Route 66 #1

Route 66 #1
Route 66 Museum

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.