Tag archives for Route 66

It took me all day to drive across Los Angeles. Friends warned me about the traffic but after so many days of solitude in the dry and empty desert, I had forgotten the feel of a city. Los Angeles is a city of cars, built for cars. People are second-class bystanders to the rivers of…

In early May, the Colorado River separates Arizona from California with a painted stripe of transparent turquoise. The blue water glowed in the sun and the black pavement on the bridge sent up waves of heat that felt pleasant at first, then oppressive. I had the whole desert to cross, but honestly, all I wanted…

I’ve never met a college town I didn’t like. There’s something about all that youthful energy bubbling up through a flat grid of streets, the free-flowing music from open windows and the shiny chrome bumpers plastered with psychedelic stickers proclaiming bands or bold mottos. On any given night, humble bungalow houses transform into epic parties…

“Don’t forget Winona,” says the song, but honestly, when I drove into Winona, there wasn’t a whole lot there  to forget. I mean, I saw the sign that said “Winona” and the old iron bridge, but the rest of the town seemed more like a spacious and sleepy suburb of Flagstaff (Sorry, Winona). Had I…

It’s amazing I didn’t crush the little guy. He was such a tiny little animal—smaller than my camera and smaller than the stuffed toys they sold at Wal-Mart. Zipped up inside my sweatshirt, the puppy barely moved, though he did stick is head out for a peek of the fluorescent-lit world of late-night shoppers that…

The dust cloud followed me all the way from Oklahoma. Red-brown, like a storm on the ground, the dust rolled over my car in endless tidal waves, pushing me outside the lines on the road. Ahead of me, a pair of red brake lights glowed in the miasma, like a pair of snake eyes, warning…

I spent nearly a week traveling Route 66 in Oklahoma and I was forever amazed by all the strange and curious things I found (like a round red barn?). Though the Sooner State is only one of eight on Route 66, its attractions are plenty. These are just a few of my personal highlights:

In Oklahoma, you can measure a restaurant by the number of cowboy hats in the room. Sunday noon at Johnnie’s Grill I only counted four, each one a foot taller than anybody’s head. The families walked in after church and everyone bowed over their food, barely talking. The police were there, too—also eating, and I…

The fur coat in my hands costs $185,000. The price tag states it clearly—the coat costs the same as a three-bedroom house in this town. But then the lady with heavy pink lipstick whispers at me, her cupped hand hushing the secret that only the two of us know, “I could probably get you half-off…

I’m not sure what’s in the water in Oklahoma, but it sure makes you sing. And dance, and act, and swing a bat. It makes you witty and dashing and beloved by all—and it makes you famous. A few minutes after crossing into “Native America” on Route 66, I veered into the small town of…

If you drive the speed limit and don’t catch any lights, you can be out of Kansas in under fifteen minutes. Only 13.2 miles of Historic Route 66 cuts through the Sunflower State, like a hyphen between Missouri and Oklahoma. In fact, most travelers take I-40 and skip the state altogether—but that’s just doing it…

“I’m gonna put you in the Clark Gable room,” she said, then handed me a single key on a plastic keychain. “You mean Clark Gable slept in there?” “Yes, he did,” answered the woman behind the desk. “He had an old war friend here in Carthage, and this is where he stayed when he came…

“The food gets better as you go west—you’ll see.” Gary nods knowingly with both hands on his knees, then leans back ever so slowly into his chair, as if he’s just revealed the theory of special relativity. His metal chair squeaks and the moppy grey dog in my lap raises her head. “Just make sure…

In Missouri, a garden hoe is the best tool for killing cobras. In the summer of 1953, Roland Parrish was working in his front yard, when a long black snake raised its head and spread its hood. One swift swipe with the hoe and the snake was dead. A week later, Roland’s neighbor Wesley saw…

“Oh, I remember the ambulance sirens!” The white-haired man shook his head and looked down at the floor, while I imagined the haunting wail and whirling red lights on the dark roadway up here in the hills of Missouri. “Oh, it was a terrible highway,” Bob continued. His wife Kathy stood next to him, silent…

The Sainte-Chapelle may be my favorite church in the world, and staring at the heavy tulips in Forest Park reminds me of those amazing stained-glass windows back in Paris, brilliant with color and the gold-trimmed spectacle of the 13th century. And yet Easter Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is no less beautiful. The…

“So, what do you remember about the road?” I ask. “Traffic!” laughs Jim, and the rest of the table echoes the word. “Traffic and more traffic! Real busy,” they add. “Narrow as hell,” says Harv, and his eyes stop, thinking back to that time in his life traveling down a road that no longer exists.…

I wanted a convertible— —a  red vintage convertible with shiny chrome rims and white leather seats. But the Enterprise at O’Hare didn’t have any of those. “You wanna Impala?” The guy asked, but it was white—and I’m allergic to renting white cars. One day on the road and white cars start looking like dirty underwear.…

There’s a piece of the road in the museum—square slabs of aged asphalt excised from west of Oklahoma City. I’ve never seen such a thing in a museum.  I have seen shrunken human heads and Tyrannosaurus teeth, polished suits of armor and a queen’s underpants, but never before have I seen a chunk of road…

Long before I ever jet set to London or Tokyo, and long before I sailed the oceans or bussed to Antarctica, I went on road trips, with my parents. Every summer we set off in our family van, rolling from one rest stop to the next, on to national parks and the beach and the…