Old Guys take a Road Trip via Route 66
A Road Trip on Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago Put four old guys together and over dinner and beer, you can come up with some pretty wild plans for the future of the universe especially if you no longer have to go to work the next day. We got together, three of my best buddies since high school days, all of us on the right side of retirement. Over a few cold ones one late evening last spring, we decided to take a long road trip this summer. Just the guys, just like in old times. No wives, no kids, no grand-kids. We planned the whole trip that evening: our route, the name of our road trip, the music we’d play for the ride and even our “start up ritual.” Henceforth, “The Continental” was born.
This road trip across half of the great continent of the U.S. of A. was going to be the trip of our lives. I owned an old car, a Volvo, which has since been possessed by my teenage granddaughter. Our planned route was from Santa Monica to Chicago. We decided to use the old Volvo which had a working CD player and an air conditioner which wasn’t. For any road trip you’ve got to do the obvious which is take the car in for an inspection so I took the car into the shop, got an oil change and repaired the air conditioning. We were planning to cross the Mojave Desert and without air conditioning, modern man just cannot do it. The drive started on July 17th. It was an ambitious road trip from the shores of the Pacific (at Santa Monica), Arizona, New Mexico, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois. Our goal: to complete the drive in a total of a week with stops in between for entertainment and sightseeing.
It was an ambitious road trip across America on one of the most famous routes of them all, Route 66. We aimed to drive along the famed freeway, but it’s only open in certain places. We ended up driving the interstates that follow the old Route 66 route. Route 66, known also as the Will Rogers Highway, Main Street of America or the Mother Road, with a song and a 1960s television show to commemorate it, it’s the original freeway of the United States. From Santa Monica to Chicago there is 2,448 miles of road. We needed good driving music. This is an older car so CDs worked. Our drive across America was accompanied to the tunes of AC/DC “Highway to Hell” and Buddy Guy (best blues guitarist in the world), “On the Road.” This trip was just the “boys,” so that would explain the excellent choice in driving music. Of course, before the start of our trip, we decided on a ritual. We were going to officially begin our road trip from the intersection of Route 66 and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. What about starting out on the beach? That’s where the idea of the ritual came from – we would “dip our feet in the Pacific” before leaving. Isn’t there that little “shack” on the beach called the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel? We would start at the Loews Hotel. That would indeed make it easy to “dip our feet in the Pacific,” fulfilling our need for a ritual beginning. Having already been to Las Vegas, we ruled out a stop in Vegas for a stop at the Grand Canyon, all of us voting in favor of a southern Arizona – New Mexico – Texas route. We booked a few hotels ahead of time in places we knew we would be stopping for the night. We crossed Arizona and New Mexico. We took a slight detour off Route 66 to allow us to go to the BB Kings bar in Memphis, Tennessee and stayed overnight there. We saw a blues band, don’t remember the name at BB Kings. We also ate some great ribs. Great table, above and in front of the stage. In Arizona, we stayed at a Flagstaff hotel, and also hoteled it in Oklahoma. We took time out to visit the Grand Canyon which was pretty amazing, to soak up the views and take some great some great photos of the Grand Canyon from what looked like about 300 feet. Another stop on our itinerary on the drive across America was the National Parks known as the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.
Our observations of one part of America: The Bible Belt has a pretty big waistline. Jesus Saves billboards littered the Interstate. There was a Church at almost every exit. One could find business cards with how-to instructions on being born again and a religious Superstore where you can get anything spiritual – as long as your god is the Right one. We crossed the North Canadian River in Oklahoma. It was two hours till Arkansas. It was a humid 36 degrees driving right into the morning sun. Forgot to mention that this guy had a Jesus Saves sign on the side of his melon truck. Other notes to self, when planning a trip through Texas, remember to request a list of dry counties – especially if you count on having a cold beer at the end of the drive. At Mississippi, we turned north. About mileage and gas. All in all, we had driven about 2,448 miles. I only have a rough idea about what the gas cost. But if I take total miles 2,448, divide by 26 mpg and multiply by $3.50 (the price of gas at the time), I get about $329.53. Divide that by the four people, add in our hotels, our meals, our stopover in Memphis for entertainment at BB Kings, the price is right for a road trip across America on the most famous road of them all, Route 66.