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Liz Travels: Route 66

7 In Liz Travels: Route 66

On the Road Too Long

We’ve been on the road waaay too long. Time to get home.

I left home on May 26. Dash joined me in Chicago on June 4. Rosie (the Camry) has logged almost 6000 miles in the meantime. We’ve negotiated heat, humidity, rainstorms, closed roads, detours, fast food, and annoyed countless locals with sudden roadside stops. Dash and I have remained friends. (A miracle!) But it’s time to stop pushing our luck and return to reality, yard work, and regular meals.

So we’re headed home. We want to thank you for coming along on the journey. We hope you’ve had fun.

Love, Liz (and Dash)

3 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Route 66 Eating

When you’re on the road, everyone wants to know about the food. Not sure why, but there it is. So this is for the cuisine curious. (Neither Dash nor I tend to photograph our meals, so sorry…)

Southern Cooking

Much of the Route lies through the southern part of the US, and Southern cooking has traditionally been breaded and/or fried, or dressed in gravy, at least in my experience. When a large part of the day is spent behind the wheel, the heaviness of these meals can be unappealing, so for the most part, we avoided them. Even Dash, who was sorely tempted by biscuits and gravy and chicken-fried steak.

Trunk Meals

We ate our fair share of sandwiches and hamburgers. I posted images of our fast food day. Occasionally we ate breakfast out. Most often we started our day simply with something in the hotel room or B&B. We often ended just as simply with a grocery store salad (when we could find them) or cheese and crackers (which Dash referred to as “bread and water”) and our libation of choice. We carried a cooler in the back seat and that saved us on evenings when when we were just too tired to think about going back out to eat.

The Winners

Sometimes, though, we had winners. The fish tacos at La Luna in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago were amazing our first night.

The breakfast at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, in Albuquerque, was swoon-worthy. I had sensational waffles of multiple grains–none of which were wheat: blue corn, quinoa, amaranth and another one or two I’ve forgotten. The were light and delicious with fruit, syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar. Dash had the Huevos Rancheros and hasn’t stopped talking about them. The fried potatoes that came with her eggs must have dived into the fry pot happily. Neither of us have ever had a french fry type potato that was anything near as good as these. Between the two of us, we ate them all because it would have been a sin to leave even one behind. It was a shame we weren’t staying in Albuquerque longer so we could sample everything on the menu. That chef knows his/her way around food. It was probably the best and most memorable meal of the trip.

We had excellent salads at the Pink House (the Belvidere Mansion) in Claremore, Oklahoma, but that had as much to do with the company of the PEO women there as the food. In Santa Fe, at our PEO party, Ann’s baked beans and Laura’s cinnamon sugar-dusted tortilla chips with fruit salsa were unforgettable.

And in Lodi, California, we were delighted to stumble on Pietro’s Trattoria, for a wonderful, farm to fork, Italian dinner, with a local pinot grigio, and a helpful, pleasant knowledgeable staff. Happy people we were. (The clever boots among you will note that Lodi is not on Route 66. True, but this is about the food we ate on the road.)

The Most Fun

Meals are not only about the food, they are about the people you spend time with–even if those people are those serving you. In Seligman, Arizona, we ate dinner at the Roadkill Cafe, (Motto: You kill it, we grill it.) with meals selections like The Chicken that Almost Crossed the Road, Smear of Deer, Smidgeon of Pigeon, Out of Luck Duck, Awesome Possum, Curbside Kitty, Creamed Quail on Toast, Where’s the Chicken, Flat Cats, Rigor Mortis Tortoise, Dead Meat Treat, Armadillo on the Half Shell, One-eyed Dog in the Fog, Vulture Vittles, and Funky Skunk.

But then we went down the street to the SnowCap Drive-In for ice cream. This is a classic drive-in for burgers, shakes, and soft serve ice cream. But what makes it so special is the great pleasure the owner takes in his jokes. Order a sundae? Do you want a male or female? With nuts or without? Do you want a small or a large? When you tell him, he pulls out two cups, one the size of the pill cups at a hospital and the other a more standard size sundae cup. Do you want a half spoon (he holds up a sample) or a whole spoon? When you say, a whole one, he holds up one with a hole in it. And it goes on. He’s told these a thousand times, but he seem to truly enjoy it when his guests laugh at his silliness.

The Ultimate Loser

The worst meal of the trip–and we had some mediocre food–was the White Castle hamburger. I don’t remember these being this bad when I was a kid or our family wouldn’t have eaten as many as we did. Dash called it mystery meat. A clever presentation couldn’t hide a very poor meal.

That’s the food review for this edition of the Route 66 blog. Bon appetit!


2 In Liz Travels: Route 66

“Wild” Life on Route 66

Everything is larger than life on Route 66, from its outsized place in our cultural memory, to the huge “muffler men.”

But there are oversized and joyfully colored critters on the road, too. Some advertise, some are a cities’ whimsical welcomes, and some simply adorn the roadside in front yards. Of course, we have to stop to record them. Or I do anyway. Dash watches the rearview mirror to be sure I don’t get killed in the process.


P.S. A reminder. The images above usually don’t show up on phones. You have to either enable the images for your device, or click on the link to my website. On a phone, swipe the image to bring up the next one. On a tablet or computer, use the arrows on the left and right margins to see additional images.

3 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Ghosts of Route 66

There is still quite a bit of the classic Route 66 to see, and I’ve been sharing some of it–the giant statues used to attract attention and advertise a business, the iconic restaurants and motels, and old buildings from the Route’s busiest days.

But the Route is haunted, too. By ghost towns, shells of service stations and diners, and fragments of the road itself, many more than I’d anticipated. They show up in the country far from any town, they show up on the fringes of cities, and they show up in the cities themselves. They are a faded memory, but they show us what the road once looked like.


P.S. A reminder. The images above usually don’t show up on phones. You have to either enable the images for your device, or click on the link to my website. On a phone, swipe the image to bring up the next one. On a tablet or computer, use the arrows on the left and right margins to see additional images.

1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Burma Shave–Wisdom on Route 66

Shave and a Haircut

The one thing I remember about driving Route 66 the first time–a long time ago–was the delight of finding Burma Shave signs in an otherwise empty landscape. Burma Shave, for those who don’t remember, was a shaving cream. One way they advertised was by posting along the roadsides a series of five signs, each with part of a clever rhyming poem that had to do with driving or with shaving. The last sign always said “Burma Shave.”

We’ve been thrilled to find a few of them along the road. They aren’t the originals. The last originals, according to the wisdom of Google, are in the Smithsonian. But these new ones have been posted by Route 66 enthusiasts to renew the feeling of the road. We came across several series of signs today on the road into Seligman, AZ. Here are some we’ve found:

Guys whose eyes/ Are in their backs/ Get halos crossing/ Railroad tracks/ Burma Shave

If hugging on highways/ Is your sport/ Trade in your car/ For a davenport/ Burma Shave

Don’t pass cars/ On curves or hills/ If cops don’t get you/ Morticians will/ Burma Shave

Don’t stick your elbow/ Out too far/ It might go home/ In another car/ Burma Shave

The wolf is shaved/ So neat and trim/ Red Riding Hood/ Is chasing him/ Burma Shave

He tried to cross/ As fast train neared/ Death didn’t draft him/ He volunteered/ Burma Shave

The one who drives when/ He’s been drinking/ Depends on you/ To do his thinking/ Burma Shave

T’would be more fun/ To go by air/ If we could put/ These signs up there/ Burma Shave

And our personal favorite (though I’m not sure it’s one of the originals):

Going east/ Or going west/ Route 66/ Does it best/ Burma Shave


PS: A reminder. The images above usually don’t show up on phones. You have to either enable the images for your device, or click on the link to my website. On a phone, swipe the image to bring up the next one. On a tablet or computer, use the arrows on the left and right margins to see additional images.

1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Route 66 at Night

Neon was a big deal at the height of Route 66, and the Route was once ablaze with fanciful signs after dark. Colorful, flashing, cascading–neon drew night-time drives like moths to flame.

But neon is a thing of the past and, according to a friend who does a lot of sign work, something of a lost art. I expect that means they are expensive to fix or replace. So many of the neon signs of Route 66 don’t shine at night any more, or are so broken that they’re impossible to read.

But we’ve found a few–when we’ve found the energy to venture out after dark.


P.S. A reminder. The images above usually don’t show up on phones. You have to either enable the images for your device, or click on the link to my website. On a phone, swipe the image to bring up the next one. On a tablet or computer, use the arrows on the left and right margins to see additional images.

1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Mural Madness on Route 66

There is plenty of kitsch on 66 as we’ve mentioned. And if you were a collector of old hotel signs you’d have a field day out here. But what we’ve been collecting along the Route are murals.

It seems that almost all the towns we’ve passed through have decided to arrest a traveler’s attention with wall murals on the sides of buildings. Some are copies of old advertisements, others are displays of work by local artists, and yet others are community projects. We have dozens of images, and I’m not going to give them all to you now–Tucumcari mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield told us her town has 100 all on it’s own! Once I’m home, I’ll try to set up a page for those of you who want to dive into the mural scene but for now, only a few to whet your appetite.



6 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Quirky Quonset Quest

Now for a quirky quonset quest.

In Chicago, Dash, seeking directions from a much younger person, mentioned that we were standing by a building on the Navy Pier that looked like a quonset hut. Then she quickly realized that the person she was speaking to probably had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

Raise your hand if you know what a quonset hut is… I’ll wait.

Quonset huts are corrugated steel buildings, in the shape of half cylinders, that were developed during WWII as a way to easily ship and assemble buildings without skilled labor. After the war, they were sold off as surplus.

Once Dash mentioned them, we began seeing them everywhere, starting in Illinois. We hypothesized that there were a lot of them there because, during the war, there was an enormous–40,000 acres enormous–arsenal near Elmwood. Which would have mean a whole bunch of quonsets.

But then we saw them everywhere. And we’re still seeing them six states later.

I thought I’d share my collection with you. Because… well, just because.


1 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Healing Tragedy in Joplin, Missouri

Flying gets you places fast, and sometimes that is the only way to move from place to place.

But road trips keep you close to the ground–literally. We’ve seen the red, red earth of Oklahoma, the lush green roadsides of Missouri, the wide flat plains of the Texas panhandle (and until you’ve seen the panhandle, you’ve never really seen flat.) You drive through an ever-changing landscape–and that change can sometimes happen within a mile or so, as it does when you cross the Missouri-Kansas border.

You meet and talk to people learning their history–and the history of their place.

So we learned–or were reminded–of the painful recent history of Joplin.

We were supposed to stay in Carthage, Missouri, at the classic Boots Motor Court, but we received a call a few days before our scheduled arrival telling us that the motel, undergoing renovation, would not be ready in time. Dash scrambled, and found an Air BnB a short distance away in Joplin, Missouri.

Our rental was obviously newly renovated or rebuilt. There was a large cement pad in the back where a garage once stood. It was in a part of Joplin that seemed, to us, to be undergoing almost explosive growth: new apartments, new houses, a huge new park.

What we discovered, when we stopped at the visitor center, was that it wasn’t new building, but rebuilding. In 2011, Joplin was hit with a massive tornado that leveled a third of the town–the part of town where we were staying–and had killed more than 160 people. They lost a major hospital and eight schools. It was a Sunday, we were told, and the tornado dropped out of a clear and cloudless sky.

Eleven years later, the town was still rebuilding, and healing.

There were a number of murals around town that appeared as after the disaster as a way for the community to cope. This one, with a quote by Langston Hughes, was designed by artist Dave Lowenstein, and completed with the help of more than 300 members of the community.

A local disaster that quickly disappeared from national news, but that is still healing more than a decade later. This is the kind of history, the kind of connection you can’t see from the air.


3 In Liz Travels: Route 66

Southern Hospitality–PEO Style

The road can feel lonely at times, even if you’re traveling with a friend. So it was with delight that we have been able to connect with some of the women of PEO as we travel Route 66. We have been honored and humbled by the gracious and warm welcome we’ve received.

Sally and Nan in St. Louis fed us gooey cake and Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard and shared lunch with us at 9-Mile Garden, even thought temps were soaring in the 90s and humidity was about the same.

Vicki in Claremore, Oklahoma, organized six members of her chapter in Will Rogers’s country, and treated us to lunch at the Pink House, the Belvidere Mansion. Thanks to all of you–Vicki, Carol, Sheryl, Sherry, Bobbie, and past-state president Susan. It was a lot of fun.

Sabrina and Deanah in Amarillo gathered eight of their chapter–Lauren, Sammie Jo, Sarah, Judy, Ann, Karla–and met us for lunch at Smokey Joe’s. (Sarah, thank you again for the thoughtful gift of Cadilite earrings–you can never have too many earrings!) We had a great time!

Ruth Ann Litchfield, who, it turned out, is mayor of Tucumcari, New Mexico, graciously took time out of an overwhelmingly busy schedule welcoming 40 motorcycle-riding Chix on 66 to have dessert with us that same evening. (We’ve always been just behind the Chix, so we’ve never met them, but we salute you!)

And, in the Grand Finale, a gaggle of women met us on a corner of the plaza in Santa Fe waving PEO signs–Kathy, Ann, Margaret, Lynn, Laura, and Lynda. Then the next evening, they, and member Bernadette, brought spouses Ed, Bob, Craig, and John to our Air BnB for a PEO-style party, with shared food, silverware. As a special treat, friends of mine from Tucson, Laurent and Nina, joined us as well.

You have all made this trip so much richer and warmer, and we thank you.

Love, Liz