History, Road Trips

How to not plan a road trip

66shield

Route 66 ceased officially to exist in 1985. The decommissioning of a highway means that all the route signs come down and local governments take over maintenance. So there was no way this brand new US 66 sign should have been posted along the road in Galena, Kansas. So it was very cool to come upon it.

I normally plan my road trips very carefully. I scan Google Maps and my small historic map and guidebook collection looking for all the old alignments. I know the exact path I will travel before I ever get into the car.

I didn’t want to do that this time. I didn’t have time anyway; it would have taken hours upon hours to plot a course across three states. But I wanted this trip simply to unfold as we drove. I love it when I can just let life unfold as it will; it makes serendipity so much more possible.

You can’t just head out on a 900-mile road trip without knowing the route, though. Fortunately, Route 66 is probably the most studied, discussed, and documented old highway in the nation. Others have already done all of the old-alignment and sights-to-see research that I normally have to do myself!

That’s why I bought EZ66 Guide for Travelers, by Jerry McClanahan. I used the second edition, but the updated third edition is just out. I also bought Route 66 Adventure Handbook, Fourth Editionby Drew Knowles. The EZ66 Guide provides directions along the entire Mother Road, and the Adventure Handbook points out all of the things to see and do along the route. I kept the former on my lap while I drove, and asked whichever son happened to be in the front seat to skim the latter and call out everything worth a visit.

Even my most carefully planned road trips bring delightful surprises. But with these guides in hand, everything was a surprise. That was just how I wanted it.

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11 thoughts on “How to not plan a road trip

  1. It is cool that you get to explore Route 66. Your post brings many memories back to mind. As a kid, in the 40s I rode with the family over the western part of the route several times. We would drive down from Colorado on US 85 through Santa Fe and followed it through Bernalillo to Albuquerque along what had once been 66. Then we took 66 to LA. As an adult, I first drove 66 from California to St. Louis. The only segment I never traveled was the portion from there to Chicago.
    A few years ago, I followed the old route along I-40 through Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico to Clines Corners where I turned north to Santa Fe. Yes, I did the “66” museums along the way.

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    • Thanks for sharing your memories of 66 from before the Interstates! I always wonder if people who had no choice but to drive the old roads enjoyed it as much as those of us now who seek them out. My bet is no.

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  2. I remember as a kid when the interstates opened they were greeted with wonder from most of the adults that I knew. I think most people just see travel in terms of getting from A to B s quickly as possible. I know most people look at me like I am crazy when I say that I still like to take the two-lane roads when possible. Although I don’t know if I would enjoy them so much if they had all the traffic that is now on the interstates.

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    • Yes, I agree, most people do just want to get there fast. Heck, we drove the Interstates on the way home from our trip for just that reason! But now they’re just part of normal life and we forget what a feat they really are.

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