Kicks on Route 66
Cross country trip from Nashville, Tennessee to Santa Monica, California
"An earthquake and Elvis. Grand Canyon and Vegas. Route 66 kicks with Cadillacs dug in a ditch.
72-ounce Texas steak feat and a Penn and Teller meet and greet.
Painted desert and red rock color burst alongside Fourth of July fireworks.
“Tetris” luggage in a Yukon van, Hollywood Bowl concert for me, a big Chrissie Hynde fan!
Roller coaster on Santa Monica pier and shopping at Target for son’s apartment gear.
Goodbye Music City and
hello La La Land!"
Shenanigans at Graceland
Memphis to Oklahoma City, OK
We didn’t find this city very interesting. We only had an evening here. Would have loved to visit the Blue Whale of Catoosa but it was out of the way for us. We saw the very silly Milk Bottle Grocery. Not worth seeing unless you really want that quirky pic or need a run at the CVS next door. For dinner we should have gone to the touristy Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar but hotel staff convinced us to go to a quiet seafood place down the street that was pretty crappy. Sometimes you think you want a quiet place to chill after a long day driving but then it goes the other way and you feel like you missed out on the fun.
Springhill Suites Oklahoma City in Downtown Bricktown –
but don’t listen to the bartender.
Amarillo to Santa Fe, New Mexico
La Posada de Santa Fe
A gorgeous adobe respite, we reached La Posada in the evening as the Santa Fe sky was ablaze with color and the air grew cool. If you can upgrade to the Baca Suite you will never want to leave. They have an excellent restaurant, but we chose room service and enjoyed a peaceful night by our adobe wood burning fireplace. Heaven on earth.
Santa Fe, NM – Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park (4 hours)
In the morning we drove to the Old Town of Albuquerque while playing Weird Al’s song and perused the shops for art and jewelry. We made our way to the Painted Desert Visitor’s Center and then to the Painted Desert Inn. After enjoying the views, treat yourself to some ice cream and Route 66 soda pop at the inn. The Blue Mesa Trail in the park was an easy 3.5-mile loop drive with several pull outs and vista points. Amazing topography.
Wigwam Motel, 811 W. Hopi Drive, Holbrook.
Stop here to take great shots of the tee pees with the classic cars of yester year. They even have a Mader from Cars!
Joseph City, AZ
Jack Rabbit. This sign is famous, but we just did a drive by of the “Here it is” rabbit that advertises the giftshop.
Our oldest son is a professional musician who, until recently, resided in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Spring he decided to make a career change and move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television composing. We thought it would be a fun adventure to road trip cross country on much of the old Route 66. Except for California, we had never been to the Southwest, so we were excited! If there is one thing I love is quirk and novelty and there is plenty of that on this iconic American highway. Although Route 66 doesn't exist as it once did, Interstate 40 over took it, there are opportunities to get off and do some exploring. We flew into Nashville, rented a huge Yukon SUV we nicknamed “Cornelius," packed up our son’s life and hired Montway Auto Transport to ship our son's car ahead.
Nashville to Memphis, TN
Call me crazy but I wanted to visit Graceland. I am not an Elvis fan, but this trip is all about Americana and he is, without dispute, one of our biggest American icons. Did you know Elvis sold over a billion records? I booked tickets online to reserve a time to tour the house and added the museum. Graceland is a 1970’s time capsule complete with a jungle room, mirrored ceilings, old time televisions and a yellow vinyl clad rec room and bar. “The King” is also laid to rest out by the pool. One of the best things about the museum is Elvis’s car collection. His suits are fantastic too and you can even purchase your own bedazzled version if you have a few grand.
In the evening we ventured to Beale Street famous for blues and barbecue. We had a satisfactory dinner at Blues City Café and walked down this "divey" and colorful street, listening to live music along the way. The gem was the Memphis Jazz Orchestra that plays most Sunday nights at Alfred’s. They were phenomenal! If you stay order a slice of their amazing peach cobbler. On your way out catch the acrobats doing the flips down Beale Street as seen in the Tom Cruise movie “The Firm”. Another must see is the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. This 32-story pyramid icon is a peculiar sight to say the least! Inside it has a 600,000-gallon Cypress swamp, hotel, restaurants, bowling alley, and shopping.
The Guesthouse at Graceland
This was a fun place to stay. They have a replica of Elvis’s staircase with its chandelier and blue drapes, perfect for a Technicolor glam shot. I wish I had a chiffon gown and a bouffant hairdo! At 9PM they have a peanut butter and jelly snack bar Elvis would have approved of.
My daughter having a bad hair day so I drew a "wig" on her.
Oklahoma City to Amarillo, TX
As soon as we crossed the border into Texas, my husband played music from the Magnificent 7. It seemed proper to enter Texas in dramatic, “badass” fashion. Our final destination would be Santa Fe, New Mexico but there was lots to see in the towns of Shamrock, McClean, Amarillo and Tucamari along the way.
U-Drop Conoco Tower Station – on the corner of 101 East 12 Street, Shamrock (Intersection of US Highway 84 and Route 66)
Magnolia Gas Station – 204 N. Madden Street, Shamrock
1929 Phillips 66 Station – 218 West First St, McClean, (southeast corner of Gray Street)
For lunch we made our way to the infamous Big Texas Steak Ranch and Brew, famous for is 72-ounce steak challenge. If you can eat the meat and all the sides in an hour, the meal is free. When I “checked in” on my Facebook a friend sent me this video of John Candy in the movie The Great Outdoors. I died laughing watching this.
This restaurant is wonderfully kitschy. There are guns, horns, fake Indians, taxidermy and a big cow and a dinosaur in the parking lot. When we visited there was a man on the platform, elevated from the rest of we normal diners, taking on the great slab of meat. My husband and son chose more responsibly and thought the cheeseburger was fantastic.
Cadillac Ranch – 13651 I-40 Frontage Road, Amarillo
Hands down one of the craziest displays of art around. Ten spray painted Cadillacs are dug halfway into the dirt in a vast open field. You can bring a can to leave your mark, but we found full cans on the ground ready to satisfy the graffiti artist in us.
Tucumcari, New Mexico
The Swallow Motel, 815 E. Route 66 Blvd.
Hosting travelers since 1939, this iconic motel is still family owned and operated. Each room has a garage, and some are decorated. Wandering around Tucumcari there are some interesting sites such as Tee Pee Curios and Magnolia station emblazoned with “Get your kicks 66”. Here it started to dawn on us the weirdness of America’s abandoned road. It’s both eerie and fascinating at the same time. Consider fueling up the car and visiting a restroom before you go back on the highway. We soon learned it was 33 miles until the next one in the ghost town of New Kirk. You have been warned!
New Kirk Route 66 Gas – Our situation became dire, so we stopped at this old dusty place. There is just nothing out there! My son looked at the 70’s era gas pump and asked me how to work it! Restrooms are a port o potty down the road. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the train pass by and the owner’s dog come out and challenge it with a howl. Strangely entertaining in the middle of nowhere. My only regret was not seeing a tumbleweed.
Grand Canyon Village, South Rim
What could be better then the Grand Canyon on the Fourth of July? Our original plan was to park outside the village in Tusayan and take the shuttle to the visitor center, but we got there before 9:00 am and beat the car lines. From the visitor center there are viewpoints an easy walk away. Stand and be amazed! It really is incredible, and photos cannot do it justice. Just go! We only did what we call “the Chevy Chase view” of the Canyon since my husband was still recuperating from ankle surgery. You can take the shuttle to the village where the hotels and restaurants are and then shuttle again to Hermit’s Road on the west side where I hear the views from Hopi, Maricopa and Pima are the best. Next time!
Our view from the Cosmopolitan overlooking the Bellagio Fountain
Penn & Teller Show
Drive to Sedona, Arizona
We heard how incredible Sedona is and it did not disappoint. We were sorry we were only there one evening as the drive in and around the mountains to our hotel was jaw dropping spectacular. We didn’t expect it to be so woodsy and green. I chose the Courtyard Sedona for its location. It backs into a desert mountain view that is sublime at sunset. The viewing deck has a bar and you can kick back and enjoy the topography while you toast the painterly sky.
Courtyard Sedona, 4105 West State Road 89A, Sedona. The rooms are basic and could use upgrading but the rest of the amenities are very nice and a good value for the incredible views. It is in a village with many shops and restaurants.
Las Vegas, Nevada
After the obligatory stop at In and Out Burger in Bartow, we stopped at Hoover Dam. I could not believe the heat index. It was 104 and I felt like I was broiling in an oven like a chicken. We did a quick walk to see the incredible structure and jumped into our air conditioned vestibules motoring on.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South
A modern and swanky hotel, the Cosmo has a youthful clientele and great amenities and restaurants. On our night on the town we dined at Stk and saw Penn & Teller at the Rio. That proved to be memorable as we experienced our first earthquake there! Penn and Teller have a preshow where they play jazz and you can go on stage to see their magic boxes. As soon as we sat down, the theater started swaying for about 10 seconds. Surreal. I was glad we were on the bottom level of the Rio and not the 50th floor of the Cosmopolitan! The show went on and after I got to meet Penn Gillette for a photo op! This was my first time in Vegas, and it is not my cup of tea. If you go, check out the Bellagio and the iconic Las Vegas sign complete with a hooker making offers as you and the kids walk by.
Desserts on fire at STK and an earthquake! Vegas is in the blue.
Las Vegas to Santa Monica, California
The Santa Monica Pier is the official end of the road for Route 66 and its sign is popular photo op. The pier has amusement rides and restaurants and is great for people watching. Check out the area on the beach where the acrobats congregate to the north.
JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot
Situated by the pier, Le Merigot could use upgrading but it is in a great location and is top notch in service. Check out Cora’s Coffee Shop next door for breakfast and Capo for dinner. I also fell in love with Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market. Try to take in a show at the Hollywood Bowl. We happen to catch Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders playing that night with a full orchestra. I checked off two bucket list wishes in one night! Since traffic is notorious in Cali, opt to purchase the special shuttles they offer to the venue. There is so much to do in Southern California! Our favorite thing is to drive the coast. Here are some recommendations.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway. Some of my favorites are, to the north, El Matador Beach, Malibu and the Getty Villa (reserve tickets in advance). Further south Santa Monica Pier all the way down to Rancho Palos Verdes. If you can book a convertible, all the more fun!
For a day of lunch and shopping visit The Grove, a chic mall with upscale shops and theater. Its like stepping into a movie set it’s so pretty. It even has a trolley.
Situated within walking distance of The Grove is the Original Farmer’s Market. Started in 1934, the market is home to more than 100 specialty shops, gourmet grocers and world class eateries. Truly special and not to be missed.
No visit would be complete without seeing the Hollywood Sign. Drive up to Griffith Observatory and see it at sunset.