Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Family Travel Must Haves: #4 "Appy" to See You!

Back in 2000 I took a long cross country trip. I thought at that time that I was on the edge of technology, I had a laptop with a GPS adaptor, a Palm VII with wireless Internet, my 12 CD changer in back of my car, and my Motorola flip phone. But having to use a laptop to get GPS is not exactly convenient or easy to use, Palm VII's only had coverage around larger cities, a 12 CD changer can only play 12 CD's and you have to carry your CD's with you and have to change them out in the cassette, and the Motorola flip phone was only a phone. 

8 years later I would get an iPod Touch, which absolutely blew me away with it capabilities. Hot on its heels I bought my first iPhone a year later. I wish I had an iPhone nine years earlier on that trip. GPS, Internet, telephone, 1000's of songs, and  hundreds of other benefits including apps. When I got my first iPhone four years ago the only Route 66 based apps out there where picture and game apps, now there are real Route 66 apps out there, and lots of others worth mentioning. 

Lets start with the Route 66 apps. Yes they do exist and there not bad.

Road Trip 66 is a great app for showing you what's along the way. It also gives you a pretty decent road map, which you can pinpoint yourself on. It doesn't exactly have a GPS feature to help you navigate the route, but it still is worth having

The Route 66 Mobile Guide can help you find features along the route. It's a great planning tool to find sites, restaurants, and lodging along the way on a state by state basis. 

Roadtrippers is not specifically a Route 66 app, but does have Route 66 sites on it. This app also connects into social websites like Facebook allowing you to share your travels with friends. 

Other Apps for Family Travel 

Sit or Squat is a great app for finding bathrooms in a hurry. Not only can you find bathrooms but some of them are rated for cleanliness, plus you can rate bathrooms as well for other families to know about.

Yelp is a must have for any traveler, or just to have around your own hometown. It can help you find just about anything near you. 

Other worthwhile apps:

Best Western and most other chain motels have apps including Holiday Inn, Choice Motels, Marriott and others. These can help you find motels and reserve them on the go.

Gas Buddy is a great app at home or on the road. Find gas stations or compare prices to get the best per gallon price.

Trapster is a great road trip app, it lets you know about speed traps, traffic accidents, and construction along your way. 

•One app I mentioned in a previous post was the Pet Friendly app. Check out my posting "Family Travel Must Haves: #3 Traveling with Families Best Friend", to find out about this app. 

Finding the Descendent's of the Super Chief, under Route 66

The time is 8:06 AM on a balmy late August day in Chicago's West Loop. The sun is out and the sky's are blue, but the humid overnight heat bought Lake Michigan inland in the form of fog, enshrouding anything above the 35th floor of the Willis Tower. Looking down on Jackson Blvd one can see hundreds of people moving like ants over the bridge rushing to get to work by 8:30. 

Odds are that most of those rushing down Jackson and over the bridge have no concept of the historical significance of the street they are walking down let alone, what lies below street level on the West Loop side of the bridge. In 1926 Jackson Blvd was Route 66, both eastbound and westbound until 1955 when it became one way from Michigan Ave to Ogden Ave. The foot bound commuters are traveling on the first few miles of the the famous route, with no realization that that it had westbound lanes leading all the way to Santa Monica, CA. 

Eastbound Jackson Blvd (left), and Union Station southbound train sheds (right).

Below this portion of Jackson Blvd from Canal to the river bank lay the tracks of Metra and Amtrak feeding into Union Station. The only parts that are visible to street bound travelers are the train sheds, large greenhouse looking corridors, that cover the southbound track. Historic survivors in themselves witnesses to the Alton Limited, and Pennsylvania's T-1, somehow spared the air rights glut of the 70's and 80's. Under these sheds Metra operates two lines with significant connection to the Santa Fe passenger operations that once where. 

The most important of these is a line that runs from Union Station to Aurora. For you see this mere 40+ miles of track is the home to Santa Fe's now BNSF's last surviving passenger trains. 
View from inside the locomotive, notice the BNSF lettering above the passenger car door, reminiscent of the Santa Fe lettering on silver cars indicative of Santa Fe's Super Chief, and other passenger trains. 

BNSF operates these passenger trains for Metra, meaning you won't see any Warbonnet F40PHM's pulling these trains. Instead you will see Metra locomotives pulling them.
I had the privilege of riding in the cab of this locomotive from Chicago to Aurora and back. Metra F40PHM-2. 

These passenger trains are the last operating with any direct connection and lineage to Santa Fe. BNSF takes pride in this as you can see since the lettering on the passenger cars gives a close resemblance to what we would have been seen on both Santa Fe and CB&Q passenger cars of the past. Looking at these passenger cars one is reminded of the high-liners Santa Fe operated on such trains as the El Capitan, but inside they are standard commuter cars like those on the rest of the Metra system. 

Metra also operates one other line of significant lineage as well, that is its Heritage Corridor. This line is entirely operated by Metra but leaves from the same southbound tracks as the BNSF operated trains. The Heritage Corridor is aptly named and travels down the same tracks as the famous Santa Fe streamlines did, and also crosses paths with Route 66 a few times. The line runs to the Route 66 town of Joliet. 

Historically speaking Santa Fe's trains would leave southbound out of Dearborn Station, which is actually across the Chicago River a mile to the southwest of Union Station, there are no tracks going to Dearborn Station now. Riding on and experiencing these trains is something any fan of Santa Fe's trains need to do, to have some final connection the past. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Boron a Town of Ghosts & Legacy's: Part 3 - Sky-borne Odyssey

Part 3 of a series on a small Mojave Desert town that witnessed American transportation history in motion.

Authors Note: Boron's involvement in military and space avaition history is extensive. My summary here does no justice to its level of involvement, and I must keep my summery concise to stay within the content and theme of my blog. For more in depth subject matter please visit the Boron Sun blog @ .

The day was October 14th, 1947 and the long slender silver shape of a B-29 took to the clear blue sky's over Rogers Dry Lake. Today though the bottom of the Boeing masterpiece would be disrupted by the shape of an odd orange missile protruding from its bomb bay.  The B-29 climbed to 45,000 feet, and once level the orange missile known as the Bell X-1 suddenly dropped from the bottom of the B-29 at 1019 hours military local, igniting its four rocket engines. 
The rocket plane shot past its escorting P-80 Shooting Stars sent to chase and observe it. At 1024 hours military local, 10:24 AM Pacific to the rest of us, a huge boom shook the land, rattling in some accounts shattering glass in the town of Amargo, CA now known as Boron. The orange missile, or the .50 caliber bullet with wings, known as the Bell X-1 piloted by the legendary ace Chuck Yeager had broken the sound barrier in straight and level flight. 

Amargo then, known as Boron today was a hotbed of activity in the world of aviation even before Yeager's historic 1947 flight. Not far from the town was the ranch, turned bar and hotel of avaition legend Poncho Barnes. Poncho's "Happy Bottom Riding Club", had become a major destination in the world of early avaition. Aviation pioneers and celebrities alike would fly into the ranch’s private airstrip also known as the Rancho Oro Verde Fly-Inn Dude Ranch, to mingle and drink, and swim in the ranch’s unusual swimming pools. It wouldn’t have been unusual to see Howard Hughes here rubbing elbows with the likes of Randolph Scott, Myrna Loy, and other notables of the time in those days before the war. Even after the war started the celebrities still stopped in but the bar had also become a destination for pilots in training from Muroc Army Air Base (as Edwards AFB was known at the time) or one of the many other military and private aviation schools in the Antelope Valley at the time.

The link below is a great website known as Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields that can show you the location of many lost WW II training fields, and reserve bases in the Antelope Valley.
The bar was known for its pictures of aviators that served as a memorial for many of those killed while trying to tame the sky’s, above the Antelope Valley, most of them test pilots. One of the pictures of recollection was of America’s highest scoring ace of all time Richard Bong, a P-38 pilot with 40 kills in the Pacific, killed while test piloting early versions of Lockheed’s P-80.
Ruins of Ponchos today. 

Eventually controversy would catch up with the club, and the “Happy Bottom” would be closed after a mysterious fire destroyed the bar in 1953. But the bar would become the stuff of legend, especially after Tom Wolfe’s 1979 novel, and 1983 film adaptation of “The Right Stuff” in which Wolfe captured Barnes personality, and the bar. Wolfe also gave notoriety to Poncho’s famous steak dinner the prize to the first man to break the sound barrier, something that dispite much of the book and films mythos actually was true and was awarded to Chuck Yeager, plus I’m sure he was bought plenty of drinks from that time on as well. Sadly though, not much remains of the bar and hotel today, and it takes special permission from Edwards AFB to access the area.

Poncho would live out the rest of life in Boron, finally passing on in 1975 from Breast Cancer. Although there are several rumors that the death had some usual and even mysterious circumstances to it, one could say Poncho even in death, was larger than life.

Today in Boron, Domingo’s Mexican Restaurant is the modern day equivalent to Poncho’s, but a little more refined and family friendly. Test pilots old and new dine here after a big flight, and shuttle Astronauts would dine here after landing at Edwards. Meaning Boron is keeping the spirit of aviation alive, even if its foremost ambassador Poncho Barnes is long gone. Once again Boron legacy’s comes to light, too bad the free steak dinner tradition isn't part of that though.
The Saxon Aerospace Museum in Boron is open to the public and is wonderfully family friendly. If you want to spend some time investigating Boron’s rich aviation history this is the place to do it.  The museum gives you a great look at Muroc and Edwards operations, and unlike the museum on Edwards you don’t need to request special access to visit.
Here is their website:
There are even more stories to tell about the sky’s above Boron, like the story of the XB-35 and XB-49 grandparents of today's B-2 Spirit bomber. The XB-49 would crash under dubious circumstances on June 5, 1948 killing test pilots Major Daniel Forbes, and Captain Glen Edwards, Muroc Air Force base would have its name changed to Edwards Air Force Base in honor of Capt. Edwards, and Forbes too would have an airbase named after him in Kansas.

There are stories here about astronauts from Mercury program all the way to the ISS. Stories of X-planes such as the fastest manned aircraft ever the X-15 blazing through the sky’s above the town. Stories of Neil Armstrong piloting the “Flying Bedstand” a terrestrial simulator for the Luner Excursion Module, that Armstrong ejected from moments before it crashed. Even now the stories still come as new and fantastic aircraft race above Boron’s sky’s, like Spaceship One, the X-43, X-48, and a wide range of UAV’s.
Visiting the town, all one needs to do is look around to get the feel and sense of history this town has, especially its place in aviation and the space race. On a nearby mountain southwest of the town there is “Rocket Site” a NASA rocket test stand that you can see from Boron, and occasionally you can see rockets being tested up there. To the northeast of the town on another hill is former radar facility used to track X-planes, and other experimental aircraft in the past, it was known as Boron Air Force Station. West of town you will find Desert Lake Apartments, this structure was originally built to accommodate members of the 750th Aircraft Control Squadron, but after housing was built near the radar dome the apartment complex was sold to private owners who turned it into a motel and apartment complex.

Boron has a very unique feel to it, but as the article title indicates it’s a place of ghosts and legacies. When it comes to aviation you can still sense that 1950’s and 1960’s ideal of the future to come, the optimism of the “Space Age”, this is a ghost that lingers, sometimes hit home by both relics and active aviation sites nearby. But its legacy continues on above in its sky’s.

The Santa Fe Railway at Edwards Air Force Base

As we now combine Route 466, Santa Fe streamliners such as the San Francisco Chief, and this deep connection to aviation history, and compare it to California 58, BNSF's Bakersfield District operations, and the X-43 zooming above it all we see Boron’s legacy and life that still streams from it. The very fact that a small relatively obscure town could become so intricately involved in key transportation routes past, present and very possibly future is almost mind boggling, and yet it happened.

If you are a rail fan (or Foamers in rail speak) of the Santa Fe, a Route 66 aficionado, or a military aviation buff I would definitely suggest visiting Boron for a day. For those of you chasing the Santa Fe or Route 66 Boron is only 40 miles west of Barstow a town any Santa Fe rail fan, or Route 66er will be in anyway just follow California Route 58 west out of Barstow, and  be sure to stop and see one of the last signed portions of Route 466 north of Barstow. If you’re a military aviation buff Boron can be found on the map near California Highway 58 directly northeast of Edwards AFB.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Defending the Interstates in Route 66 Culture

If you where to have a transparent overlay of the modern interstates, and laid it over an old map of Route 66 you could see what replaced what quickly. If you could get a more in depth view, you could also see what sections of 66 are now interstate. You'd see I-40, 55, 44, and 15 all take a cut, and there is a really great reason. 

You see study Route 66 long enough and immerse yourself in the culture and you will eventually begin to hear about the "evil interstates". You'll here the old adage about "driving from one end of the country to the other on the interstate and never seeing a thing", that's one the old timers like to tell. Or the accusations that "the homogeny of the interstate begat homogenous fast food, hotels, and gas stations so no matter where your at your always in the same place !". Trust me the list goes on, and I do see what they are getting at. The flat four lanes, and lots of McDonalds, BPs, and Comfort Inn's do add some homogeny, but to me not enough to get where there at. There are also those little intimations that that the interstates killed Route 66, and the death of Route 66 meant the death of a kinder gentler America. All I have to say is really?

 You see it in the magazines, and you'll read it in books, on the subject. Some of the best authors will mention it either directly or in passing. But what I think they forget is this one simple fact "Route 66 killed Route 66". The road had just carried to much of a burden on it, and may of its sister routes did, and many still do. Sure the road went from town to town, and flowed with the land, but that was also its undoing. As I mentioned in a previous article "Bloody 66 - A Harsh Reality" the Route 66 had become a route noted for terrible car accidents, due to its flowing roads, and town to town hoping. 

The interstates love them or hate them where needed. Sure they are flat, and the bypassed towns, but they where safer and unencumbered by side roads, stop lights, and two lane hilly, curvy stretches. They had in fact become an absolute necessity, in a two lane world. 

Besides the aspect of safety which to me seems to be the number one benefit, there of course is commerce. Trucks where able to become bigger and carry more, and without stopping at every dot on the map for a stop sign or light, could in fact deliver goods faster and with greater fuel efficiency, not to mention cheaper. Which also must make you ask, if the interstates had not existed widely by the 1970's, specifically 1973 and 1974 during the oil crisis could things have been far worse. 

Now as a proponent of Route 66, and a firm green believer in interstate rail transport over truck, its hard for me to stand by the Interstates. Yet at the same time we must admit that they have made life safer, and have helped to keep the costs of products down. Even if your not a fan of the marginal economic gain, you have to ask yourself about the value in human life of the highway. 

So as you read on and the interstate's become evil, stop and ask yourself about their true value. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Great Stays: #2 La Posada - Winslow, AZ

If you follow this blog you know I talk about Winslow, AZ a lot. I'm not from there, and I don't even know anybody from there either. But, Winslow makes an impression on you especially as a Route 66 traveler. There is a lot going on
in this little town that not only touches on Route 66 but a lot of other areas in history. See my previous article "Winslow, Arizona - Transportation Hub of the Western U.S." about some of that history. 

The La Posada Hotel is a former Harvey House in Winslow that has had several different lives in the past. It's current life is as a resort and luxury hotel, that also functions as a meeting place for many Winslow events. But the hotel was originally built as a Harvey House under the design and direction of famed architect Mary Colter.

Mary Colter was a legend in Southwestern architecture, and a favorite architect of the Fred Harvey Company. Colter was in tune with the Southwestern  landscape and culture and was able to design hotels that captured that spirit. Stucco, bare timbers, Navajo rugs, as well as Hopi and Mexican decor all tastefully placed where the signatures of her hotels. The La Posada was a true showpiece of her telents when it was competed in 1929. 

The La Posada was open as a hotel and dining room to accommodate cross country Santa Fe Railway travelers. These travelers would either stay for meal service while the train underwent watering and/or refueling, or would choose to stay at the La Posada as a resort with The Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, and Navajo and Hopi lands nearby. 

The La Posada would remain a jewel in the crown of the Fred Harvey Company, and Santa Fe's crown. The Hotel would attract a wide range of travelers including a huge list of celebrity's, many of which also have rooms named after them in the hotel, some of the rooms are those they actually stayed in.

The hotel would see hard times as the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and Great Depression would start after its opening. The Hotel would stay open until 1957, when it was fully purchased by Santa Fe to become the headquarters of there sub district. Santa Fe needing the space for offices would sell most of the La Posada's art and furniture, keeping only a few of the old hotel rooms in place to serve as VIP quarters, and a dormitory for on call train crew. With its merger with Burlington Northern imminent Santa Fe would move their HQ elsewhere in Winslow in 1994. The building would sit vacant until 1997 when its was finally taken over by its new owners and sent on the path to restoration. 

Today the La Posada is fully restored and worth a visit, and if you can a stay. The dinning room called the "Turquoise Room" serves phonominal food, and is named after the top notch dining service that Santa Fe use to offer in special dining cars. With a gourmet menu that serves a lot of unique options, that are based on gourmet Southwestern, original faire served by the Harvey House, and other original options. All served with fresh ingredients from many local growers. 

The hotel itself is fully restored with beautiful grounds, lobby, artistically decorated corridors, and meeting rooms in essence the hotel is a beautiful Southwestern resort, as Mary Colter originally designed it. The hotel rooms are beautifully decorated, and immerse you in both the Southwest, and the mind of Mary Colter. The La Posada prides itself on the fact that no two rooms are alike. 

The rooms are as romantic as they are breathtaking, and come in standard, deluxe, whirlpool, and balcony room. You can look the photos up online at La Posada's website. Like most really great stays, accommodations will cost you a little more then usual ranging from $119 to $169 a night depending on the type of room.

For families there are rooms with two beds available, and Winslow is a family friendly town. A stay here would be great for kids, especially those who like trains since many BNSF trains travel through here. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forrest National Parks are also nearby, as is the very cool Old Trails Museum. 

Overall the La Posada is a great stay and worth a visit to. If you can't stay the night try to stop by the Turquoise Room for a meal and to stroll around the hotel and its  grounds.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Mausoleum of Luxury and Glamour

The 1970's where a hard time in Chicago. The railways that once populated the city, and made it the nations hub where vanishing and assumed to be near extinction. Land developers looking to make a grab for the valuable downtown property occupied by tracks grabbed whatever they could. Many made a grab for the air rights over the rails, too anxious to wait and see if the railways would meet their demise. The terminal building across Canal from Union Stations Great Hall would be ripped from the Earth, and a massive office building constructed above the tracks, a story that would happen all above the Northbound tracks of the old Milwaukee Road. 

In to the 1980's such practices where common but the results always the same, air rights granted and bought but the tracks remained. But their where a few exceptions, one of which was Dearborn Station. Dearborn Station itself still stands and is currently in use, but its tracks where taken out and land used for residential property quickly.

The yards that connected to the stations South end. These are long gone replaced with residential properties. 

Amtrak had possession on Santa Fe's rights to Dearborn station only two days before they would close its doors. At that point it's fate seemed to be sealed. Other stations in Chicago no longer serving trains like Central, and Grand Central stations where ripped down almost immediately after train service stopped. 

Somehow though through a twist of fate and a need to save such historic building Dearborn station itself managed to be spared the wrecking ball, its train shed and tracks wouldn't be that lucky. In 1976 an urban renewal project spearheaded by the City of Chicago would take place and the track and train shed would be removed to make way for housing in a new neighborhood aptly named Dearborn Park. 

The station itself would sit almost abandoned all the way through the 1980's with rumors still abounding that the building would meet its fate by the wrecking ball. Finally in 1986 with an 11th hour decision was made to save the station as a historical landmark. But the station facility was to large to maintain in its original form. Sadly although the building would be saved the station interior would be almost completely remodeled to for use as professional offices and retail space. 

Entering Dearborn Station today reminds me of entering a lot of other historic train stations around the country long abandoned by train service. There is little sign trains ever came here as dentist offices and jewelry stores now occupy spaces where passenger waiting rooms, newspaper stands, and ticket booths once use to sit. You can no longer feel the excitement a train travel, or the sense of poshness that once was felt here in the days of the Super Chief. 

So in 2013 Dearborn Station stands like any other mausoleum, with only a few to 
remember what once use to occupy the 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Boron a Town of Ghosts & Legacy's: Part 2 - Legacy of The Mother Road

Part 2 of a series on a small Mojave Desert town that witnessed American transportation history in motion.

Coming from Barstow you take a fork in the road on Highway 58 and brake left onto 20 Mule Team Road. It's strange for there to be a fork in the road like that on such a busy highway, but 20 Mule Team Road sees very little traffic on this part of it, and its still a ways out of town. 

The "Welcome to Boron" sign is an icon of Southern California and the Mojave Desert

20 Mule Team Road leads into the town of Boron, and as a matter of fact the East-West road is the towns main drag. But why name a road 20 Mule Team, or a town Boron. If you lived in the 50's and early 60's in the era of television westerns you would get it instantly. 
The show Death Valley Days, and sponsor Boraxo with its slogan "20 Mule Team Boraxo" and image of the silhouette of 20 mules with two wagons and a tanker on its packages, gave this road it's name. The town itself is named in honor of US Borax the towns chief employer, and the element Boron that is mined here. 

If you follow 20 Mule Team Road from end to end you will notice its totally straight, no curves, no bends, no breaking off here and rejoining there. It parallels California 58 through the town of Boron, and only curves for the first time way west of town as the road dead ends and forces you back on to 58. But even at this Western dead end beyond the markers you can see it once continued straight intersecting what are now the East bound lanes of California 58. 

You see besides its interesting name 20 Mule Team Road, has some unique history to it. Remember I mentioned in part 1 that even the road had a story to tell in Boron, and here it is. Up until 1964 this road was US Route 466, the designation tells us that this route was the 4th spur of Route 66, yes "The Route 66", US Route 66. There was a period briefly when portions of 466, where originally going to be actual Route 66, but when planning was complete sections such as this one through Boron or at that time Amargo, where designated as a spur route, and by 1935 the route would receive its 466 shield. 466 itself would extend from Las Vegas, NV to Morro Bay, CA via Barstow, and Bakersfield on what are now sections of I-15 and California 58. 

466 was,  in its heyday a busy route much as its replacement CA 58 is today. Meaning that the town of Boron saw hundreds of vehicles a day travel down this spur of The Mother Road, between Barstow and Bakersfield. One can only imagine seeing Boron in about 1958 as a steady stream of cars rolled through the town, and Santa Fe Streamliners flew down its tracks. 

Route 466 would also help contribute to the world of aviation and music as well. The route would have bought stars of early country and rock music from the East to Bakersfield to produce what would be called the "Bakersfield Sound". This new type of country sound would influence country music to this day, and even contribute to the era of Classic Rock as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eagles and other bands overtly included the sound in their music. One could only read Merle Haggards hit song "Okie from Muskogee" as a country story of someone who left Oklahoma down the Mother Road, and 466 to come to Bakersfield, and keep their Oklahoman values. 

US Route 466 also influenced aviation as flyers, engineers and dreamers found their way down the route to Rogers Dry Lake Bed, later named Muroc, and then finally Edwards Air Force Base. One could only think that Chuck Yeager, Gus Grissom, and many other aviation and space pioneers must have traveled this route in those early days of the Jet and Space Age. But that is all a posting for later. 

One could easily argue that this little known town, with its little spur of the famous Route 66 may have played a far larger role in history then we think. You have seen its rail history and now it's road history, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface on both. But it's easy to see that this little town began to form a kind of nexus in transportation history as rail, road, and air would converge on it. 

US Route 466 would be replaced by California 58 in 1964. California 58 would bypass Boron as a freeway. California initially began to build 58 to be part of I-40 that would run between Barstow and Bakersfield using US Route 466 as a roadbed for the super highway, but the federal government later rejected the idea. This left only some portions finished with Boron being one of the few towns bypassed. Luckily for us though Boron, and 20 Mule Team Road remain as a living monument to what Route 466 was. 

The Mystery of Route 666

"The Devils Highway", Route 666 said to be haunted by demons, ghosts, monsters, UFO's, and other paranormal creatures. 

US Route 666 or the 6th spur of US Route 66. It was established along with the rest of the US Route system in 1926. US Route 666 (as US Route 491 does now) came directly off US Route 66 in Gallup, NM and headed north mostly through Navajo Reservation land into Colorado, and Utah. 

Nowadays, US Route 666 is now US Route 491. The Route was switched from 666 to 491 in 2003. Many believe that this switch was at the hands of religious officials and church groups lobbying to get rid of the "Mark of the Beast". The reality is it was actually something far more mundane, and downright boring that bought the switch. States with 666 running through them finally made the switch do to the fact that theft of Route 666 road signs where out of control.

The theft of these signs and infamy of Route 666 are all spawned by popular cultures images of the route. The name Route 666 was used for an Iron Maiden album. But the route has also been used as a movie title, and in television shows all with evil or paranormal connotations. The route has also been featured in a number of books fiction and non-fiction all with a similar mythos of evil and mystery. 

These pop culture attributes associated with Route 666 have also lead many to believe that part of the route is evil due to its high mortality rates through accidents. Something many believe has dropped since the new numbering. In actuality the new numbering accompanied construction projects to make part of the route safer. But, to begin with though the route actually had relatively low mortality rates even as Route 666.

As for being evil though the Navajo, who had Route 666 travel through their land never saw anything evil about it. Part of the reason is that in Navajo beliefs 666 means nothing at all. The other part of it is that Navajos traveled the route regularly and never encountered anything evil with the route. Considering Route 666 was a main route through Navajo land, driving on it was as ordinary for many of them as driving through the main drags of our home towns is for us. As a matter of fact the route is often referenced in Tony Hillerman novels as a common route his Navajo police characters take between towns. 

Overall, once you get past the triple 6, there doesn't seem to be anything all that mysterious about the route. It serves as a  part of the mystic of Route 66, the aura of mystery and paranormal characters we see elsewhere on the route somewhat concentrated in this small little section that spurs off from it. It's easy to see as in many other parts of Route 66, that the mystery of it all depends on weather you live there and what part the route plays in your life. For a Chicagoan, or Los Anglian the triple 666 conjured up evil, but the fir the Navajo who lived, and worked off the route it was as normal as Main Street.   

Great Route 66 Books - EZ 66 by Jerry McClanahan

Trying to navigate Route 66 for the first time can be daunting. The maps show Route 66 but don't make clear the twist turns and detours the route has, and apps and GPS systems can at times be off or even make driving on the route very jumpy. 

So one of the questions I always get from first time travelers is; are there any good books out there that can help me navigate the route? Well there are two good one that I know of and have used the first is McClanahans EZ 66, and the second is The Complete Route 66 Guidebook and Atlas by the editors of Route 66 Magazine.

Traveling Route 66 as a family though my first suggestion would be for you to pick up Jerry McClanahans EZ 66. The book is geared both towards novice Route 66 travelers and families. 

Why I like the book;

First of all I love that its spiral bound and its small size. I know that seem like an odd first thing to love but if you spend enough time on the road working with maps you'll find out the value of spiral bound books quickly, especially small ones. Compare it to a regular road map in the compact space of a car and you'll get it all very quickly.

With this being a Route 66 blog about family travel here is something else I love about EZ 66, its very family/kid friendly. McClanahan adds unique scavenger hunts and fun stuff alerts to the book to help keep your kids engaged in the trip and on the lookout. 

On that note another great part of this book are the drawings and layout. It's like having a artistic friend give you his/or her sketchbook of Route 66 images, with notes made on the pages about taking the route. 

The directions are also very good as well and will guide you down Route 66 easily. But here is the best part about it, if you have an older child with they can help navigate you down the road with this book. It's laid out to be fun and inviting. And it is also laid out to put everything into easy to read sections, taking the route in bite size portions. 

The downsides;

This book is awesome but its not a singular solution. I would have to suggest bringing with additional guidebooks, no reflection on this book at all but Route 66 had so much going on that sometimes one book/author can't get it all. McClanahans version is great, but it keeps to the most traveled route. I would say use EZ 66 as your guide but keep in mind other alternates and past alignments.

Another thing is as great as that book is laid out the pages can at times be a bit too busy. This can make it hard to orient oneself in using the book to navigate. My suggestion is to study the book a little before using it. This will help you understand it's layout a lot better, so that if you choose to let someone else use it you can get them accustomed to it as well. 

Also the maps are good, but can lack a bit to be desired at times. So keep additional maps on hand just in case, a GPS may also help you here as well. 

Overall though the book is a must have. It will give you the confidence and ability to navigate the route successfully, and keep you family occupied as well. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Podcasts to Help you Plan

Podcasts are topic specific talk shows that anyone can download for free from places like iTunes,  or Basically you download these shows to your iPod or MP3 player, and you can listen to them any time. The best part is unlike a normal talk show radio station you can pick shows that are on subjects that interest you. 

Sadly at this time there is no dedicated Route 66 podcasts. But there are a few that touch on 66. The best one I can suggest is a video podcast series produced for the making of the first Cars movie. The podcast chronicals a trip the movies producers and animators took down Route 66 to inspire the movie, and give it an authentic feel. Just look for the Cars: Video Podcast on iTunes. 

I have actually come across a few that you as my readers may find helpful in family packing and planning your trips. You can find them in iTunes or at the links below. 

This blog link below is for a site called the  Domestic CEO

I this particular blog and accompanying website, the host Amanda Thomas gives some great tips on getting your family packed for a trip. Ultimately you have to pack in a way that works best for you and your family, but I think you will find her tips useful. 

Another great podcast is from the guys at Road Trip Radio. The episodes are filled with great tips, little side trip ideas, and a lot of usable and sometimes comical information. Just as a warning though the comedy bits at the end are always incredibly corny.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Route 66 Family Fun - Geocaching Route 66

So you've been traveling several hours and the kids are starting to get a little bit irritable. That in turn make your significant other a bit irritable to and now passing the frustration on to you. 

"OK" you say "Time to pull over and get some air". But wait, what are you saying? Your not set up for a picnic, and you can't find a park with a playground, so what do you do? How about Geocaching?

If you don't know what Geocaching is, Geocaching is like a treasure or scavenger hunting using a GPS, or a GPS enabled smartphone like a iPhone or Android to find the treasure called a Geocache. Geocaches are hidden in a number of places, parks, businesses, landmarks, and so on. Basically you can be guided to a Geocache by getting the coordinates online and entering them into a trail GPS, or via a Geocaching app which will provide you with cache info and guidance to the cache. One of the best resources is  ( and its app. 

However, isn't the only place to get Geocaching info. There are other Geocaching sites out there, but sometimes places like national parks, individual town park districts, and organizations will create and list special Geocaches on their website. They do this to increase visitors and also use the caches and/or their locations to help visitors learn a little more about a particular area. 

One great example presented by the National Park Service along Route 66 is a series of geocaches hidden in Petrified Forrest National Park ( The park service has the coordinates listed for each Geocache on
the website, as well as listed on too. 

Here are some other examples:



Kingman, AZ

Trust me there are caches all along the route including one at the Blue Whale, and near the Cadillac Ranch. Geocaching is a great way of getting everyone out if the car and cooperating on a purposeful adventure, that usually won't take anymore then 15 minutes. Kids love it because its a treasure hunt, and they are always anxious to see what's inside. Adults love it because its requires some imagination, and allows one to stretch after hours in the car, that and it burns off some of the kids excess energy. 

I do need to warn you that not all geocaches are easy to find and/or get too. Geocaching provides a rating system to help you with this, using stats to rate ease of the find and terrain. Traveling with kids it will help to look for caches with one star each in these fields. But keep it in mind higher star caches are sometimes hidden in tough or dangerous terrain. 

Also the there are two rules for Geocaching:

1)Try to find the cache without being seen
2)If you take something from the cache you must leave something.

I would also suggest looking for caches near your home first to give you a good idea how Geocaching works. 

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Great Route 66 Books - Introduction

In this series I hope to review books that may help you in learning about and/or traveling Route 66. 

There are actually a ton of books out there on Route 66. Take a look on
Amazon to see for yourself, the selection can be overwhelming. Add to that independently published books, kindle books, and books sold through Route 66 associations nationwide and the selection becomes a positive avalanche of book options. 

Being an experienced Route 66 traveler, and knowledgable about Route 66 I have an incredible collection of books on the subject. This has also given me the ability to sort out the truly good books, from the bad and/or clone books the subject has produced over the years. 

So keep watching for my suggestions coming to you soon. 

Route 66 Kids Picks - #1 The Blue Whale of Catoosa

A kids opinion - James 10 years old

"I really like the Blue Whale it reminded me of the story of Jonah and the Whale, and getting swallowed up by the whale. I also thought it was really cool that it use to be a waterpark, I wish it still was. I also liked climbing around too, the holes on top are really neat to look out of"

As you can tell my son loves the Blue Whale. It feeds kids imaginations in many different ways, in everything from pretending to be in Jonah and the Whale, to trying to imagine what this place was like as a fully functioning watermark in the 70's and 80's. It's a great break off of 66, and lets everyone take a respite from the travel and have some fun too. By the way there is a geocache here too, if you want to make to most of your stop. 

Follow a later 4 lane section of Route 66 between Claremore, and the urban sprall of Tulsa to an interesting site near the town of Catoosa. Here you will find hidden on a picturesque pond, and behind some trees from 66, the famous (To Route 66 travelers) Blue Whale of Catoosa. 

Unlike a lot of other sites on 66 the Blue Whale is a new comer, built in 1972 after 66's heyday but before its decommissioning. But the Blue Whale is as big a part of Route 66 as the Wigwam Motel, or Gemini Giant. The Blue Whale was built by hand on the property of former owner Hugh Davis, who came upon the idea through divine inspiration, and we glad that happened. 

Eventually the Whale became the center of a small waterpark, and many reminders of it are still there till this day. Although it was primitive by today's wave pool, 200 foot drop water slide comparison, many residents of Catoosa, Tulsa, and other towns nearby remember the fun they use to have there many a summers day. 

Visit this link to Tulsa Channel 9 News to see a story about the Whale in its heyday and its current restoration

The site closed in 1988 after the owners health deteriorated. Shortly after the Blue Whale began to fall into disrepair, until 1997 when Catoosa, and Route 66 enthusiasts started a restoration effort that has restored the Blue Whale "Ol' Blue" to is former glory. 

I hope someday that the bring this place back to being a waterpark and/or add even more kid friendly attractions like a playground. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Route 66 Movies - Bagdad Cafe

If you have already researched Route 66 by now especially as it meanders through the Mojave, you have heard of the Bagdad Cafe. You probably have also seen, or heard references to the 1987 movie. 

But before I talk about the movie here is a little backstory on the cafe. There once was really a place called that Bagdad Cafe in Bagdad, CA. From what I've read Bagdad was a bustling little town when Route 66 was still active. But as the town got bypassed it went downhill quickly, till all that is left are ruins (even in 1987). The building that was called the Bagdad Cafe in the movie was actually the Sidewinder Cafe in Newberry Springs, CA some 50 miles to the West down Route 66. In honor of the movie the Sidewinder permanently changed its name to the Bagdad Cafe. 

Now as for the movie:

Here is a quick and hopefully spoiler free synopsis. A German woman by the name of Jasmine gets into a fight with her husband and leaves him, by stomping out of there car and down Route 66 into the Mojave. Meanwhile the owner of the Bagdad Cafe, Brenda gets into a fight with her husband but he drive off and leaves her. At the point Jasmine arrives at the cafe, and books a room into its a joining but seldom used motel. 

The meeting of the two women at first is a bit tense, especially as Jasmine doesn't approve of Brenda's unorganized nature. Soon Jasmine is reorganizing things much to Brenda's chagrin. But soon the two begin to work as a team as both women find the support they have been needing in each other. Basically Brenda softens and tones herself down, and Jasmine finds a sense of belonging in this odd desert community. Later in attempting to entertain Brenda's children, they discover Jasmine is a wonderful magician and soon use the talent to attract travelers to the cafe.

Obviously there is some drama here and there and the plot is not as simple as all this but hopefully you get the idea. 

Now I have to admit that this may not entirely be a family movie. First of all there is some nudity, very brief but none the less there twice and you can pretty much tell that it's going to happen, especially as Jasmine becomes the subject of a local artist. How they managed to do that and get a PG rating, I don't know. Also the plot can be a bit heavy at times for smaller Kids, and the film also takes a while to get going. Oh, yeah there is also smoking and drinking going on at times too, I know that matters to some folks. I would say the film would be good for teens and pre-teens.

Personally the film does have some redeeming qualities. We see the value of teamwork, and community within the film. Also as the movie progresses it does have a feel good quality to it, that seems to almost opposite of its beginning.  

As far as its connection to Route 66 what can I say, it's filmed on location. You have to remember 1987 was only three years after the final piece if the route was decommissioned, so Route 66 isn't rally mentioned in the film since at that time it was considered to be a dead highway. But both the actual Bagdad Cafe, and it's stand-in the Sidewinder are both right on Route 66. No side roads to travel it's right there.