History, Art and the Free Spirit on Route 66 || 16 States in 16 Days

You know about US Highway 66, not because you are deeply invested in highway systems, but because of the yearning for freedom. Though it wouldn’t be completely paved until 1938, US Highway 66, commonly known as Route 66, entered the US Highway System in 1926. Its significance takes many forms. It was the first all-weather highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, two massive economic focal points of the American West. Its development from dirt-road-to-superhighway epitomizes economic development and the remarkable geographical links brought about by a robust national public highway system. Its birth and development came at a time of immense turmoil and economic upheaval, yet it persisted.

As a result, it became the romanticized highway we know today, coming to symbolize the optimism that fell over the American people after WWII. Bridging the Rocky Mountain divide and stretching to the Pacific Ocean, Route 66 represents the free-spirited ideation of a country already firmly built on free-spirited ideation. Pulling on the history of the USA with its free-spirited energy, and embracing what it means for my own adventures, is why I’m going.

Why is this trip so pivotal? This is the first time I have left the West Coast, the first time I have traveled on such a road trip, and the first time I have gone so far with the specific goal of collecting and sharing what I can with all of you (translation: Taking more tech supplies than clothes!). This is the moment I set out on my professional path, one I carve out for myself, and I welcome you to come along as, “There Goes Sara Rose”!

How to Road Trip on Route 66

“Historic” vs Interstate

In 1985, Route 66 was removed from the United States Highway System, as its utility had become unnecessary in the wake of the successful Interstate Highway System. After it was decommissioned, numerous organizations worked to preserve significant structures, features, and artifacts of the road. Their work has resulted in the “Historic Route 66” that we know today. This is not to be confused with Interstate 66 (I-66), which is not connected whatsoever to the original Route 66. 

VW Bus Tourist Stop next to The Copper Cart in Seligman, Arizona. Photo: Rose, S. (2021)

The modern version of Route 66 we know today isn’t entirely drivable, as it no longer needs to serve as a functional highway. Instead, the drivable portions serve as monuments to American history. Some of these spots have been turned into historic locations with informational posts, signs, and more! You will see many on my socials and here at ThereGoesSaraRose.com.

Navajo & Hopi Indian Arts and Crafts Center in Winslow, AZ Photo: Rose, S. (2021)

Packing Your Clothes

Compression travel bags, such as the Hefty Shrink Pak Travel Bags I used, are an excellent way to pack for a road trip when organized correctly. A packing tip section may sound simple, but these bags and this method saved me hours of frustration:

  1. Keep your clothes CLEAN! You may try to keep dust and dirt out of the car but the windy air will not allow it!
  2. Keep your clothes EASY TO ACCESS! With one bag per day for clothes, you can skip every taking the suitcase into your lodgings except when it is time to wash. Traveling with friends? Still conslidate outfits into one bag per day.
  3. Keep your clothes ORGANIZED! Folding and keeping bags flat as possible before compression leaves room for important extras such as swimsuits, extra socks, a windbreaker etc. to help with various weather plans.

You will want to map out a plan regarding when you will clean your clothes and take quarters and laundry soap; do not assume you will have clothes cleaning services nearby! Having a windbreaker, rain poncho, and/or warm weather gear when traveling in winter is a key part of being prepared for anything.

Route 66 Highlights-Subscribe for More!

The love for nostalgia is evident in the care that has been taken with preserving these pieces of history, a moment in time saved to share a story. Many of the stops have several signs touting a landmark of some type, beaming with pride at passing drivers, enticing them to “taking the next right!”. The unplanned stops became my favorite; the finding-of-the-unexpected just as appealing as a curated museum. A friend and I spent almost an entire 16 days photographing, recording, and taking notes of various parts of the United States, from the Mojave Desert to New Orleans, from Chicago to Las Vegas. Makes sure to subscribe and follow this blog to be the FIRST to get these stories, photos, and more!

Here are a few excellent attractions along Route 66 I missed I planned to return back to, such as:

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In

Located in Seligman, Arizona is a historic eatery that was built in 1953 by Juan Delgadillo. It stands out from the crowd quite literally as it was built mostly from scrap lumber. Flamboyant and humorous, featuring menu items like “Dead Chicken” and “Cheeseburger With Cheese”, Delgadillo’s is a delightful stop on Route 66. 

Cadillac Ranch

A public art installation in Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch is one of the many quirks of Route 66. Buried in the desert sand are ten graffiti-covered Cadillacs. Visitors to the installation are welcome to contribute to the artistic display with their designs spray-painted onto the Ranch’s vehicles.

The Wigwam Motel

A curious motel in Holbrook, Arizona furnishes guests with the chance to sleep in wigwams for the night instead of traditional motel rooms. While the rooms are shaped like tipis as opposed to the more hut-like wigwam, this kitsch motel is still a great place to lay your head.

Join The Adventure!

The dream of travel, seeing places never seen, and turning that into art, is the whole reason why I write this blog. If that’s something you’re dreaming of too, I hope these posts help inspire you towards taking your own journey. Want to get your kicks on Route 66? Come along with me for the first major leg of my travels in “16 States in 16 Days”! Follow me on social media for updates as they happen and subscribe to my blog for stories on my adventures. Thank you for coming on this journey with me.

Sara Rose at the Grand Canyon, Arizona. (Photo: Neri, M. 2021)
Sara Rose at the Grand Canyon, Arizona. (Photo: Neri, M. 2021)

P.S. Notes while traveling are key! Purchase Word Vomit: A 90-Day Expression Journal to give yourself space for mindless doodles, inspiring art, and processing unfiltered emotions! This is a great way for you, your friends, or kids to prepare for a blog of your own or just word vomit!

2 thoughts on “History, Art and the Free Spirit on Route 66 || 16 States in 16 Days

  1. What kind of notes were you taking on your journey? Did writing notes help “keep you in the moment” more, or were they primarily so that you could look at them later to recall what you were feeling and thinking?

    1. I wrote about my initial reactions to things as well as pressed wildflowers into the pages from various rest stops. It was difficult for me to not want to write more which is why I recommend others to get into the groove now, the bigger issues is remembering to carve out the time. I think it is important to keep track of where we started as a person because it can be hard to see our own growth otherwise; Writing it out allows us to take a better look at our own story and I believe that is key to growth. Thank you for asking!

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