66 things I learned while doing Route 66

Hi all! This post is a super requested one. If you have been following me on the last year, you will know that I traveled a lot more than I expected across the US. And my main travel adventure thus far was doing Route 66! I did this with 3 people who were my companion for 8 days on the road. I could not visit Chicago with them because I only joined later (while they were in Chicago, I was in Finger Lakes, Upstate NY) so my reviews about Chicago will be very short. This is not your typical Route 66 post with travel tips (I’ll leave a link for a board on Pinterest with good resources in the end of the post), rather it’s more what I learned from doing this during my PhD in the last week of August. Stay tuned!

Chicago Route 66 A Pulgarita
So, the adventure began in Chicago, August 24th 2017. I’m not that good at pointing.
  1. It’s quite cool to drive an automatic car. Even for a scary, crazy driver like me.
  2. The Lonely Planet Route 66 guide is a cool resource, and quite cheap too.
  3. Do not rent hotels in advance. They become way cheaper if you book them on the day, and also you know better where to sleep after such a long day driving.
  4. Do this with a reasonable amount of people if you are on a short schedule. We were 3 drivers, each one of us drove for about 4h each day.
  5. Be aware that car rentals will charge you a pretty heavy amount for not returning the car at the same airport. We only learned about this upon picking up the car in Chicago and it was $1000 more expensive than we thought.
  6. Pack very light. And in case you need to have some supervisor meetings like I did, be aware you need space for your laptop.
  7. A lot of Route 66 was replaced by highways.
  8. If you’re into making detours to visit some natural parks, have the Passport of National Parks app in handy to find where to go and to stamp your passport.
  9. Plan for 2 days in Las Vegas, and if you choose to go to Grand Canyon, it’s quite a long drive.
  10. Have offline maps and probably a paper map.IMG_20170824_210426.jpg
  11. Route 66 has 2448 miles (3939 kilometers).
  12. It passes through 8 states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California
  13. The Bean sculpture in Chicago is quite cool for taking pictures of yourself.
  14. Illinois has weird statues and abandoned diners, like the Space Man.
  15. Springfield is the capital of Illinois. Route 66 passes through Springfield, Missouri as well.
  16. Springfield, Illinois is where Abraham Lincoln started his career as a lawyer. There is an Historical National Park preserving the neighborhood he lived in.
  17. Saint Louis, Missouri has a huge arch, the Gateway Arch, considered the “Gateway to West”.
  18. The typical dish from St. Louis is fried ravioli. Yummy!
  19. Meramec Caves, Missouri, were the hideout of famous criminal Jesse James.
  20. Kansas is the state with the shortest path of Route 66, only 13 miles long.
  21. In Kansas you can find the Rainbow Bridge.Route 66 Missouri
  22. A few miles across Oklahoma, in the town of Vinita, you can eat an awesome chicken fried steak at Clanton’s Cafe.
  23. The blue whale statue and lake is in Catoosa, Oklahoma.
  24. Tulsa, Oklahoma, used to be the Oil Capital of the World.
  25. Oklahoma City suffered the first main terrorist attack in the United States in 1995.
  26. El Reno, Oklahoma, is where I ate the BEST burger in the US so far: the fried onion burger at Johnnie’s.
  27. In Shamrock, Texas, our motel had Texas shaped waffles.
  28. The best steak in the US so far is in Big Texan, Amarillo, Texas.
  29. In this restaurant, you might enter the challege of eating a 72 oz (approximately 2 kg) steak in less than 1h. If you do so, the steak is free.
  30. You have buried Wolkswagen beetles and Cadillacs in the respective ranches in Texas. You have paint cans to sign your visit.
  31. However, you can find snakes there. One of my friends ran for her life.A Pulgarita Cadillac Ranch Texas
  32. Tucumcari, New Mexico, was a native American settlement and it’s one of the most iconic towns in Route 66. Really worth a stop.
  33. New Mexico is known as the rattlesnake state. We were very aware of this at the El Malpais National Monument, which we almost didn’t visit because I heard a snake whistling and we ran to the car.
  34. Albuquerque, New Mexico, is where Breaking Bad was shot. You can go outside the Walter White house, but it’s a residential area so be quiet. It seems there are people that still throw pizzas at the house.
  35. A little outside Albuquerque, the Petroglyph National Monument is worth a stop, with symbols carved into volcanic rocks by Native Americans.
  36. In New Mexico, it’s illegal for a woman to put gas in a vehicle or to change a tire. Let’s say I broke the law there and I’m not ashamed.
  37. In the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, it’s easier to find snakes inside the visitor center than in the actual park.
  38. Route 66 used to pass through the park above.
  39. In Petrified Forest, you can find fossilized tree logs. This is the second time I saw this, with the first being when I visited Vila Velha de Ródão, Beira Baixa, Portugal, on this IntraRail trip.
  40. Just book yourself a night on a teepee in Wigwam Motel, Arizona. This motel inspired the Cars Disney movie and it is so cool! This was actually my only request during the trip.
  41. In Holbrook there is a cool saloon with a country music jukebox called Empty Pockets.
  42. Speaking of jukeboxes, also in Holbrook, go to Winners Circle to put music on the jukebox. We even put Portuguese songs from Xutos e Pontapés.IMG_20170829_184720.jpg
  43. Driving to Grand Canyon is long. Please don’t do it in the same day you want to make a detour to Vegas.
  44. However, the detour is totally worth it. Such a shame it was in a cloudy day.
  45. The Meteor Crater in Arizona was caused by the crash of a 50 meter long nickel iron meteorite, a quite rare kind, about 50,000 years ago.
  46. Las Vegas is hot…as hell.
  47. All hotels will have a casino. Place your bets!
  48. If you’re in Vegas and it happens at the time you have a 8am Skype meeting with your Portuguese supervisor, even him will send you back to sleep.
  49. Vegas is overrated in my opinion. Well, after 2 days you did all the gambling and partying. Let’s say it was funnier to drink margheritas.
  50. In Vegas there’s burger restaurants with drunken milkshakes. Way too heavy.
  51. Driving through Arizona in August is hard. Hot, thunderstorms, and lots of wind. I never saw a thunder as close in my life as when I was driving.A Pulgarita Grand Canyon Arizona
  52. The California section of Route 66 is quite desertic. Amboy must have been the warmest place I’ve been to.
  53. You truly need to stop by Calico Ghost Town, an abandoned old silver mining town.
  54. The first McDonald’s was opened in San Bernardino, California, in 1940.
  55. However, this location doesn’t work anymore as a restaurant and is now a museum of McDonald’s artifacts.
  56. Los Angeles is HUGE.
  57. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is quite fun. However, it’s hard to park close.
  58. Beverly Hills houses are way too fancy.
  59. Going up the Hollywood hill to photograph the sign is quite of a steep climb with a car.
  60. Santa Monica Pier has the “End of the Trail” sign
  61. Go to a small kiosk there to buy yourself your Route 66 completion diploma!
  62. The water in the Pacific ocean is warm, but not as warm as I thought.
  63. Spend a few days exploring the beaches in the LA area. The Venice Beach boardwalk is trippy, while Manhattan Beach is more upscale.
  64. I slept for the first time in my life at an Hilton in Malibu because of a huge discount. So good after so many days on the road to sleep on a super comfy bed. Don’t forget I’m not luxury style at all and a very middle class girl.
  65. I might have had almost all the burger and fried food chains tried during the trip.
  66. I was in doubt about going. I was pretty broke after (but still with cash to go to Montreal, which will be next month’s travel post btw). I don’t regret it at all. Thank you to the two persons who convinced me to go through brute force =D
We made it! September 1st 2017. Well, the bad pointing didn’t change in 8 days on the road

Do you have more questions? I’m happy to answer them all. And I just had this idea out of the blue…of doing a Live Q&A on Twitter! Let’s have a chat about Route 66? I used to love travel chats when I first started the blog and always wanted to have mine focused on travels for grad students and other academics. I want to do this a monthly thing once I release a travel post. Please follow me there and use the #gradschooltravelchat (this time, also with #route66) to post questions. I’m happy to chat with you on Wednesday, January 10th, at 2PM EST (= 7PM GMT). I never did a travel chat before as a host and I’m creating mine now. If you don’t have Twitter, please send me DMs on Facebook or Instagram and I’ll answer your questions live. I’d really like to have you over there!

Would you love to do Route 66? Let me know! In the meantime, don’t forget to follow my PhD journey in the US in FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest to keep up to date!


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Route 66 A Pulgarita


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