Route 66 – An Epic Road Trip

Route 66 was a long-lasting addition to my bucket list and in 2014 I was able to tick it off. Over the course of 3 weeks I travelled 2500+ miles, crossed through 8 separate states and loved the various cities that I visited whilst doing so.

I included my own little side trip towards the end of my Route 66 journey, making my way to Vegas before departing towards Death Valley. Not part of the original Route 66 but an awesome inclusion that gave me some of my best moments. My trip started in Chicago, Illinois. I arrived at the airport and shot off to collect my car. I’d never driven in another country and I’d never driven an automatic. Add a quick snow storm to that mix and you can imagine how interesting my initial  drive to downtown Chicago was!

Route 66

Route 66 Chicago

Route 66 Chicago

Chicago – The Start Of Route 66.

Chicago is the starting point for Route 66. Naturally I had to search for the start sign for the photo-op. The sunshine made a welcomed appearance on each very cold day in the city. I found my way to the Willis Tower and decided to head towards the SkyDeck which gave the most amazing views of the city! The glass boxes are 1350ft up in the air and extend 4.3 feet out from the actual skyscraper. I’d say this is a must if you are in Chicago!

Route 66 Chicago

Route 66 Chicago

On a separate day in Chicago I made my way to Millennium Park. The first thing I came across was ‘the bean’ or the Cloud Gate as it’s also known. From here I ventured down towards a vacant and frozen harbour and took a stroll along the edge. In time I passed back up through the park and caught a nice sunset whilst admiring the Buckingham Fountain. This concluded 3 very enjoyable days spent in a snowy Chicago. What a great start to my Route 66 trip.

Route 66 Chicago

Route 66 Chicago

Route 66 Chicago

Moving On To Springfield and St Louis.

Still operating on a UK-based body clock I departed Chicago in the early hours. This was probably a good thing as it gave me time to re-adapt to driving again. The absence of the snow storm which I initially encountered was a bonus! A few hours of driving later and I was in Springfield, Illinois. This was a lovely place bursting full of history, predominantly based around the former US president Lincoln. After checking into a cool Route 66 motel I ventured to Lincolns Tomb. Although it was still a bit chilly, the weather was stunning and made for a great afternoon out.

Only one day was spent here before heading out the next morning to find  The Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri. I was told about this after speaking to someone in Chicago. Consequently I added this in and I’m so thankful they made me aware of it! Once at the top (630ft) the views of St Louis were stunning! Can’t beat the aerial views!

Route 66

Route 66

Route 66

Onwards To Oklahoma.

Once I’d returned to ground level from The Gateway Arch I made my way to the Meramec Caverns. The 4.6 mile long caverns were said to be a hideout of the infamous outlaw Jesse James. It was cool to learn a little history about this amongst learning about the caverns themselves. The caverns were lit with a multitude of different colours and light systems. The pictures don’t do them justice as they looked unreal!

Once back out of the caverns I was behind the wheel once again and heading through Kansas to Oklahoma.  There was a quick stop in Catoosa, Oklahoma for some lunch and I then headed to Pops for a quick drink. I clocked up a lot of miles on this day. Absolutely fine though as it was broken up with some great attractions!

Route 66 caves

Route 66 Oaklahoma

Route 66 pops

Driving Through Texas To New mexico.

During this trip I slept so well and I was waking early which was great. Fresh from the night before I got up and made my way to the Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. I wanted to go here because my only thought on Route 66 at the time was that it would make an epic road trip. This was true. It definitely did however I really enjoyed learning a lot more about its history. I stopped for some lunch here as I then had a lengthy drive through Texas.

It was a long drive but the roads were just like the ones you see on the Route 66 postcards. Time absolutely flew by. The car also had cruise control (make sure you have this!) so I set that to the limit and was able to just relax and take in the spectacular views.

Once through Texas, I entered into New Mexico. Promptly after I found a small motel to stay in for the night. The weather had changed substantially from my start in Chicago. Skies were clear, the sun was out and the temperature had risen, good times!

Route 66 museum

Route 66 texas

Route 66

Shooting At Calibers Before Arizona.

One thing I really wanted to do along my Route 66 road trip was get to a shooting range. Cue my departure to Calibers shooting range in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The guys here were so accommodating. They got the gist of what I wanted to do  and then had me kitted up on the range. I shot some handguns that are used by the American police force and military. I was then handed a machine gun. Once I emptied those rounds I finished with a 50 cal rifle which almost blew my shoulder off. My aim wasn’t too bad and this is definitely something I’d do again in the states.

After such a great morning I made my way to the Petrified Forest National Park. Every National Park I’ve ever been to has been amazingly scenic, this one was no exception. Vast open landscapes with beautiful colour combinations made for a lovely afternoon of exploring. This was my first experience of Arizona and I was set to stay a few nights in this state. My first overnight stay was in Holbrook, Arizona. I stayed in a motel style wigwam. Good fun and one of my more memorable over night stays!

Route 66 gun range

Route 66

The Meteor Crater and The Grand Canyon Caverns.

I left my little wigwam early again and made my way towards the next attraction in Arizona. Just west of Winslow, Arizona was The Meteor Crater. A huge impact site that is nearly 1 mile across and 550 feet deep. I took a quick tour here to learn a little about its origin. After a few photos it was time to depart again, wish I had a drone here!

I was back on Route 66 and the next stop was the Grand Canyon Caverns, another opportunity to head underground and explore. The caverns were 200 – 300ft below the surface. There was actually a motel all the way underground where you can stay the night. This would have been amazing but the price was sky-high as you can imagine.

After the caverns tour I was in no rush for the rest of the day so I explored one of the many trails around the area. I hadn’t seen any wildlife at this point; the trail did warn of snakes however a small little lizard was all I managed to discover. I had no plans for where to stay for the evening so just jumped in my car and drove. Shortly after I found a motel for the night.

Route 66 Arizona

Route 66 caverns

Route 66

Hoover Dam and Sky Dive Las Vegas.

Not realising the clocks had changed I left my motel earlier than planned. I made my way with plenty of time to the magnificent Hoover Dam and took in some stunning views on yet another beautiful day. Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead which when full is the largest reservoir in America by volume. After a nice morning visiting this structural masterpiece I made my way to the close by Boulder City, Nevada.

I was on route to Sky Dive Las Vegas where I’d be jumping out of a plane for the first time! Great experience! I got some more brilliant views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead as well as the Vegas strip and the Colorado River. Safely back on the ground after an adrenaline rush to remember I made my way to Vegas!

Route 66 Boulder city

Route 66 Dam

Route 66 skydive

Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon.

Hectic definitely sums up my few nights in Las Vegas. I’d be lying if I didn’t say my first night was and remains a little blurry. But none the less it was great to experience the casinos, the night life and everything else it had to offer. I actually ended up making some good friends in Vegas. They took me along to a private party for my second evening. Great night and I remain in contact with these people to this day so a reunion could be on the cards in the future!

The next morning in Vegas was a great because I was heading up in a helicopter to take a flight through the Grand Canyon. I could not of asked for a better morning and we caught the most beautiful sunrise. The Grand Canyon is one of the most magnificent things I’ve seen to date!

Route 66 Vegas

Route 66 Vegas

Route 66 Canyon

Driving Into Death Valley.

With my time in Vegas finishing on such a high, I was back in the car and heading towards Death Valley, California. I was leaving behind the busy city. Whilst driving through Death Valley, at points I didn’t see another car for up to 2 hours! It was a complete change from my previous 2 days but my road trip was all about experiencing as much as I can.

Death Valley is a huge place and with the only place to stay fully booked I’d set myself up for a long drive. I stopped off several times to take a few hikes but with time on my mind I eventually made my way to the next motel I could find. Death Valley was actually one of my favourite places out of all that I visited so make time to head here!

Route 66 Death Valley

Route 66 Death Valley

Route 66

Route 66 Death Valley hike

Santa Monica – The End Of Route 66.

My last stay was in the end location of Route 66 and that was the brilliant Santa Monica, California. I made my way there with a quick stop in Hollywood. This place was almost as hectic as Vegas with the packed streets but it was so enjoyable! I made my way down the famous walk of fame and took a quick tour of some celeb houses and the hot spots of Hollywood.

With this done and a quick pit stop for some food I then ventured towards the beaches of Santa Monica.  The end of route sign was located on the pier and I then enjoyed some time exploring down towards ‘muscle beach’. I got a few workouts  in the sunshine on all of the beach equipment, I’m  so jealous of the people who can do this daily.

Route 66 end sign

Route 66 Santa Monica

Route 66 Venice beach

Route 66 Santa Monica

Route 66 Muscle Beach

Route 66

I really didn’t want to come home after this road trip but every good journey has to come to an end. Once it does you simply have to plan for the next one and that’s exactly what I’m doing! All the time!

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you in the next one!

Make sure you check out my photography page for all images and connect with me on Instagram for more travel photography!

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