Route 66 The Trip:
Finally the day had come when the chalk board read ’0′ days to go, all bags were packed and all avenues had been covered. Documents, equipment, times and schedules; all boxes had been ticked and there was nothing left to do but catch the coach from Liskeard to Heathrow airport. We had arranged for our son Elliot to drive us in to Liskeard, having only left the house for five minutes we get a phone call from our daughter Robyn asking if Claire required her bike jacket that she had left on the stair bannister! So after a brief return to collect it we were once again on our way. The weather was not looking to clever for such a long journey, as it was very misty I was a little concerned that it might slow down the traveling time. Elliot dropped us at the bus stop in plenty of time and we all said our goodbyes and now it was just myself and Claire with our bags waiting in the fog for the coach.
Thankfully, on time, the National Express coach wafted through the high street and pulled up to let us on. The driver dispensed with our bags in the luggage hold as we took our seats. I don’t normally suffer from travel sickness but on this occasion the driver took off like a man possessed. Swinging the coach around corners and slamming on the brakes, to add to that, the route he took went though every little coastal town from Liskeard to Bristol and beyond. We were hoping to get some sleep on this journey, as it travelled through the night, but we had no chance what with the mad route we were taking and the equally mad driving. We changed coach once and the driver three times, it took seven hours of hell before we actually arrived at Heathrow. We’d been cramped up on the back seat next to the chemical toilet for the entire journey, “Never again” said Claire “I am not taking the return journey on that coach, you can guess again!” I couldn’t imagine how we would cope with a return journey on the coach from hell after a long haul, jet lagged, flight from Los Angeles. So we agreed that we would have to find an alternative way home on the return leg, so in the two hours we had before we could check in we decided to get some breakfast and try to figure out an alternative return trip. We had ruled out Elliot coming to pick us up and the possibility of an internal flight to either Exeter, Plymouth or Newquay and settled on the idea of a one way car hire and set about making some enquiries. We had a quote for £160 for a one way trip to Plymouth which we both thought was fairly reasonable and a much better option than the coach even though we had already paid for the return fare, so we took some details and agreed to book this up on our return to England.
Check in time came around surprisingly quickly and with the new system they have at Heathrow it meant we were able to weigh and check our own bags in and, after a small re-shuffle here and there, our bags met all the requirements so we waved goodbye to them as they trundled off on the rollers. So now with very little in the way of hand luggage and the odd x-ray and ticket checks, we were free to wander around the duty-free for a couple of hours. Our flight to Chicago, having been delayed for twenty-five minutes, was eventually called. Then ensued the mad scramble to get in another queue to have our boarding passes checked before we waited yet again in the departure lounge to be called. Finally we get on the plane and settled in our seats, we had the two outside seats in the middle row of four and Claire drew the short straw and had to sit next to a huge black man who could have taken up two seats in his own right but had managed to shoe-horn himself between the arm rests of the single seat.
We were flying with Virgin Airways and what they lacked in leg room and personal space in the economy section was made up for by the individual seat entertainment system which provided some fifty choices of films, games, maps, quizzes etc, plenty enough to keep you amused for several hours. Between that, the food and the odd kip it was not long before we were coming into land. After battling through the long queue to get through customs and then collecting our bags we finally made it outside.
The heat was unbelievable, I was expecting Chicago and the first half of the trip to be almost like English weather but this was 92 degrees, we had just walked out into a wall of hot air, immediately we took off our bike jackets, jumpers. We were down to T- shirts within seconds of stepping outside of the airport doors. We had been told to give the Hotel a call and they would arrange for a shuttle bus to come and collect us, so I spoke to them and sure enough everything went as planned, thirty minutes later the shuttle turned up and the lady driver looked at our pile of coats and jumpers on top of our bags and said “you guys were expecting it to be cold huh?”
The journey to the hotel was swift and it wasn’t long before we were checking in, it was nice, and if we’re honest a relief, to see the organisation by HC travel kicking in, the flights and then the hotel vouchers, recognizing our booking etc. When its organised by someone else you can never really be sure until it happens.
The hotel was nice, if a little way out of Chicago centre, but as we had not long arrived we were quite tired and chose to eat at the hotel bar and have a few games of pool before going to bed. The food was to set the standard for every other eatery that we would come across from now on, massive portions that would have been enough for four people let alone two. We did our best to chomp through it but there was no way we could manage it all. During our meal two German guys joined us at the bar and I noticed that they were both wearing Route 66 T-shirts. I asked them if they were also doing the trip? The one guy who was extremely talkative said that they had just completed it and had in fact rode from LA to Chicago and this was the second time he had taken on the route, the first time he did it on his own from Chicago to LA. He went on about how scared he was sitting at the bar the night before he had to leave, he said ‘he didn’t ride the bike, but the bike took him for the first three days’. He told us about one or two things that we should watch out for, particularly “the strong cross winds off the mountains in New Mexico and the Eight-wheeler trucks that can also knock you about when they overtake you. You should be careful, but..” he went on to say “I am jealous of you both, if I could turn round and ride back with you guys tomorrow, I would. It is a fantastic trip and you’re gonna love it!”
That was encouraging, if he has just completed a journey of that distance and wants to turn round, straight away, and do it again it must be good. In the morning at breakfast the same guy offered us his spare fuel canister, he said “it may come in useful for you in some of those out-of-the-way places with no petrol stations”, we thanked him very much and packed the canister with our stuff.
Today was a free day that we had built into the trip to just recover from jet lag and hopefully get accustomed to the place before we take the Harley’s on the road. We took the hotel shuttle as far as it would take us and then caught the train the rest of the way into downtown Chicago. It was quite an intimidating trip to the ‘newbies’ surrounded by rough and ready people traveling through rough and ready places. But this is why we had the free day to get through that ‘alien feeling’ you often get when you’re a stranger in a strange place, you have to put yourself out there sometimes just to get over it and start to relax a little.
Once off the train we decided to check out where the beginning of the route was, so with the help of the map provided by HC travel we were able to navigate ourselves to ‘East Jackson Drive’ which is officially recognised as the beginning of Route 66, this in turn lead out to the shores of Lake Michigan where we were going to collect a stone each from the shore, bring them along on the trip and drop them off the pier at Santa Monica.
So we set about putting this task in motion. When we got to the edge of the lake there wasn’t, in fact, any kind of shore. It was just a concrete walkway with an edge straight to the water, but not to be out done there were still some loose bits here and there, albeit concrete, we still managed to collect a decent stone each that would be suitable for the job.
We wandered through the shops and came across a Harley Davidson store where we bought our first souvenirs; T-shirts and some goggles/shades etc. After that we had quite a walk and eventually found the Hard Rock Cafe where we had a bite to eat and bought yet more souvenirs. Claire also bought ‘Chicago bear’ which she was going to attach to the front of her bike for the whole trip.
By the end of the day we were quite worn out and decided to make our way back to the hotel.This time we shared a pizza for dinner at the bar and after a few more games of pool retired to bed to be ready for the big day tomorrow. Today had been a useful exercise in more ways than one, we had been able to suss out the beginning of the route and take pictures of the ‘Begin Route 66′ sign and other related things that, had we have been on the bikes, we would not have been able to get because it was quite simply too busy. So tomorrow our plan, once we have picked up the bikes, is to ride back into Chicago and ride from the very beginning of the route on East Jackson Drive, then carry on out through the city following the route from there. I say this because Eagle rider, where we will collect the bikes, is a good distance from the beginning of the route and they recommend that you skip the city part and just join onto Route 66 from there. But, we have come this far and want to do the route from the very start to the very end and only miss out parts if they are really unnecessary or if it’s unavoidable.
DAY ONE Picking up the bikes:
Today was a momentous day for both of us, this was the day we actually get to see and ride the bikes! It had been quietly building into a little monster, this momentous moment. I must confess to not sleeping very well last night just thinking about today. I had arranged for the hotel shuttle to drop us off at Eagle Rider at ten just as they opened.
This turned out to be a good move as we were first in the queue to get sorted out and as it happened there were quite a few others waiting to be processed; including a whole group of ill-mannered people from Spain who had not heard of the concept of personal space or waiting in line and proceeded to crowd round myself and Claire as we were working our way through the mounds of paperwork that accompany the hiring of two bikes. I did say to our assistant “I don’t know how you cope with all this everyday” he said “oh…you get used to it”. Having ticked boxes and initialed and signed our lives away, it turned out we were supposed to pick the bikes up the day before and had been charged an extra days rental, and we have been kitted out with sat navs which we didn’t order, only one of which was pre programmed with Route 66 in it.
Our assistant said that we would have to see HC Travel to get reimbursed for the days hire, as for the sat navs they will take a deposit from our account which will be returned to us once sat navs are handed back in LA. So providing we don’t lose, break or have them stolen it wouldn’t’ cost us any extra to have them so we agreed to accept them. Finally out of the office we were introduced to our bikes for the trip. They had said that they can’t always guarantee that you will get the bike that you requested, in my case they did not have a Road King available but instead they would let us have two new Heritage Softails with only fifteen miles on the clock, on each. I was quite happy with this as I did have concerns about the
Road King and being able to have my feet flat on the floor at lights etc. The Heritage seating position was a good deal lower and would therefore make for an easier ride. Before we were allowed to load the bikes up another assistant talked us through the controls, the sat nav and the security measures etc, I asked him to reset the counters on each bike to zero and then we were ready to load up. We put all the wet gear into one of my saddle bags, we had a small tank bag each and a large holdall type bag each which were secured across the rear seats using bungies which Claire had remembered to pack. We both had full riding gear on, jackets, trousers, gloves neck scarf and helmets. We had already agreed that I should follow Claire as we would more likely stay together and, more importantly now, she had the sat nav with route 66 programmed into it. I had moved my bike along the forecourt and waited for Claire to get into position at the front before we pulled away. These were each £17,500 worth of brand spanking new bike and they were about to let us ride them across America, it was scarcely believable. Claire confessed later that as she paused waiting to pull out onto the road for the first time, she was literally shaking; she was a bag of nerves and it took all her will power to make that move and ride off the forecourt and onto the road.
DAY ONE CHICAGO TO SPRINGFIELD
Once on the road we were both fine and happy as Larry (who ever he is) we made one right turn onto Roosevelt Street and followed that road the whole way back into Chicago, other than the huge potholes and several traffic-lights we encountered no problems at all and were soon pulling over on East Jackson Drive for a short break and to get our breath back.
We had worked out, the day before, that this would probably be the only place we could pull over before we truly set off.
We had to lose the jackets, trousers and gloves as it was just too stiflingly hot, even the air as you were riding along was like a hot fan in your face, being comfortable was to be a key factor on this trip. After the short break this was it, we were actually setting off on Route 66; right off East Jackson and left into Adams, which is where the Route 66 Begin sign was. We were now riding in the big city with tower blocks rising high above our heads it was amazing.
Gone were the worries that we had yesterday, this was brilliant cruising through these streets on our Harleys, it was awesome, we both had silly grins on our faces! After some time of riding we came to our first left turn, across four lanes, and Claire happened to be first in the queue and therefore had no cars to follow. She was a little afraid of not knowing what to do and was asking me to take the lead and I’m saying just turn left what’s the matter? It hadn’t occurred to me that this was in fact our first turning left since riding in America and now being on the wrong side of the road it was not as simple and straight forward as I was suggesting. You had to remember which way to look and which lane to aim for, something that was to become second nature after a while but this was the first time and quite nerve-racking. Claire said ‘you do it, you go first’ so once the lights changed off we went and successfully got across without any difficulties. Claire took the lead once more after we crossed, and after that we never really had any problems turning left. We even managed a section of interstate on the I55 without any problems at all, something we had been a little worried about before. Parts of Route 66 have been cut through by interstate, which means that in order to get from one section of 66 to another you will often have to travel along a few junctions of interstate. It’s not ideal, but they never considered the old route when they were putting in the new one and that’s just something you have to put up with if you want to travel the old Route 66 today. We were heading for a town called Wilmington to see ‘The Gemini Giant’.
Along a particularly long and busy stretch of 66 Claire’s tank bag flew off, and I narrowly avoided hitting it by swerving out-of-the-way, this particular stretch was like a dual carriage way that we would have in England which meant that there was nowhere for us to pull over. Eventually, after some distance, we found a road leading off to the right that we could pull into. It turns out that her tank bag contained her camera and one of the radios, what chance any of those surviving on a busy road like that? I volunteered to take the long walk back to try to find the bag, I must have been gone nearly and hour before I returned. It was sweltering heat walking along the side of the road with no footpath and huge trucks thundering past, it was a little ‘hairy’ to say the least, but I did manage to retrieve the bag which was sitting on the white lines in the middle of the road and on initial inspection everything inside the bag seemed okay. Once back with Claire it became clear that, although they looked okay, neither the camera or the radio were working properly. We salvaged the SDI card from the camera but this now meant the end of bike to bike communication between myself and Claire, this on the first day of the trip, what a blow. But it wasn’t going to stop us we could get a new camera and radio from somewhere and continue with our journey.
We made it to Wilmington and saw the Gemini Giant this was a great thrill for us as it was one of the first recognised attractions that we had seen in photos and various videos of the route so to be here right beside it was great, it is basically a fifties remnant, a huge statue of a green spaceman used to try to lure travelers on the route to come and eat at the cafe. We also decided to eat at the cafe and had a hot dog each which was lovely, we began laughing at each other because of our sun burn, we had been wearing open-faced helmets with goggles and t-shirts which meant every exposed bit caught the sun quite badly both our faces looked like pandas, with a big red stripe down the middle and large white areas over the eyes where the goggles had been and a farmers tan on the arms this meant the long sleeves would have to come out, but our faces would have to wait until we got to the hotel and the pool!
Time was marching on as we didn’t leave Eagle rider until gone eleven we were catching the sun full in the face and boy was it burning! We cracked on through some lovely areas before another brief stop at Odell which had a beautifully restored 1930 petrol station which did sell souvenirs but unfortunately it was closed by the time we reached it. Still we took a few photos and cracked onto the hotel which was still some way off in Springfield. We eventually rolled in at the Statehouse Inn at 8pm very burned and extremely tired. After a quick shower we popped out and had something to eat before amazingly locating a 24hour chemist. We stocked up on after-sun and factor 50 sun cream, we also picked up one or two snacks for the room, which we headed back to, with our over cooked skin and aching bodies.
DAY TWO SPRINGFIELD TO ROLLA
We woke up this morning to thunder and lightning, which was a bit scary (to say the least!) the thought of having to ride in that was not too appealing. This meant trying out the wet suits for the first time. Having loaded up the bikes we then slipped on the over suits and rain proof boots. I’ll be honest it was a little bit of a relief after being burned so badly yesterday to not have to face the same again today. The first thing we have decided to do on the morning of each trip is to fuel up before heading anywhere, so loaded up off we set to find the nearest petrol station, the rain was harsh indeed you could not see out of the visor and Claire could hardly make out the sat nav but we persevered and once fueled up we were able to get properly on our way. Once we managed to get the bikes up to speed the rain didn’t seem so bad, in fact after only a couple of hours it had stopped. We kept the wet weather gear on for warmth for a little while longer! We pulled off on a really old section of 66 from the 20′s/30′s and, so quiet was it, that we were able to park the bikes in the middle of the road and take pictures
The next attraction we managed to find, after a couple of wrong turns, was the chain of rocks bridge, famous because it has a bend in the middle. Although it still stands, today it is no longer used by traffic, it was nice to see yet another attraction that we had previously only seen in books or videos, we walked a little way onto the bridge and took some pictures.
After that brief stop we decided to get some fuel in the city of St Louis and maybe we could get a look round the shops and perhaps get a new radio and camera for Claire. Well that was the idea, but St Louis turned out to be a little on the scary side, a rough and ready town with rough and ready people making for quite an intimidating atmosphere not one that we wanted to stop and go shopping in anyway. We did have to stop for fuel and although there were some unsavory characters hanging about we had very little choice, as it happens not for the first time we were having trouble getting the fuel pump to work and they were very friendly and helped us sort out the problem. That said, once we had fueled up we chose not to hang about and got out of there fast. For once the sat nav came up trumps and guided us through a very complicated route through the city that I don’t think we could have managed with our maps alone. Once through and heading out the other side we came across ‘Ted Drewes’ famous for his frozen custard, this was also one of the ones on our list of attractions to check out, so fortunate enough to spot it we turned round and headed back for some ‘frozen custard’ which now back in the stifling afternoon sun was most welcome.
After that we headed off back on the route, the heat once more started to take its toll and we were tired and getting burned again. After a while we happened upon ‘The Worlds Largest Rocking Chair’ so we stopped to take some pics and, this time, the gift shop was open although disappointingly the t-shirts and goodies were not quite what we were looking for. We arrived at our hotel ‘The Best Western’ at around 7pm and, once showered, we decided to go for a steak dinner at the restaurant next door. The organisation was a little confusing but eventually we got our food which turned out to be very nice. Since this hotel had a launderette we took this opportunity to get some washing done, we bagged up all our smalls and headed for the machines around the corner only to have the washing machine pack-up on us the minute we pressed start. We seem to have a way with technical equipment!
I did drag the receptionist round to try to sort it out but she had to concede that the machines were knackered and we would be out of luck tonight and suggested that we tried doing our washing in the sink, so given the lack of choice that is what we did ….oh and it didn’t escape our attention that we are now officially ’24 hrs from Tulsa’
Tomorrow we have decided to try to get a head of the game by showering tonight and having the bags packed and ready to go, setting the alarm for 5.30 and getting on the road for 6.00. We will have breakfast after about an hour or so of riding and hopefully, this way, we will still get to see all that we want to see and get to the hotel at the other end in time to lay round the pool and feel like we’re having a holiday.
DAY THREE ROLLA TO TULSA
Having set the alarm early we were up, bikes packed and ready to roll for 6am. The early morning riding was lovely compared to the previous two days, although the sun was up it was still cool and the riding was comfortable. We had checked the map to see if there was anything interesting worth stopping for along the way, but on this particular section there were no real attractions of interest to us, just nice scenic views to enjoy. This was, so far, some of the longest un-interrupted stretches of route 66 that we had come across and if you’re in to riding then this would be the section for you.
It went through hills and forests, some lovely housing areas and although the sat nav did take us down a dead-end or two it was nothing compared to the number of dead ends and pointless loops it had taken us on the previous two days, so that was a relief.
We decided to have breakfast in the first town that we came to, this was a nice busy little cafe and was a little odd in that it allowed smoking inside, albeit only on one-half of the restaurant, odd because we thought the US had really come down hard on smoking in public places but in here they seemed to more than tolerate it. After a very satisfying feed we set off once again, the next goal would be Springfield (obviously not the same town as the night before) and this one had a Harley Davidson Shop where we might be able to buy some gel vests and anything else that might keep us cool in the extreme heat. We thought we might also check out Radio Shack and see if we could replace our radio set-up and Claire’s camera while we were at it. The ride to Springfield was equally as good as the earlier section, no real attractions but good riding none the less. Once in Springfield we found the Harley Shop to be quite a distance out-of-the-way but we kept going as we needed to get the gel vests for the desert sections that would be coming up shortly.
Eventually we arrived at the shop and as it was now around midday the heat was becoming quite intense once again, thankfully once inside the air-conditioned showroom the lady was happy to sell us two gel vests and two gel neck scarves, we also bought a couple of cool bandanas to go with the cool shades that we bought in Chicago. On the way back to route 66 we spotted a Radio Shack and proceeded to spend a good hour trying to figure out which radio set-up would work best for us, we eventually left the shop with a digital camera, two of the most expensive radios and an ear piece all of which we were not able to get to work with each other properly but somehow convinced ourselves that we would be able to figure it out later when we got to our hotel. Time was marching on now and we needed to crack on, as we still had over half the distance to travel and the heat was already getting to us. Yet more long uninterrupted stretches of 66 lay ahead before going through the small town of Galena which had the original rusty beaten up tow truck which became the inspiration for ‘Tow Tater’ in the film ‘Cars’, we stopped briefly for a few pics before looking for a fuel stop, the only problem with that was that Claire had already spotted a nice little gift shop which turned out to be a museum of mining in Galena. When I made it over from the fuel stop to the museum I found Claire signing the guest book and an eager old lady dressed in 1800′s period costume waiting to show us around the museum, I’m thinking ‘no please no, we need to crack on, we just don’t have time for this’ but after biting my lip I began to settle in and really warm to the tour. By the time she had finished I must admit I really enjoyed it although still relieved to drag Claire out of there so we could hit the road again. By now the heat was getting to us once again, over the last three days we seemed to have little or no time for anything, we don’t seem to be stopping very long at any of the attractions but some how the days are still incredibly long, we are arriving quite late at the hotels and it seems to be one big chase from start to finish with very little time in between to do anything, I wonder how these organised tours are managing to do it with so many riders to have to fuel up and stop and start at each place what time must they be rolling in at their hotels? if they are intending to see everything it must be very late if we are anything to go by, also we have to dispute some of the mileage quotes as we seem to be doing far more than they have suggested it should be, today for instance was down as 280 miles but we have done 340, quite a bit more and the same applies to the previous sections.
We finally got to the Comfort in at Tulsa around 9.00 with once again no time to do anything, hopefully sooner or later we will get ahead of the game and perhaps have time to look around some of the places that we are staying, the distance is not as bad tomorrow so we will set the alarm for 5.30 and aim to be on the road for 6.00.
DAY FOUR TULSA TO CLINTON
These early starts are great, it a good time of the morning to be riding, its cool and comfortable, don’t get me wrong it’s still warm enough to only wear T-shirts but at least the sun was behind us until midday, we set off and managed to get lost a couple of times thanks to the infuriating Garmin sat nav which was often very unclear about which road we should be taking, you have to try on get used to ‘its ways’.
It wasn’t long before we were back on track I have to confess at this point the heat had got the better of me and I decided to go all ‘local’ and ditch the stifling helmet, I know that this goes against every thing I’ve been taught and the incredible risk factors involved but in this heat with a helmet there is a danger of feeling drowsy with heat stroke and having a lack of concentration which could be equally as dangerous to ride under those conditions so I opted to go for the bandana and shades. Wow, what a feeling to ride like that, you know it feels wrong but the freedom is fantastic and to have the wind blowing around your head and face in this heat was so much more cooling, Claire was not yet convinced by this and chose to stick with the helmet which I can totally understand, apart from all the other risks all our insurance becomes invalid should we have an accident without wearing our helmets, but given the heat and the fact that the road was pretty straight and there was very little traffic at all, comfort in my case overrode the safety factor plus in this state it is perfectly legal to ride without a helmet if you want to. We were soon back on track with 66 and traveled through Oklahoma City which consisted of flat prairie lands with the odd farm scattered about and was quite bleak in parts, one could imagine the people back in the day leaving their homes in the ‘dust bowl’ of the great depression of the late twenties and early thirties for the land of ‘milk and honey’.
We passed through the wreckage of a very recent tornado which had ripped up telegraph poles, trees, bushes, bits of metal and general rubbish strewn about the place it was quite the eye opener. We stopped in a town called Stroud at the Rock Cafe for our breakfast, this cafe was also one of the land marks we had seen on previous pictures and videos of 66, the place was great and the food was too it’s a pity the young female waitresses let the place down with their grumpy demeanor. Opposite we found a tiny gift shop which thankfully was open, this did a lot to lift Claire’s spirits as I think the heat and the sat nav had been getting the better of her in the early part of the morning, finally the purse came out and gifts were being purchased something we would liked to have done before if any of them had either been open or sold anything that appealed to us. This little shop seemed to meet all the criteria we were looking for Route 66 mugs, T-shirts, fridge magnets, and lots of other cheap tacky stuff you’d expect to find. we lapped it up and left with an arm full of kitch mostly smaller items that were possible to fit in the bags, it dawned on us that today must be Saturday as there were suddenly a lot of “day bikers’ around, you know the types, solicitors during the week and dig their Harley’s out for a weekend pose…some great looking bikes…can’t blame them.
Later we passed by a large red barn called ‘The Round Barn’ at which we stopped to have a look around, it had been restored to its former glory a few years ago and was certainly unusual, another opportunity for post cards and fridge magnets, shortly after that we were due a fuel stop.
Fueling up has quietly been giving us a lot of hassle from the very first fill, can’t figure out what we are doing wrong but we can’t seem to get any thing to work properly, some take credit cards and some don’t, the pump keeps clicking off, and when you do get it to flow you cant ease off to slow it down its either on or off, consequently if you’re not on the ball it will spurt all over your tank etc, so far we have pretty much busked our way through it but it’s getting very annoying now why can’t we just fuel up like we do at home? We pulled up to a pump as we had been doing, took off the fuel caps, place the card in as requested, ‘not accepted ….try again ….not accepted try again …see cashier’ ….I would then go in and see the cashier tell her what was happening…. ” Oh its ok now just go and try it again” she would say ….I would then go out and try it again ….place the card in as requested, ‘not accepted ….try again ….not accepted try again …see cashier’ Now somewhat miffed I would go back and see the cashier “Oh its ok now the pump is definitely on” …return to the fuel pump once more….placed the card in as requested, ‘not accepted ….try again ….not accepted try again …see cashier’ ….We rode away from the petrol station extremely annoyed, It seems the way its done is to firstly pull up to the pump, forget the credit card business, go and see the cashier, pay her an amount in cash that you think you’re going to use, the pump then gets switched on, you go back out and fuel up, once fueled, go and see the cashier for any change, you will only get fuel to the value of what you pay, the pump will automatically stop either when your tank is full or when the amount you paid is reached, this system has come about because too many people do runners without paying. Even knowing this system the fuel pumps would still continue to give us hassle throughout the remainder of the trip and this would not be the last petrol station that we would leave in frustration without getting any fuel…bloody annoying!!
After taking the interstate for a short while we caught back up with 66 in time to catch the Route 66 Museum,
once again the staff were as miserable as sin but the place itself was superb and well worth a visit, lots of history, photos and collectables about the route particularly about the ‘Okies’ which is the nick name given to the dust bowl migrants. It was a welcome break in the trip as once again it was getting extremely hot.
Now this is more like it, we arrived at The Days Inn in Clinton at 3:30 in the afternoon, We checked in then immediately got all our washing together and located the laundry room, once those machines were rolling we took the opportunity to lounge by the pool ….ah yes this is definately more like it. Later on we showered and took a short ride to check out the ‘historic downtown’ unfortunately it was closed which was a little disappointing. We decided to go back to the hotel and go to the ‘Turf Club’ which oddly formed part of the hotel but was a Country / Rock club that not only provided some entertaining dancing from the locals but also permitted smoking in the bar, we had a couple of beers and retired to our room for yet another early start in the morning.
DAY FIVE CLINTON TO AMARILLO
Set off slightly later than we had been doing this morning at 7:00 because for some reason the alarm didn’t go off, but never the less we were still reasonably early so packed and ready off we set. It was nice riding again today, much the same as yesterday still in the flat dust bowl area although there was a noticeable change in the grass from bushy green to now turning yellow / orange and looking like it could all do with a bit of watering.
As much as we can we have been trying to eat at the Mom and Pop run cafes etc but it hasn’t always been possible and especially today being Sunday not much of anything was open, thankfully we found a drive in Sonic which was open and serving up some delicious bacon and egg toasted sandwiches which we devoured. Oh yes …these were lovely. ‘Crazy lady alert!’ while getting ready to leave we were approached by a lady who called her self Luella Davenport, a bit of a local character in her long red jacket purple trousers and red suede shoes, she wanted to have her photo taken standing next to our bikes and insisted on changing into some purple suede shoes so that she would look the part, she even pulled a few Elvis poses to round it all off, she asked if Claire would email her the photos and promptly gave her name and e-mail address, this lady could have kept talking to us all morning if we had allowed her to but we managed to prize ourselves away without being too rude and were soon on the road once more. We traveled through a few small towns that were not much to write home about until we eventually arrived in the town of Mclean, this town houses two of the attractions we had ear-marked to check-out before we set off, we pulled up outside the first one which was “A Tribute to Barbed Wire” but unfortunately it was closed, its a pity because staring through the window they looked to have some pretty cool looking Route 66 T-shirts never mind, after a short stop we moved round the corner to find the recently restored Philips fuel station complete with old truck in company livery parked outside, once again a chance for some photos before moving onto the next attraction which was going to be ‘The Bug Ranch’ at Conway having traveled through what was left of the towns of Groom and Lark to discoverer even less at Conway and certainly no indication or signs of ‘The Bug Ranch’, this being a line of VW Beetles buried in the ground nose first something similar to the more famous Cadillac Ranch which is in Amarillo. Just as we crawled through the three houses and two dog town looking for it I felt my rear wheel start to wobble, at first I thought it was the ruts in the road as there had been quite a few of those but I soon realised it was some thing more serious than that when I began to lose control of the bike, I narrowly avoided crashing into Claire and managed to lower the bike gentley to the floor without any damage to me or it, Claire parked her bike at the side of the road and came running back to help me lift my bike back up and put it on its stand, I had sustained a puncture and thankfully at a very slow speed, had that been on the interstate then I could very well have been in serious trouble if not worse, thankful to be alive we managed to compose ourselves and try to work out what to do.
what we did know was that if you got a flat tyre it was your own responsibility to get it sorted out and was not covered by Eagle rider or our own insurance. Eagle rider did give us some advice in Chicago and that was in the event of a flat tyre we must call the nearest Harley Davidson dealer (in this case at Amarillo) and arrange for them to come and tow us in, all costs will have to be met by ourselves. We had a little bit put by to cover contingencies but we really were not sure how much this might run into. Claire called Amarillo Harley but unfortunately it was Sunday and we got no answer, just then a police car happened to pass by, amazing considering we were in the middle of nowhere and this was probably only the second police car we’d seen since we started the trip, Claire flagged them down and explained our predicament, a little officious and slightly confused by our accents they eventually figured out what it was we were having trouble with and just happened to know a guy who might come out and tow us into Amarillo which at this point was still some 20/30 miles away, I cheekily asked if that would be for free, and the ‘law inforcement officer’ replied “No sir…nobody does nothing for free around here”. After a few minutes on his radio the officer confirmed that a guy was definitely coming out to help us and he should be with us in about half an hour and he would take us to our hotel in Amarillo. Wow, what a result and a stroke of luck all round if you had to have a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday then this was the place to do it. Now with nothing to do but wait we sort shelter from the baking sun on a table and chair under a tree from what used to be an old cafe type building, it wasn’t long before one of the locals came wandering over wearing only jeans and trainers drinking a can of beer asking what all the fuss was about, although he was a little disconcerting to begin with he turned out to be very neighbourly and said we were more than welcome to use his toilets etc or if we needed any water we would only have to ask, he then went on to inquire about what we were doing and why we were there etc he seem well-meaning and was concerned for our plight.
Thankfully a friendly old Mexican man turned up with a four by four and a low trailer about an hour later, between him, myself and the neighbourly redneck we managed to get the bike loaded onto the back and strapped securely for the journey. Claire chose to ride in the car while I rode her bike and followed closely behind we’d arranged to drop my bike at Harley Davidson so that they could hopefully get to work on it first thing in the morning, this wasn’t the way I had envisaged riding into the city singing “is this the way to Amarillo”
buy hey it could have been worse. We pulled into Harley and he drove the trailer round the back to the service area and to our surprise there were some of the staff locking up, apparently they had just popped in to take a couple of bikes out for a spin as we pulled in. I asked if it would be possible to put my bike inside for the night where it would be safer and they agreed, another stroke of luck!. We thanked them for that and then continued on to our hotel which happened to be only round the corner from Harley Davidson which would be useful tomorrow.
At last at the hotel it was time to settle up with the guy for towing us in, Claire and I had estimated it might be somewhere around $300 -$500 as he’d brought us from the middle of nowhere giving up his own time on a Sunday, so with a little trepidation I asked him how much it was going to cost, after briefly checking back with his boss he said “$150″ …amazed and much relived at that price we decided to give him $200, after all without his help we would really have been in the mire, now it was just a case of finding out how much Harley Davidson would want to lighten our wallets by tomorrow. Relived to be alive and relived to be at the hotel we checked in, showered and went for a Mexican meal at a lovely restaurant just around the corner called ‘Joe’s Taco’ and we were royally entertained by a surprisingly good vocalist / guitarist playing while we ate, we very much enjoyed the night.
DAY SIX AMARILLO TO TUCUMCARI
Mileage check: 1209 miles
We got up surprisingly early this morning and decided to have breakfast at the hotel for a change we also wanted to be early for when Harley opened so we could get them on the case with the tyre. After we had breakfast Claire jumped on the back of her bike and I rode us both to Harley, once again we were a little bit keen and arrived half and hour before they opened so we took the opportunity to give Claire’s bike a little clean while we waited. Before too long we were standing at the desk in the service department booking my bike in to be sorted out, the lady said it may take a couple of hours which was ok because today’s ride was looking like it was going to be around 120 miles, a short trip in the scheme of things, We took the chance to pop over to the local shopping mall to see if we could find a new camera for me, something else I trashed the other day, I accidentally dropped it and now it refused to work, so a suitable replacement along similar lines would be excellent. It was a canon power shot, an ideal camera to be able to twist the viewing screen on the back to see what you’re doing when you wanted to take self timer shots and have yourself and the wife in the same shot. At ‘Best Buy’ we managed to find the newer version of the same camera a ‘Canon Power Shot G12′, which had all the bells and whistles and still had the twisty screen thing which was so useful and it was still dinky enough to put in my pocket, so along with a ‘grippy’ stick anywhere camera stand we made a purchase of some $3/400 Dollars and returned to see how they were getting along at Harley. After raiding their t-shirts and gifts and a new pull a long bag to go on the back seat they had at last completed the job on my bike, it needed a new tyre as the old one had quite a chunk missing out of it as the guy showed me … yikes!!
I really was lucky, that whole deal came to $325 including fitting… ouch! ….over the last two days I have eaten into $1000 dollars of our expenses ……but given that I’m still alive….its only money!
At last we were able to ride back to the hotel load the bags back onto our bike and set off on today’s section, we would be heading for the ‘Blue Swallow Hotel’ which would be the first of two booking that we have made ourselves, the other one being the ‘Wig Wam Motel’ These were well-known attractions along Route 66 that we thought would be nice to actually stay the night in and the tour company HC Travel were fine with that as long as we made our own arrangements.
Shortly out of Amarillo there were some extremely strong gusts of winds of up to 40mph we were informed across the Plains which meant we had to lean into the wind just to keep a proper balance, nestled right at the beginning of all this we came across the famous Cadillac Ranch with ten Cadillac’s all in a line, buried nose first into the ground at apparently the same angle as the pyramids, not really sure why, anyway it made for some interesting photos before we hit the road again. As we crossed the border from Texas to New Mexico the scenery started to change and brought with it a kind of desert look. We reached Adrian and the Mid Point Cafe which is said to be the mathematical centre of Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles and if you made it here using an eagle rider sat nav then your mileage will be much higher than it says on the Mid Point sign.
We popped in and had something to eat and very nice it was too, inside it was decked out fifties style with lots of old photos around the walls, they had also added a very comprehensive gift shop at the far end which lured us in for yet another round of spending, quite how Claire is managing to stash all the gifts and T-shirts we’ve bought so far amidst our already crammed bags is beyond me, they must be those new Doctor Who Tardis bags!
Having had a lovely break and taken plenty of photos we move on without much of anything interesting to report until we arrive at out Hotel for the night The Blue Swallow, as we pull under the famous neon sign then stroll into check-in, the manager of the place ‘Terry’, greeted us warmly, strode over to a very large fridge in his reception area and pulled out a cool can of Bud Light, cracked open the tube and handed it to us. Now that’s the kind of greeting we like especially after yet another very hot and windy day. he showed us to our ‘cottage’ complete with garage for the bikes, overall it was quite a nice friendly place rough and ready in places but still a welcome change from the same bland motel / hotels that we’d had up until now. After a welcome shower we headed out to the local Chinese restaurant called ‘The Dragon’ for dinner, the food was fantastic, just what I needed, I’d been having curry withdrawal symptoms since we’ve been in America and this was just lovely. Afterwards we got ourselves a few cans and sat outside our cottage in the swing chair amidst the warm breeze talking the night away, beautiful, it was then we noticed the backs of our hand were breaking out in small blisters from being in the sun all day.
DAY SEVEN TUCUMCARI TO SANTA FE
Mileage check 1334 miles
Due to the blisters on our hands we thought it best to set off nice and early again today to get as far as we can before the blistering midday sun, as per all the previous days my early morning wear consisted of a loose long sleeve shirt, baggy trousers, bandana and shades. Our wheels were rolling at 6:00 and we were set to have breakfast at Santa Rosa, The early part of the ride consisted of desert type areas again and it wasn’t long before we were parking up outside another 66 land mark called ‘Joseph’s Cafe’ where we decided to have breakfast, what was a real surprise was just how cold we were, it was freezing, although the sun was now up it was still freezing, it was an odd thing in that it was only the air when riding on the bikes that was cold, if you just walked around as normal it was still baking in the sun. We sat down at a table and set to order our food only to be told by the waitress that they had no electricity but they were expecting it to come back on very shortly if we wanted to wait, as we were still ‘chuntering’ from the cold and quite hungry now we thought it best to wait, some twenty minutes later our food was being served to the table which at least dragged Claire out of the gift shop!
Before we set off on the bikes again, out came the biker jackets and helmets and even the gloves for only the second time on the trip. This section provided us with some lovely stretches of desert / forests /and mountains along its route and the buildings and the designs began to take on a Mexican style theme with rounded off edges and log beams sticking out of the fronts, there was also a subtle Indigenous Indian influence creeping in with the signs and symbols etc, We stopped briefly at the post office in Rowe before traveling through yet more mountains and forests on route to Santa Fe.
We were booked in at ‘The Inn of Governors’ which was a very well-appointed hotel, that gave off an affluent vibe with its modern take on old colonial styling it looked superb but unfortunately we couldn’t check in until 3pm, although they were kind enough to let us leave our bags in a storage area so that we could at least take a walk around the ‘Historic Downtown’ area. Santa Fe, it has to be said is lovely, the style and feel of the old town, the sounds of the buskers around the well laid out square and the wonderful mixes of strange food that wafted about the place made for a very festive atmosphere
The only down side to all this was that the shops / boutiques were all way too expensive for their own good, way above the appeal of the average tourist although they were all fantastic to browse around. The town also boasted a fine cathedral which looked like it might be a fair age from the outside, so we wandered up to the doors and had a look inside as it was open to the public, there was something very odd about this cathedral on the inside because it looked far to modern compared to the outside, white walls, new wood floors, pews and carpets not at all what I was expecting, I asked one of the staff about this and they said “oh we had it done up a few years ago, it was too dark and dingy so we gave it a lick of paint to cheer things up” …quite bizarre, they are so proud of its history and yet they chose to paint over it because it looked a bit drab, it seems to be defeating the object really, you’ll never have the history if you just paint over it.
Back at the hotel we lounged about by the pool with our free teas which were most welcome before finally being able to get into our rooms, Having dragged all the bags in we showered and smartened up ready to go out for something to eat, on our way back to the hotel we had earlier spotted an East Indian restaurant which caught our eye so we though it would make a change from the burger dinners we’d been eating for a while, the inside although nice lacked the finishing touches here and there but they were very friendly which more than made up for it and the food was excellent, not quite up to Izzy’s standard in Looe, Cornwall but still top-notch food all the same. We walked around the town again in the evening before having a few beers and retiring to bed.
DAY EIGHT SANTA FE TO GALLUP
Mileage check 1526 miles
We set off nice and early again today only this time we had the full bike gear on ready for the chilly morning, we where prepared for that this time!. Our intention was to try to have breakfast in Albuquerque, we rode through some nice desert style 66 before arriving in the town, we really couldn’t find anywhere that we could stop to eat, although we did manage to ride through a famous intersection were route 66 manages to cross itself having been realigned and moved about over the years, and this crossroads along the entire route is the only point that it crosses itself which therefore makes it a unique cross-road, having passed through the city and yet more dead ends we eventually end up back on the route at a McDonald’s once more that happened to be open bright and early, as we pulled into the car park we noticed something unusual, strange mere cat type creatures in an area just next to the car park, lots of them too, happily digging away in the sandy soil.
We were informed by a local that these were in fact ‘prairie dogs’ and basically they are allowed to roam free, we had been noticing odd little animals scurrying across the road from time to time and now we know what they are, how unusual.
After breakfast we followed the route down to Valencia where in turned towards the north-west and ran for quite along section well away from the I 40 through some of the best scenery that we have seen so far on this trip, forests, mountains and desert, exactly what we had imagined route 66 would be like before we left England, Claire went as far as to say “I would be quite happy just to travel back and forth along this section” it was so nice,
Eventually all good things come to an end as did this little stretch when it joined up again with the I 40 and we were back to the usual palaver of getting on and off it where possible to re join old 66 until at last we reached Gallup. One of the attractions we had on our list to see today was ‘El Rancho’ a famous old hotel which used to play host to some movie stars during its illustrious past.
The sun was high in the sky now and we were back to baggy cloths and wet vests so it was nice to get the bikes parked up in the shade while we went in to check out the hotel, unfortunately this wasn’t where we were booked to stay but none the less we had to have a nose around. It had a nice open foyer with a huge fire-place at the far end flanked by a curving wooden stair case which lead up to a baloney that ran around the entire room, along walls of the upstairs balcony where photos, most of them signed of many the actors and actresses who had either stayed or dropped by over the years, there was quite a collection.
It wasn’t long before we were checking in at our hotel ‘The Comfort Inn’ which disappointingly was just slightly out of the town. We did manage to get our washing done while spending some time around the pool which was nice before we showered and headed on our bikes back to the El Rancho for our dinner. They were going for a themed restaurant resulting in my having a spicy ‘W C Fields burger’ and Claire having a ‘John Wayne burger’ although she didn’t have to get on her horse and drink her milk!. It was a very nice meal. Afterwards we wandered around once more with a visit to their gift shop before venturing into the town to look a round a few more shops, once the sun had gone down there was quite a drop in the temperature which caught me out a little as I was only wearing a t-shirt and it was getting quite chilly now. we decided to head back to hotel and call it a night.
DAY NINE GALLUP TO HOLBROOK
Today was only a short journey today to Holbrook, we had checked the map for anything interesting attractions but there was nothing of interest for us, so we decided we should just take it easy an enjoy the ride and take a few pictures along the way, as we were in no mad rush we got up a bit later and had breakfast at the hotel. Once on the bikes we settled in for a nice ride the scenery was once again desert and made for some good pics,
we did stop at a few curios gift shops along the way before coming across the Petrified Forrest National Park. We were not intending to go in but we did decide to have a quite look around the gift shop purchasing yet more t-shirts and bits and pieces, we did note that on their map part of the early route 66 runs through the park and we thought it was a little odd why this wasn’t pointed out on our map. Anyway back on the bikes we pulled out of the car park and took a wrong turn and ended up at the pay booth for the entrance to the national park, we had previously studied where this route would take us and it basically was a forty-five minute detour through the park but at the far end we could take the I80 to Holbrook and rejoin the 66 into the town, so as it was only $5 each to ride through we thought we may as well do it as this section of route 66 offered very little in terms of attractions to see anyway, so we wouldn’t be missing out on much.
As it happens I think we made an excellent choice as some of the views in this park were simply breath-taking. ‘The Painted Desert’ which were mounds of red and pink rock sand as far as the eye could see, a little further on round we came across the old 66 route that
was mentioned on the gift shop map, this was a section where the paved road no longer existed but you could still tell where it used to run by the long abandoned telegraph poles which still stood like a scene from the ‘Life of Brian’ as the wooden crosses stretched across from one hill-top to another.
Following the road round we rode through a section which was out of this world, to me it seemed like we must be riding on the moon as we traveled through hills and mountains of light blue and grey ash, the sky was a brilliant blue with only a white moon for company, superb, it really was something else and it didn’t stop there,just a short distance away lay the Crystal Wood in the petrified forest where whole trees had been turned to solid crystallized forms through the pressure of water and natural forces over millions of years.
It really was fantastic to see, I’m so glad we decided to take this route through the National Park it was well worth the visit.
At the end of the park we turned right onto the I80 and rode about twenty miles to Holbrook and rejoined the 66 through the town, our hotel tonight was the second one of our own bookings and that was The ‘Wig Wam Motel’, We were staying in wig wam No 2 and we couldn’t wait to get a look inside. The outside consisted of a concrete structure which was shaped to look like an old Indian wig wam, only with windows and a front door and all modern convinces it didn’t look like it was going to be very big at all on the inside, but once through the door we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of space, in our wig wam we had two double beds and an en-suite what more could you ask for?, as it happens we did have an excellent nights sleep in it as well.
On the night we went for a steak dinner at a local restaurant and then on to a rough and ready bar for a few drinks, they were all very friendly and we had a nice night before getting back to the hotel to recover before another early start in the morning.
DAY TEN HOLBROOK TO FAGSTAFF
Bright and early once again today we set off, Claire wanted to find a trading post called ‘The Jack Rabbit’ which as it happens was not far along the route but unfortunately we were just a little too early for them and they hadn’t opened yet.
We stopped briefly for a few photos before moving on. We planned to have breakfast in ‘Winslow’, made famous in the Eagles song ‘Take It Easy’ and as you would expect this town was making the most of that little connection and dedicated, what is reputed to be, the actual corner from the line in the lyrics “I was standing on the corner of Winslow Arizona”
They had a bronze statue of a man holding a guitar and the even had the “bright red ford” which is also mentioned in the song, on the side of the building was painted a mural which served as a kind of reflection of what was going on. The whole area was done out very nicely even to the point where you could buy a brick and have any message you want put on it and then have it placed with others that formed the paving on the corner.
Opposite stood the ‘cash in’ gift shop which drew us in as usual. This was even after the lady that was running it came out and told us off for parking our bikes on the newly paved area to take pictures with the statue!
Yet more stuff would have to find space in our burgeoning bags but they did have some great things it has to be said. Unable to find a Mom and Pop cafe open we ended up once again eating at Sonic, and we tip our hats to their bacon and egg sandwiches, just the right size portions with superb soft French toast – ideal! Back on route 66 we spot signs for a ‘meteor crater’ and as it was only six miles off the route we decided to go and check it out, the ride out to it was real desert area, flat plains for miles with only shadowy mountains in the distance, it was on theses kind of stretches that you really felt the heat without any real escape.
This was apparently the world largest untouched meteor crater that is still used today for collecting scientific data and was even used by Nasa to practice for the moon landings. It did look spectacular and made for some great photographs.
I’d had a minor headache when we set off this morning which was slowly getting worse and the sheer heat on my head was not helping matters, so by the time we rolled into Flagstaff I was feeling quite unwell.
Flagstaff turned out to be quite a big town and we had to battle from one end to the other in very busy traffic in blazing heat and stopping at traffic lights every block, our bikes are air-cooled which is fine while you’re riding along but when you’re stuck in the heat in a traffic jam the haze from the engine gets so intense that it will burn the inside of your thighs, this meant that we had to raise ourselves clear off the seat when ever possible in the traffic. Not only did the sun fry you but the heat from engines on the bikes when we were not moving was just as troubling. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel now, not feeling too good at all and not being able to escape the heat was just making it worse. Finally the hotel was reached once again it was some way out of the town but we were thankful to get to it, none the less. Fortunate to find the shade of a tree to park the bikes under we went to check in only to find that we would not be allowed into the room until four. I know Claire would have liked to go shopping in the town while we waited but I really wasn’t feeling too good at all and I needed to lie down, I certainly could not face the battle back through that heat and traffic just yet, thankfully they had a swimming pool and we were able to get hold of the bits and pieces we needed to spend a couple of hours lazing around that while we waited for our room to be ready. At last we checked in at yet another hotel that was trying to be too posh for itself. We managed to get a little rest in before taking a shower and getting back on the bike to go into town in the slightly cooler evening air. The first stop was a chemist and some pain killers for me, I popped a couple of pills which almost immediately did the trick, thank God. After that we had a mooch around the Malls and bought one or two bits and pieces that we needed before heading back to the hotel.
DAY ELEVEN FLAGSTAFF TO WILLIAMS
Flagstaff to Williams was the shortest trip of the journey being only 90 miles, it seemed at little odd to us to have such a short journey thrown in the middle but it soon became obvious why HC Travel had planed it so. We set off early again today as we had planned to go and see the Grand Canyon, knowing it was reasonably close by and this would be too good an opportunity to miss. Hopefully going there early we might miss the throngs of tourists and get in and out before it gets too busy. Once we got to the turn off junction at Williams the sign read 50 miles to the Grand Canyon, Now we understood why this section was so short, HC Travel must have assumed that we would want to go and see the Grand Canyon and allowed for the 100 mile round trip by making this a very short section of 66 today. That was indeed a long 50 miles and it was nice to see the toll booths for the Grand Canyon finally loom out of the trees, we paid our entrance fees and followed the road round to the first available car park still unable to visibly see anything of the Canyon at this stage. by now the sun was high and the heat was immense, we slapped the sun cream on the burnt bits then set off on foot following a trail on the map to an available vantage point, by this time not only was it unbearably hot it was also filling up rapidly with uncle Tom Cobly and all.
It was a bit of a bustle, just to get to the front on any of the rails to get a decent picture, but wow it is worth the battle to see the enormity of it all, the sheer scale that can barely be captured on your average camera, we jostled amid the heat and the cameras to get some ‘keeper’ photos before hunger started to get the better of us as we hadn’t any breakfast yet. After some time we managed to locate a cafe where we were able to get some food and a cup of coffee surrounded by people chatting away on their lap tops?…I mean come on …this is The Grand Canyon ….leave the lap top at home and live a little.
That said after our food and back in the furnace that was the car park we felt we were all ‘Canyoned’ out we’d seen all the wow fantastic views from many different angles, bought the t-shirts and we were satisfied with that, we didn’t feel bad because we didn’t want to take the bus tour, hire a bicycle or hike down the sides and go Kayaking on the river at the bottom or get discounts on our entrance fee each day if we stay a week in one of their chalets…nope…we’d seen enough….it was too crowded and too damned hot to extract anymore of the hard-earned cash from our wallets …. it was time to go. We waved good-bye to the helicopter trips, the RVs, the push-chairs, the wheel chairs, the screaming kids and the bawling parents and headed back along the 50 miles to Williams. It was shame it became so torturous, The Grand Canyon is something that you want to see if only to say you’ve seen it, don’t get me wrong it is one of nature wonders. It’s all the gawking knob heads (myself included) standing round peering into it that is the off-putting part, if it’s possible to see it on a quiet day I’d highly recommend it.
I had noticed that Claire’s front side light had not been working for a while so we figured that we should get it sorted out in case we get pulled over by the police. As it happens the nearest Harley Davidson dealer was back towards Flagstaff so as we still had plenty of time we decided we should pop back there get them to have a look at the problem and then we could go on to Seligman and checkout the two attractions that we had earmarked to see there today instead of doing them tomorrow and adding to an already long journey to Las Vegas. So that is exactly what we did, Harley changed the bulb on Claire’s bike while we raided the t-shirts and they had some great ones to.
Now fully legal again we headed for Seligman which from this point was about 40 miles. I was looking forward to seeing Angel Deligadillos Barber shop on 66 and his brothers Snow Cap parlor, two doors further down the street.
On the videos we had watched about Route 66 Angel was quite the campaigner for everything Route 66 and I was really hoping that we might meet him, unfortunately although we were able to take pictures sitting in his famous barbers chair on this particular day sadly he was not at his shop, yet more gifts and t-shirts were purchased and a very welcome iced red and blue snow cap before taking the old 66 back to Williams.
We travelled through the town of Williams hoping to spot our hotel, it turns out that Williams is having its annual bike festival this weekend and the place was packed with bikes lined up and down the streets and bands were playing at various bars and it made for quite a festive atmosphere, now looking forward to getting to the hotel so we could get out there and experience some of it for ourselves. Claire pulled over to put the hotels address in the sat nav since it wasn’t leaping out at us, we proceed to navigate our way through the busy streets before eventually being dumped back on the I 40 heading back towards Flagstaff!, I caught up with Claire and asked if she was sure about the directions as we were most definitely leaving Williams, but she was adamant that everything was correct and so we kept following it. I couldn’t believe it when we pulled up at the hotel, it was only a mile or so from Harley Davidson where we rode back to earlier in the day, for God sake we were almost back in Flagstaff! a mere 27 miles from where we left this morning! for such a short journey today we certainly put in an awful lot of miles. The hotel did look quite nice even if it was miles from anywhere; it was set amongst the trees and had all the facilities such as pools and gyms etc and a nice little restaurant on the second floor. After we had checked in, showered, changed and calmed down a little we decided not to ride back into Williams where it was all happening and but to stay here and have something to eat, the food looked excellent and they also had a duo playing in the bar for a little entertainment, it was a wise move in the end the food was well worth the plaudits and we were able to relax at the bar afterwards with a couple of beers before calling it a night.
DAY TWELVE WILLIAMS TO LAS VEGAS
This was the day that we had put in the trip as an extra, as obviously Las Vegas is not on Route 66 but to make sure that we don’t miss any of the route out we will be riding the 66 to Kingman then taking the 93 to Las Vegas and then tomorrow we will ride back to Kingman to complete the loop of 66 that we could have missed before heading to stay the night in Laughlin. The trip from Williams to Las Vegas should be somewhere around 250 / 300 miles so we knew we were in for a tough one as this was pretty much all desert until we get there.
Alarm set for an early start and off we rode, along this section of 66 we came across an old diner / come gift shop called Hackberry Cafe, it looked like your typical beaten up pitstop complete with old petrol pumps and rusting old wrecks lying around the place, this cafe has featured on many a Route 66 calendar and did make for some excellent photo opportunities for ourselves
With yet more trinkets finding a tight space in Claire’s tardis bag we set off to Vegas, the ride was nice and easy passing through some lovely mountainous parts, almost like the highlands of Scotland only with heat. Once into Vegas itself the traffic started to get very busy and they took no prisoners either, you had to make your decisions quickly and stick to them otherwise you would get cut up by cars or lorries weaving in and out of the lanes, thankfully the sat nav didn’t mess us about on this occasion and took us directly to the Excalibur Hotel.
HC Travel did us proud on this one it was like staying in the castle at Disneyland, with its multi colored turrets springing up at every turn. Once we found a place to park our bikes I was volunteered to go and check us in while Claire had a cigarette, I went armed with all the paper work and bits and pieces that I needed and headed for the nearest door, I walked up the slope and into an immense complex filled as far as the eye could see in every direction with gambling machines and playing tables of all descriptions I wandered aimlessly through all this mayhem trying to find the check-in desk, there were bikes and cars on display that were just lost like toys amidst the vastness of it all, with the help of an assistant I was able locate the check-in desk and joined the back of a very long queue to wait my turn to get booked in. After a while I walked away with a card-key and details of our room being No 42 on the eighteenth floor of tower two. Finding my way back to Claire was no easy task, luckily from where we had parked the lifts for tower two were only a short distance to struggle with the very heavy bags so it wasn’t long before we were standing at the window in our room admiring the view which also took in the outside pool area itself quite a complex.
We showered and changed and went for a look round, all the footpaths were joined by bridges over the roads, most of them having escalators up and along and down similar to those they have at airports. This was great to begin with but after a while it did make getting around twice as long as it should have. The sights were incredible, they had built a replica New York Street complete with the Statue of liberty, they even had their own Eiffel Tower in the distance, the lights and the colours were stunning and this was in the day!
People dressed up in crazy outfits that you could have your picture taken with (for a tip of course). We happened upon the Hard Rock Cafe and decided to go in for a drink as it was so hot, somehow this drink turned into two ‘hurricanes’ complete with souvenir glasses, we both strolled out of there with quite a buzz, I can tell you! We were trying to stay incontrolled to make it back for six, as we had booked ourselves in to see ‘The Tournament of Kings’ which was a show complete with dinner that was to take place at an arena on the bottom floor of the hotel. The huge sand arena in the middle was surrounded by seats and tables divided into ‘Countries’ and each section was supposed to cheer for their particular King in the tournament, the entertainment was very good it has to be said and they certainly knew how to get the audience to participate with proceedings, the food was also unique as it came without and knives an forks, in true medieval style everyone was expected to eat the food with their hands. It made for quite a challenge with soup for starters and a whole chicken with vegetables for the main course, you had to enter into the spirit of it all and it was good fun, the jousting tournament definitely got the crowd shouting. It was something unusual for us and I have to say we thoroughly enjoyed it. We made sure to book the earlier show to allow us to go out on the streets afterwards to see all the famous lights, we must have wandered for a few miles at least it felt like it, the sights were something else and bought with them a sense of unrealism it was like being in some kind of Disney dream, we did find the Harley Davidson cafe before for moving onto to find Caesars Palace, at every turn there was something new and interesting to look at, but by 10:30 tiredness was getting the better of us so we decided to head back to the hotel for the night in readiness to set off early tomorrow to miss the mad traffic, We set the alarm for 5:30
DAY THIRTEEN LAS VEGAS TO LAUGHLIN
On paper this was only a short journey of 90 miles to Laughlin but we had decided to go back to Kingman and have Harley Davidson take another look at Claire’s light, as the bulb they put in at the Harley Grand Canyon was causing her fuel gauge and rear lights not to work. The guy there agreed to have a look at it although he didn’t seem to be all that technical.
He disappeared into the shop and came back with another bulb, the odd thing was when he took the other one out, the fuel gauge and lights all worked properly again, he then put the new one in and it caused the same fault as the old one. Anyway he said we should report the fault at LA and let them sort it out, as there wasn’t much else he could do. We thanked him for his trouble of which he didn’t charge and we were once again on our way, we hadn’t solved the problem but at least we knew what was causing it.
We rejoined the loop of Route 66 that we had missed out yesterday. I’m so glad we decided to go back and do the section as the riding was awesome, in fact I would say so far it is probably my favorite bit. The road to Oatman went up through the hills, it was windy U-bends and S-bends with sheer drops on one side making its way up through, over and down the other side of what I believe was called Sigman Pass, for me, this was fantastic riding with some breathtaking views,
we eventually emerged at the former gold mining town of Oatman which was like walking into a film set for an old style cowboy movie. You could almost picture the scene back in the day, wandering freely up and down the high street were several ‘Burro’s’ otherwise known as Donkeys, these were direct descendants of the Burros that used to work the mines when the town was first established and then set free once all the gold had been mined.
Oatman owes its survival today to the burros, apparently it’s because of them that the tourist come here and the tourists in turn enable the gifts shops to stay in business so the Burros are still free to roam around anywhere they please today, and believe me they do! We wandered around the shops picking up more goodies to squash in the bags before we moved on. Yet more desert awaited us and the heat was almost unbearable, even with cooling vest and neck ties it was still extremely hot, any areas of skin that were exposed to it were getting fried! We made it through to Needles and then onto Bull City by now very tired and tortured by the heat. Positive that we should have been turning right to Laughlin the sat nav is insisting that we go left for the hotel, so putting our trust in the sat nav we turn left and keep riding …..20 miles later on the road back toward Las Vegas! we pulled in at a petrol station. Now extremely grumpy and pissed off as it becomes clear that the sat nav has taken us on a completely pointless detour and we have to go back on the twenty-miles that we have just come to get to Laughlin, I was not happy I can tell you especially as I did question it, but there was no point losing it now that wasn’t going to help, we just have to bite our lips and get on with it.
Sometime later in the searing heat we finally pull into another gambling Mecca the ‘Aquarius Hotel’ and park miles from the entrance as it was the only space available. I go to check us in and pick up a trolley to load our bags onto as it was such a long way from the door. I was met by a spotty bell boy who refuses to let me have a trolley, he say’s that if something were to happen to a customer while pushing the trolley the hotel would be at fault, consequently only the bell boys are allowed to have the trolley’s and for a small tip he would be quite happy to come and get our bags and take them up to our rooms, I told him where he could stick his company policy, we have travelled hundreds of miles through blistering heat and I would like a trolley to put my own bags on and push it to the room myself what is the problem with that? “No sir…can’t do that sir” If it was possible to be any grumpier than I already was then this jumped up little s@%t was pushing me to it, and out of principle now I will not pay him one dime and chose to drag our bags across the car park through the lobby to the lifts and up to the fourteenth floor. What sort of hotel treats its paying guest like that? If I remember when I get home I’m going to write a letter of complaint for what its worth. Laughlin seemed to be a poor mans Las Vegas, people save up all year to come here, blow all their money gambling and then go home to save up and do it all again the following year, I just don’t get it?. What kind of holiday is that?
Laughlin did have a nice river running through it but after that there wasn’t much else to report unless you wanted to be stuck to a one arm bandit all night, we did have a brief go just to say we had but we couldn’t really work out what you were supposed to do, it seems everyone here already knows all the rules even through they’re not written down anywhere …nope…I just don’t get it!. We had a Chinese meal in the hotel had a few beers and then went back to out room for an early night as tomorrows little jaunt is going to be roughly 250 miles of pure desert.
DAY FOURTEEN LAUGHLIN TO VICTORVILLE
We knew today was going to be riding almost entirely through desert, the Mojave Desert to be precise and even though we set off at six in the morning it was still hot, we had remembered to soak the cooling vests and neck coolers before we set off but something that we have also been doing each morning was to prove a savior today.
Once our bikes are loaded up, and we are rolling, we make sure to fuel up at the nearest petrol station before we set off as a matter of course, we also buy a bottle of ice cool pop each and a small bag of ice. I have kept one of my saddle bags free for the sole purpose of housing the cooling vests and neck coolers and a bag of ice, it does tend to melt as we go along but at a reasonable rate, this not only keeps the vest cool until we need them but also provides some ice-cold water to dunk them in after a while and keeps the pop cool.
We were not long into this trip before the vest came out; the trick is to keep a long sleeve shirt on over the top as this prevents the cooling vest from drying out. Before we began Route 66 we kind of imagined long stretches of road disappearing into the distance as far as the eye could see with nothing else in sight but distant mountains as the typical vision of how the route might be, well this was certainly that! A straight road to the horizon in each direction and nothing but desert in-between. Once actually riding these roads it takes on a slightly different phase, for the first hour of this you are in awe of it, you are actually here riding the dream, but let me tell you after that when the heat is scorching every part of you even with the cooling aids on, with no shade whatsoever it starts to get a little tedious and you know you have to keep going in it with little or no respite, if you stop you’ll just fry! It makes you wonder once again how people coped with this section back in the day. We ended up dunking our vests three or four times in the ice water to keep them cool. There was only one stop in the middle of all this and that was ‘Roy’s Cafe’ which served as a cafe and a petrol station, we had a brief stop here to take some pictures and let the bikes cool off a little under the forecourt canopy, the first bit of shade we had seen for miles. After a short break we cracked on through much of the same except it got hotter! Now we were willing signs for Victorville to appear, once the I 40 met back up with 66 civilization began to reappear Ludlow and Newberry Springs, these were one horse towns where someone had shot the horse, nothing to write home about other than some ramshackle buildings and it has to be said the worst paving conditions of 66 we have experienced on the trip so far with huge divots and potholes along miles of the road, meaning at best we could only do 20 mph and still risked coming off the bikes at that.
We decided that for our own safety we should get on the I 40, it runs along beside old 66, right up until Barstow. We didn’t want to miss traveling on the actual road but this section was not suitable for motorbikes at all. At Barstow the old fueling up problem reared its head again and we ended up leaving two petrol stations because we couldn’t get the pumps to work before eventually finding one that would play the game. After that it was just a case of getting to Victorville, it proved to be quite a sizable place and unfortunately our route took us through a lot of industrial areas which didn’t give us a good first impression. After what seemed like an eternity we finally arrived at ‘The Comfort Inn’ around two in the afternoon, early enough to do our laundry and lounge by the pool until it was done, ah yes that is the way to wind down from an extremely hot day in the desert.
Later we showered and went out for something to eat before wandering around the local shopping malls; one side we could walk to on foot, the other side required taking the bikes. By late evening we’d had just about had enough and to be honest there was very little else to do so we went back to the hotel.
DAY FIFTEEN VICTORVILLE TO SANTA MONICA PEIR
Ok, so this was going to be it, the day we complete Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. With our usual early start, bikes packed fueled up and off we went, We had been hearing a lot about LA traffic and how mad the drivers are and how they just cut you up and the don’t have time for the motorcyclist, but I hadn’t really given it much thought because we had successfully negotiated our way through Chicago and Las Vegas and I can’t believe it could be any crazier than that.
But what I hadn’t reckoned on was that Claire had allowed the worries to build up and let them turn into a little monster, it was only once we’d turned off the I15 and rejoined old 66 that I was even aware of just how nervous she was, she was literally shaking, we had travelled already 1000′s of miles to get to this point and I didn’t think the I15 was particularly bad but Claire had worked herself up over it and it probably seemed ten times worse than it actually was. Thankfully after a short break she recovered herself enough to carry on, we would not have to go on any more interstate now until after Santa Monica Pier she was relived about that.
We cracked on over the hills through California and into the Los Angeles suburbs. what seemed like a short distance on the map seemed to double in time when riding it,
the sat nav did its usual trick of taking us off on need-less loops here and there before a brief stop at ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery’.
Claire wanted to try to find where Marilyn Monroe was buried, Although they have a lot of very famous people buried here we later found out Marilyn Monroe was not one of them, it was very interesting to have a look a round if you like that sort of thing, from the entrance to Hollywood Forever we caught our first glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign on the distant hills.
We had faithfully followed the frustrating sat nav’s pre programmed Route 66 from the beginning but as we now approached the end of the route it directed us off Santa Monica Boulevard before we reached the pier and took us to what appears to be the entrance to the freeway on Lincoln Boulevard and shows us the checkered flag as having completed Route 66, apparently Lincoln Boulevard is Officially considered the end of the trail by the purists, although it was not the razzmatazz fanfare ending we would have hoped for it was still a fantastic feeling to have officially completed the route.
After taking some pictures we decided that we would complete the Route that is recognised from a tourist Route 66 point of view and travel down Santa Monica Boulevard and ride right onto the pier and that it’s precisely what we did.
We pulled onto the pier car park at around two in the afternoon, we hugged, kissed and congratulated each other, 3192 miles to get to this point, we had at last made it onto the pier. We had one little ceremony to perform and that was to drop the stones that we had taken from the shore of Lake Michigan into the sea off the pier at Santa Monica, it was quite sad and emotional, I wasn’t expecting that,
we took plenty of photos before checking out some of the souvenir stands especially the one at the start of the pier which has a sign saying ‘Route 66 end of trail, and T-shirts to mark the occasion. We also managed to track down the Will Rogers Highway brass plaque which is yet another marker for the end of the trail and take yet more pics.
WE HAVE DONE IT, THREE YEARS IN THE MAKING, all the work and effort that we have both put in to making this happen and here it is at last, WE HAVE COMPLETED ROUTE 66 and what a fantastic adventure it has been, it really was a trip of a life time. It was a peak into America’s back yard and we loved it. We saw the good, the bad and the ugly. it would have been the easiest thing in the world to divert people around the parts that were rough and ready but you get it all here, an unashamed look at how it is warts and all, it was a real honour and a pleasure to ride it. We would like to thank First Class Motorcycle Training in Plymouth for getting us through our tests and HC Travel for their help in organising this fantastic trip for us and helping us realise a dream
Having achieved what we wanted to do we decided that now we are in LA we must do the tourist thing and check out some of the obvious stuff like the hand prints at the Chinese theatre and the walk of stars, it wouldn’t do just to go to the hotel now and hand the bikes over tomorrow and that would be that, we have only got this evening to do any sightseeing so we have to make the most of the time we have left with the bikes.
We set of to try to get to Hollywood Boulevard and the Chinese theatre, the time now was 4:30 and LA traffic was just kicking in, every which way we turned it was at a standstill, there were traffic lights on every block and even when they were on green you couldn’t go across because the cars in front had not moved it was grid lock, we tried to get on the interstate only to find that was even worse, how does anyone ever get around in this place?, I have been to LA a few times before but I don’t remember the traffic being as bad as this, in the end we decided to pull into a shopping mall and give it a couple of hours to get where its going and then try again, We emerged sometime later to discover it hadn’t changed and everywhere was still ‘chocka block’, undaunted we said ‘we’ve come this far we have to stick it out’ four hours later we finally get to the turning for the Chinese theatre only to find they have blocked off the road and were sending all the traffic on a wild detour and we eventually ended up at the far end of the walk of stars with the first star in sight, I was determined to get at least one picture and beckoned Claire to pull over. We reversed our bikes into a free space and were about to go and take some pictures when we noticed quite a few unsavory characters not only admiring our bikes but also the bags strapped to them with all our worldly goods in.
It didn’t take much for us to finally give in and head for the hotel, the sun was going down now and it was getting late and we still had to make our way out to the airport. Claire put the address of the hotel in the sat nav and away we went, very grumpy and very tired. (Queue the sat nav) it seems to recognise when we are in such a state and proceeds to wind us up by taking us on wild goose chases.
The hotel was apparently only seven miles away when we set off, and here we are for the third time on the interstate in the dark and Claire with no lights, I am now freezing and literally chuntering on the bike, I swear if I could have taken the sat nav off Claire’s bike and stamped on it right then, I would have. We really didn’t need this now, the interstate was now living up to the reputation we had heard about, crazy manic drivers cutting in between us in the dark it was no fun I can tell you, it was dangerous! It is a pity to have such a frustrating end to what was a momentous day for us, but what could we do.
We arrived at the Crown Plaza Hotel at 9:00, freezing cold, extremely pissed off and very tired. Thankfully Claire checked us in while I stayed with the bikes, it turns out it’s another bell boy operation and we are not allowed to have a trolley to load our bags unless we pay a tip for someone to do it for us, I was not in the mood to deal with that.
Not for the first time on this trip we dragged our very cumbersome bags through the lobby of the hotel, to the lift and onto our room; I was not a happy bunny! We cheered up later as they did have a takeaway pizza place in the hotel and we sat in our room and stuffed our faces.
The following day having cleared all our bits and pieces off the bikes we took them on the short ride via the petrol station to Eagle Rider which could only have been two miles away.
After we had parked up a couple of guys came out to give the bikes the once over and make sure we hadn’t damaged anything, we did tell them about the fault on Claire’s bike with the dodgy bulb, other than that they were happy that everything was in order. I did offer them $10 each for the bikes as now they were second-hand and we’d be happy to take them off their hands but unsurprisingly they weren’t going for it.
They had been excellent bikes for us, ideal for a trip like that, they had given us very little trouble and we both thoroughly enjoyed riding them and it really was sad to wave goodbye. At the front desk we completed all the paperwork, bought yet more T-shirts before getting a taxi back to the hotel for checkout at 12 and then onto LAX for our flight to Heathrow at 5pm.
If you have enjoyed this Blog you might like to also read our blog called ‘route 66 the dream’, which is a blog about how we went from the original idea, learning how to ride motorcycles and passing our tests to buying big bikes to get ready for doing the actual trip on this blog:
It is a good deal longer as it has been put together over the last three/four years and does include plenty of photos, once again please leave a comment it would be much appreciated, Kind regards Alan & Claire