The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico
We've been on a road trip, but it seems like a distant memory now. We've been back at least 3 weeks and I've been wrestling with an operating system upgrade and Adobe software that is suddenly no longer compatible .... arghh! Due to these technology issues I can't watermark my photos, so I've been playing around with mosaics - not my normal format, but this will probably shorten an otherwise photo-laden post!
We spent almost two weeks on the road and clocked up 5,000+ kilometres driving west from St. Louis on the old route 66 through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. We stopped at the continental divide - just east of New Mexico's border with Arizona - and then left route 66 to head north and back to St Louis via a different route. The following mosaics give you an idea of some of the things we saw!
We had fun driving through Missouri on what is left of the old route. Interstate 44 cuts right through a lot of it, so you spend your time hopping from one side of the interstate to the other and following odd remnants of the road, but there is quite a lot of Americana still to be seen. The giant rocking chair in Fanning was definitely the best 'giant' that we saw along the route - in fact, we drove past many of the supposed giant signs without noticing because they've been dwarfed in more recent years by modern advertising hoardings!
Route 66 cuts across a very small corner of Kansas for about 20 kilometres. Not surprisingly there isn't an awful lot to see in such a short distance ... and when we drove back across the state on the way back from Denver later in our trip there wasn't much to see then either.
Sorry Kansas! We did like Kansas City, but that ain't in Kansas ... go figure!!
Oklahoma was a bit of a mixed bag!! We liked Tulsa and were pleasantly surprised by its architecture. The downtown was similar to St Louis in that it is obviously full of office workers during the day and deserted the rest of the time ... no shops and many restaurants only open at lunchtime ... guess where our hotel was!! The road from Tulsa to Oklahoma City was interesting with lots to see, but after Oklahoma City things became decidedly boring and very uncomfortable.
The writer of our Route 66 guidebook waxed lyrical about miles and miles of original pavement (that's the road surface for all of you non-Americans reading this!) and called it the best pavement on the route. I beg leave to differ - our very comfortable car's shock absorbers were well-tested and my bad back certainly suffered ... after a while we resorted to cruising down the motorway instead! It was a good call!
You may be surprised to know that in many places you just can't follow the original Route 66 - between what the interstate destroyed when it was built and the lack of maintenance on some of the older sections, there are places where the old route is just a dirt (or, if you're lucky, gravel) track. Then there are bridges that are no longer passable and places where the road just dead ends because the interstate has cut it off. Whoever is navigating needs to stay on their toes!
We didn't spend all that long in Texas - in fact I think we zipped through most of it on the interstate because the guide book seemed to indicate lots of dirt / gravel tracks or original concrete ... and we didn't want to go through that again! We stopped off at McLean to visit the Devil's Rope museum (that's barbed wire to you and me!) because, well, why wouldn't you?! It was surprisingly interesting!!
A good reason for not spending long in Texas was the weather - we'd wanted to look round Amarillo but ended up taking refuge in a steakhouse to avoid a torrential downpour/ thunderstorm that reduced visibility to zero. It was quite amusing to sit and eat steak surrounded by stuffed animals looking down at us from the walls and watching 5 people each trying to eat 72 ounce steaks (that's just over 2 kilos in real money!) in an hour. We've never seen this sort of competitive binge-eating in real life before ... just on the telly! It's a very American thing and I just don't get the appeal in real life or on the box. None of the five succeeded, so I assume that along with their 'to go' boxes (another very American thing) they got a hefty bill to pay (if they manage to eat all 72 ounces, the steak is free!). Madness!!
We spent quite a while in New Mexico - 5 nights in total (2 on the route and 3 up in the mountains) - and we loved it!! The scenery was spectacular, the views of the milky way at night were breathtaking and there were interesting places to visit (Santa Fe, Taos, Los Alamos....).
We'll be going back to New Mexico for sure!
After New Mexico we headed north into Colorado. Crossing a plateau that was approx. 3000 metres above sea level, we drove mostly through 'low' clouds and rain, so sadly we didn't see much! From Denver (traffic nightmare) we headed due east and had a very long day on the interstate driving across Kansas. That was a distance equivalent to driving from Brighton to John O'Groats: we did it in just under 8 hours on the interstate and hardly saw another vehicle. Very strange day!
We spent 2 nights in Kansas City, Missouri (great art galleries - we had to stay indoors as we were on tornado watch) and then headed for home.
Next year we're planning to pick up a bit of route 66 in Arizona ... and there may be a trip up to Chicago too. One way or another we'll probably do most of the route before we leave the States if we can fit it in with our other holiday plans!