Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

Friday, July 11, 2014

Are We There Yet? Part 3 -Route 66 Bound

So by now you should have narrowed down your trip to more realistically fit your time and budget, if not let me know maybe I can help. For now though let’s assume you know where you want to go, what you want to see, and how much you have to spend. Now, its time to start those final steps towards getting on the road.

Step 10 – Finalize Reservations

Now that you know where you want to go and what you want to do its time to finalize your plans. Get your reservations at Hotels, Motels and restaurants in now, but make sure you carry a list of all the names and numbers with you, and put a list together of contingency destinations as well. You may find yourself needing all this data if you find yourself running behind or even way ahead on the road.

Step 11-  Plan what to bring

This is an important step to do as soon as possible, since you want to give yourself time to get what need before packing begins. The first step is to go family member by family member and make sure they have what the need for themselves, you may want to start a checklist. Make sure everyone has the clothes they need, swim trunks, a light jacket, good walking shoes etc. Ideally you want to make sure that everyone has enough clothes for a week as well since you can at least go that long between washes. You also want to check on hygiene items as well, buying special travel tooth brushes, combs and brushes, deodorant and whatnot will make sure that everyone has the basics, and nothing will get forgotten at home the morning of.

After personal items plan for what you need to support your trip and vehicle. A family medicine cabinet, a car sick kit (see my blog on these items), laundry items like an mesh (dirty clothes) bag and detergent, a bag with maps and books, the GPS, laptop, and a car emergency kit with fix a flat and fold away shovel, are probably all items you want to have.

Lastly don’t forget items for the little ones, you want to bring as few toys as possible so they are more easy to track and put away.

By planning early you have enough time to get the family to the mall for new clothes, buy stuff online as you need it, and pick up whatever else you need. This also gives you time to plan how and where to pack stuff, and look for alternate items to pack stuff in or bring with if you don’t have space as it is.

Step 12 – Time for Car

Unless you’re traveling in a rental car or brand new car, you may want to bring your auto in for a checkup. You just want to see if there is anything wrong with it you may be unaware of that could leave you stranded. Just be careful not to get sold anything you don’t need.

After the checkup you may want to get your car clean. On a long road trip every bit of space may count, so cleaning out useless items in the glove compartment, and the blankets piled up in the trunk may yield space you need. Plus its nice traveling in a clean car.

Step 13 – Talking About Check Ups

About a week before leaving you may want to get yourselves to the doctor. It’s a good chance to find out if you’re coming down with anything, and get prescriptions you may need filled one more time before leaving.  This is also a good time to get prescription motion sickness meds for any of your family members who may require them.

Step 14 – Don’t forget home

One worry to me when I leave on a long trip is my house. Plan far enough advance as to what precautions you want to take to protect your house. Now is the time to get timers, and other home security devices to make it seem like you’re at home. It’s also a good time to inform you’re local police department that you will be away. Also you may want to ask someone you really trust to drop in from time to time and make sure everything is ok. Lastly, don’t forget your mail and newspapers you may get, make sure you put holds on both so neither is piling up indication that you’re not home.

Step 15 – Pets

Cats can be pretty self-sufficient with multiday food and water feeder, and clean litter box left behind but will still need someone to stop in and check on them occasionally. As for Dogs, well they are different all together, in my post “Appy to See You” I cover and app called Travel with Pets that will help you find pet friendly motels along your way, but not all Route 66 staple Motels are going to be ok, with doggy. You want to get this situation figure out as soon as your can and decide quickly whether to take doggy with or board the dog for however long your gone. Boarding locations can fill up quickly in the summer as other folks board their dogs too, so getting arrangements made early will be a huge help. Also keep in mind that boarders want you to have all your dog’s shots up to date so the earlier you work on this the quicker you can get those done too.

As for other pets you are going to have to make arrangement for others to watch them, the earlier you can get to that the better.

With all these steps done know we get down to those final, of the final steps.

Step 16 – Pack and repack.

A day or two before you leave you want to prepack. This is going to give you a chance to make sure that everyone has everything they need, and that your bags can hold it all. This is that one last chance to get new luggage, clothing or toiletries so that you are completely prepared before hitting the road.

You also want to prepack the car as well, having suit cases and bags to fit everything is great but if they don’t fit you may have an issues, and you don’t want to be finding that out the morning of. Make sure everything fits and move things around like a puzzle before deciding to dump items. You want to make sure that items fit with some logic to their placement and where items like the car sick kit, snacks, and map bag are easy to grab in a hurry. This is a big step that really lets you know you are on your way.

As a suggestion try to do your prepacking, and actual packing out of sight if you can, perhaps in your garage, this way you aren’t advertising you won’t be home.

Step 17 – The Day Before

Between packing, washing the last laundry, putting timers in, taking care of pets and all those last minute store visits the last day before leaving can get really stressful. You may not be an advocate of it but my wife and I have always chosen to go out to eat, gotten carryout, or have food delivered for all meals the day before. This helps reduce the stress of making meals, keeps everyone fed, and keeps a pile of dishes from being made.

Also, keep stress levels as low as you can. I have found that all the running around can produce a long day and short tempers. Try to make sure that everyone has a job to do, this may not include younger children of course but the older kids can help out immensely. Not only can they get themselves packed but they can help the younger kids too, and then help you with additional jobs.

Overall, try to start on all your tasks as early in the day as possible, so you have some time in the evening to bring things down and get everyone rested and slept for the days to follow.

Step 18 – You’re on Your Way!!!

Have fun, good luck, and have a safe journey!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Are We There Yet? Part 2 - Reality Check

In part 1 I presented you with steps 1 through 4 and gave you the resources you needed to begin dreaming out your Route 66 trip. This time around I going to give you the steps you need to begin focusing and bringing your trip into reality. This is where you do your reality checks that will allow you begin combing your dream trip with what you can actually do.  

Step 5 - Get to Know Your Car

Take as long as you can to get to know as much about the vehicle you will be traveling in. If its an everyday vehicle pay close attention to your gas mileage, and look for any potential mechanical issues. If its a vehicle your renting for the trip, or a new car or car that's new to you look online to find the average MPG for these vehicles, and at the kind of common maintenance issues that occur. Knowing your gas mileage will be key when it comes to planning the trip out and managing costs. Also doing as much preventative maintenance as you can at home will save you a lot of headaches on the road.

Step 6 – Computer Time – Cost Planning
Step 6 and 7 are going to require you to spend some time on a computer. For step 6 which we are on now you will need to find time to begin creating an MS Excel sheet to drop your dream trip into, if you don’t have Excel, try to use another spreadsheet program. If you find Excel intimidating, then use Word or another such program, but make sure you have a calculator handy. If you would like something to use as a template for Excel let me know, I might be able to help you.  It may also help to put everything into Word first and drop it over to Excel from there.
The goal here is to begin quantifying your dream trip, and then breaking it apart to fit the reality of your vacation time, and money.
 Hint: so you don’t totally rip apart your dream trip make multiple revisions within the same spreadsheetbut on different tabs. To do this right click on the tab, go to Move and Copy->scroll to (Move to End), and check the Create Copy box. This will take your original sheet and make a copy of it in the last tab of your workbook, here you can add and subtract items without destroying your original trip ideas, or creating 100’s of different spread sheets.

Step 7 – Research Time
Although Google maps and Mapquest aren’t going to put you onto 66 they will put you on to the interstates close by 66. Use these mapping programs to give you a rough estimate of mileage between your stops or for the day. I would place this data into the spread sheet you created in Step 6, and then using your gas mileage from Step 5 determine how many gallons of gas a day you will go to cover  that distance(Miles/Gas Milage) . I would suggest then multiplying those gallons by your current gas price +$0.50, to determine how much you will be spending on gas alone. The extra $0.50 added in helps cover unexpected gas price hicks well on the road, and also builds in a little cash for any oil changes, wiper blade replacements, or other odd items you may need for your car on the road. 
Tip: When planning how many miles to travel every day, figure that you will be traveling at about 40 MPH. This helps cover stops for site seeing, as well as the town to town stop lights and traffic you will encounter on 66. Also when traveling with children try not to exceed 10 hours a day on the road, keep it to 8 if you can.
Next, look into all the sites you want to see and places you want to stay. This is really fun, but it can also be a real eye opener as you find out how much it cost to see this, or stay there. Most of these places have websites, and also reviews scattered about online.
 Also don’t forget to look into restaurants you want to eat at as well, so you can get an idea as to how much it may cost you and your family to eat at someplace like The Big Texan, or The Turquois Room.
Now, its time to drop all these numbers into your dream trip spread sheet.
Step 8 – Whats for dinner, and What did you bring me on your trip?
Food and souvenirs can go overlooked. So make sure you plan for both since they are uber important.
Eating out a family of four can cost on average about $30 for breakfast (with tip), $40 for lunch (with tip), and maybe as much as $50 for dinner. Taking advantage of those continental breakfasts at hotels, can save you $30 a day at least, and eating a late big lunch can save you a little on dinner since you won’t feel as hungry.
Tip: Many restaurants offer lower lunch time pricing for their dinner items. On the road this works out well since travel will leave you hungry at lunch time, and tired and not so hungry in the evening especially if you have been site seeing and traveling in the heat all day.

As many unique and wonderful little places there are to eat along the route, you might also find it beneficial to pack a lunch too, so you can enjoy a few unique places a little longer. The Blue Whale of Catoosa for instance has a small picnic area on site, which may make for pleasant stop. Don’t  worry grocery’s store are abundant along the way in the form of everything from general stores, to small town supermarkets, to big chain supermarkets like my favorite Safeway just a little up the street from the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ. So finding packed lunch tidbits, drinks, and healthy snacks is a fairly easy task.
As far as souvenirs this is one of those little extra costs that can knock you for a loop, and upset your budget quick. I’d love to give you an estimate as to how much is a good rate per day, but I can’t. All I can tell you is when picking up souvenir’s kids can often be distracted by the silliest things, and a dollar store plastic dinosaur, can become a $10 mistake at some gift shop. When traveling with my kids I have always tried to guide them towards objects that both have some indication of the sites name on them, and are objects that they can display for years. Besides the kids, we as adults sometimes make impulse buys too, or just buy the wrong thing all together. Before you leave on your trip you and your family members should decide on what kind of items you as a family and/or individuals would like to collect along the way, smooshedpenny’s, shot glasses, T-shirts, Coffee mugs….and so on. This will help everyone stick to one thing along the way, and keep your car from pilling up with objects that will be forgotten after the trip is over.
For souvenirs a budget of $500 is a safe amount, barring no amusement parks in in the plans. Also to keep the kids happy and not looking and begging for useless souvenir’s,it helps to stop every so often at a Toy’s R Us, or somewhere else toys are sold and buy your kids a few small toys along the way This can keep the urge to buy junk at gift shops at bay, and treat your kids for good behavior when traveling, especially if it’s a surprise. 
Step 9 – Pulling it Together
You should have the basics of your budget together, Gas mileage, hotel costs, entry fees, food costs, and souvenirs, and don’t’ forget the throw a little in for the unknown too.  Now, it’s time to start entering it into your Excel sheet (or whatever format you’re comfortable with).
……..Let me guess using your dream trip it’s pretty high?
That happened to me too I think I got a cost of about $11,000+ for my dream trip down Route 66.
This is the time when you move and copy (instructions above)  the dream trip tab and start cutting stuff out. At first you’re going to know what items are pure daydream and those are easy to cut out, but it gets a little harder after that. This is going to require some soul searching and discussion with your family.
This is where I’m going to leave you for this part, since what’s left is up to you. In the next part we’ll cover those final steps you need to take before hitting the road. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saying Goodbye to the Creator of a Route 66 Landmark

The Cadillac Ranch isn't an original Route 66 landmark, but it is one today. It's one of the must see's on the way through Amarillo, and on the trip itself. 

If you have been a long time follower of this blog then you may remember I covered the Cadillac Ranch as part of one of my Kids Picks series ( some months back.

Today though June, 18th 2014 news came in that the Cadillac Ranch's creator Stanley Marsh 3, passed on. Marsh, was always known as a bit of a prankster, which is why his bazaar car sculpture was no surprise to residents of Amarillo, TX. But, Marsh whose money to finance such projects came from his families oil fortune, was always a somewhat controversial figure.

Below, is a quick obituary and article about Marsh's passing.  

Say what you want about Marsh himself, but the Cadillac Ranch to me is one of the truly defining landmarks on Route 66 today. Although the landmark was created to be pure kitsch, and a nod to both I-40, and Route 66, the sculpture does have a poignant nature to it. The now rusted and half buried Cadillacs where once beautiful and shining examples of the American Dream, material symbols for wealth and success, and the "I Have Arrived" mentality. It's an ideal that seems to match Route 66, and even the United States in the era those vehicles where created in. 

Today those Cadillacs, even back to when they where first buried, are like Route 66. Time has taken away the shiny paint, and chrome, and left a half buried rusted hulk. But, that hulk also like Route 66 survives and defies the elements literal and figurative that have taken its glitz and glamour and left it half buried. In a way it's what we as Americans are about we weather the storm(s) and defy what is thrown at us, and the graffiti painted on us will come and go, but we will remain. 

If you can't tell I have a soft spot in my heart for the Cadillac Ranch. It was a spot where my family and I where able to do some healing, after the loss of someone close to us a few years back. We partially took 66 on the way back home from California, and with a couple of cans of spray paint from a Home Depot down the road, we created an artistic memorial to the person we lost. It was even more fitting that this person always wanted to travel Route 66 but never got the chance. 

Love or hate Stanley Marsh 3, but what he gave the world in the way of the Cadillac Ranch won't be forgotten. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Where the Record Meets the Road

When I got my new record player for Christmas last year and saw that it could play 78's I knew that it would open up a whole new world for me. In many ways 78's are almost indicative of the big band era. At that time 45's were something that belonged in a jukebox and 33's although in existence by the 1940's were as common as DVDs were in 1995. So on the home scene 78's were pretty much the format of choice, and that dated back to the time when 78's replaced the first wax cylinders of recorded music.

Initially for me 78's weren't that easy to find. For the most part they where and somewhat still are pretty rare birds to find in thrift stores and resell shops. As for my local brick-and-mortar record store he has 78's but they are located in bins on the floor that are almost impossible to navigate due to the fact that there are so many 78's stuffed into them.

For me the pain resulting from the inability to find 78's was only worsened by the memory of having given away all my grandmothers 78's after she had died. Many of these 78's were from the big band era and had some pretty great songs on them. But as the saying goes "if hindsight or 20/20". 

So as usual I found myself heading to eBay to find records that I really wanted. But the question became what song and/or what artist did I want to have in my collection first?

Being both a vinyl record enthusiasts and a Route 66 enthusiasts, as you know from reading my blogs, the answer came to me pretty quickly. The song I had to have on 78' was Route 66 by The Nat King Cole Trio.

The song or this particular version of it is the one that inspired me the most to someday travel the route. This version by The Nat King Cole Trio, was made following the war and filled with the optimism the US had in the late 1940's. It was a song about traveling and discovering the United States as a whole. This version was made in an era when Route 66 was in its heyday and when the United States seemed to look towards the west specifically California and the Los Angeles area as the places to be and where hope could be found for the future. The Nat King Cole Trio delivers the song with such an incredibly upbeat feel good tempo that there's no way you can't possibly enjoy this particular version. There is also no way that you can deny the urge to travel Route 66 after you hear this version of the song.

You see this version was actually the first big time the song Route 66 was performed. The song itself was only a few months old by the time it was handed over to The Nat King Cole Trio. It's writer Bobby Troup although known for sometimes performing his own works decided that he would give this song to The Nat King Cole Trio, who had achieved a great deal of success with their unique sound towards the end of World War II and immediately following the war. If you want to know more history about Bobby Troup and how the song was originally written please see my article ( To say the least Troup's choice to allow someone else to record it led to the song becoming a huge success. 

Although the Nat King Cole Trio would popularize the song and bring it to the top of the charts they would not be the last artist to do so. The Rolling Stones, and even more recently John Mayer would be just a few of the many artists to remake the song and keep it fresh with American and even international audiences.

As for the actual record itself that I received it took me some time to get used to the way a 78 sounds. The song does sound quite good but I do believe that the needle arm and needle itself on my record player may perhaps be too light for the 78. Both the 45's and 33's have sounded phenomenal on this little record player but the 78 for some reason sounds a bit off and/or even a bit distant. Having studied 78's and having seen them being played in many a black-and-white movie I do believe that there might be something to the fact that this needle is just a little too light for 78's. 

Overall though I am extremely happy to have Route 66 by The Nat King Cole Trio as the first 78 enter my collection. Now if I could only find a second one that I could put under glass and hang on my wall.

If you're reading this on my Route 66 blog be sure to check out my vinyl record blog at

And if you're reading this on my vinyl record blog be sure to check out my Route 66 blog at

Thank you again for reading!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Are We There Yet? Part 1 - The Journey Begins?

We here in Northern Illinois are in what is unofficially early summer or a close approximation of it. We're finally begining to see a lot of sun, and occasionally some really warm and dare I say it even hot days. Of course this time of year always brings a feeling of optimism and with it a case of the summer fever. It first strikes you as a need to get out of your house, and then begins to strike you as a need to hit the road and wonder blue skies, and new terrain.

For me the need to hit the road has been haunting me all day in the form of sudden memory flashes from places I have been, and many of them are places on Route 66. These memories and the urge to move have even made me grab a few moments of internet time from my within my busy day to peek at some of the places I've been to and want to see again. 

What it all reminds me of though is the fact that if I or let's say you "want to take that California trip" to qoute the song, now is the time to plan and plan well. 
You see for me nothing says summer vacation more then a good old fashion family road trip, and there can't be any place in the world better to road trip on then Route 66. 

Now, I'm guessing your no neophyte to family travel, and that although you may have not traveled Route 66, you do know what's out there and on it. With that said though I know you maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed, there is so much to see and so little time. So I'm going to give you some step by step instructions that can help you plan the type of trip you want. 

Step 1 - Get a Guide

Jerry McClanahan's EZ66, and Route 66 Magazines Complete Guidebook and Atlas of Route 66 are two very good ones. I wrote an article covering both last year just see my older postings to find the one right for you. You will want one to help you plan, and to keep in the car along the way.

Step 2 - Get a Wishbook

Remember getting the Sears or Penny's Wishbooks near Christmas as a kid? Do you remember going through the toy section and circling what you wanted so your folks would know what to get you. If your planning on traveling the route you may want to repeat this old custom as an adult. There are lot of great Route 66 books out there with some great insight into the Route and that cover the many landmarks with great story's and photos. 

One of my favorites is Route 66 by Nick Freeth. This book goes state by state and covers a lot of great attractions. You need a book like this where you can mentally circle what you want to see and go plan it from there. If you don't want to buy this book you might be able to get it or some great books like it through your local library. Also if you need any suggestions just go ahead and contact me. 

Step 3 - Read My Blog

Shameless self promotion? Well, maybe a little, but I also have tons of great tips, and history's on my blog that are great for planning. I even have my Route 66 Kids Picks articles about authentically kid approved sites along Route 66, and my Family Travel Must Haves a great series about the road trip items every family must have to make life on the road easier. 

Step  4 - Get A Notebook
This is simultaneously a fun and hard part. The first thing you want to do is plan your dream trip. Put down all the places you want to see and the amount of time you want to invest into each one. Want to see the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway add two or three days in. Want to catch a Cubs game in Chicago, and do some shopping add a day or two there, and so on. 

Why plan a dream trip first?

The goal is to purge your system of everything you want to see and do on a Route 66 trip, then pear it down to fit reality. That may seem a bit depressing, but it's not as depressing as missing something you really wanted to see on the route becuase it wasn't planned in. We'll talk about doing a reality check in a later step. 

The goal here is to give yourself a written idea of what you want to see and do that has no constraints, and where you can cross stuff off and/or pencil other items in with very little effort. If you review your guides or Wishbook ahead of time it's also a great place to jot down notes about potential detours, other alignments, and off the beaten path landmarks. 

Well this is where I'm going to end Part 1, becuase you probably busy getting together all these items. Watch for Part 2 coming out soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Tis' the Season!!

Here we are, it's late May and Summer  or more importantly Summer vacation are now on the table. If your anything like me you are scratching your head in amazement that the school year is over, with diverging thoughts of both how quickly it passed and how you actually managed to get your kid through another year. These thoughts are met with both elation and anxiety. 

With that said and done though it's now an issue of keeping the kids occupied for 2+ months, without driving your spouse and yourself to the point of insanity. Enter the road trip, a week of more away from the house on the road seeing, well anything you can. 

Now, I should be telling you to hit Route 66, but I'm going to go a bit beyond that this afternoon when I say "just take a roadtrip". The fact of the matter is Route 66 is a great road trip, but what really matters when you get down to it is that time spent on the road with your family. If properly done its time spent together Unplugged, seeing new things. It's about bonding and making memories that happen outside of everyday life, away from the distractions, worries, and obligations of home. 

If you decide to take your family roadtrip down Route 66 don't worry I will be here with plenty of ideas for you including and upcoming planning article. But whatever you decide to do this summer get out there on the road as a family. 

Here are a few great suggestions for a road trip.

-Devils Tower, WY
Americas first National Park, and background for the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I reality though it's a cool place with a lot of other cool sites nearby.

-Mount Rushmore, SD
Enough said

-Niagara Falls, NY/OT
Breath taking and a lot of fun

-The Lincoln Highway
Route 66 older sibling traveled from New York City, to San Francisco covering a total of 13 states, meaning there is a section of it near you. 

The United States must have a million cool places to go and see along the road, so it won't take you long to find a cool suggestion that fits you and your family. Whatever you do, and wherever you go, just get out there and have fun. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Experiencing the Dining Car as It Use To Be

Train travel in the United States today is a far cry from what it once was. Only the long distance passenger trains have dining cars, and although the food is good and passengers are presented with a menu to choose from breakfast, lunch, and dinner much of the food comes semi-prepared. Dining on Amtrak is still a treat, and well worth experiencing both for its coolness factor and historical connection. Dining by rail though was once something completely different from what it is now. 

Back before the disintegration of the great passenger trains, dining by rail was something that helped distinguish one railway from another. Some railways even became famous for particular items on their dining car menus. Food on the dining car wasn't just sustenance to eat while the train sped along for many miles but instead it had become a gourmet dining experience that was on par with some of the larger cities finest gourmet eating establishments.

It wasn't always this way though dining cars really didn't come into fully functional service until around the time of World War I. Before then various food service  cars had been experimented with, railways tried everything from lunch cars to buffet cars to café cars, all of which came with varying results. Most of these experiments started back around the time of the transcontinental railway and lasted all the way through the late 19th century into the very early 20th century. For the most part though if passengers wanted to eat along the way in this time period it required passengers to deboard trains at towns where the locomotive was forced to stop to take on coal and water. One can only imagine the inconvenience of having to do such a thing especially with having to worry about weather or the possibility of missing ones train and/or meal. 

It was during this same period time that the Santa Fe Railway entered into an agreement with the Fred Harvey Company. The Fred Harvey Company would provide eating establishments at larger whistle stops for the Santa Fe and the Santa Fe would agree to extend the time it took take on coal and water for their trains so that customers could have a leisurely meal at one of Harvey's restaurants. These restaurants became known as Harvey Houses, and I will take a deeper look at some Harvey Houses in postings to come. But Harvey Houses did something else they gave passengers a quality meal that was stress-free since Harvey Houses were located close to the Santa Fe tracks, the food was prepared in conjunction with trains that where stopped over, and managers would often wonder the Harvey House dining rooms notifying passengers of departing trains.

As a decades wore on locomotive's became more technically advanced which required them to stop less for coal and water. Eventually locomotives only had to make longer stops at larger cities meaning many of the whistle stops where they had previously allowed passengers to the leave the train in order get a meal where now totally bypassed as the train passed through them at high speed. For the railways it was time to finally have onboard dining facilities. By the 1910's advancements in onboard cooking, and refrigeration finally gave the railways the chance to produce effective dining cars. By the 1930s dining cars were at their peak, and so to was each railways need to brag that it had the best food. To say the least the battle between the railways for the best dining car would carry-on for 30 more years finally culminating in the 1960s with the Santa Fe Super Chiefs Turquoise Room, a special five-star dining room located in the Super Chiefs dining car and known for attracting the glitz and glamour of movie stars and other famous people of the era. 

By the 1970s the railways, specifically the passenger lines would go into to decline and many of them would disappear from memory. However memories of the wonderful food on their dining cars still remain and some have dedicated themselves to maintaining the memory of this food.

The books above James D Porterfield's Dining By Rail, and George H Foster and Peter C Weiglen's The Harvey House Cookbook are two great books commemorating the railway dining experience.

Dining By Rail functions as both a great history book and cookbook. Porterfield gets in-depth with the evolution of dining cars on various railways and then also manages to get in depth with how the various railways came about designing some other most famous menu options. Porterfield carefully brings together some brief histories and recipes from over 40 different railways. One of my favorite parts of this book is when Porterfield mentions the great French Toast Battle in which the Northern Pacific, Soo Line, Union Pacific, Santa Fe, and Pennsylvania railways try to compete for the best French Toast recipe, and you can find the French Toast recipe for each of these railways right here in this book.  There are hundreds of other excellent recipes from the railway dining cars listed in this book as well as a lot of great insight into life in the dining car. It's well worth the read in these recipes are definitely worth trying at home if you want to get a taste of how high-quality the food was I many of these dining cars.

The Harvey House Cookbook is another fantastic book to add to the overall experience of dining by rail. The book is dedicated to Harvey Houses, but is intermixed with recipes from various Santa Fe passenger trains. This is another fantastic book for gaining both historical insight into the operations of Harvey Houses and Santa Fe passenger trains and for just getting overall taste of what it must been like to actually have eaten at these places during their heyday. The book covers some of Fred Harvey's most notable resorts like the La Posada in Winslow, AZ, and the La Fonda in Santa Fe, NM, as well as some of it's other operations like Los Angeles, and Chicago Union Stations, and Chicago's Midway Airport. This book has a fantastic layout in which the historical text is in between the recipe sections which are themselves laid out by meal segments. All though this book isn't as in depth with Harvey House history as some other books it is a fantastic and should I say hands on or taste buds on introduction to Harvey House's which is extremely unique for any book on this subject. The book also allows us to see how dining cars where developed by giving us a peek into the period in which rail travel dining transferred from Harvey Houses to actual dining cars since some recipes in this book come from the California Limited, Santa Fe's precursor to the Chief and Super Chief, and the first of their trains to present onboard dining in a first class manor.

I must own 2 dozen books on the Santa Fe, but of all of them these two are the only ones that give me a real feel for what it must have been like to have been there, and put this piece of history in such human terms through a connection to food.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

King of Route 66: The Crossover

You know I have been able to do a cross over between my Retro Video Gaming blog ( and my Diary on an Amateur Vinyl Record Collector blog ( with a great deal of ease since when you get down to it both hobbies have the same dogma and goal behind them. But, I never thought I would see the day when I could do a cross over between the Retro Video Gaming blog and my Route 66 Family Fun blog (, but now that day has come.

Today I am going to talk about a Playstation 2 game by Sega called King of Route 66

I think we all know that Route 66 has a huge international following, so it was only a matter if time till Japanese Sega would turn their attentions to Route 66 for a racing game. 

Now, if you don't have a Playstation 2, and want to try it this game out you can find emulations out there. and some other sites have it, just be aware that some versions may have viruses so try to go with a reputable emulation site. Also if you want to see what the game looks like and see it played you can find a lot of great videos about it on YouTube.

The King of Route 66, is essentially an arcade racer, in which you race 18-wheelers down Route 66 to beat your rival to the end delivery point. If you know anything about arcade racers then you know that they are pure silliness, with odd characters, power ups, vehicle upgrades, and all the goofyness you'd see in games like Crazy Taxi. So if you are looking for an actual 18-wheeler sim, don't look here.

The game is rated T for Teen, so don't let the cliche naked lady mudflap cover, and "get you chicks on 66!" back cover fool you. All you'll see is a lot of bare midriffs and that's about it, as most of the game concentrates on its premise. The plot line is also very cliche as the cut scenes refer to an evil trucking group known as "Tornado", terrorizing the people of Route 66. Your job is to defeat them by taking business away and out racing their drivers to delivery points in every level. Lets just say it's not exactly Final Fantasy plot lines or anything so don't look to find Steinbeck or Wallis quality in the story

For the Route 66 Traveler

Keep in mind that this game is just for fun and not an accurate depiction of Route 66. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth a look. The game depicts a lot of Route 66 landmarks, in a really fun way. For instance you can race big rigs down Chain of Rocks Bridge, and launch your semi-truck off a ramp through the screen of the Route 66 Drive-In. Plus there are a lot of other fun presentations of Route 66 landmarks in the game. It's also a great way to get you kids interested in Route 66 by pointing out the landmarks as you see them in the game, it will give your kids something to associate the actual places with. 

For the Gamer

PS2 still lives in the limbo realm between modern and retro system. So this games retro status is open to interpretation, and when it comes to the PS2 there is a lot of it. Like all arcade type racers skill and following the route may not be good enough, since your A.I. rival may have a short cut or two up his sleeve. This also means you will be repeating levels a lot until you get the fastest route possible down pat, so be ready for repeatitive play at times. This is also the kind of game where you choose your driver, and I have found that speed is a factor. With that said its a good, but not memorable game where the only thing that separates it from similar games is the 18-wheeler aspect.

I guess if you asked me to make the perfect Route 66 racing game I would have gone more for classic cars then 18-Wheelers. So in a way I think Sega did mess it up a bit. I mean they could have had funny characters as they did, but racing 57' Chevys and 65' Mustangs down the Route instead, with Greasers, and Elvis look alikes. Either that or make it more GTA style in which the routes detail is more developed and you do missions across country. But someday maybe, right? 

So happy travels and/or good gaming.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tasting Route 66 In Your Own Kitchen

Whether your an American or an international traveler you know that Route 66 has an implicit connection to American food. Often these connections are somewhat cliche and bring us to think of apple pie, hamburgers, and all the trappings of diner food, and rightfully so since you can find all these foods easily on the route. As much fun and as kitschy such foods may be, they misguide us at times and don't allow us to see some of the roads true and most unique flavors. 

I think we often forget that part of the American experience, and Route 66 culture is about individual freedom and expression, and there is no better place for that expression than culinary artistry. Along Route 66 restaurant owners and chefs have all expressed their cultures, their regions, their restaurants, themselves, and their love for life on Route 66 via the food creations they have given us exclusive to their restaurants alone. The vibrancy of these food choices in a way is stunning and really tells us something about the true nature of Route 66 and it's personalities. 

Over the years eating establishments of all shapes, sizes, genres, and price points have lined the route. Some have established themselves not just as roadhouses for hungry travelers on Route 66, but as respected restaurants that are key to representing their communities.  Sadly though, many of Route 66's other unique restaurants have fallen victim to time, chain restaurants, or the interstate bypassing them, but thier legacys are not forgotten. Thankfully, due to the efforts of author Marian Clark, she able to collect many recipes and stories from famed restaurants along the route present and past to bring us The Route 66 Cookbook. 

This book is a favorite in my house and is both a great read and source of recipes. Clark did an excellent job bringing us not only the history behind some of the recipes themselves but of the restaurants and regions they where found in. 

The book digs deep into the characteristics of the food, and it's influences. The above picture on Navajo Fry Bread and Tacos is an example of this. Here we see how food in Gallup is influenced by its connection to the nearby Navajo lands, and how the recipes where modified to give travelers a taste that was both authentic and with Route 66 appeal. 

This book has a ton of great recipes, like The Diamonds Cheeseball, from the former Route 66 Diamonds restaurant in Missouri, Pink Adobe's Apple Pie Recipe from Arizona, and The Polka Dots Potato Pancake recipe from Chicago. There are a lot a great ones that are the real deal recipes from how they are or where made by Chefs and cooks from Route 66's many restaurants and cafés. 

Above all that though Clark has given us more then just a cookbook. Her research of the history of Route 66 restaurants, has allowed us to peak into the restaurants themselves as well as their owners. She provides us with insight into how some establishments came to exist, why they choose certain menus, and what lead them to create some of thier most iconic dishes. We also gain insight into why some of these restaurants failed, and the legacys they have left behind. The book is filled with enough interviews, history's and photos to make even more interested in preparing some of the foods from the recipes in order to get a taste what is or was. 

So if you want to learn about the routes culinary history, and move away from the cliche ideas of diner grilled cheese, and hamburgers this is a great way to experience it all in your own kitchen. The book will open your eyes to the creative spirit of food providers along the route, give you a new concept of food on Route 66, and allow you to interact with the route right in your own home. Great for these winter nights as you plan you summer Route 66 trips.