Route 66 has a way of enchanting its travelers. The historic route is also known as the Main Street of America. After you have traveled on it, you will most likely agree and understand this term of endearment. The charming atmosphere and welcoming vibe of the towns along its path. The character and appeal of exploring life beyond the interstate. The feeling that one has “walked back in time” when visiting these towns. This post wraps up our recent Route 66 road trip and features 6 tips and our top 6 picks for an adventure between Arizona and Texas along the Mother Road.
One of the books I picked up on our road trip was Route 66 Adventure Handbook by Drew Knowles. This book is full of tips and ways to make the most of your Route 66 adventures. As you are planning your Route 66 trips, I would recommend adding this guidebook to your bag.
6 Tips for an Adventure on Route 66
Planning a trip on Route 66 is not approached in the typical manner. For many trips, the destination is the key rather than the journey. However, an adventure on Route 66 cannot be too planned or have too much structure. The traveler needs to be open and willing to let the spirit of adventure lead the way. From the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, here are 6 tips to keep in mind:
- Have a “Spirit of Adventure” and allow the “Adventure on Route 66” to take charge of you.
- Simply “go with the flow” and avoid a set schedule as much as possible.
- Pause and take in the sights and sounds of Route 66 as they present themselves to you.
- Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone. “Try new food and drink, meet some strangers, turn down a road just because it looks interesting or because you’re curious what’s there.”
- Seek out “Historic Route 66” signs or Business Loop signs and follow them, instead of the Interstate, whenever possible.
- Take lots of pictures and photograph what you see and find interesting.
Top 6 Picks of Places to See & Explore on Route 66
(between Winslow, AZ and Shamrock, TX)
You may recall from our recent road trip, we didn’t set out at first to properly explore Route 66. On that trip, our travel goal was to get cross-country as quickly as we could. Any stops we made, especially heading east, were out of necessity. On our return trip, heading west, we had been bitten by the Route 66 travel bug and so we allowed for a few more stops on our way home. It could be said we sort of stumbled upon our adventure and have already started making plans for return trips to explore Route 66.
The main places we visited were along the Mother Road between Winslow, Arizona and Shamrock, Texas. From the several towns and roadside stops on this stretch, we picked our top 6 places that we encourage you to see and explore when you become a “Heritage Tourist.” In the spirit of a late-night talk show list, our countdown will go from 6 to 1. The criteria used to select the top 6 picks included atmosphere/vibe, history, character/charm, and feeling like one has “walked back in time.”
#6 Gallup, New Mexico
Gallup, New Mexico – and specifically the Hotel El Rancho – is a must-stop for an Adventure on Route 66. The hotel’s tagline is “Charm of Yesterday, Convenience of Tomorrow” and it seems to live up to this from the moment you walk into the lobby. We discovered Hotel El Rancho by accident when we needed a bathroom stop. A future stay at this hotel is on our travel bucket list! Note: Hotel El Rancho does have pet-friendly rooms, which may be helpful if your traveling party includes a dog or two.
#5 Winslow, Arizona
Winslow, Arizona is probably most familiar for the song Take It Easy by the Eagles. “…Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see…” The highlights of our visit to Winslow were visiting the Standin’ on the Corner Park and eating lunch at the Sipp Shoppe. We enjoyed sitting inside the historic building that was formerly a bank, sipping on a root beer float and watching the people stroll up and down Route 66.
#4 Adrian, Texas
Adrian, Texas has an important place in Route 66 lore since it is the geographic half-way point between Chicago, IL and Los Angeles, CA. Thus, the name of the diner in town is the Midpoint Cafe. When we stopped in Adrian, the cafe was already closed for the day. However, we took some fun pictures with the signs that designate Adrian as the midpoint of the Mother Road. When I peeked in the window of the cafe, it looked charming. On a future trip, we’ll make sure to stop here so we can try out the famous “Midpoint Ugly Pie” that is served at the cafe.
#3 Joseph City, Arizona
Joseph City, Arizona is home to the Jackrabbit Trading Post. As you are traveling on Route 66, the large “HERE IT IS” billboards will catch your attention for several miles in advance of your arrival. Jackrabbit Trading Post was established in 1949 and has been operated by the same family since 1961. We found several Route 66 souvenirs at this gift shop, including postcards and other treasures. Be sure to take some pictures with the HERE IT IS billboard that is on site to capture the moment.
#2 Shamrock, Texas
Shamrock, Texas is the embodiment of the enchantment that Route 66 casts on its travelers. We first explored the historic architecture of Shamrock at sunrise when we were heading east. Being able to walk around the Conoco Gas Station and the U-Drop Inn in the early morning hours was delightful. We watched as the sun’s rays reflected off the buildings and the neon lights went from on to off. I found myself thinking about the groups of travelers and tourists who have stopped in Shamrock through the years to take a break from their journey. Taking time to rest and recharge, filling up their gas tanks and their stomachs before heading back out on Route 66. Imagine if these walls could talk – the stories they would have to share!
#1 Tucumcari, New Mexico
Tucumcari (pronounced “TWO-come-carry”), New Mexico tops our list of places to see on Route 66. It exceeded our expectations of atmosphere/vibe, history, character, and feeling like one has walked back in time. Between the glow of the neon lights on the vintage signs and the smell of the air fresh from a thunderstorm, our nighttime drive through Tucumcari was mesmerizing. We found Tucumcari equally delightful when we drove through on our trip heading west. On this road trip, we did not spend nearly enough time in Tucumcari and we are looking forward to visiting again to take it all in. The Blue Swallow Motel is just one of the offerings of Route 66 in Tucumcari. I am looking forward to staying at this charming retro motel and relaxing under the glow of the neon lights in the historic courtyard.
Why Travel Route 66?
When we first decided to drive, rather than fly, to Kentucky we could not have anticipated how our adventures on Route 66 would impact us. Growing up we had heard some of the stories about the Mother Road, and had even taken road trips on Interstate 40. However, nothing prepared us for the way the sights and sounds of experiencing the Main Street of America affect you when you take the time to travel the old Route 66 and business loop sections. At the beginning, we were seeking out some of the Route 66 places that inspired the Disney/Pixar creative team behind the Cars movie and Cars Land. By the time we got home, we were completely enamored with the history and legacy of Route 66 we discovered when we took the time to get off the interstate. We did not know that being “Heritage Tourists” was a thing, but now we’re proud to say we are.
Thankfully there have been efforts recently to revive and preserve some of the towns and businesses along historic Route 66. As Drew Knowles states in his guidebook,
“Don’t forget: you can pull over and stop at almost any time to savor it a little more.”
Route 66 can be traveled by car, truck, or motorcycle. In many sections, it can even by experienced “by bicycle, horseback, or even on foot, so as not to miss a single nuance – don’t try doing that on the interstate!”
Some of our future Route 66 adventures include exploring the California portion and the Arizona section west of Winslow. We have also started saving our money to take a guided tour from Chicago to Los Angeles on a Harley-Davidson through EagleRider. We’re looking forward to our future adventures!
Have you started planning your adventure on Route 66? What are the places you want to experience on the Mother Road? Looking forward to hearing your comments!
In case you missed the previous parts of this series:
Part 1: Why We Took an Old School Road Trip (Route 66 Road Trip)
Part 2: Exploring Arizona’s Roadside Icons (Route 66 Road Trip)
Part 3: Discovering New Mexico’s Historic Gems (Route 66 Road Trip)
Part 4: Sightseeing Texas’ Route 66 Stars (Route 66 Road Trip)
Part 5: How Cars Land Compares to the Real Route 66 (Route 66 Road Trip)
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