We are well on our 3,500 mile summer road trip journey and we have now hit the motherload of all road trip highways – the legendary Route 66.
Well, technically, we’re following along U.S. Interstate 40 West, but Route 66 just sounds so much more romantic. We headed out of Oklahoma City before dawn on our way toward Amarillo. Once the sun rose, we were amazed how the scenery dramatically transformed from the lush green we saw in hills of Tennessee and Arkansas to the open wilds of the Western terrain. The backdrop was straight out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western.
The great thing about traveling I-40 West is that it actually parallels the Historic Route 66. And for those parents who recall their Pixar Animation trivia, the development of I-40 was the reason the fictitious town of Radiator Springs fell into disrepair in the 2006 movie “Cars.” That’s because the bustling road traffic through town was diverted to the new super highway. (I still get choked up a bit just thinking about Lightening McQueen, Doc Hudson and Mater).
Today, visitors can relieve the glory days of Route 66 by visiting the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Okla. According to the museum's website, the galleries have recently been redesigned to offer visitors a personal journey through the history of the nation’s most revered highway. You will encounter the iconic ideas, images and myths of the Mother Road.
You and your kids will enjoy learning about the dreams and labor needed to make the road a reality. You’ll also experience the dust bowl as thousands streamed along the road, away from drought and despair and towards the land of promise. Visitors can also listen to the sounds of the Big Band Era, when the roar of the big trucks and the welcome home cries to returning soldiers dominated the road.
Kids will have fun touching the counter and sitting in the booth of the 1950’s diner and feeling the open road as America’s families vacationed along the length of Route 66.
Another fun attraction we enjoyed further down the road is the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Okla. It’s not has high tech as the museum in Clinton, but it’s just as fun with its vintage faux towns. Elk City’s museum is a little folksier and gave us an opportunity to take a journey through each of the eight states Route 66 passes through – from Illinois all the way to California with their quaint city structures. It was a fun way for my daughters to see the unique roadside attractions that lured people to stop.
After we crossed into Texas we drove alongside miles and miles of wind turbines that seemed to go on forever before reaching Amarillo – the midpoint of Route 66. This gave me a chance to stop at the Big Texan Steak Ranch: Home of the Free 72 oz. Steak. It’s been voted one of the best steak houses in Texas and it’s a legendary Route 66 must-see attraction.
Since watching the movie “Guilt Trip” I’ve wanted to visit this place because it’s where Barbara Streisand’s character ate this mammoth steak and got it for free. But that doesn’t even compare to the real 72 oz. steak challenge record holder Molly Schuyler of Bellevue, NE who ate the first meal in 4:58 minutes and then turned around and ate another one in 9:58 minutes in May 2014. Now that’s some eating!
Next, it was on to the quirky destination of the Cadillac Ranch just outside of town. I learned that the Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm. It consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running, used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963. The cars are half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
Part of the tradition of this pilgrimage to Cadillac Ranch is that you bring spray cans and decorate the cars with your own personal designs. My kids loved the opportunity get out of the car and stretch their legs and do a little hands-on artwork on such an unusual canvas.
After our impromptu art activity we hopped back in the minivan and got the girls nestled in the backseat as we made our way toward New Mexico. With Hubby at the wheel, I sat there on the passenger side with my bare feet propped up on the dashboard and an open-faced atlas in my lap.
With vast blue skies above me, beautiful desert buttes before me and Al Green on the radio I turned my head toward the moving terrain out of my window, smiled and quietly thought - “it just doesn’t get much better than this.”
Now, that’s how you get your kicks on Route 66.
Carla Meadows is a Oklahoma City native, wife and mother of two tweens and a loveable Golden Retriever who blogs about building intentional family moments through the wonders of travel at home and across the U.S. Contact her at email@example.com.
We're looking for
Are you passionate about a topic, an expert, a writer, a photographer, a story teller or maybe an artist looking for an audience? Do you want to make a difference?
We can help connect you to the topics, sources, coaching and community to help you publish in major media outlets like NewsOK and The Oklahoman. You provide trusted content, and Contributor Connect will help you get traffic.