We woke up early and I headed down to the hotel reception to check out. The receptionist just came from the outside excusing himself for letting me wait – he had just helped a customer to change a tire on his car. Yet another random act of kindness.
St. Louis was only meant to be a short stop but before we left we took a closer look at the impressive Gateway Arch and bathed our feet in the Mississippi. When my father in law saw us all at the riverfront he remembered the old song “Ol’ Man River”, which we later found on Spotify in many different versions. For my in-laws, it gave some variety among all the pop music selected by the kids. On the way out of town we admired the Union Station which, when it was built in 1894 was reported to be the largest and most beautiful train station in the United States and it is indeed really spectacular. On the way out we stopped at Spencer’s Grill and although we arrived just 10 min before they closed, they served us the best burgers ever and we all loved the thin crispy and buttery pancakes. My in-laws felt like two youngsters as the interior design was literally taken out of a movie from the 60’s.
After this delicious lunch we headed direction Springfield – the birth town of Route 66. On the way we made several stops to take photographs of old gas stations, quirky giant fiberglass roadside statues and abandoned buildings and villages from the heydays of route 66. Following the route 66 was like a ride back in time and we all got the kicks just like in the song “Get your kicks on route 66”.
While experiencing and seeing all this, we all thought it was a shame that our son could no longer document all this on his GoPro. Soon we all agreed that we should contribute to buy a new camera.
Finding a store that offered one for a reasonable price became the challenge of the day but in the end we managed to find one. For that reason, we arrived later than planned to our last booked hotel – Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, this however did not prevent all of us from jumping directly into the pool at the late hour. Grandma was the first!
Later we picked up pizza and ate in the hotel room of my in-laws – they had the Elvis suite (Elvis apparently stayed in there in 1950’s). This hotel room was a special surprise for them – it had a bed in a real Cadillac. It had been a very intensive drive with lot of “wows” and now we all had ended up sitting in a Cadillac eating pizza and drinking wine and soft drinks.
The following morning, we all took a swim in the pool and enjoyed a tasty breakfast in the old gas station. We had been away for over a week and had become really good at loading and unloading the car. Every little bag and thing had its own place and all of us had their dedicated tasks; check the room of things left behind, load the car, fill up water, empty trash bins, select music and come up with new games, driving, read maps and find out of upcoming attractions. The maybe most important task was preparing pick nick. A task that my mother-in-law had taken and for that we were all very thankful. Very often she said “I can’t believe it, I can’t really believe that we are doing this”. We all felt the same. We were just in the middle of an awesome trip, crossing the whole continent. Every day was an adventure, we had no idea what we would see and the best was, we all took it as it came along. Almost every day we had different landscapes and temperatures, and the culture, food and people changed. It became more and more obvious how diverse continental U.S. actually is. It was great to get an impression of this big country.
As we had no booked hotels anymore, we decided to drive as long as we could – the journey was our destination. Our first stop was in Carthage – “just shy of the Kansas border this perfect little town, served like the model for the idyllic-though-fictional town of Hill Valley from the Back to the Future movies”.
In this town we also found the perfect Route 66 car plate for our car, which our daughter made look even nicer. From Missouri state we took a little detour into Kansas and then came to Oklahoma state and Oklahoma City. Here we got to see one of the most impressive and amazing group of statues – the Centennial Land Run Monument.
My father-in-law said; ”Wow, this is some of the best I have ever seen” and he has seen a lot in his life – guess he was glad that we convinced him to get out of the car.
We went on driving and ended up having a tasty Mexican dinner in Weatherford at Casa Soto (a recommendation from the book “Route 66 Road Trip” by Candacy Taylor). A very attentive young waiter made us all laugh as he confirmed every single order with a peppy “Gotcha”!
As sunset approached we decided to stay overnight at the next town which happened to be a town called Clinton. We found an inexpensive hotel – Econo Lodge Inn & Suites for only 52 dollars per room and it was good value for a one-night stop.
Early morning, we crossed the border to Texas in Texola. During history this place alternately belonged to Texas and Oklahoma and so the place is named Tex after Texas and ola after Oklahoma. Here we saw one of the best signs along the road:
Right on time for our noon pick-nick, we arrived in Adrian which marks the midpoint of route 66. The owner of a gift shop, a friendly lady, let us sit down in the seating in front of the shop to have our food. After the mandatory pictures in front of the 1139 mile sign, we got back into the car and drove on through Texas – a landscape characterized by open spaces and hills, abandonment and emptiness and occasionally signs showing the way to huge ranches.
Our goal for the night was Santa Fe in New Mexico and while driving we had enough time to find a suitable hotel online. Route 66 took us through Tucumcari. The town once earned the nick name “Six Shooter Siding” as it was known for being a rowdy western town with wild saloons and outlaws. Today the town witness the past from the Route 66 with streets lined up with plenty of classical neon signs – a paradise for nostalgic photographers.