like the sign outside the Westward Ho! Motel, with its large Saguaro Cactus outlined with neon. What a GREAT sign! A day time photo of the Westward Ho! Motel is shown below. Unfortunately, we were not able to take a night time photo, so I can’t tell you if the neon works or not. Hmmm, maybe that means another Route 66 trip to Albuquerque in my future?
During our sign hunt, we happened across a well preserved sign uniquely colored to match the colors detailing the motel…or the detailing on the motel was uniquely colored to match the sign. Either way, it was a great sign! The pine trees near the sign and motel entrance made a grand view, which was the name of the establishment, the Grandview Motel.
There was one sign we specifically sought out: the El Vado Motel sign. Like the Westward Ho! Motel sign, this sign was very iconic as well. Two different banners are tied on to the building; they read, “The Purest Route 66 Motel Surviving” and “70 years of Continuous Hospitality on Route 66.” Well, one of those signs may have been true. For several years now, a tall chain link fence has surrounded the adobe style El Vado Motel, as it sat vacant and deteriorating. Awhile back, the once beautiful El Vado neon sign was removed from the property to be restored to its former glory. Once the neon restoration project was complete, the exquisite sign was proudly displayed in an Albuquerque museum, before being returned to its home outside the El Vado Motel. I believe anyone seeing this sign in its current glory would be in awe. Although a colorful sign during the day, the sign glows with brilliant colors at night. The name of the motel is outlined in neon. The photo on the sign depicts an Indian Chief, adorned in a magnificent headdress consisting of a rainbow of neon. As for the former motel, it is reportedly being restored, not as a motel, but a boutique shopping area.
Before our trip was concluded, we stopped at 66 Diner, with its red and blue neon on the outside, and 50’s style décor inside. I’m certain the food is great, but I opted for a shake. It was the most delicious shake I’ve ever tasted-chocolate with Oreos…trust me on this one!
Please remember, a great sign does not always equate to a great motel or restaurant. Research establishments online, ask friends who have traveled the area previously, and maybe even ask a local. Have FUN on Route 66 and as always, have safe travels! (And don’t forget to take photos!)
In November of 2016, Richard and I headed west for a 2 week Route 66 adventure. Route 66 turned 90 years old last year! We planned to meet up with several of our Route 66 friends and all stay at the Saga Motor Hotel in Pasadena, California. (It’s on Route 66) The only thing better than a Route 66 trip, is one with a gathering of Route 66 friends, also referred to as “Route 66 Roadies.” As I prepared to write this blog, I wanted to talk about EVERYTHING we experienced; great food, amazing neon signs, cool mom & pop motels and restaurants, all the awesome sights…I could go on and on. My plan was to end this blog by telling you about the one thing that touched our hearts so much, it was the highlight of the trip! When reality hit me, I realized I could not even begin to write about a 2 week Route 66 trip in one blog. So, here is the story about the highlight of our trip that I want to share with you.
I’ve mentioned before, Route 66 is fun, beautiful, unique, and so much more, but you HAVE to meet the people. There’s the small business owners, the artists, the authors, and of course, fellow Route 66 lovers. I have a special place in my heart for the people of Route 66, past and present. But there was a certain special someone I had not met yet, even though Richard and I had made several attempts in the past to meet this person. Deep down, I was worried our attempt this trip would meet with failure again. The western portion of Route 66 is so far away from our home in the birthplace of Route 66, Springfield, Missouri, it would likely be a long time before we could travel that way again.
As we were heading to California, we stopped at one of my favorite little Route 66 towns, Seligman, Arizona. There, we ate a ‘killer’ dinner at the Roadkill Café, followed by a nice overnight stay at the Supai Motel. The next morning, we would have loved to have traveled down the street to Westside Lilo’s Café, where we’ve eaten superb breakfasts before, but we had an important destination… we wanted to meet an Angel!
Down the street, Richard and I went. We stopped outside a small store, a gift shop, as most people call it. It was too early for the store to be open, but, as my excitement grew, this was going to be worth the wait, I just knew it! Soon, we saw a familiar truck drive up and park near the front of the store. It was not who we were searching for, but he was certainly a super nice gentleman! Mauricio Perez introduced himself and opened the store. He invited us inside to warm up, adding he would make some coffee. After a bit, Richard said, “There he is! He just rode up on his bicycle!” Why was I feeling giddy? I’m not a “groupie” kind of person! The front door opened, and in walked Angel, The Angel of Route 66, Angel Delgadillo.
Angel entered his store and saw us. As soon as he did, he smiled and asked us how we were. Richard then asked Angel how he was. He gave an answer I had never heard before. Angel said, “Happy. I’m happy!” He was still smiling and as I was standing beside him, I could honestly feel it- he was happy! Angel spoke with us for quite awhile. He told us about his childhood and growing up in Seligman. Angel said there used to be so much daily traffic passing through Seligman, it was difficult to cross the street. He said, suddenly, all the traffic went away when the nearby interstate was built. Angel told us other Route 66 towns in Arizona suffered similar losses due to the interstate being built, bypassing their once bustling towns. In the late 1980’s, Angel traveled the Route and met with people from other Route 66 towns in Arizona. They rallied together to bring people back to their Route 66 towns and to show people a slower, more enjoyable, pace of travel. The Route 66 Association of Arizona was created; Angel was named as the first president. Angel, and some of the other Seligman residents, worked hard to bring their beloved Route 66 town back to life. A humble man, Angel never once bragged about his accomplishments, but there are many. Later, we will be able to read and see more about Angel’s hard work to bring Route 66 back to life; he is giving his archives to Northern Arizona University.
Angel will be 90 this year and he rides his bicycle to work, yes, work! Angel is a barber, although not full time. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get a hair cut from him. But for Richard and I, meeting the aptly named Angel will be a memory forever cherished! (And we LOVE this photo!!)