There was very little sleep in Las Vegas. Even when Kyle and I we’re asleep we could hear the electrical bings and whizzes of the slot machines. It’s almost as if they created a psychic echo that permeated everyone’s minds within a thirty-mile radius. We left just before the clock turned 6:00 a.m. Kyle was behind the wheel, and since we weren’t on Route 66, I didn’t care how we got to L.A., as long as we got there. Taking Interstate 15, I slept until the stop-and-start of the van in Pasadena traffic woke me up.
Since we were so close, Kyle and I both decided we had to see the Grand Canyon. We wren’t giving up on Route 66, but this was a side trip that we had to do. After, we headed back to Flagstaff, Arizona, to pick up 66. We pulled off in Kingman, Arizona, to grab some dinner at Denny’s, not wanting to spend any more time looking around for a place that already seemed to have nothing but chain restaurants. It was here, under the high ceilings of Denny’s, peopled by truck drivers and motorists, where we did head off The Mother Road to see what the big deal was about Vegas.
Most of our driving was on the service roads paralleling Interstate 40. Kyle and I knew where we were landing today—Holbrook, Arizona, home to the Wigwam Motel, one of only 7 Wigwam Villages in the United States. Holbrook’s teepees are known as #6. We made a few turn-offs into Indian souvenir stands, but I was more in a hurry to get to the motel than spend our time on the road, and Kyle just wanted to get the hell off the road.
When you suffer from anxiety, and don’t know it, your panic attacks can come at any time, and when when the root of that anxiety is depression, parts of the lonely Mother Road do little to comfort you.
Our distance today was pre-planned—287 miles from Amarillo, Texas, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. This part of the trip started a fire under both Kyle and I to get to the west coast as quick as possible. Albuquerque’s fire also burned me.
Kyle and I arrived 45 minutes too early for the opening of The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, so I walked around taking photos while Kyle typed in his journal. The museum was O.K.—more of a museum to motor travel on the Mother Road than a museum about Rt. 66. It was underwhelming compared to what awaited us in Shamrock, Texas.
Oklahoma was infusing itself into me. The air, the scent of clay-filled dirt and pecans ready to be picked, circulated in my lungs and warmth of the people everywhere we went was welcoming. Even though the sky was overcast, I was still feeling the rays of yesterday’s sun. Our first pull-over was into the driveway of one of 66’s most famous icons—the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma.
For some reason, I awoke feeling renewed. It was almost as if my misery, anxiety, and sense of loss were relieved by sleep. Then again, I felt like it wasn’t just sleep—something was rejuvenated, rebooted, and the sun was our guide for the day. We took too much highway in Missouri and ended up taking too few side trips.
The entire day was overcast and Kyle and I were in one of our hurries—a hurry to the west so we could feel some accomplishment. But in our haste we missed a lot on the Mother Road, forsaking the parts of the original byway and the access roads for the highway. Also, we woke up so early to make our getaway from The Redwood Motel, by the time we got to Litchfield, Missouri, nothing was open. We were then molested by a pair if Illinois finest. Kyle and I continued on to cross the state border into St. Louis, where we visited the Gateway Arch together, and then separated to take in the city. I was feeling so beat—rain had let loose, the area around the Arch was all commercial and boring, and the Mississippi River smelled like a jock’s sweaty, dirty feel being set on fire. Kyle and I met back up around lunch and took in O.T. Hodge Chile Parlour. It was O.K., if you like Hormel chili. I was done—I had to leave.
Upon waking in Chicago to head west on Route 66, the weather was perfect. Not one cloud in the sky and a cool breeze broke through the 78 degree temperatures. It didn’t take long to hit our first Rt. 66 landmark—one that has since been moved. Bunyon’s Hotdogs in Cicero had a fiberglass roadside giant standing on the side of its joint. The square-jawed Paul was cradling a giant hotdog, paint faded and peeling in the heat. Bunyon’s closed down and the giant moved to Atlanta, Illinois, greeting Route 66ers in the quiet downtown where not much happens anymore. However, it’s a better home for him because he is well taken care of.