If it’s Wednesday, this must be Tulsa. A down day after around 700 miles (1150km) on Route 66. Not a huge distance for anyone living in South Africa, Australia, or the US and used to driving long distances, but quite a challenge on the single lane, less well maintained 66, where every few minutes there is something to stop, look at and photograph.
So much so that the 200-odd mile (appx. 350km) daily itinerary is proving to be quite a lot more taxing than I’d initially imagined. What I’d envisaged as a gentle 4+ hour daily drive is proving to be much more a six or seven hour journey, punctuated with sights, meal and coffee stops and the inevitable comfort breaks.
And, it’s been brilliant, we’ve loved every inch of it. Except getting lost in some pretty bad spots in St Louis. That wasn’t fun. To be fair, EZ66 does warn of how difficult it can be to negotiate the roads around the city, but we had no clue and are much wiser now.
And, a few words from my navigator: We’re on our way along Route 66: yesterday Springfield, Illinois, today Cuba Missouri. Although it’s lovely and we’ve passed through dozens of pretty little villages, many are not much more than living museums. I’m all in favour of progress and I realise that the Interstate has given far more than it’s taken away, but it’s still sad to see these towns and villages marginalised, and relying only on memories (apparently).
You can relax as I won’t be detailing every nook and cranny along the way. Too many people have done it already, infinitely better than I ever could. I also don’t expect you to wade through a succession of we did this, then we did thats.
I will share some Route 66 observations though, those thoughts that pop up as the miles roll by.
First up; don’t imagine you can arrive from outside the US and expect your driving experience and common sense will help you to make sense of the road numbering, signs and driving habits.
Next; make sure you have a good guide book (Jerry McClanahan’s EZ66 is fantastic) and a satnav and if possible a map as well. EZ66 is incredibly granular and has taken us to many spots we might otherwise have missed. It’s also taken us onto some odd stretches of tarmac, most a few hundred metres long, left to deteriorate after a new Interstate is in use, bypassing these tiny strips of tarmac.
You’ll also need the satnav when (to quote my fab navigator) the guide goes “off piste”, leading us into a strange dead end, or simply fails to provide guidance in the middle of nowhere. The excellent Route 66 signage is everywhere and helps enormously, but when the guide book goes temporarily AWOL, the certainty of heading in the right direction is a great confidence restorer.
Make sure you have something to listen to. American FM radio is pretty good if you can find a station that delivers music, or talk you enjoy. We do that, but prefer an iPhone which is already in the car for its satnav capabilities, loaded with good content. We’re both fans of BBC Radio 6 Radcliffe and Maconie show – a three hour double hander, with news, chat and a seriously good selection of music. I download these shows from the BBC – they’re ideal for this kind of travel. Bored with the BBC? There is also a large library of music on my phone which can be set up to random play, giving us hours and hours of additional aural content.
Electrical adaptors are your friend. We have two small adaptors (flat twin pins for the US to round two pin Euro-style), but with a computer, iPhones, an iPad, camera batteries and a Kindle to charge, we could really use a third, but have failed to find one yet. We’ll keep looking.
More insights(?) next time.
Photographically, I’ve used the X-Pro2 and new 23mm f1.4 almost exclusively. It’s a fantastic combination that fits my requirements perfectly.
NB! photographs are not shown in any specific order. The preference for black and white? To me, Route 66 just cries out for this treatment. Colour just doesn’t hack it.
And our progress?
Saturday – Chicago to Springfield IL
Sunday – Springfield to Cuba
Monday – Cuba to Springfield MO
Tuesday – Springfield MO to Tulsa
Wednesday – down day in Tulsa
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If you’re in need of an adaptor, look for a Radio Shack (electronics chain store); they’re in most midsize-to-larger towns. I found an adaptor there earlier this year for a friend visiting from the UK.
Most interesting mono collection. Great shots, but sad to see all the decay on this once busy route.
Yours is a most interesting Blog and I enjoy it immensely.
In Australia the prudent advice for sole driver on long distances is to have a break every 2 hours.
With more than one driver and photo stops, you should be fine.
Anton, driving in South Africa is much the same; frequent stops etc. As I said before, aside from fatigue, driving on the RHS and the unfamiliarity of road signs and directions are also real concerns, but shouldn’t deter anyone from driving 66, it’s just a heads-up really.
?? – drove nearly 6,000 kilometres around Australia, once, in a week – longest stop was caused by a floodway that was too deep to cross for 16 hours. When I was in my 20s, I regularly did the Adelaide/Melbourne run (720-0dd kilometres) non-stop, except for refuelling along the way. Maybe I just need to look up “prudent” in the dictionary!
Of course that kind of driving gets in the way of photography – you need the stops, to bag some decent photos, and you can’t just whip out a “point & shoot” to do that. It takes time and planning, even doing it along Route 66.
what a beautiful website this is. i already enjoyed some of your gear reviews abd travel blogs and this one is absolutely amazing. part of that fascination is due to the fact that i would love to travel the same route one day, but your images and writing makes it a blast to follow your trip. congrats and keep having fun.
greetings from Cologne, elderin
Lovely pics, Paul! I, however feel more drawn to your colour pics than to your B&Ws. Your choice shows how things were then, more or less unchanged because the pictures were such. Colour would show things as they are today, decay and all. To me your motel picture cum muscle car is gorgeous, and your truck just begs to show its age in colour. But that’s just me… Or is it that the Fuji colours…. Nah just kiddin’! Have a blast and stay safe!
If you are planning a trip please be careful. The US can be more dangerous than Europe sometimes. Do not trespass. Do not walk to a house and ring the bell for any reason. People have been killed for that and the owner said later that he felt threatened.
There is a picture in the collection which triggered my posting. The trailer park. This is pretty close to trespassing and you can get shot for that.
Remember everyone has a gun. The lonely one, the scared one, the drunken one, the righteous one etc. etc.
There is a reason why things are decaying as charming they might look in a picture. Disappearing middle class and high unemployment.
Please do not get me wrong. I have driven ten thousands of miles in the US and have never really felt threatened or unsafe. This might have been due to my naivety and unpreparedness. But I have never ever trespassed or walked up to an decaying trailer park.
I don’t want to scare you. To follow the route 66 is a beautiful trip, highly recommended, just be careful. 🙂