Getting Our Kicks… On Route 66

Corvette on Route 66 - Arizona

If you ever plan to motor west, 
Travel my way, take the highway that is best. 
Get your kicks on route sixty-six. 

It winds from Chicago to L.A., 
More than two thousand miles all the way. 
Get your kicks on route sixty-six…

-Route 66 lyrics

Route 66 Vintage Gas Station - Arizona

As one who adores vintage trinkets and history, I’ve long wanted to drive the so-called “Main Street of America” — Route 66. So, during our recent journey criss-crossing North America from Saint Louis as far east as Québec City, then on to Nevada, via Santa Fe, and the Grand Canyon, we decided it was essential to hop on what remained of this legendary roadway.

Vintage Car on Route 66 in Arizona Route 66 Sign - Arizona

Without a historic map, we were not always quite certain how to find the “Mother Road” as many sections of it were devoured by Interstate 40 in past decades. When our nostalgic rides were rudely interrupted by “Road Ends” signs, we decided to consult Nat King Cole in his 1946 tune, “Route 66.” Nat’s smooth jazz crooning informed us that we could pick up well-restored sections of Route 66 outside of Flagstaff, well into western Arizona. So for a few hours, we enjoyed empty backroads seemingly inhabited only by prairie dogs and the occasional roadster or motorcyclist. We happened upon hotel rooms resembling teepees, mom and pop diners plentiful with burgers and root beer floats, and classic gas stations, such as Arizona’s Hackberry General Store, pictured here. There were also the occasional spotless Model Ts and Corvettes, as well as their long-forgotten counterparts, rusting along random stretches of the roadway, reminding us what happens when Mother Nature and time are left to tend to civilization.

Hackberry General Store on Route 66 in Arizona

Hackberry General Store on Route 66 in Arizona vintage gas pump Route 66 Vintage Gas Pump - Arizona

Pumping Gas on Route 66 - Arizona

It’s fun to imagine what 66 was like in its heyday, when today’s ghost towns – many now plentiful with dilapidated motels and diners – were bustling with road-trippers seeking new lives out west.

Route 66 Vintage Gas Pump - Arizona

Corvette on Route 66 in Arizona

Corvette on Route 66 in Arizona

Steering Wheel of Corvette on Route 66 - Arizona

Native American Mannequin on Route 66 - Arizona Route 66 - Vintage Gas Station in Arizona

Route 66 - Arizona

Route 66 existed from 1926 and was removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985. A recent feature in the Cars films has contributed to an infusion of youthful energy for this classic roadway.

Coca Cola Vintage Sign on Route 66 in Arizona

Route 66 - Arizona Gas Station

Outhouse on Route 66 - Arizona Coca Cola Vintage Bottles on Route 66 in Arizona Vintage Car on Route 66 - Arizona Route 66 Vintage Gas Pump - Arizona

Model T Steering Wheel - Route 66 - Arizona

Vintage Gas Pump - Route 66 - Arizona

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.


42 thoughts on “Getting Our Kicks… On Route 66

  1. Fab post! This has been on our to-do list for a while and we hope to include the Flagstaff stretch on our next visit to the SouthWest. I will remember this post and return to it when the time comes.

    1. Rachael, I’ll be posting more images from Route 66 in the coming days, to give you more reasons to visit. We were really lucky to have serendipitously stumbled upon some fun spots in New Mexico and Arizona, even meeting some travelers who’d driven 66 all the way from Illinois! It seems that there are passports available in which motorists can collect stamps from various stopping points too – something that I think would be especially fun for kids.

    1. In many respects, it has! :) It’s fun to imagine what it was like in its heyday, though. We met a woman whose parents have long owned a diner along a section of Route 66 in Arizona. She said that as a child, it was quite frightening to be near the road because the traffic was seemingly never-ending. How times have changed!

    1. It is, Madhu! I’d forgotten how wide and open the spaces are in the western United States. Add to that canvas rusted-out classic cars and trucks, ghost towns and motel marquees long ago retired. It’s quite fun indeed so I hope you’ll get the chance to explore it soon.

    1. Your comment made me smile too, Virginia. If you and your husband have not yet made a part of this drive, I highly recommend it! We stopped at a few fun eateries along the way, one of which I hope to profile later. Think: root beer floats, burgers, fries, and mischievous owners who made the experience all the more fun!

    1. Eternal Traveler, I hadn’t yet heard of Billy Connolly (I’ve been living in Germany for 10 years, so a bit out of touch with American pop culture) but we’ll have to see if we can check the Route 66 episode out while we’re in the States!

      Thanks for your kind comment – I hope you’ll be able to make the trip someday! Even though we only did short stretches, it was quite fun!

    1. Highly recommended! My husband was initially skeptical about the drive, but quickly became interested once we unravelled more of the route’s history and unique character. Here’s hoping you’ll make it to America’s ‘Main Street’ sometime soon!

  2. What a fantastic adventure through our country. Excellent photography and writing. (You and your husband look like great friends. You are blessed.) I live in Arizona & my family is in Indiana; I’ve long considered taking this trip alone (with my Cocker Spaniel). Your pictures inspire me that I can do it.

    1. Hi Mona – welcome, and thank you for your kind words. Indeed, we’ve been very fortunate to have shared many wonderful adventures during our whirlwind first few years together.

      As a former solo traveler, (Greece and Spain were my first solo trips, before I started exploring places like Tunisia, Morocco and India alone) I highly encourage you to make the trip! Granted, you’ll need to make some tweaks to your driving schedule, since your canine companion won’t be able to share driving duties with you :), but I think it’s a great part of the U.S. to explore. My husband and I started out in IL, actually going as far east as Québec City, then drove out to NV. We only had time to explore a small leg of Route 66, but it was one of the most memorable legs of our trip!

  3. Wonderful post Tricia. We’ve driven parts of Route 66, but never set out to follow it deliberately. I see a road trip in our future. :) I love all the cool memorabilia at the Hackberry General Store. My uncle ran a country store and it really reminds me of it. He was quite the practical joker, so when a man entered the store was told (with a straight face), “Your wife just called and said to bring home a loaf of bread” – which they dutifully did! His bread sales soared. :) ~Terri

    1. Terri, the anecdote about your uncle’s mischief brought a smile to my face on this Wednesday morning in Bulgaria. :) I wonder if your uncle’s customers eventually caught on?

      Re: Route 66, Shawn and I didn’t get a chance to follow much of it, but detoured on it whenever possible as we were taking my car on her farewell journey in the summer of 2012. She’d just sailed over the ocean from Germany and was ready to begin a new life with a new owner in the Southwestern United States.

      We couldn’t resist playing Nat King Cole’s jingle a few times, of course :) and we were happy to hear that residents are trying to revive parts of the ‘Mother Road’. The legendary stories that road could tell!

  4. These photos are absolutely stunning Tricia! What a trip! I’d love to take a road trip in the States one day – we’re kind of planning one from Seattle to San Francisco and San Diego.

    1. Thanks, Mandy! Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego = sounds fun! Shawn and I did the first two cities back in 2012, during this wild North American road-trip that had us as far east as Québec City, and as far west as Seattle and San Francisco. The road-trip was born out of the necessity to get my car to its new owner, after it sailed across the Atlantic, and I’m glad we made some fun stops along the way.

      When do you think you might be able to do the road-trip?

      1. It’s still very much in the wishlist stage. We were thinking of our plans for next year and as my husband hasn’t been to the States, we thought we’d finally do that.

      2. Here’s hoping it’ll come to fruition in 2015 then! There are many more spots I’d like to explore in the United States as well. At the top of that mental list are some more of our national parks. :)

    1. Terri & James, funny I just discovered that earlier this morning. Flattered to have been included in your Slice of Americana Series, and glad to give the delightful Hackberry General Store in AZ a bit more well-deserved traffic. Thanks to you both!

  5. Found you through Terri and James, and awww… whenever I’ll make it to the U.S., that is the roadtrip I want to make too! Awesome pictures, filled with nostalgia!

    1. Freebutfun, Terri and James are an inspiration, and I’m glad you’re here as a result of their Americana round-up! I’d lived in Europe for 10 years before we did the North American / Route 66 road-trip. It was a fun way to get reacquainted with my own country.

      I’ve been wanting to get up to Finland for several years. Helsinki and the Finnish countryside look beautiful!

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