What an incredible state! There is so much beauty here that it takes your breath away. Going through my photos, I found that I took the fewest photos while in New Mexico. But this was not because there was nothing to see – rather, it was because photos simply could not capture the majesty of this beautiful land!
That, and I discovered later that I had a fingerprint on my lens. But bear with me as I attempt to show you a few of the wonders.
Here’s a bit of info for anyone from outside the US:
each state has its own “tag line” or slogan.
That is the word or phrase that each state has chosen to describe themselves. For example, we started our journey in Illinois: “Mile After Magnificent Mile”. Missouri is the “Show Me” state. (Not sure why. Ask someone while you’re driving through.) Oklahoma has chosen “Native America”. We’ve just come through Texas, the “Lone Star State”.
New Mexico is known as “Land of Enchantment”. And truly what an enchanting land it is! New Mexico reminded me why we get off the highway and drive the Route – it’s so we can slow down and see the beauty around us. Even though the Route continues to parallel the highway, it’s like there’s a completely different landscape once you are driving amongst the rocks and cliffs.
Granted, you have a choice of routes for 66 in New Mexico. You can take the northern Route up through Santa Fe. This will add miles to your trip, but, hey, it’s a car not a horse – it won’t get tired. Or you can continue down along Highway 40. I chose Highway 40 for reasons I’ll describe later. One day I will go back to New Mexico and re-driving this part of the route so I can see Santa Fe.
Okay, yeah, so I talked a bit about this fabulous little town at the end of Texas. It’s worth mentioning again just because I loved it so much. It exists as a stop on Route 66 and is filled with motels and souvenir shops. It’s pretty and small and I loved it. If you have a quaint product to sell, you should consider setting up shop here – there are plenty of available spaces! Far too many shops stand empty, the result of the wavering tourist traffic.
At the corner of my motel was Circa Espresso – a little coffee bar that got me started in the morning. It was really chilly, too. I mean, the weather had been warming up across Oklahoma and Texas, so this cold morning caught me by surprise.
Flying C Ranch
The Route continues close enough to the highway that you can see all the billboards advertising every hotel, motel, restaurant and gas station along the way. Two big tourist attractions along Highway 40 are Flying C Ranch and Cline’s Corners. As you head west, you’ll come to the Flying C first. It’s worth stopping in!
They don’t really want to sell this magnificent stuffed buffalo, but he’s great for a photo!
And if you don’t want full sized animals, maybe you have a little wall space…
Overall, a fun place with lots of kitsch and toys and stuff to see.
This place is much larger than the Flying C Ranch and has a greater array of jewelry and souvenirs. It’s the sort of place that has contracted with the tour bus companies to bring tourists. Granted, it’s doesn’t have the same character as the Flying C, but it’s well worth the stop. They have a huge electronic sign out front advertising the various native art to be found inside. It also flashes the current temperature – while I was there that morning it was in the upper 30’s! That’s nearly freezing! It was COLD!
Have I mentioned before that when crossing multiple time zones and climates, anything can happen? This proved the importance of having plenty of layers to keep warm. I chatted with a motorcyclist – the poor guy was chilled to the bone. He said he’s never seen temperatures this cold this time of year (mid-May), but he didn’t have the luxury of stopping. I prayed for his health and safety!
I’ll tell you up front: I didn’t get any pictures of Madrid, NM. I’m bummed about this – it was such a sweet, little place.
So, is it ma-DRID, like the city in Spain? Or is it MA-drid, like in the move “Wild Hogs”? (Very funny movie, 2007, starring Tim Allen. Wasn’t actually filmed in Madrid, NM.) I didn’t get a solid answer. They have a cafe made up to look like “Maggie’s” from the movie, and they have movie posters up all over the cafe. I didn’t go in. It was so incongruous with the rest of the town that it just didn’t interest me.
I’d driven through Madrid, NM some years ago, early on a Sunday morning. This town is simply a number of shops set up on either side of the road. That early on a Sunday, the place was deserted and I really got that creepy feeling. Later that day I was driving through the other way and it was a happy, bustling place. Just shows how time of day will affect a small town! So driving down the Route, I decided to make a side trip so I could stop and see Madrid.
If you are an art collector, visit Madrid, NM!
It’s about 30 miles north of the Route, a very pretty drive in itself. The town is essentially an artist colony. But not so much a “colony” as a place where a bunch of artists set up shop to sell their work. Here you can buy original artwork from the artist. You will find jewelry, paintings, sculpture, metalwork, and more. I saw a number of items that I would have loved to take home with me – alas, my budget just didn’t allow it.
By the way, the reason that I chose to drive the southern “Route 40” leg of Route 66, rather than go up through Santa Fe, was because I had decided that if I stayed the night in Albuquerque, then I could go to a particular church on Sunday. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I did really enjoy the worship. That meant I needed to arrive on Saturday night. And, frankly, by arriving then, I could schedule my trip to arrive in CA by the following weekend, thus worshiping with dear friends on that Sunday.
Forgive me – no pictures of Albuquerque, either. This town boasts the longest “Main Street” in the US. Route 66 is Albuquerque’s main street and runs 26 miles from end to end. From the east end of town, the street numbers are declining till they reach zero right around Interstate 25. Then the numbers start increasing again as you continue west. This is important because I was having difficulty finding a couple of the restaurants/motels listed in the dining guide – and google map wasn’t helping. It wasn’t until as I was heading out of town, that I found the motel I’d originally wanted to stay at.
I stayed at the Ambassador Inn on the east side of town – and not a very good part of town, I’ll say up front. Paid only $45.30 for the night, so it was in my budget, and they had a laundry, but I wouldn’t recommend the place. It was clean and warm, but I didn’t feel entirely safe. Laundry cost a total of $3 for washing, soap and drying one load. I was pleased to have clean clothes again.
So I’d been on the road for two weeks at this point, traveling every day. This was a mistake! My recommendation to anyone and everyone traveling anywhere is that you should schedule some time to rest on Sunday. Plan on staying an extra day where ever you land so that you can recharge. I attended church on Sunday morning – and it was wonderful to worship with like minded believers – but then I continued on. And I discovered that the museums and some points of interest around Albuquerque that I wanted to see were closed on Sundays. Had I given myself an extra day to rest, I would have seen more places and enjoyed the trip more. God made us to work 6 days and rest the 7th. If you spend Sunday in worship – great! If that’s not your thing, that’s fine, too. But you need to rest.
Interstate 25 runs North/South through the entire US. That is, it runs through Denver. I was so tired that I was tempted to cut my trip short and just head home. I missed my dogs and loved the idea of saving all that money… but what about my sense of adventure? Driving the entire Route 66 at one shot is something so few people do! Plus, I had friends to see in California. So I opted to continue on.
It’s high, it’s windy, it’s a photo op. Stop and take your picture. It’s what tourists do.
So follow with me while I set up my mindset as I continued across NM. I’m loving the scenery, but I was tired. I had a fabulous breakfast in Albuqurque – Lindy’s, I highly recommend – but then I didn’t eat any more for the day. I don’t know why. I had plenty of food in the car, but I just didn’t think about it. So when I rolled into Gallup, I was frustrated that I missed out on certain museums (closed on Sunday), tired from the drive, hungry… and I could not find a place to stay. I stopped at 3 different motels. 2 of them had no one at the desk, and one was booked solid. So I decided to get some supper and use my phone to search for a place.
I love Cracker Barrel! This is a chain restaurant across the entire country. As much as I wanted to avoid chain restaurants, when you’re overly tired and hungry, this place is always a winner. And they have a great gift shop. They manage to have the feel of a country diner at every location and their food is delicious. Not too expensive, either, relatively speaking. Thing about Cracker Barrel is that they are almost always right next to a major hotel or two. I ordered supper and pulled out my phone. The hotel closest to the restaurant (across the parking lot, to be precise) was booked full. Seriously! What was going on? Was the entire country staying in Gallup, NM on that exact Sunday?! Three other hotels nearby were all out of my price range, but roughly equal in price, so I opted for the one with the best reputation that I knew: I stayed at the Hilton Hotel. With my AAA club discount, it only cost $100.85 for the room. Their service was wonderful, the people so nice, the room so big and comfortable! Also, their checkout time the next day was noon. Most places have a checkout time of 10am or 11am, so this extra hour gave me time to putter. I rose at my usual time, but I took a slow shower, I organized pictures, I played a silly computer game – in short, I rested. It was wonderful!
Outside Gallup is the Red Rock Park – here are some pictures that don’t do it justice.
And here are a few more pictures that I snapped after cleaning my camera lens.
The weather was warm, I was rested, and all was well with the world. I was ready to head into Arizona: The Grand Canyon State. Stay with me! I took the most pictures of my trip in AZ, over 600!, but I’ll try to whittle them down so you can see how fabulous it was.
As has been observed, Texas is not just a state, it’s a state of mind. There’s an openness here that you don’t feel elsewhere. And I don’t just mean a flat desert landscape with nothing between you and the horizon but a stray tumbleweed. Granted, part of my opinion is favorably flavored by previous trips to other parts of this grand state. But I’m not wrong – the people are as kind and open as you are to them.
Almost the first place I came to upon entering Texas was the U Drop Inn in Shamrock. When you step out of your car, pause and take a deep breath. Smell that Texas air – it’s faint, but you can pick up the scent of dust and hay and horses and cattle. It’s manure and sweat, but it’s freedom and life. It’s the scent of hard work and an investment in the future. Cattlemen, like farmers, learn to wait on the turning of the seasons.
The U Drop Inn, with its high tower, inspired the maker of “Cars”. The movie is constantly playing inside. It’s a tourist center now, and a portion has been made up like a 50’s diner. The folks there are so nice and have lots of information about things to see along the Route in Texas.
Moving along you’ll come to McLean. So at this point I realized there were fewer biggest/tallest and lots more museums, so I was pleased to stop by the Devils Rope Museum, which includes a section as a Route 66 Museum.
So what is Devil’s Rope? It’s barbed wire – and its history is fascinating! I had no idea there were so many types of barbed wire, nor that people actually collect it. Out front are two giant barbed wire balls.
These things are big! It’s a bit mind blowing to look at these and realize how much wire had to be coiled and twisted and rolled to make these. Inside the museum you’ll see a history of barbed wire, it’s importance and cultural relevance, and many examples of barbed wire art. One particular exhibit of interest to me was a photo history of the Dust Bowl and the Depression when hundreds fled cross country, searching for a better life west.
While you’re there, buy a bottle of “Red Mud” bbq sauce. No, buy two!
Apart from my own, this is about the best bbq sauce I have ever enjoyed –
and I don’t endorse anyone’s bbq sauce!
You already know that I tend to search out those things that are still “alive” – I don’t care for exploring ruins or ghost towns. So I don’t have any pictures of the famous “leaning water tower” outside Groom. Meh. Read about it, stop and look at it – I felt none the lesser for driving by.
But I did stop to see the giant cross.
This monument is a dedication to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Around the base of the cross are the 14 “stations”, life sized statues that depict the suffering of Christ on His crucifixion day. They are meant to help the faithful reflect on their own spiritual travel. May I suggest that, in my own humble opinion, in addition to reflecting on Christ’s suffering and death, we must ever more greatly celebrate His resurrection and life! Christ’s death paid for my sins. His resurrection gives me eternal life. If Jesus did not rise again, His death meant nothing. Reflect on Friday, but celebrate on Sunday!
Continuing down the Route, you have the opportunity to explore dirt roads and ghost towns. And open plains. Lots of open plains. And you find yourself thinking, wow! This is just a short part of the Texas Panhandle – it’s not even the big part of Texas! Everything in Texas is big – the small part is big!
Amarillo is a big enough city that I was inclined to bypass it, but it was getting on time for lunch and I’d held off grabbing a bite so I could eat at the Big Texan. This is worth veering off the Route – it’s as touristy as it gets. They advertise a free 72 oz steak – that is, if you can eat the entire 72 oz steak (that’s 4 1/2 lbs!) and the fixin’s in one hour, the meal is free. Many have tried and failed. I can’t imagine the food coma if you succeeded. I had a fabulous meal of ribs and onion rings and fries – way too much for me to eat, and that was considered a regular meal. A little on the expensive side, to my way of thinking, but, hey, it’s a tourist joint. Go and enjoy – you’re paying as much for the experience as for the food. They have a great gift shop to explore. (By the way, I never did take any pictures of my food. Eh, that’s just me.)
The Big Texan Steakhouse even has a big dinosaur out front, dressed as a cowboy. Why would they have such a thing? Because they can.
And here I thought I was done seeing big, kitschy statues.
And, of course, you absolutely cannot drive past/through Amarillo, TX without stopping by Cadillac Ranch!
I’m presuming you’ve heard of Cadillac Ranch – and I don’t mean the song by Chris LeDoux. Off the highway in the middle of a field, a line of cars buried nose down. It’s practically a Texas institution. People bring cans of spray paint to leave their mark – or use cans of paint that have been left by others. It’s almost impossible to get photos without all the people around (I did a bit of creative cropping on my photos). But I find it interesting to watch the people. How they explore, taking their photos… A couple was there with their big, long-haired dog. Apparently they have gone on road trips all over the country and take pictures of their dog in front of every landmark they come across. I love it!
Well, I’d had my lunch and seen Cadillac Ranch, so I was ready to get back on the road. It was pretty hot, too. I don’t do well in the heat! I got lost trying to find the Route in Amarillo, but once outside the city I picked it back up fairly easily. Being hot and tired, I was ready to find a place to stay. According to my dining and lodging guide, the Big Texan Motel – next door to the Big Texan Steakhouse – was a little outside my budget, so I decided I would stay in Vega. This would make for a 180 mile day, which is not a bad drive on the Route.
Hmmm, yeah, uh, well… Have you ever been somewhere and you got the oddest feeling that you shouldn’t be there? There’s nothing overt, just a feeling – the hairs on the back of your neck start standing up and that little voice in the back of your mind is telling you, “Move along, folks, nothing to see. Move along!”
That’s the feeling I got driving through Vega. Now keep in mind that at certain times of day small towns are like ghost towns. People here work and if they’re at work then the streets are empty and it’s easy to get a creepy feeling. But I didn’t care for the look of the motel, and I refused to stay in the Best Western (definitely outside the budget). So I drove on.
My plan had been to stay the night in Vega so that I could have breakfast at the Midpoint Cafe. It’s a breakfast/lunch joint with what is supposed to be a great souvenir/gift shop and I really wanted to eat there as part of my Route 66 experience. But since I was passing Vega, I needed to find someplace else to stay, and I wasn’t seeing anything east of Midpoint. I arrived at Midpoint Cafe about half hour after they closed <sigh>. Still, I got a picture!
Okay, well, both Vega, TX and Adrian, TX (Midpoint Cafe) claim to be the middle of Route 66. Either way, the sky was blue, the day was warm, and I still needed to find a place to sleep for the night. In addition, I found myself in a very long stretch where there was no cellular service – emergency only, or so my phone kept telling me. (Yeah, places like that exist.) So no just looking up websites to find a place. This is where the excitement of living wild and free, cruising down the open road with no plans to tie me down, ready for whatever – yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. It was getting real old real fast. But what do you do? You take a deep breath of freedom and keep driving.
As close as I was to the state border, I decided to head on to Tucumcari, NM. It’s a good 30 miles into NM, but I had wanted to stay at the Blue Swallow Motel – a Route 66 institution – and since I had to pass by Midpoint Cafe, this would make a good ending for the day. It made for a 250 mile day! So I was really tired! At least I wasn’t hungry – I was still full from my lunch at the Bix Texan Steakhouse. (It was big!)
I absolutely loved Tucumcari, NM! Okay, so I realize that this post is about Texas and now I’ve moved into New Mexico… bear with me while I end my day. It was great!
Found this awesome little curio shop coming into town. Something I would like you to notice in this picture: on the right is blue sky, on the left is a storm cloud. I love this kind of weather! You can watch the storm coming – which I did the entire drive west. The storm was heading south (the picture above is facing east) and I managed to get into my room and settle down for the night just as it hit. I love a good thunder storm! It was fabulous!
Although, I didn’t get into the Blue Swallow. While I was perusing the curios in the tee pee, the Blue Swallow was signing out the keys to their last room. (Remember- no plans, open road, yada yada…) But Tucumcari is the penultimate tourist town, the only thing they have more of than gift shops is motels. I drove the length of town twice, which only took 10 minutes, and decided on the Route 66 Motel on the east end of town ($45.29).
I’ll admit, I was a little put off by the sign stating “Genuine American” – after all, if you read my post on Oklahoma, you’ll know that I considered those wonderful folks from India to be just as American as myself. (I found that many innkeepers along the Route were from India.) But that aside, this motel was beautifully kept and very comfortable. There is an espresso bar on the corner of the motel where you can get a great cuppa joe in the morning when you head off.
And this is where I wrap up my tales about Texas! Next up I’ll take you with me through New Mexico and beyond! Hang in there while we keep chugging our way across the US!
Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…
If you’ve done any research on Route 66, you’ll know that this route was envisioned by Cyrus Avery back in the 1920’s. Mr. Avery was from Oklahoma, so even though a straight line from Chicago to Santa Monica would have omitted OK entirely, he made sure that the route passed through the heart of his home state. Let’s be glad he did – there is so much to see!
This was a cute, little ice cream shop shortly inside the state line from KS. I loved how they advertised that they had “The one and only Route 66 cookies sold anywhere!” It’s true – I did not see those cookies being sold anywhere else! Stop in and buy a couple cookies with your ice cream!
There was also a very cool gift shop where I bought my “Route 66 Dining & Lodging Guide”. This proved to be invaluable for the rest of my trip.
In my quest to see the biggest, tallest, etc, of course I veered away from the route to see the Totem Pole Park with it’s biggest totem pole in the world! It’s a few miles off the route, but easy to find and well worth the side trip.
There are a dozen or so different totem poles of varying sizes around this park setting. Inside the big totem is a sign with a few details:
Take some time to notice the details of the various faces around the pole – including that the pole rests on a turtle’s back.
The park is supported through donations and purchases at the gift shop. The gift shop also holds a collection of violins made by the same artist, Ed Galloway, and is well worth perusing.
Moving on, I was keeping my eye out for the famed “blue whale”. Swimming is not permitted any more, but the whale just makes you smile!
Big city! The plan was to drive through as quickly as possible, as is my habit. Still, things to see!
Drilling is a huge deal through OK. The Golden Driller is one of the most photographed icons in the city.
He’s really magnificent! He’s 76′ tall and there are a number of “fun facts” posted on signs around him.
I carefully followed the Route through Tulsa, gritting my teeth and trying to see the sights around me while still following the signs.
I almost missed this amazing statue! It’s titled “East Meets West”. I didn’t get my own photo, so this photo is borrowed from here.
I did manage to snap a shot of this big pop bottle. No idea what it’s there for, but it’s fun!
Outside Tulsa you are heading to the far edge of the Ozarks. Missouri and Oklahoma to this point have been very lush and green. OK remains green and pretty, but the weather was warming up significantly. Keep in mind that this is May, 2016. It’s mid-Spring, so for me, temps in the 80’s are getting pretty warm (remember that I left Denver in a snow storm!). We’re now transitioning to the desert climates.
I stayed at the Skyliner Motel – clean and comfortable ($63.51). When I pulled in, I had traveled the better part of 200 miles – a very long day for traveling the Route. No exploring the town for me! I went out to find supper. The Rock Cafe is considered a focal point for Stroud. Everything they serve is made from scratch and the food is delicious! I understand they’ve been featured on more than one tv food show. After eating way too much, I went back to my room and collapsed into a happy food coma.
I stopped in at the Route 66 Interpretive Center. $5 entry fee per person. I think it’s worth it. They’ll give you a tour of the facility, which used to be an armory that fell into disrepair when it was vacated. Once restored, a series of displays with short videos was set up telling about the history of Route 66. The very large back room is available for weddings and other gatherings.
Right on the route in Arcadia is a big, circular barn built in 1898. I didn’t stop to explore, but now wish I did – I understand it holds a gift shop and photographs of unusual barns around the world. This is a classic case of a time that I should have ignored the clock and just pulled over. Outside Arcadia I did stop at Pops – a fairly new diner/soda fountain with a giant soda bottle out front.
I bet you’re thinking that I didn’t stop to see anything in this big city. Okay. Guilty. This is the first major city where I just hopped on the interstate and drove through. I picked up the Route on the other side.
Of the various museums I visited on the Route, one of the best, in my opinion, was in Clinton. Here you’ll find the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum. $5 entry fee for a self guided tour. The museum is designed to tell you the history of Route 66 from concept till it’s end after WWII and how the Route affected the entire culture of America. I took my time and read every single wall plaque! I loved it!
At this point I realized that I was now visiting more museums and was seeing fewer of the “biggest, tallest” stuff. This was just fine – I was learning and seeing lots of neat stuff!
I stayed the night at the Flamingo Inn – which I chose solely for its name but turned out to absolutely love! The innkeepers, originally from India, have raised their family in the US. They take great care of the Inn, which is also where they live. The wife invited me in to their living area and showed me some furniture that they’d brought from India – a beautifully hand carved, wooden-framed bench swing. And she proudly showed me pictures of her kids who were now grown. These are Americans! People coming here to set up a business (or refurbish an icon), raise their family, make a living that they can pass on to future generations. I’m not sure what prompted her to invite me into her home that way, but I am so grateful she did! I highly recommend staying at the Flamingo Inn ($53.46).
Across the parking lot is Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant. I was rather tired and pleased to be able to sit down and order from a menu. It seems that every Mexican restaurant has the same tacos, burritos, etc, so I asked my server to recommend something that was unique, a specialty of the chef. I don’t recall what it was called – chunks of meat and vegetables swimming in the best green chile I’d ever had! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I’d eaten half the dish before it occurred to me to take a photo of it (sorry Bill!). But I did take a photo of the amazing hand-carved furniture. This was ordered from a folk artist in Mexico.
The chairs and table were all unique, colorful and beautiful! And don’t be surprised at crosses on the wall – we’ve been traveling through the Bible Belt till now. Public places were commonly decorated with Bible verses and religious memorabilia.
Before you leave Elk City – and Oklahoma – you have to visit the National Route 66 Museum. $4 if you have AAA, has a nice Route 66 exhibit. But the real draw of the place is that it is set up like an old west town, filled with “store fronts” and life sized displays. Give yourself plenty of time to wander around the entire grounds.
Texas is next! Hold on to your hats for a whirlwind ride!
It’s sumertime at last! And while it’s not the “holiday season”, summer does have its holidays. These holidays involve picnics and fresh fruits and vegetables! Gotta love a good picnic with everyone bringing something to offer and those tables weighed down with watermelon and salads and chips and all sorts of yummy stuff!
Of course, the weather is also warmer and you have to be careful that what you bring won’t go bad in the space of a couple hours if it’s not refrigerated. And you really want something easy to make. And it should be tasty, without detracting from all the other flavors at the table. This salad fits the bill on all counts!
Won’t go bad
You need something that will stand up to the heat of the day and taste just as good fresh from the fridge as later when it’s reached room temperature. Veggies do that for you. You’ll see that the only bottled ingredient is mayonnaise. Contrary to common belief, store bought mayo doesn’t ever really go bad. It’s so processed that there is actually no nutritional value that will allow bacteria to grow. (When store mayo gets old it will separate, but it will never grow mold.) Since your veggies are safe at room temperature, and the mayo is safe at room temperature, this leaves just the bacon to be concerned for. And you needn’t really be concerned for the bacon, either, since the preservatives in bacon will, well, preserve it.
Okay, so if you’re using a preservative-free bacon, cook it extra well and pull the salad out of the cooler just before the feasting begins. And if you’re using your own home-made mayo? Yeah – all bets are off. Bacteria loves the protein in the eggs and will start growing as soon as the salad reaches room temp. For the picnic, use the store bought stuff!
Totally easy to make
This recipe may look imposing with its long list of ingredients, but in reality, all you have to do is walk through the store and grab whatever you want to throw in. No measuring is involved here – use the whole can of beans, chop the whole vegetable, etc. (Don’t be silly – throw away the cores of those bell peppers.) I usually just pile everything in one side of my sink and keep rinsing, chopping and adding till the pile is gone.
Maybe you want to add a can or two of sliced water chestnuts, or add some nuts of some sort. Go for it! With all those cans and veggies, this usually makes a lot more than the picnic will use and gives me plenty of leftovers. And, yeah, cooking up a whole pound of bacon sounds like a lot, but once you start filling that bowl (use that really big tupperware bowl you were given that time – the one that doesn’t fit in the fridge very well), you’ll see that a pound is a good quantity. And, seriously, there’s no such thing as too much bacon!
Once in the bowl, you want to mix these carefully so that you don’t damage the beans. I usually just reach in with my hands and fold the ingredients gently. After I add the mayo, I’ll go back to using a wide spatula and fold till everything is well incorporated.
I developed this recipe in culinary school as part of a larger project. The mayo/dressing actually involved cooking up the bacon with onions and leeks as well as the garlic and pepper, then letting the mayo/bacon mixture rest overnight to let the flavors meld. You can go all out, but these days I’m about making it easy.
You may be thinking that you don’t care for bacon (what a sad, sad life) and you will leave it out. The bacon adds that perfect bit of saltiness and, in my opinion, really completes the flavor profile of this salad without being overwhelming. If you decide to try this without the bacon, I would suggest you sweat the garlic and onion (use fresh onion instead of dried) – maybe even caramelize them – and add them to the mayo. Let the flavored mayo sit overnight and add it just before you leave for the picnic. You might even find yourself using flavored mayo like this on your sandwiches or anywhere else you use mayo.
I love this salad! All those beans and fresh veggies – I’m going back for seconds at the picnic!
Hope this helps make your picnics just a little easier and tastier, too!
There is only 13.2 miles of Route 66 running through Kansas, but the state certainly makes the most of it!
The guys from Pixar who made the movie, “Cars”, drove a bit of Route 66 for research and inspiration. Galena is one of the towns that inspired them!
When you get out of your car to explore the block or two that comprises “downtown”, you’ll find that a local radio station is being played over loudspeakers on the street.
This wall mural looks like a giant postcard – and includes characters from the movie “Cars” in it.
Since I love things that have been saved and restored, I had to drive over Rainbow Bridge. This is the last of three “Marsh Arch” bridges (named for their designer) that used to be in Kansas. The other two no longer exist. This has been preserved.
In the 13 miles of Route 66 Kansas, there are numerous historical sites. There have been bloody mine worker strikes, murderous Civil War attacks, and there are museums to learn and remember. Kansas is a state worth exploring – but, ah, we have not the time or space to do it justice here. I have moved on.
Ooooooohhhhhhhklahoma is coming up next! Plenty to occupy us there. Farewell, Kansas!
What a beautiful state! Missouri was lush and green and, this early in the Spring, there were no bugs! (Mosquitoes and the rest come later.) When you get off the interstate and drive Route 66 through the countryside, you can really feel as though there are no cities, no bustling business. The route winds through neighborhoods and fields. Roll your windows down and breath deeply. The air is clean and filled with the scent of newly mowed lawns and freshly turned earth. People take care of their homes and will wave as you pass. Wave back – you’re neighbors here!
Big cities make my jaw ache from gritting my teeth. I drive with my tour book in my lap and am constantly checking the driving instructions against the signs posted (or not). There were so many things to see in and around St. Louis that I chose just a few and moved on.
You cannot come to St. Louis and not see the Gateway Arch. However, you are not required to pay $25 or whatever it is to park and walk around the Arch. Maybe it’s worth it for you. I used my gps to get this close and I was already tense from the traffic.
It was a warm day, so one of my stops was to visit Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. It is worthy of its great reputation! It doesn’t have organized lines – lots of people seem to be milling about waiting to order or to get their order. But wow! That was really good!
Collinsville is a suburb of St. Louis on the IL side. I found it interesting that it was not intended to advertise any particular business. In fact, it is a water tower for the town. Something tells me it never actually held catsup…
I could literally feel my shoulders relax and my jaw un-tense as I left the city. My tour books point out a great many closed businesses and ruins that show the by-gone era of Route 66’s heyday. I’m not so into that. But I love seeing businesses that have survived, or perhaps have taken a relic of the route and made it beautiful again. So I was excited to drive a little farther than usual to reach the Wagon Wheel Motel.
I’m a bit bummed that I didn’t get a picture of the sign lit up with its neon at night.
A fully delightful place to stay! Rooms range from the very small up to suites. I stayed in one of the smallest rooms ($69). There was just enough room for my suitcase next to the bed. But it was comfortable and clean. And the entire grounds had a feeling of peace and relaxation with places to sit outside under the shade trees.
Cuba refers to itself as Mural City and it is well worth the time to wander around downtown looking at all the paintings on the sides of buildings.
Big alert! The world’s largest rocking chair sits just outside a pretty decent gift shop/trading post. It’s worth the stop!
On the side of the road, watching traffic from high on the hill, is Frog Rock just outside Waynesville. I wasn’t able to get my own picture, so I have borrowed this one from here.
It was a relatively short drive from Cuba to Lebanon. Here I checked into another Route 66 classic: the Munger Moss Motel.
Clean and comfortable, and spacious enough for my sewing machine. I arrived early enough in the day that I pulled out the machine and made a few blocks. Sewing relaxes me and this was a nice afternoon for me. Munger Moss also has a nice patio on which to relax in the cool of the evening.
Wild Animal Safari, Strafford
So as I left Lebanon, I was feeling as though I may be missing a lot of stuff. The tour books have pages and pages of different things to see and explore, but I was just driving past. I don’t care to snap photos of rusty cars and empty buildings. So when I came across this Wild Animal Safari park outside Strafford, I knew I had to stop in! It was a fabulous couple hours.
Don’t be fooled – the animals aren’t all that wild. Lions and tigers and other dangerous animals are kept in their own pens, but the bus ride takes you through the park where the hoofed animals reside. You are allowed to feed them from the bus (food is available for purchase) and the animals come right up to the bus looking to be fed. It was fun!
Here I made one my best discoveries! I wanted to stay in Carthage because the next day I was taking a day trip off the Route and this was where I was picking up the northbound interstate. But I couldn’t find a place to stay. My tour book had mentioned Boots Court, but implied it was closed. I drove around, praying that God would show me where to stay. I passed Boots Court, but then I accidentally drove in a big circle and found myself in front of Boots Court again. Finally I stopped and asked if they were open for business. Yes! Of course!
It’s a small place, but Debbie, the manager, gave me a tour of each of the rooms, showing their efforts to refurbish the entire property. She shared the history, changes that had been made and fixed, and finally offered me room #6 – the room Clark Gable stayed in before WWII ($66). Wonderful!
Side trip – Hamilton, MO
I was telling a quilting friend about my trip and she asked if I was going to Hamilton, MO. I had no idea why I would, and she pointed that Hamilton is where the Missouri Star Quilt Company is headquartered. This is a fast growing internet company that has actually opened 11 different store fronts down the main street in Hamilton. The company continues to grow, too and they are determined to expand in such a way as to create more and more jobs there in Hamilton.
While I was there, I got to take a tour of their warehouse. The warehouse is currently 30,000 square feet, being expanded to 100,000 square feet! MSQC currently employs 270 people, up from 15 just 7 years ago – and this will continue to grow.
Thousands of bolts of fabric and shelves and shelves of patterns, books, tools and more! Ah, the quilts I could make with all of this!
It was a 3 hour drive from Carthage up to Hamilton, so I stayed the night at the Home Inn Hamilton, a little bed & breakfast just outside town. It was wonderful! And they had the most comfortable bed I think I’ve ever enjoyed. I highly recommend staying there. Since I was visiting MSQC, they gave me a discount on the room ($70).
On this detour, I decided to take the occasional side trip and explore various places being advertised on all the bill boards I was seeing. Jones’ Boots was not quite the megastore I was expecting from the signs, but they did have the perfect pair of black boots for me! I paid a little extra to have them shipped to my home. I also visited a pecan store and a couple quilt shops. It’s really fun to just do whatever strikes your fancy!
It’s worth noting that from St. Louis through Carthage, the weather was warming up to the upper 70’s and lower 80’s. Driving north to Hamilton, I drove through some pretty heavy thunderstorms and experienced some cooler weather. This is why it is necessary to have plenty of layers of clothing on hand. It all changes so rapidly! Personally, I love waking to a chill, misty morning, driving out through the rain, and ending the day in bright sunshine and warm weather.
Since I’d spent a little extra time in Hamilton, I decided to stay in Carthage at the Boots Court again. Happily, room #6 was available ($66).
And here we leave Missouri, laden down with memories and other treasures. It felt good to get back on Route 66 and continue my primary adventure.
Next up: Kansas!
I’ve been trying to think of the best way to relate my travels and adventures, while still keeping my posts easy to track. I mean, I love being all Miss Creative Writer with “The Dream is Still Alive” and all that, but that’s not terribly organized for you, my reader. So I’ve decided to list out my travels state by state. We’ll see if that helps. Since I started in Chicago, we’ll begin with Illinois! Go figure.
Now, I’ve already had a post about my initial beginning, but for those of you only just joining us, here is the state of Illinois as a whole:
As you read, you will find that not only do I not care for big cities, but I will actually avoid them at all costs. I couldn’t avoid Chicago entirely, though – it’s the beginning! So I drove to the starting point, snapped a couple pictures of the “Begin” sign, and moved on. I never even got out of my car in the entire city of Chicago. Granted, as far as cities go, Chicago is fabulous! And if I had the time, money and the tour guide, I’d spend some time there. Not this trip, though. Moving on!
A very pretty little town and very proud of being what they consider as the start of Route 66. They have a very nice museum there.
Personally, I was thinking to myself that I needed to make some miles on this, my first day. So I moved on pretty quickly. But this is a town worth further exploration.
Wilmington – Braidwood – Gardner – Dwight
In Wilmington you can see the Gemini Giant, one of 3 “Muffler Men” giants in IL. The Launching Pad Drive In restaurant, in front of which he stands, is no longer open.
But the Polka Dot Drive In, in Braidwood, is still open and dishing up classic burger and fries. It was fun to see some of the characters around the place, too.
Most of IL had really good markers pointing out Route 66. Gardner is the first place where I saw it painted on the road!
About this point, I had decided to call it a day. After all, I’d actually driven 3 hours from Indianapolis to the starting point in Chicago. I then spent several hours driving and exploring from Joliet onward. I pulled up my trusty bookings app and reserved a room at a motel in Dwight. Here I learned my first lesson: not all motels use the common websites to advertise (booking.com, travelocity, etc). I was a little concerned that I was overspending my budget on my first night out, so I prayed that God would simply show me how to save money moving forward. As I pulled up to my reserved motel, I saw a motel literally across the street advertising half the price! I cancelled the original reservation and got my cheaper room ($46).
Throughout my trip God has guided me so that I have remained safe and secure.
Okay, so the room smelled really strongly of the chemical disinfectant they used. But it was clean, and I just left the door open for a bit to air the place out. I slept comfortably and started off fresh the next day. I even started with a tasty breakfast at a Route 66 diner just down the road.
There is an adorable gift shop and photo opportunity. A little pricey compared to later gift shops, but the woman there was so nice and so fun to talk with!
Amazing town! They have a fabulous museum (free) and murals on buildings around town. I also got a picture with Abe Lincoln. Every time I started to drive away, I saw something else that I wanted to photograph.
The only photos you will regret are the ones you didn’t take!
I didn’t see or do anything particularly notable here. I just like the name. Towanda! Say it loud – with gusto – and throw your hands in the air! TOWANDA!!
Big city alert! Move along, folks. Nothing for us here.
Tiny gift shop, but fabulous Maple Sirup. They explain why it’s spelled “sirup” instead of “syrup”.
It’s another Muffler Man giant!
This town is large enough that I would normally avoid it as a “big city”, but it had the World’s Largest Covered Wagon with a giant Abe Lincoln sitting in the driver’s seat. How cool is that! Lots of other stuff to see and do here, but I moved on pretty quickly.
Our third Muffler Man! He stands outside the Lauterbach Tires shop and he used to hold a tire in one hand. I rather like the American flag.
Okay, so, technically, according to my arbitrary definition, this is a big city, too. But I was on the far side of exhausted so I asked around at the restaurant where I had dinner and I was directed to the Route 66 Motel. Room was clean, no chemical smell, but the whole place was overwhelmingly done in a Route 66 motif. Well, what would you expect from the “Route 66 Motel”? $72 for the night.
Okay, so this town isn’t even listed on the “Here It Is” map! That’s a shame, it should be listed. They have a classic, beautiful town square with businesses surrounding a park in the middle. They have their nod to Route 66, but it’s not the foundation of the town. I found this place very refreshing! They have this little pizza joint right on one corner in the town square that is fabulous! $7 for their all you can eat pizza buffet. Totally worth blowing the diet for this!
And here we leave Illinois – that is, the next major stop is St. Louis, MO. So that will be the next post. This covers 2 1/2 days of travel. I have not mentioned the beauty of the landscape nor the enjoyment in viewing so many towns and neighborhoods along the way. This is something that must be experienced. Photos just cannot do justice. I rested where I wanted and explored when it took my fancy. This is the freedom afforded by a road trip – and such was the freedom sought on Route 66 by so many since 1926, 90 years ago!
Watch for my next post as we move on to Missouri.
The American Dream is all about starting with a little and, by means of hard work and perseverance, turning that little into a lot. Or even just turning it into a comfortable life for your family. Some people drive Route 66 so that they might see the remnants of a by-gone era. They want to see the ghost towns of America – evidence of how the “greatest generation” used to live. And these are certainly plentiful on Route 66. Others want to step back in time and see if they might relive these glory days. They drive down the Mother Road, ignoring the interstate highway thundering past. They might even put on the oldies station and sing along to the radio.
I am neither of these. I am driving Route 66 in an effort to step away from my normal life, to be certain. This is affording me the chance to slow down, to travel without a schedule and with no deadlines. But what I search for is both more elusive and amazingly plentiful. I am seeing Small Town, USA in all its glory – thriving, even. I am seeing that the American Dream is still alive in these towns along the Route. Maybe they no longer rely solely on America’s Main Street for their livelihood. But American ingenuity is strong and well for those that are determined to find a way!
So far I have traveled across Illinois and Missouri. The Route through Illinois is clearly marked and very easy to follow. It’s not as well marked in Missouri, but then, the Show Me state has more distance between towns than IL. In MO I have been relying far more on my guide books. But if you keep your eyes open, there is so much beauty to be seen! Traveling into and through the Ozarks is breathtaking! Pull off the road and take some time to look across the amazingly green expanses around you.
I tend to stop at just about every Route 66 gift shop along the way! Just as I was despairing that every shop had all the same stuff, I came across the Route 66 Visitor Center just west of St. Louis, MO. In addition to the “same ol’, same ol'”, they had a number of very cool, unique gift items. In an effort to save money and space, I’m largely limiting myself to postcards and lapel pins. This shop had unique samples of both that I have not been finding in other shops throughout MO. It also had a very cool display of photos and artwork relating to the history of Route 66. It’s totally worth seeing!
I just love looking at the giants along the Route, and the “World’s Biggest” anything! These are almost always outside businesses and are intended to draw visitors – whether Route 66’ers or otherwise. This is the kind of ingenuity I just love! Here are a few I’ve seen so far.
I’ve added pictures to the Route 66 photo gallery, here. I’ve visited a Wild Animal Safari park. And I’ve taken a day trip (that took 2 days) up to Hamilton, MO to visit the Missouri Star Quilt Company. (It was fabulous! Every quilter needs to go there!) And any time I see an interesting billboard, I choose to divert my journey to explore. Route 66 mostly parallels the Interstate so it’s easy to see the advertisements designed to entice the interstate traveler.
Yes, the American Dream is still alive – and even this adventure is part of that dream. The cover photo for this post is a water tower in Atlanta, IL. I think it sums us up beautifully!
In my upcoming posts I’ll describe the motels in which I have been staying – great experiences, all! But I must admit that I recommend adding the EZ66 Dining & Lodging Guide to your travel library. I’ll be picking one up at the next gift shop I find…
Happy travels, my friends!
It was a dark and stormy night as she set out. She hurriedly glanced about, peering into shadows as though they might give up their secrets. The last of her belongings was shoved haphazardly into the back of her car – she could organize later. For now, she just needed to get out!
Okay, well, it wasn’t night when I left Indianapolis. And my car is actually quite organized. It was raining, though. And I did have that sense of urgency to hurry up, move on, get to where I am going! It’s that excitement of starting a new journey, even in the midst of the journey I am on. Indy is about 3 hours from Chicago, so, after a nice breakfast with my friend, I set off.
I paid a total of $7.30 in tolls coming up to Chicago. Tolls are only on the interstate/highways. Route 66 itself has no tolls.
I’m not the greatest techy person, so the fact that I am using Google Maps to give me turn by turn directions is a significant step forward in my technological progress. After an uneventful drive from Indy, I found myself on Lake Shore Drive, heading to Jackson St, the start of Route 66.
The day was quite overcast, but this was a beautiful part of the city. The lake was on one side, Chicago skyline on the other. But the “big city” was not what I was here to see. There was one sight in particular, one thing I was so eager to see, that I was willing to drive through one of the busiest cities in the United States just to find it: the beginning of Route 66!
Alas, no selfie in front of the sign. I don’t care for cities and was already quite intimidated by the hustle and bustle of Chicago. And this coming from a girl who grew up in Los Angeles! So I chose not to find a place to park just to walk several blocks just for a selfie. I got this snapshot while at a stop light. I am satisfied!
In Jerry McClanahan’s “EZ66 Guide”, he describes parts of Chicago as being “economically challenged”. Read that as, “don’t get out of your car”. And yet, there are communities that are choosing to make positive change. I loved seeing this mural on a wall beneath a bridge. And, indeed, the community just to the other side was much more nicely kept than the surrounding areas. I’m not sure which suburb this was, but I continued on feeling a sense of encouragement.
Joliet considers itself the gateway to Route 66. There are a number of Route 66 diners and ice cream shops and such. It’s a nice little town that I might have enjoyed exploring more. But I fell into the “I want to move on, see more, get going” trap. I opted not to go through the museum – but I would suggest that you do. It’s really all part of the experience.
Elwood – Wilmington
I’m looking forward to getting more pictures of these “muffler men”! And here I learned a valuable lesson: take lots and lots of pictures! I only snapped two pics of this guy, and the other one didn’t turn out. The Gemini Giant is in front of the Launching Pad Drive In restaurant which is now, unfortunately, closed.
But the Polka Dot Drive In is still open in Braidwood!
Oh, yeah – you’ve got to try their chili cheese fries! Friendly service and a fun atmosphere – they have statues of Elvis and others all around.
Godley – Braceville – Gardner – Dwight
I would like to note that so far, Route 66 has been clearly marked and easy to follow. The best directions so far have been in Gardner, where they have painted directions on the streets!
I’m glad to have my books and maps as these are helping me look for fun stuff as I travel along. But I seriously need to slow it down. Perhaps it was having that 3 hour drive to get to the starting point, or maybe my urgency to leave the city, but I spent too much time on this first day looking for where I was going next, rather than seeing where I was right now.
Classic Inn, Dwight, IL
So I ended my first day in Dwight, IL. I stumbled across this little motel. I liked the look of it and the price was definitely better than the big chain motel across the street. The room was clean and comfortable, though had a rather strong smell from the cleaning agents they used. Free wi-fi and the basic amenities (fridge, tv, hair dryer). I like that it’s all on ground level. $46 for a double, non-smoking room – two queen sized beds.
In an effort to get myself to slow down, I even snapped a couple “nature” shots – photography is an ongoing learning experience and I am working on improving my skills.
So check back with me in a couple days as I update you on where I’ve been and what I am seeing! I have a feeling I’ve missed out on some quilt shops along the way. Time to get out there and amble my way down the road.
Well, my friends, I am on my way! In the last couple days I have driven about 1,100 miles. As I live in Denver, I have chosen to drive up to Chicago to start my Route 66 adventure. But I am also swinging through Indianapolis, IN so that I may visit dear friends.
A Good Beginning
My drive begins at High Prairie Quilts in Parker, CO. I am part of the “Last Weekend Block-of-the-Month” group, so I attended the meeting and managed to grab Jeannie, the owner, for a quick photo – she’s on the right. For me, any day that starts with quilting is a good day! My friend, Lida, joined me here and we immediately got on the interstate and headed East.
Weather is a Factor!
I trust you will forgive a few fuzzy photos. Though the roads were clear – no ice or snow buildup – it was a cold day to be driving. It is not unusual for Denver to have snow well into May, but for some reason we are always surprised by it!
But apparently Kansas had put up their invisible weather barrier. It seemed the moment we entered KS the snow stopped.
It was still cold, though! Yet, I know that the majority of my trip will be with warmer weather, so my hoodie was sufficient for the day.
Give it 5 minutes – or a couple hundred miles
By the afternoon, and having driven across most of the state, the weather had warmed up and the sky was showing picturesque puffy clouds in a beautifully blue sky.
As the sun started going down behind us, the clouds lit up with pinks and purples.
I’m sorry this picture does not do justice to the Kansas City, MO skyline – the cloud cover was thickening once more but the setting sun had dropped below the clouds and lit up the city with the final rays of the day. It was beautiful! Thank you to Lida for taking most of these pictures for me!
The Longest Mile of the Day
It was still a few more hours to reach St. Louis, where Lida and I stayed with her son and his wife. We arrived shortly before midnight. Surely the longest part of a drive is when you are almost there, but not quite! This day involved about 13 hours of travel time and we were both grateful to collapse into the warm beds provided for us.
While a vacation is about getting away from home and seeing new places, one must still decide what are the priorities of life. I left Lida with her son’s family to continue on toward Indianapolis, but first took time to worship my great and wonderful God! What a joy to join in prayer and song with strangers who are, at the same time, family. I worshiped at Christ Church, who graciously welcomed me into their fellowship.
Weather is still a factor
The drive across Illinois was just beautiful. The weather had warmed up so that I didn’t even need a sweater. This is the time of year the states get started on road repairs, but I was not slowed too much by these.
The states are serious: when the signs say to slow to 55 mph or 45 mph,
Indianapolis is a fair distance out of the way when traveling from Denver to Chicago, but seeing dear friends is worth it. So it was a joy to pull up to my friend’s house last night to see her and her family. The had a fire going in the pit in the back yard and she grilled a delicious dinner for me. Tomorrow I get to visit with another friend from college who also lives in Indy. This has been a good beginning!
Upward and Onward
And then, when blessed visits are through, I shall drive from Indy to Chicago. If I can find parking, I’ll take a selfie of myself in front of the “Route 66 Begins Here” sign on Lake Shore Drive. And then I’m on the Mother Road! From there I have no deadlines. I will stop as I please, walk into this shop or that, explore as the whim will take me.
Keep checking back with me as I will let you know where I am staying and at what restaurants I have eaten – along with my recommendations. And we’ll see how the adventure unfolds with each rise and dip and curve of the road.