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Route 66 Wi-Fi Hotspots

Lauren Curd

The historic 'Mother Road' holds a special place in American popular culture, acting as a nostalgic reminder to the typical ethos of Americana, when the thrill of the open road was far more appealing than a jaunt in the city. Stretching from Chicago, Illinois for approx. 2,400 miles to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 encompasses all that is great about an old-school road trip.

Couple walking down Route 66

In today’s modern age, it’s more important than ever to keep up with technology but the ideals and attractions of the past are still a big hit, keeping alive traditions that we, as a society, hold dear. Vast stretches have been replaced by interstates that follow the road but there are stretches on which you can wander and really put your foot down during a Route 66 holiday. While there are a multitude of Wi-Fi spots in the major cities on the route, we’ve highlighted a few of the lesser-known, ensuring you can upload pictures, document your experiences and generally boast about the great time you’re having, while you’re having it!

While you’re driving, you’ll notice service stations, gas pumps, general stores, and landmarks designed to attract the travellers to their business. Many of these are abandoned now but a revival in the late 80s bought back a lot of trade and opened the world to this terrific excursion.

Illinois

Illinois is made up of small settlements situated along the major roads that spider web out of Chicago. The historic Route 66 runs for over 300 miles and has recently been re-made into Highway 55, heading into a southwest direction towards St. Louis, Missouri along the Mississippi River. Along the way, there are the cities of Springfield, Joliet and Bloomington, all of which will feature many opportunities for you to get in contact with the digital world. The first stretch of road will roughly take 4 ½ hours to drive, giving you plenty of time to pit-stop in the quaint towns of Pontiac, Lincoln or Wilmington; the latter featuring the Gemini Giant, one of the fibreglass ‘Muffler Men’ who act as advertising icons, roadside attractions or for decorative purposes. Mid-route, why not stop off in Auburn to find some of the original brick road of Route 66? And then find a café in which to show off your new experiences.

View of downtown Chicago and the Chicago River

Missouri

Another 300 miles will take you through the geographically diverse Missouri. Route 66 continues in a southwest descent, cutting through the state and over rivers, plains, prairies and mountains. You’ll inevitably head through the famous St. Louis and Missouri’s own city of Springfield but as you venture into the centre of the US, the big cities become few and far between. Head down Route 44, which now takes up the mantle of Route 66, through Rolla and its Mark Twain National Forest, named after the state’s biggest son. Just a few miles past Springfield, the historic Route 66 will split off and take you through Carthage, Joplin and Webb City, the latter hosting the Bradbury Bishop Deli, which still features a soda fountain that is sure to entertain the kids. For a bit of a thrill, drive across the Devil’s Elbow Bridge over the Big Piney River. If you seek traditional Route 66 motels, head to the Munger Moss in Lebanon, complete with neon lights, and the Wagon Wheel Motel, Café and Station in Cuba, a sight that fully embraces the past but has added modern amenities such as wireless internet. Soak up the culture while you upload this fantastic part of the journey.

St Louis Gateway Arch in Missouri

Kansas

Kansas still manages to fit in a few cultural highlights in their 13 miles of Route 66. Passing through the bottom right corner of the rectangular state, intrepid travellers are recommended to stop in Galena, home to the truck that became the inspiration for the character ‘Mater’ in Disney’s ‘Cars’ movie. The truck sits outside the diner and souvenir store known as Kan-O-Tex Service Station. Also in Kansas’s stretch of Route 66 is Riverton, where you'll find the famous Rainbow Bridge, the only surviving Marsh arch bridge along the whole highway. Unfortunately you cannot drive over the bridge anymore but it still remains a popular attraction for die-hard fans.

Old US Mailboxes along Route 66

Oklahoma

As you leave Kansas, you’ll have a 6 ½ hour journey through Oklahoma, passing through Tulsa and Oklahoma City, giving you a great insight into the warm hospitality of the traditional southern states of America. You’ll mirror Route 44 and Route 40, dipping into them occasionally but the main focus of this stretch is the 430 miles of old tarmac on Route 66. Take in the sights of Vinita, Claremore and Catoosa before you hit Tulsa. In Catoosa resides the Blue Whale, a mandatory stop for all families in the 70s as they travelled the route. Immersed in a beautiful pond and surrounded by a shaded picnic area, the Blue Whale served as a water playground for children, which unfortunately is now out of commission. Getting a few snaps in still advised however. After that, let your hair flow in the wind in the relatively short trip between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Then head west to the Texas border, making sure you stop in Clinton and Elk City on the way; the former has a fantastic Route 66 museum that is sure to aid in your curiosity and your fandom.

Skyline of Oklahoma City Oklahoma

Texas

Route 66 goes across the panhandle of Texas, named for its shape as it juts out of the rest of this large state. Despite the second shortest stretch (after the 13 miles of Kansas), Texas still boasts 186 miles of historic road for you to explore. There aren’t many settlements so feel free to just admire your surroundings as you put the proverbial pedal to the metal. Stay in the U-Drop Inn on the outskirts of Shamrock, just inside the Texan border, if you feel like a little refreshment. The city of Amarillo is roughly half-way through the state and if it’s half way points you seek then find the town of Adrian; it’s the literal centre spot for Route 66 so take a photograph outside the sign and let everyone know you’ve only got another 1139 miles to go! For some bizarre bohemian culture, a Cadillac Ranch sits in the peripheries of Amarillo. Visitors are encouraged to grab a spray can and sign one of the cars in this now famous art installation.

Old Gas Pump in Desert USA

New Mexico

Practically on a straight line through New Mexico, Route 66 continues its long journey to the bright beaches of Santa Monica through the hot and dusty desert states. Albuquerque makes a fabulous stop en-route for those who want a big city to break up the vast stretches of open road; there’s a great 66 Diner in the centre of the city, perfectly restored to the architecture of the 40s. Of course, it’s not for everyone so those travelling the route for hinterland and rural views then New Mexico also have these in abundance. If you haven’t settled down for a while then the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, just inside the border, is the perfect place to stay. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in New Mexico, Blue Swallow is a part of the historic Route 66, summed up with neon lights, vintage rotary phones, ‘100 % Refrigerated Air’ slogan, and blinking vacancy sign. Take the 450 miles through the state, taking in the amazing painted signs on the road itself or taking photographs with the iconic signs that skirt the dusty trails. On the other side, near the Arizona border, there is Gallup, a rugged city popular with Hollywood filmmakers in the 40s and 50s for the shooting of Westerns. The inclusion of Route 66 through the centre saw tourism expand exponentially, especially those who came in search of the numerous arrays of movie stars who frequented the historic El Rancho Hotel & Motel.

New Mexico high plains landscapes alongside Route 66

Arizona

Leaving Gallup, you’ll enter Arizona, firstly coming across the Petrified Forest National Park and then Holbrook, where you’ll find the Wigwam Village, a series of accommodation huts in the shape of Native American teepees and a real paradigm of the established Route 66 tradition. Keep going through and you’ll find Winslow and the La Posada Hotel, originally intended to be torn down in 1994 but saved by Route 66 fans and used as a hotel/museum for those seeking a bit of history on their travels. Check out the beautiful cities of Flagstaff, known as the City of Seven Wonders due to its strong tourism centre; Truxton, home to the Frontier Hotel; Kingman, the filming location for several films and television shows; and Williams, gateway to the Grand Canyon National Park, for which Arizona is so famous. As you’re passing through the state, don’t forget to stop at Meteor City and Twin Arrows, one the sight of a meteor crash some 49 thousand years ago in which it left a huge crater, and the other the brainchild of a crazy generation where wacky advertising was used to attract families.

Valley of Fire State Park Nevada

California

The last 300 miles will see you getting closer to the coast with every town you pass. You’ll keep heading in a westerly direction until you hit the towns of Newberry Springs and Barstow, where you’ll start the descent into the Los Angeles. Route 66 has opened your mind to the quintessential American Dream, epitomised by the open road philosophy. Stop at Newberry Springs for the Bagdad Café where the coffee is always flowing for eager travellers starting their Route 66 journeys or to encourage those on their final stretch from Illinois. Take some time to enjoy San Bernardino and Rialto on the outskirts of greater Los Angeles, the latter being especially famous for being the only other location for a Wigwam Village, a sight that used to inhabit the whole of Route 66. Of course, you’ll want to admire the sights of The City of Angels and this is very much encouraged – stick to the road however as it isn’t over yet. As you approach Santa Monica Pier, keep those smiles wide as you pass under the welcome sign and complete your truly amazing trip down one of the world’s most famous highways.

Buildings and palm trees Venice Beach, Los Angeles

 

**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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