Q: Hi Jack’s Flight Club!
We've recently started planning our honeymoon and an email with an RV offer got us thinking that a road trip down Route 66 would be an amazing option! Do you or your readers have any tips for us?
We would love to know about any must-visit street food/hidden gem restaurants (think local BBQ joint), best places to swim and any stunning national parks (Utah springs to mind). RV company recommendations would be really great too.
Elena (and Monish)
Firstly, congratulations to you both! If ever there was a good excuse for an epic road trip, a honeymoon is it. The JFC hive mind is exactly the place to start gathering tips, so we’re delving into the JFC Facebook Community to see what our members have to say.
Let’s take a second for a little history. Dubbed "The Mother Road" in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, Route 66 started life as the path to a new home for Americans migrating west in the 1920s and ‘30s. But as the years went on, the Route gained pop culture fame in songs and on screens, turning it into one of the USA’s most popular road trips.
The old Route 66 as we know it no longer exists, having been replaced by new roads over time. You can still follow the historic route all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles, just don’t expect to be on the one road all the way. Plus, you’ll need to make some essential diversions en route to catch sights like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley—you can hardly be an hour away and not pop by!
Tackling the full 2,400 miles is a big task, so you’ll want to start off with a hearty breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago. It’s located on Jackson Boulevard, right by the route’s original starting point, and has been there since before Route 66 even opened. Don’t let the queue put you off—it’s worth the wait.
By the time you’ve made the obligatory visit to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, you’ll be on your way to Springfield (sadly not that Springfield). Some may say the most important sight there is Abraham Lincoln’s house, but we’re inclined to say it’s the Cozy Dog Drive In, the birthplace of the corn dog on a stick. It’s also a time machine, sending you straight back to the ‘60s.
We reckon Atlas Obscura’s map of historic eateries along the Route should lend a hand when it comes to munching your way west. Some are hard to miss (the 66-foot glowing soda bottle in particular), while others are a little more underground. Literally. But if it’s some good ol’ Texan barbecue you’re after, hit up Big Texan in Amarillo. Beware their "free" 72 oz steak, though—it’s a trap!
In terms of National Parks, Route 66 only actually runs through two: Gateway Arch National Park in St Louis, and Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Of the pair, Petrified Forest National Park is the one we’d save time for. It’s littered with fallen, petrified trees (bet you didn’t see that one coming) that date back 225 million years. As well as examining the glittering quartz-filled logs, get your hiking boots on for a trail through the mountainous otherworldly landscape.
As mentioned above, there are more landmarks not far off the Route that you simply have to make a detour for (and you know we love a Detour around here). Most of these appear on the stretch between Denver and LA, so our JFC-ers recommend staring from Colorado if you have limited time.
Headlining our list are the well-preserved cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and the towering red rocks and canyons of Sedona, which is said to be a deeply spiritual area with intense cleansing energy. Can’t hurt after 1,600-odd miles on the road. It’s also a good spot for hunting down romantic swimming holes with epic views and wildly contrasting turquoise waters against the red rock and blue sky. Utterly dreamy!
There’s one final gob-smacking natural wonder we have to mention–The Wave. Its smooth, natural sandstone formation looks fluid enough to surf on, with a visible grain resembling moving water. But, dear reader, there is a catch—you can’t just rock up (excuse the pun).
You need a permit to hike in the Coyote Buttes North area, which you can only get your hands on via a lottery. The advance lottery gives you a shot at securing a permit 4 months in advance, while the daily lottery offers a last ditch attempt to gain entry in a couple of days’ time. So if this is on your must-see list, keep trying!
Once you hit California, you’ve got the famous Joshua Tree and its serene desert landscapes right within reach. But we reckon it’s time for a man-made beauty spot to balance out all that nature.
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch could be described as a forest, an art installation, an alternative recycling method—or all of the above. Walking through rows and rows of trees made from glass bottles in the desert is certainly a unique experience, both eerie and beautiful.
You’re also back into big city territory, meaning there’s probably a street food vendor right around the corner. Strolling the boardwalks and side streets, just following your nose, is the most fun way to pick your dinner—but sometimes you need to know exactly where to find those rainbow elotes. Heading downtown to Korea Town will also guarantee a party in your mouth. We can taste that traditional BBQ already!
With the big drive at an end, you might want to ditch the RV and avoid the grim LA traffic. Our JFC-ers suggest staying in a beach town like Venice or Santa Monica and holding onto your vehicle a day or two longer. Public transport around the city isn’t always the most efficient option, and you could find yourself relying on a ride-sharing service.
When it comes to RV hire, we’ve got a few top tips:
- If you’re not based in the US already, booking through a broker in your own country guarantees that you’ll have the right insurance coverage as a non-US licence holder.
- Many RV companies charge an additional fee per mile. Look for prices including unlimited mileage to make sure you don’t end your trip with an unwelcome surprise.
- JFC-ers recommend El Monte RV and Cruise America for price transparency.
- Don’t pay extra for a newer model unless you want to spend your whole trip panicking about damaging it!
Member Jackie suggests planning your route around the National and State Park camp grounds, since you’ll probably be stopping by many of them anyway. Pitches in a State Park tend to be cheaper, but unsurprisingly, they’re pretty popular and book out early in the summer months. Reserve ahead of time if you can! You might also save a few bucks by grabbing a National Parks annual pass if you decide to hit as many as possible.
We trust that’s given you plenty to help you Get Your Kicks, readers! And in case you’re wondering why we didn’t mention any of the Oklahoma stretch here… skip on down to our State of the Week.
Have an amazing time on your all-American road trip, and don’t forget to send us a postcard!
Did we miss your favourite bit of Route 66? Let us know via [email protected], so we can tell Elena & Monish before it’s too late!