Monday, November 23, 2015

Get your kicks on Route 66

We decided to drive as much of old Route 66 as was practical for the trip home. Basically that meant New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. We bought a Route 66 map.
We drove to the Navajo Flea Market on the north side of town. No one was there and the ground was wet and muddy from last night’s rain. Disappointing.  So we drove back south to 66. Driving through the old part of Gallup on 66, everything was closed for Sunday. We did find three shops selling Navajo goods open. It turned out that they were run by Middle Easterners. One even seemed to be playing a radio in Arabic. We wanted to deal with the orginal Navajo artists.
East of Gallup the road runs along gorgeous red rock cliffs topped by impressive clouds. Those clouds eventually yielded impressive rain.

We stopped at a Denny’s in Grants for lunch. There we got directed back to Route 66. The original road has long been abandoned but its route is frequently used for local roads. The connections are often poorly marked. Route 66 is a romantic and iconic part of the American scene, but it is hard to find and easy to lose.
We finally picked it up again in Albuquerque, where they make more of it. We split off and found a Cracker Barrel for the night.
We drove back to Route 66 (Central Ave.) and followed it through downtown. At Moriarty we lost trace of 66 briefly. Shortly we were back on I-40 (which here follows old Route 66). This is wide-open country. We watched impressive clouds build to thunderheads, then drop rain and lightning. Eventually we drove under one and that was it for sunshine for the rest of the day.
We got off I-40 at Santa Rosa. As usual, the route is not well-marked and we went about 20 miles in the wrong direction. Back at Santa Rosa, we found the right road (NM156) and proceeded to Cuervo. Thanks to this long diversion, we drove through the same thunderstorm three times. After Cuervo, the road gets wiggly again. That means that the map indicates that 66 follows short pieces of local roads and crosses I-40 back and forth. We gave up and got back on the freeway until Tucumcari.
Tucumcari is almost a ghost town. Most of the businesses are abandoned. We found a Chinese restaurant open and stopped for a late lunch. The waitress told us how to find Route 66 out of town and we followed it to San Jon. East of Tucumcari we saw a few fields — the first in a long time --- there is a canal going through Tucumcari. But soon it was back to sagebrush and a few cows.
East of San Jon a few miles the road turned to gravel. We managed to turn around on the narrow roadway and got back to I-40. It being late, we just pressed on to Amarillo and found a Cracker Barrel for the night.
Jean seemed to be battling a sore throat. We looked up a nearby Walmart for pharmacy and crackers. After some looking it turned out to be a Sam’s Club. Checking the Near You app we found a drug store and Jean got some allergy meds (per the pharmacist’s advice) and we hit the road.
We spotted a thunderstorm ahead (you can see them for miles) but it crossed ahead of us and we only caught a little light rain. Route 66 veers away from I-40 and we passed through a wind farm Those things are huge!

On the prairie you can see all kinds of windmills

   At Shamrock we spotted a fully restored 30’s era gas station and café — classic Route 66 stuff.

In the back was a Tesla charging station. What a contrast! 

There is an information center inside and we went in and signed the book. It seems that most of the entries were European, primarily UK. There were a couple of Asian as well.
We went to a nearby McDonald’s for lunch and encountered supreme incompetence. How smart do you have to be to work at McDonald’s? They got my salad wrong, failed to deliver the promised fries, and failed to include the cookies we paid for. Food was cheap, though.
Back on the road, we went in to Elk City, OK. There is a nice, big Route 66 museum there. It has a $5.00 admission fee, but we were only after an Oklahoma Route 66 guide we had heard about. It is very detailed but perhaps too confusing for our purposes. We also got diesel at a price 10 cents cheaper than from the same company (Love’s) back at the interstate. We tried to buy some rum at a liquor store but they didn’t carry Mt. Gay. It seems to be hard to find in the west.
Checked in at a KOA. Got pizza from the camp store. That was a mistake.
We started out by taking I-40 to Oklahoma City. Route 66 to that point is real wiggly, after that quite plain. Also, at Oklahoma City the route changes to I-44, which is a toll road all the way to Joplin, MO. Luckily, Route 66 diverges from the Interstate there.
After Oklahoma City we picked up OK-66, which is the modern version of old Route 66. It is easy to follow and except for the stretch through Tulsa, all rural. At Arcadia we came to Pops. This is a modern version of the classic Route 66 kitsch. The architecture is dramatic and there is a huge representation of a soda bottle in front. They advertise 700 kinds of soda.

There is a café, they sell gas, and there is a gift shop. Front and back are high windows filled top to bottom with shelves bearing and rows of glass soda bottles in many colors. The old days live again!

The drive through the Oklahoma countryside was most pleasant. We were trying to stay ahead of bad weather, and in fact, the cloud cover thinned out and the sky became almost clear.
In Stroud we found a bit of the classic Route 66 and had lunch at the Rock Café — a 1930’s eatery with solid stone walls.

Jean determined that we needed to leave Route 66 at Miami and take the last of I-44 in to Joplin, MO, in order to stop at Cracker Barrel. We got our turnpike ticket and headed east — but never saw another toll station, so we took the last of the toll road for free.
 Joplin marked the end of our adventure with Route 66. Except for visiting Gene’s cousin Harold, the rest of the trip was reeling off the miles until we got back home. Total time for the trip was 40 days, and total mileage 6,111.

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