Discovering Route 66
In May of 2007, Cathy and I were driving home in our Miata following a road trip to the midwest to visit family. One of our overnight stops was a hotel in the little town of Grants, New Mexico. That evening, tired of fast food on the road, we decided to look for a nice restaurant. We headed away from the interstate and into the heart of Grants. That put us on Santa Fe Avenue, which parallels I-40. As we drove along, we noticed business after business that was either closed or looking like they were barely in business. That's when we noticed our first Route 66 sign. Having seen the movie Cars the year before, we suddenly realized we were driving through the center of the real-world equivalent of Radiator Springs.
At the west end of town, we found a Mexican restaurant (one of the few non-fast food businesses open) and sat down to eat. But our minds weren't on the food. All we talked about was that we were sitting in a business that had probably been dozens of different businesses over the years, and that it was located on Route 66.
Bitten by the Route 66 Bug
Back at the hotel, I used my trusty MacBook to search the web for more information about Route 66 in and around the area of Grants. I found several Route 66 sites that featured turn-by-turn directions and explained how to drive as much of the original Route 66 as possible. I looked at dozens of photos and read numerous stories about getting your kicks on Route 66. I was at it for hours. By the time I turned the MacBook off to get some sleep, I was hooked! For the remainder of our drive back to Southern California, Cathy and I explored as much of the original Mother Road as we could, given our time constraints and lack of proper printed directions (if only the Apple iPhone had been released a couple of months earlier). By the time we got home, we knew we'd be visiting Route 66 again, and soon.
EZ66 Guide For Travelers
Since May 2007, we've driven hundreds of miles of Route 66 between Oklahoma and California. In a few weeks, we'll be joining with friends to drive every paved mile of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. Navigating our way along those many miles of original Mother Road will be relatively easy, thanks to Jerry McClanahan's EZ66 Guide For Travelers.
McClanahan's book is considered the "bible" for Route 66 travel and exploration. He really put a lot of thought into the design of this guide. His love for The Mother Road is evident on every page.
EZ66 Guide For Travelers is spiral bound for easy reference while on the road. Obviously, it's best to have a navigator to read the directions as you drive along. But even a solo driver could manage to follow the route with some careful stopping to refer to the route directions as needed (though, things could get tricky in some cities where one turn quickly follows another).
The first part of EZ66 Guide For Travelers features an introduction from McClanahan. He then goes on to explain how to use the book, including explanations of the various terms and abbreviations used in the guide. Finally we get to the meat of the book, the actual route directions, which are broken down into chapters by state, starting with Illinois. (Route 66 passes through eight states in all, including the full widths of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, California, plus the Texas panhandle and just 13 miles through the southeast corner of Kansas.) Each state chapter is numbered independently in the book. IL. page-10, MO. page-25, and so on. Within each state chapter, there are numbered Section Maps that precede that section's driving directions and give you an overview of how you'll get from one city to the next.
On the maps, the boldest line represents the Official Tour Route. This Official Tour Route is by no means the only route possible. Route 66 had dozens of different alignments over the years. McClanahan is simply recommending this Official Tour Route as the basic foundation on how to best drive The Mother Road from Chicago to L.A. (or vice versa). In fact, McClanahan includes numerous optional routes throughout the book. These optional routes are also marked on the maps with a slightly thinner line. Each Section Map also includes a box showing city names relevant to that map, and the mileages between some of the cities.
McClanahan used clever formatting on the actual driving directions pages. At the top of each directions page there is a box containing the westbound (WB) directions covered by that particular page. The directions are easy to understand and follow. Reading them in your easy chair at home may feel somewhat confusing, but once you actually start driving the route, or following along using a Google map of the area in question, the directions become abundantly clear.
At the bottom of each directions page there is a box containing the eastbound (EB) directions covered by that particular page. This clever design allows the EZ66 Guide For Travelers to be used regardless of which direction you are traveling on Route 66. The book is arranged from front to back starting with Chicago. After all, as the song goes, "From Chicago to L.A." If you're traveling eastbound, you simply start at the back of the book and follow the EB directions as you flip pages forward.
More Detail in the Middle
Between the westbound and eastbound direction on each page, McClanahan provides frequent Detail Maps that show a closer view of the appropriate route through cities. Also included in this middle area of each directions page are details about points of interest, optional routes (different alignments), side trips, and other useful information.
To his credit, McClanahan provides regular updates on his website, McJerry66.com. This is an important plus for users of EZ66 Guide For Travelers because things like longterm road construction and bridge closures occur along the route. McClanahan's thoughtful updates really help to ensure a smooth and enjoyable Route 66 adventure.
I should also mention the Here it is! - Route 66 Map Series from Ghost Town Press. Jerry McClanahan was co-author of the map set along with Jim Ross. The Route 66 Map Series is an eight map set (one per state) and also includes turn-by-turn directions. Each map folds out to approximately 22" x 17" in traditional map fashion. They can be used alone to navigate The Mother Road (we've done it), but I feel the map set best serves as a companion to EZ66 Guide For Travelers. If I were only buying one, I'd go with the book first, but it's not a bad idea to have both.
Where to Buy
Whether you've been thinking about exploring small sections of Route 66, or jumping head-first into driving the entire route, I highly recommend EZ66 Guide For Travelers. It truly is the "bible" for Route 66 aficionados and, in my opinion, pretty much a must-have for the best Route 66 driving experience. The book is available at your favorite bookstore, or at numerous online retailers such as Amazon.com. If you found this review helpful, please consider showing your support for Mark's Hangout by clicking the link below to purchase the guide through Amazon.com. Thank you!