The Travel Bug

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

As life moves us into spring, and the weather gets (somewhat) warmer, the travel bug has been biting me hard.

I love to travel. I keep a list of places to go at the ready, and I’m always looking forward to that next big spot. I’m a big proponent of the open road, and finding “The Spirit of America” on my travels. The Missus calls me “Clark Griswold,” and…. I really can’t argue that. Look, I want to build “the perfect experience,” okay?

One can imagine how I’ve been feeling due to the limitations of this last year.

I do love roadtrips, just getting out there and driving some place new. When I was still living in Las Vegas, I really started reading up on Route 66. Vegas is a prime spot to explore numerous parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada, so the Missus and I could leave in the morning, have a full day, and be back by that evening.

Route 66 is really beautiful in multiple stopovers. Williams, Arizona is one of my personal favorite spots because the whole town is so clean and everything is lined out so neatly. Rod’s Steakhouse is also great, complete with neon cow sign.

Williams is also a short drive away from the Grand Canyon, and in years past, there used to be a Flintstones themed campground where, for five dollars, you could tour this super retro City of Bedrock that had been there since 1972 (and still looked it). The Flintstones park closed in 2019. It was marvelously gaudy, and I still miss it.

For disclosure, I did try to “Griswold” the Flintstones park on my first visit by walking through their faux city barefoot, and ended up picking out sticker burrs from my feet for several minutes. In retrospect, that wasn’t my best life choice.

But Williams is one of many spots to visit. Most places on the route have beautiful neon signs, vintage buildings and gas stations, more roadside kitsch than you could fill a knickknack shelf with, and a lot of Pixar Cars-inspired props (The first movie’s setting was heavily inspired by Route 66, and the real places are wonderful).

Another great “66” spot is Tucumcari, New Mexico. If you love vintage neon signage, I couldn’t recommend this place enough (I used to work at Las Vegas’ Neon Museum, and I never fully got those studies out of my system). There’s a lot of great little motels in Tucumcari, complete with little drive-in garages and courtyards, and the people are incredibly friendly. When driving cross-county, I made a point to hold out until I could sleep there for the night.

That’s always been the appeal of driving Route 66 for me. I love the Americana aspect of it all. I love meeting people from different walks of life, and seeing the preservation, or a still active snapshot, of a simpler time. Without all the hyperbole, I’d honestly call Route 66 “The Heart of America,” because it’s how I’d like to see this country in my mind: Beautiful places, good people, and a slower, more friendly pace of life. One of these days, I’d like to load up the family and drive the whole route from its start in Illinois, to its end in California.

But I feel the road calling to me now that things are improving. With all the disadvantages the pandemic has provided over the last year, one thing I did enjoy is the time to myself. I’ve needed some solitude, and I’d still like to keep that on my next outing. Keep those big crowds. My next few adventures are going to keep their small, intimate settings.

I’m starting to research Route 66 places here in Texas and in Oklahoma. If you have any “must sees,” I’ll take the recommendations.

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Categories: Opinion