Thursday, November 17, 2011

Route 66 – Still a Classic? Yes !

Hi Jamie,

first of all, thank so much for this website and for sharing your experiences about traveling across America. I am from Europe and I’ve always been fascinated by the road trips across America, and about the States in general; now I’m planning to get your book, and to do my first road trip, and I really would follow the Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica.

The thing is, my father traveled along the Route 66 in the 1970s, and I’ve always heard his beautiful stories about that, but now he says, in his opinion, Route 66 is too commercial and too touristic, and that it is definitely not the same wonderful thing it was in the past, when he traveled along it.

Well, I am looking for a road trip that best embodies the spirit of the real America, I want to meet and speak with people along the run, this is what I am looking for. In your opinion, now would it be a waste of time driving across the Route 66 Mother Road, or is there still something special there?

Or, perhaps, are there other trips that would be more suitable?

Thank you very much for your advices and your patience, molto grazie,




Hello Andrea --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and for sharing your plans (and your father's Route 66 relationship...)

To me, there are two "Route 66" worlds -- one which is indeed over-commercialized and over hyped, and another, just under the surface of that world, which is still pretty darn fantastic. Yes, there is too much nostalgia, and too many tacky / kitschy knick-knacks for sale along Route 66.

But there is also a real vitality, and the road takes you to so many wonderful places that it would be a shame to miss it. Chicago is a great American city -- full of all the boundless enthusiasm and optimism that still makes the US so endearing. There are also once-great slightly fading cities -- like St Louis -- and amazing scenery (like the Grand Canyon!). Not to mention the absorbing Native American heritage of the Southwest, or the cowboy energy of Oklahoma, or the allure of Hollywood at the road's western end.

So however right your father may be about Route 66 being over-commercialized, don't let that stop you from "getting your kicks". (Though I do agree with him that those 1970s Kodachrome colors were better than today's schemes...)

By the same token, what makes Route 66 great for visitors is the same energy that makes it worth exploring all the smaller, older roads I cover in my Road Trip USA books -- US-50 across Nevada is an unforgettable trip, as is the Great River Road across the Mississippi Delta between Memphis and New Orleans. And the Appalachian Trail, and Route 1 down the Big Sur coast of California...

All the drives I cover in Road trip USA are great trips -- it really is up to you to decide which of these 40,00-plus miles strikes you as the most appealing. To me, the trick of having a great "American" experience is to keep away from the franchised sameness -- of fast-food chains, IKEA + Wal-Mart mega-stores, and personality-free motels which seems to follow the super-fast freeways and big roads.

Instead, take the time to savor the "slow roads", like Route 66 and all its many cousins. Hope this helps -- please let me know how your plans evolve.

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


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