Route 66: Traveling America’s Mother Road

shelved under Americana and Travel & Places

A few years ago my son and his wife moved to Arizona. Nine months later, missing them terribly, I decided it was time to fulfill a lifelong dream of driving cross country, believing I would do it just once and fly out to see them on subsequent trips. I knew absolutely NOTHING about Route 66 and the Disney movie, Cars, had not yet been released. I began my drive taking the usual interstates from Western Pennsylvania to Interstate 40. In Clinton, Oklahoma I noticed signs for a Route 66 Museum and decided to break the monotony of the drive by stopping.

That was the start of my fascination with the Mother Road. I couldn’t believe I had zipped right by so many other historic places along the route while driving the interstate! I picked up a couple of books in the museum gift shop and began to focus my the rest of my journey west on The Mother Road. By the time I got to Arizona I knew that the drive west would not be my last; there was so much to see! I also knew that the next time I embarked on the trip, I would be better prepared.

It’s impossible to see everything on Route 66 in one trip. I’ve just finished my fourth trip and am already planning the next one! The following books are ones that I have used to help me plan my adventures.

Route 66: The Mother Road 75th Anniversary Edition

Route 66: The Mother Road 75th Anniversary Edition

by Michael Wallis

If you’ve never traveled the Mother Road, this book is a great overview best enjoyed before embarking on your trip. You’ll become familiar with some of the most famous stops along the road. Of course, you’ll want to relive your trip through this book once you get back home! (And start planning your next trip to go back and see all the things you missed the first time around!)

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Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers - 2nd Edition

Route 66: EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers - 2nd Edition

by Jerry McClanahan

This is the “must have” turn-by-turn guide that will help you drive the route even when there are no road signs present. The spiral binding helps you quickly flip through each page while you are on the road and directions are provided for both east- and west-bound travel. There are also tips for some off-66 attractions, which are always worth the trip off the Route. I would've missed some wonderful sections of the Route in Missouri if I didn’t have this guide since the historic route road signs were missing in many sections.

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Here It Is! The Route 66 Map Series

Here It Is! The Route 66 Map Series

by Jim Ross and Jerry McClanahan

This is a must-have companion to the EZ66 guidebook, above. This isn't actually a book, but a set of maps that supply an overview of an entire state on its own foldout map. All of the most popular Route 66 landmarks are indicated on these maps. Before starting across each state, fold out the accompanying map and get a good sense of where each of the crucial stops will be in that state. Once you have the overview, the EZ66 guidebook is easier to follow.

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Route 66: Traveler's  Guide and Roadside Companion

Route 66: Traveler's Guide and Roadside Companion

by Tom Snyder, introduction by Bobby Troup

This guidebook supplies background information and stories that I didn’t find anywhere else. Without reading some of the background information, you might think that you were looking at just another billboard, or just a pile of rubble along the road. Reading this guidebook makes a place like Two Guns, Arizona come alive again. Read this one before you embark on your trip, but make sure to keep referring back to it while you’re on the road. I had fun asking the various business owners mentioned in the book to autograph the pages in which they were referenced; of course they obliged.

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The Route 66 Cookbook

The Route 66 Cookbook

by Marian Clark, introduction by Michael Wallis

This book is filled with recipes from many of the historic diners, many of which are long gone. But you don’t need to be a cook to enjoy this guidebook; it’s filled with information about the diners and the towns, too. The historical references make eating your way across Route 66 a lot of fun! I used the book as a guide to find diners that were still standing and searched for them when I was ready for a meal. If only I could have eaten at ALL of them along the way!

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Cars

Cars

by Pixar

While this is not a book, you will want to watch the DVD of Cars before your trip… and then again after. The fictional Radiator Springs is a compilation of cities and towns all across the Mother Road. It’s particularly fun to see how many landmarks you can identify when you get home from your trip. You will definitely want to watch the behind the scenes segments prior to embarking on your first trip. The background information and the interviews with folks along the Mother Road will help you gain a better understanding and develop an appreciation for the preservation of the historic route.

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There are many other books that are only available at stops along the road; be sure to have a look at some of those, too. One of the most comprehensive photo journals of the route I found is a set by photographer David Wickline. If your camera failed you or you just couldn’t get that night shot to focus, you’ll still be able to relive your journey through this set of books.

If you want to get quickly from point A to point B, this trip isn’t for you... but if you want to have the time of your life and see the best of America, grab these books, hop in your car or on your motorcycle (check Amazon for the Route 66 books especially for bikers!) and be prepared to “get your kicks on Route 66.”

Oh, and be prepared to “set a spell” at some of the businesses and shops along the way. You’ll find that the best souvenir you’ve taken back with you is the memory of the time you shared with the folks who own or run the shops.