Words inspired by the backroads of America

Paralleling Route 66 to California

By the time you read this we will actually be home from our epic road trip to California that covered over 4,000 miles and three weeks in September.  I had planned to update the web site on the road, but due to some technical issues, it had to wait until our return.  I will admit to the backroads travelers out there that the first couple of days of our trip were on Interstates in order to cover the initial miles of travel in the least number of hours, but by the time we arrived in Bakersfield, California, we were on the backroads again and didn't hit a freeway until we met up with I-70 in the Rockies on the way back.  With that said, there are ways to get a taste of the backroads even while covering the miles at breakneck speed.  You just have to exit once in a while and see what is being passed by.


I-40 through Western Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico roughly parallels the route of old Route 66, the "Mother Road".  In its heyday, Route 66 was the antithesis of backroads.  It was the best and quickest route across the country and put vacation driving in the mainstream of the American psyche.  Advertising hype and hucksterism lead to the iconic tee-pee souvenir shops and the neon glow of motel signs that is gradually fading away along the old highway.  Exiting at Shamrock and McLean, Texas for breaks in the drive, we were able to experience some of the feeling brought back by the historic Route 66.  Preserved as well as time has allowed, there are still examples of the bygone era of road travel.  Only through the efforts of local preservationists, many of the excellent examples of old Route 66 architecture are still standing.  It's well worth the time to stop and reminisce about the way things used to be.
Tucumcari, a great modern oasis on I-40, is also one of the most preserved neon towns along the old Route 66.  Just driving the old highway through town is worth the few minutes extra.  Be sure to check out the Blue Swallow Motel and the Tee Pee Trading Post across the street.  You might try to get there before dark unless it's the neon lights that you are looking for.  Tucumcari rolls up its streets and closes at dark.
Next, it's on to Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Needles and Bakersfield.
For more information about Route 66, try http://www.historic66.com/ or http://www.legendsofamerica.com/66-Mainpage.html.